2009 Yamaha YZ250 & YZ125 First Ride

Steve Atlas | October 2, 2008
2009 Yamaha YZ250 and YZ125
The 2009 Yamaha 2-stroke motocrossers aren’t all-new, but at least they’re here! The YZ250 and YZ125 are the last of the Japanese 2-strokes.

There’s just nothing like the smell of a 2-stroke dirt bike, or the sound for that matter. The mixing of pre-mix oil and race gas, combusted and then expelled from the shorty exhaust canister of a 2-stroke motocrosser is the original testosterone perfume. While I’m sure it wouldn’t be good for my health, I could pump the exhaust straight from the canister of the 2009 Yamaha YZ125 into the vents of my house; living immersed in the glorious odor, and would be a happy man. My girlfriend, on the other hand, might not be quite as happy. But if you grew up riding 2-strokes like I did, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind either.

Equally as intoxicating as the odor is the sound. The high-pitched scream of a 2-stroke climbing a fourth-gear-pinned hill will raise the hair on your arms unlike anything else. While 4-strokes are deep and throaty, sounding equally as gnarly per se, it’s just not the same. This is why when the invite for Yamaha’s 2009 YZ125 and YZ250 intro rolled across my desk, instead of giving it to one of my guys, I personally jumped at the chance. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that high-pitched scream, and I’ve missed it…

Sadly, 2-strokes are a dying breed. At one point they were the only option for an MX’er, but with the improved technology of 4-strokes and the tightening of environmental regulations, they are going the way of the dinosaur. With Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki discontinuing them, Yamaha is now the only Japanese OE still producing the smokers. European brands, most notably KTM, still do as well, but the list is dwindling. Sad, very sad.

In the pre-ride technical briefing, Yamaha made it well known that they want to keep making 2-strokes for as long as possible. Their history is with 2-strokes, as its first-ever motorcycle was a “ring-dinger” and, in fact, for the first 15 years it’s all the tuning fork gang produced. Problem is, they can only make what people will buy, and sales have been declining steadily, thus if things don’t turn around, it may have to follow the competition. I can tell you one thing, after riding the latest YZs, it’ll be a travesty to see them go – they are amazing machines.

Snappy power and proportionate grins characterize the YZ250. Our testers were giddy to smell pre-mix again.
Snappy power and proportionate grins characterize the YZ250. Our testers were giddy to smell pre-mix again.

Because the cost of making a whole new model for something that has seen declining sales is far too high, for ’09 the YZ 2-strokes only received a host of small changes. Aimed primarily at saving weight and sharing a parts bin with the YZ-F line, nothing mechanical has been changed on the ’09 YZ models.

The front tire on both is now the Dunlop D742FA, which is also used on their YZ450F, and is designed for improved traction in a wide variety of conditions. The rear tire on the YZ125 is the same D756 model, but is now almost a half-pound lighter and has been re-designated the D756G. Also lighter is a new front brake hose holder on both machines, made of aluminum as opposed to steel. They both get gold DID chains, while the seat cover surface now features a new pattern that has more grip.

That wraps up the changes, but it should be pointed out that just because a lot hasn’t been updated doesn’t mean they are any less advanced. They still feature the same top-of-the-line components as their 4-stroke counterparts: KYB suspension, aluminum frames, titanium shock springs, titanium footpegs, adjustable Pro Taper handlebars, wave-type brake rotors, quick-adjust clutch, etc. By no means are they second-rate. In fact, they’re quite the opposite.

Some other key points not to forget: The YZ125 is $750 less than the YZ250F and the YZ250 is $800 less than the YZ450F. Weight is quite a bit less as well – YZ125 is 18 pounds shy of the 250F, while the YZ250 tips the scales 12 pounds less than the 450F. The Yamaha YZ250 is now also legal in the Amateur Lites class, going head-to-head with 250F equipment. They are also legal for all $12.7 million of contingency money Yamaha has posted for ’09.

There s nothing quite as enjoyable to flick around as a true tiddler. The YZ125 takes a certain kind of rider to appreciate its nauances in this world of 250F machines.
There’s nothing quite as enjoyable to flick around as a true tiddler. The YZ125 takes a certain kind of rider to appreciate its nauances in this world of 250F machines.

For testing duties, our boy, former pro motocrosser, Matty Armstrong, joined yours truly, plus some guy named Grant Langston. I hear he’s kind of famous and won something called the Outdoor Nationals? Sounds like it should be on the fishing channel. Either way, he sure is fast! After inhaling the noxious fumes of pre-mix for an entire day, here’s what found its way through our smoke-filled brains and onto our notepads.

Atlas:
“Two-stokes aren’t for sissies – they’re hard to ride fast, requiring much more commitment and skill, but when you get it right, there just isn’t anything like it. The feeling of absolutely ringing the living daylights out of the YZ125, constantly on the throttle, is almost intoxicating. It really is something every rider should feel at least once in their life. It had been a long time since I’ve felt that, and while it took me all day to get to that point, when I finally did, it was downright awesome!”

