2009 Yamaha YZ250F First Ride

JC Hilderbrand | August 21, 2008
Yamaha has offered a competent  if somewhat plain  YZ250F for years now  but the 2009 model has simple upgrades that make the new YZinger a real blast.
Yamaha has offered a competent, if somewhat plain, YZ250F for years now, but the 2009 model has simple upgrades that make the new YZinger a real blast.

If you’re lactose intolerant, use your imagination on this one, but who here likes vanilla yogurt? It’s pretty tough to find someone who hates it, but as our palettes mature, we develop a taste for things with a little more flair. Anyone who has ridden Yamaha’s YZ250F can appreciate its well-roundedness, but it always comes across a little like our favorite mellow dairy product. This year, Yamaha has tried to give its smallest motocross thumper some added flavor, and succeeded!

Though certainly not ground-breaking by any means, the 2009 Yamaha YZ250F has received enough attention from the Tuning Fork gang to make it a better machine. Most changes focus on expanding rider adjustability and minimizing maintenance requirements. Hence, there’s very little that pertains to the performance gains, but a few tweaks was all it took to breathe a little excitement into the popular 250F.

Quarter-liter MXers are notorious for lacking the bottom-end grunt of larger machines. Not that we expect the arm-wrenching torque of a 450, but some Lites machines have more than others in the low-end department. Yamaha’s 35mm diameter titanium header has been lengthened nearly 2.4-inches which gives it a boost early in the revs and better response throughout the rpm range. The midpipe is a consistent 50.8mm throughout now and the aluminum muffler is almost two inches shorter. We wish it could have the same stubby look as the YZ450F, but the traditional snorkel is still there – one of the inherent drawbacks of owning a Lites machine. Fresh ignition mapping and carburetor changes to the needle jet and fuel screw kept the motor singing its unwavering tune throughout testing.

“The power delivery has a nice grunt on the low-end, which was great for gathering it up after mistakes,” says vet expert tester, Alvin Zalamea. “Like last year, the over-rev was a plus and the motor pulled strong from mid-range to top-end.”

Our novice tester also found the extra output in the bottom end an easily identifiable and welcome bonus. However, current privateer pro, Sean Collier, had other things to say about the 250F mill. Watching his superior skill level explains much of his opinion. Collier spends far more time with the throttle completely tapped than our other riders, and his need for max output put less emphasis on the newfound gains.

“The 250 had a lack of bottom end,” he countered, “but good mid-range pull and excellent over-rev. This is a bike you definitely want to scream.”

Moving around on the YZ250F is easy with a comfortable layout and extra amounts of adjustability. Sean Collier looked right at home on the blue Thumper.
Moving around on the YZ250F is easy with a comfortable layout and extra amounts of adjustability. Sean Collier looked right at home on the blue thumper.

Though top pros will want more from the motor, Collier was much more confident in the handling. All of our testers thought that the bike was steady at speed. Compared to the 450, the 250F definitely transmits more noise to the rider’s hands and arms, but the little brother is plenty stable. A well-balanced suspension package keeps the bike tracking straight. Despite more harshness than its bigger sibling, the YZ250F is still a forgiving machine on the whole. As expected, the terms light and nimble were scribbled across our notepads throughout the day. Simple compression and rebound adjustments were all it took to satisfy our range of riders.

The new M403A front tire from Bridgestone is a Yamaha-specific model which features a flatter profile than the standard M403. It’s been awhile since our 2008 impression so a direct comparison is needed, but we can say that the level of traction on Glen Helen’s diverse surface was very adequate. One of the features we like most about the new Yammie is the new top triple clamp which allows for riders to choose how much pressure they put on that front rubber. Two sets of post holes and offset bar mounts offer 20mm of range to choose from (10mm back, standard, 10mm forward, 20mm forward). None of our riders preferred moving the bars rearward, but stock position and 10mm forward were most popular. Larger riders may want a taller handlebar, or they could install the 4mm taller YZ450F bar mounts which can bolt directly into the new top clamp.

More adjustability in the control department comes from a new clutch perch that features 10mm of movement on the lever via a set screw. There are some changes at the other end of the cable as well where Yamaha upgraded some of the maintenance issues. Ditching the judder spring and trading the six coil spring dampers for eight rubber dampers will lessen contaminants in the oil supply while saving a spit of weight. Also, the steel clutch plates are now identical so you don’t have to keep track of that first plate into the basket anymore.

Perhaps the feature that Yamaha is most proud of is the new hydroformed swingarm. Visually it is much sleeker and eliminates the linkage hole. On the performance end it is claimed to save one-quarter of a pound and a new rigidity balance that improves traction. The YZ-F certainly likes to corner, but two of our testers noted that the rear end tends to step out on flat turns, something that the new 450 does as well. Adjustments to the rider sag and high-speed shock compression helped get better grip, but we can’t say that the new swingarm completely wooed us. We were more taken with the visual upgrade than the handling bennies. A 25mm diameter axle holds on the half-pound lighter rear hub compared to the 22mm axle of the 2008 model. An additional bearing is added as well on the sprocket side which makes all three the same size.

The changes to the rear end hang from a Kayaba shock to handle absorption duties. The titanium spring that was such a high-tech selling point on past models has been ditched for a steel unit but the rate is an unchanged 52 N/mm. The KYB fork is unchanged except for stock rebound damping settings.

The rear end received mostof the upgrades with a new swingarm  wheel hub and gold chain.
The rear end received most of the upgrades with a new swingarm, wheel hub and gold chain. It sure looks better, but our testers weren’t blown away with improved handling characteristics.

Yamaha didn’t forget the aesthetic side of things either with a few subtle changes. The most obvious to our eyes is the D.I.D. gold chain which perks up the rear end and resists rust better than the old links. A different seat texture is grippy and claimed to resist stains better, which our older model certainly didn’t. Obviously there are new graphics, but Yamaha also added a bit more black to the motor compartment. The engine side cases were blacked out last year, and they still show wear after minimal time, but the freshly darkened magnesium valve cover doesn’t take near the abuse and adds some extra style. An aluminum front brake hose clamp is shorter than the former steel unit it replaces.

If there was something the 2008 Yamaha YZ250F needed, it was extra punch from the motor. One of the top things on our wish list would be adjustments to the ergonomic package which are notoriously love/hate with our testing crews. For 2009, the Tuning Fork gang has addressed them both. More adjustability is always a nice option, and in the 250F world, more power isn’t just convenient, it’s required. The 2009 recipe isn’t necessarily a spicy jambalaya, but we’re thrilled to stop assigning the worn out vanilla simile. Now all that’s left is to wait for the 250F MX Shootout to dial in the 2009 Yamaha YZ250F a little more and see if our full lineup of testers will savor the flavor.

Let us know what you think about the 2009 Yamaha YZ250F in the MotoUSA Forum.

JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.