Yamaha comes flying into 2009 with a few changes that we know make it better than the ’08 version.It still retains the Yamaha characteristics that we’ve come to expect, whether good or bad.
When we tested the 2009 YZ250F during our First Ride, a noticeable boost in the motor was something that gave us hope for the shootout. The Yamaha has been one of our favorite bikes, but every year it’s unjustly demoted because another bike offers an attention-grabbing feature. We’ve always wanted to give the Yamaha more credit but if anything was going to keep it back, the motor was always more anemic than the others. This year is a little different.
“For me, the Yamaha is super easy to ride with its usable, strong power and tons of extra over-rev,” says Sciacqua. “The YZ250F didn’t change much from 2008, but what little changes were made add up to a significant difference.”
Though not as buff off the bottom, even with a 2.4-inch extension on the header, Yamaha has found a meaty midrange and shows less waver than the other bikes as redline nears. This translates to deceivingly fast acceleration, a very user-friendly conduct and a rev limiter that seems higher than it is. With the highest compression ratio of the group (13.5:1), the DOHC motor sings along to its own mild tune. The muffler does a good job of keeping noise down, though anything’s quiet when the KX-F is around.
The YZ-F was the only bike that could give the Honda a run on the scorecards. Three narrow category victories for suspension, handling and ergonomics kept it in the game, but ultimately it couldn’t woo our testers enough to get a first-place overall vote. The Kawasaki is the only bike to break up the Honda sweep in overall scoring, but it just barely nicked the Yamaha. Only eight points out of a possible 420 relegated the YZ-F to third. So what was it that held the Yamaha down? Last place scores for its brakes and appearance created sizeable dings, but keep in mind that these are two of the more volatile categories.
All of the bikes have stellar brakes. Trying to differentiate between them is very difficult. Cruse thought the YZ-F’s binders were grabby, and Colton blames his low ranking on the sluggish handling which he thinks makes the brakes feel less impressive. As for the looks, Yamaha is fairly understated with its graphics, and everyone knows the blue plastic and black side cases are going to look haggard within a few rides.
Cruse was happy to try out Yamaha after having a year hiatus from the brand. She grew up riding Blue and it took a season away to realize some of the benefits Yamaha provides.
We love the suspension though. The Kayabas are downright astounding across the board. It didn’t matter what size or how fast the test riders were, Yamaha has been refining and improving the front and rear KYB suspension components to near perfection. You couldn’t walk past the truck without hearing someone talking about how plush it is. Where the blue bike differs from others is that it can still hold its own when bottomed out, and the compression damping is manageable, progressive and safe. Very rarely will the YZ-F get bucked and the result is an ability to worry less about hitting bumps and more about finding fast lines.
Sherri had ridden Yamahas for practically her entire life until last season, and she didn’t even realize how good she had it.
“Everyone always uses the word ‘Cadillac’ for the Yamaha’s suspension,” she says, “and since I rode one my whole life I never really grasped the concept of what it meant until after being on the other brands for a year. Getting the chance to ride one again in the test was really great. I really like the setup.”
“Yamaha’s suspension was very solid, I think that they have that bike exactly where they want it and aren’t changing,” Colton offers. “Its suspension front and rear was predictable and smooth which is always how it is with Yamahas. They give you the confidence to charge with this combo.”
We had both ends of the spectrum when it comes to the Yamaha’s handling. Everyone can agree that it’s virtually unflappable anywhere on the track with stability that you can count on. Some, like Haaker, found the blue bike a little “lethargic” in the turns. However, his buddy Sciacqua thought it was fine and raved about his confidence in ruts. Cruse also liked it in the ruts, but her appreciation stemmed from the YZ-F’s ability to absorb acceleration chop and not bounce out of the groove.
Some like the stable, predictable handling while others want the YZ-F to be more nimble. It seemed to work well here.
Another notable characteristic is that Yamaha is very good at remembering the little things. The tapered wheel spacers, gold chain, 55mm footpegs and dual triple clamp handlebar mounts make living with the Yamaha on a daily basis easier than with your significant other.
“I own a Yamaha, so for me it was most comfortable,” admits Tod. “I love how this bike handles, and if the motor was a little stronger I think it would be my shootout winner. The Yamaha gives me tons of confidence, and that’s what I need to win!”
Everything about the YZ-F speaks to an overriding theme of confidence and reliability. For some that’s invaluable, but for others it still leaves them wanting for more. Either way, races can, and will be won on the 2009 YZ250F, and it’s a better bike than it was in ‘08. The fact that the Tuning Fork gang is chipping away at the Honda in our shootout standings is impressive enough, but we really like that Yamaha is doing it by sticking to its guns rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.