Langston:
“It’s been since the beginning of 2004 that I’ve ridden a 2-stroke, so it was really cool to get back out here on one. They really are a lot of fun. For a lot of people these are the perfect bikes. They are easier to maintain and the 125 is a good stepping stone for a young rider coming off an 85. A 250F is a big bike and it’s a lot easier for a kid to go from an 85 to a 125 than to go straight to a 250F. I think people forget how hard and expensive 4-strokes can be; if you’re not an engineer they are hard to work on, too. But 2-strokes are so easy and cheap, they’re a great option.

Amateur rules now reflect the changing times and 250s can run with the 250F machines.
Amateur rules now reflect the changing times and 250s can run with the 250F machines.

“The 125 really impressed me, it had great bottom end. I typically like to lug the bike through the corners and it did great. When I got going on the thing, it revs so high I always thought I was going to blow it up, I wasn’t used to it, but it look the abuse and kept on going no problem. So much fun. There always needs to be a place for 2-strokes if you ask me. It’s where I came from and I’ve had a great time out here riding them. I think people forget how good they really are and I think it’s cool Yamaha still makes them.”

Armstrong:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that sound and smelt that smell. It was kind of odd, when I first went to start it, the kickstarter on the 125 was so short and easy to kick, but I was kicking and kicking and kicking and it wouldn’t start. I forgot you have to give them a little gas, which is the opposite of a 4-stroke. But once I figured it out it started the first kick, and did so the rest of the day. They are just so easy to use – easy to start, easy to work on – everything about them is a lot less complicated than a 4-stroke.

“Both of these bikes worked amazingly. They were almost hard to ride at first, as I was used to being kind of lazy on the 4-strokes, but on the 2-strokes you really need to be on it. But once I got use to them again I remembered just how rewarding it was. They do everything really well. The 125 is so light and nimble, you can literally put it anywhere you want. It’s almost too easy. The suspension felt completely dialed in on both bikes, they felt almost perfect. And the throttle response on both bikes were equally as good, especially on the 250. It’s instantly there – so precise. Both bikes worked flawlessly, I haven’t had as much fun riding as I had today in years!”

Grant Langston was on hand to enjoy the amount of fun 2-strokes still offer.
Grant Langston was on hand to enjoy the amount of fun 2-strokes still offer.

After spending a full day riding the last of the Japanese two-stokes, we’ve come to the conclusion everyone needs to go out and buy one, right now. We are commanding you to do so! Well, obviously we’re just kidding, but we are hoping people come around and see how good these machines really are. To see them go would bring a tear to our eyes. We have already put in a request for a long-termer and will proudly take it to the local MX track to fly the 2-stroke flag with pride!

2008 Yamaha YZ125 Specs:
Engine: 124cc, liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, reed-valve inducted
Bore x Stroke: 54.0 x 54.5mm
Compression Ratio: 8.6 – 10.7:1
Fuel Delivery: Mikuni TMX 38 Carburetor
Transmission: 6-Speed
Front Suspension: KYB speed-sensitive system inverted fork; fully adjustable, 11.8-in travel
Rear Suspension: KYB fully adjustable single shock; 12.4-in travel
Tires (Front; Rear): Dunlop D742FA 80/100-21; D756G 100/90-19
Wet Weight: 208 lbs. claimed
Wheelbase: 56.8 in.
Length: 84.1 in.
Width: 32.6 in.
Ground Clearance: 15.2 in.
Seat Height: 39.3 in.
Fuel Tank Size: 2.1 gal.
MSRP: $5,799 (Team Yamaha Blue/White)

Langston hasn t won any AMA Nationals or Supercross events on the YZ250  but he can still cut a pretty quick lap on one.
Langston hasn’t won any AMA Nationals or Supercross events on the YZ250, but he can still cut a pretty quick lap on one.

2009 Yamaha YZ250 Specs:
Engine: 249cc, liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, reed-valve inducted
Bore x Stroke: 66.4 x 72.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.2 – 10.9:1
Fuel Delivery: Keihin PWK38S Carburetor
Transmission: 5-Speed
Front Suspension: KYB speed-sensitive system inverted fork; fully adjustable, 11.8-in travel
Rear Suspension: KYB fully adjustable single shock; 12.4-in travel
Tires (Front; Rear): Dunlop D742FA 80/100-21; D756G 110/90-19
Wet Weight: 229 lbs. claimed
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Length: 85.7 in.
Width: 32.6 in.
Ground Clearance: 15.0 in.
Seat Height: 39.1 in.
Fuel Tank Size: 2.1 gal.
MSRP: $6,599 (Team Yamaha Blue/White)

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Steve Atlas

Contributing Editor |Articles | Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

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