Yamaha has created a machine that is capable on all fronts. The question for 2007 was if it could stand out in one way or another. Failing to do so in ’06 was ultimately its demise.
Every OEM re-evaluates its machine and comes up with a game plan for the following year based on the existing model’s strengths and weaknesses. If it were up to us, we would have dumped the 2007 R&D into bringing life to the mild-mannered YZ250F motor. Yamaha did make an effort, but we’ll say right now that it wasn’t nearly what we were hoping for. Instead, the bike was dissected piece by piece to find ways to shave weight, especially on the front end where it could have a significant affect on handling characteristics.
At our First Ride, Yamaha claimed its bike weighed in at 216 lbs tank empty. Experience has taught us to be wary of OEM-provided weights, and when we dropped it on our scales it rung in at 219. Close but no cigar. The huge effort to lightening the front end included a smaller, forged lower triple clamp, shrunken pinch bolts, a 250mm petal-style brake rotor and forged aluminum brake caliper. The binder has smaller dual-pistons and pads which are still strong enough to earn the YZ-F top accolades in the braking department.
The whole weight-reduction issue was a double-edged sword for Yamaha. While trying valiantly to shave grams, engineers were altering the bike’s weight distribution to put additional weight on the front wheel for added turning prowess. This was accomplished by moving the steering head 3mm rearward and shortening the wheelbase to 57.9 inches. The engine was rotated more upright by repositioning the motor mounts for mass centralization. Top off the fuel tank and 48.7% of the total weight is placed on the front tire. Honda has the same distribution percentage, and the Red and Blue are the two machines closest to an even 50-50 split.
Yamaha blazed to near victory with its complete package. You’ll notice the list of low points is markedly short.
Yamaha is the only Japanese manufacturer to use Kayaba suspension on its 250F. That isn’t a bad thing according to the feedback from our testing quintet. Both the fork and shock earned highest marks and put the Yamaha clearly ahead of the rest in suspension terms. The guys at KYB are excellent thieves, seeing how they somehow managed to steal the plushness out of Suzuki’s Showas and the bottoming resistance from the KX-F. The 48mm, speed-sensitive fork was a highlight for everyone except for Huffman. The Washougal sandbagger needed more firmness from the fork. As for the rest of us, Randy “Bones” Pekarek sums it up by saying, “the suspension is the greatest thing going for the YZ-F. It handled all the small bumps as well as the hard landings.”
We said earlier that many of the 250Fs had similar characteristics to their beefed up counterparts, and the Yamahas have closely matched motors. A desirable 450 motor tends to be smooth and linear, as we proved with the smooth-yet-fast YZ450F taking our big-bore shootout. Some call it boring, but with 50 horsepower available, an exciting motor can get you into trouble. In the world of 250Fs it’s the exact opposite. Yes, a smooth and linear power curve is still extremely efficient in terms of laying down fast lap times, but the fun-factor of these machines are one of their best attributes. Quite simply, it’s not as fun to ride a tame 250F.
“The Yamaha doesn’t seem to have the power of the others,” says Pekarek, “but it’s very easy to ride – smooth.”
The Blue 250F has no hit or surge anywhere in the rpm range. A peak output of 33 ponies is right in the ballpark with the rest of the bikes, and riding the Yamaha fast is not a problem. We first spun laps on the 250F at Riverside, California’s Milestone MX, a deep sand track. Given the soil conditions and none of its competitors to compare to it side-by-side, all we could do was hope that the ’07 bike really had more oomph. Though we didn’t have a 2006 version on hand for direct comparison, as we remember it, the new model feels more powerful than the ’06. But, what the motor needs is more attitude, not necessarily more ponies.
- Easy starting
- Slimmest feel
- New wave rotors
- Optional white plastic
- Insipid motor
- Low-boy handlebar
“The Yamaha is missing something,” Huffman says. “It seems to rev but it just struggles getting there.”
Considering the Yamaha was only one point out of a three-way tie for first place in last year’s shootout, third place is a long way down for the 2007 model. The YZ-F scorecard was polarized with two first-place votes, one second-place and two last-place bids. It’s light, stable and wonderfully suspended. If riders are able to get comfortable with the long-and-low Yammie ergonomics and utilize the smooth power delivery, the skinny layout and near-perfect suspension are just icing on the cake. But for those who can’t, the shortcomings are too much. What’s your style?
We said it last year and the same holds true in 2007: If you ride only your YZ-F, you’ll pass the days in a wonderful Blue shade of moto bliss. Ride it back-to-back with another Japanese machine and you might see things a little differently.
Overall Rank: 3rd