Yamaha is the originator of the 250F class but there weren’t any changes for 2011 aside from new colors for the YZ250F. Opinions varied about the new white radiator shroud, but the difference from the 2010 model is striking and the bike still uses the sharp, angular bodywork that was introduced last year. Yamaha still makes use of its bilateral-beam aluminum chassis which was also introduced a year ago, but more notably it’s the only manufacturer in this test that still uses a carburetor.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Taking a look at the horsepower and torque curves, the Yamaha is in the mix or better than all of the bikes except KTM until the 8000 rpm mark. From there the rest of the pack holds a top-end advantage which all of our testers were able to feel on the track. Depending on where a rider likes to be in the rev range, this is good or bad, but it does force extra shifting. Other bikes can pull longer in each gear which pays off on straights or heading for jumps.
On paper the Yamaha does very well. With 35.33 horsepower and 18.76 lb-ft of torque, it falls below all but the Honda in peak output, but the rest of the objective categories are strong points. The low-end and midrange power helped the Yammie to top acceleration times, covering the 175-foot holeshot distance in 4.81 seconds (second fastest) and smoking the competition in the third-gear roll-on. Our blue bike was the only one to zip from 15 to 45 mph in under three seconds. That carburetor is good for more than just power delivery as the mechanical system is much lighter than EFI. The YZ250F is easily the lightest at 216.5 pounds (tank empty) and the next closest is Kawasaki at just over 220 lbs. We also like that the YZ-F is the most affordable at $7150. All tallied it’s just two points shy of winning the overall objective ranking.
For a bike that didn’t receive any changes, multiple testers commented that the 2011 Yamaha actually feels a little different than the previous model. One major difference is in the suspension where we couldn’t detect the extra plushness that’s expected from Yamaha’s KYBs. Our lightweight pro-level tester thought the Kayabas were the best, but the rest of our crew disagreed.
Most riders had issues with the small handlebars and somewhat cramped rider cockpit. Fortunately, the top triple clamp has two handlebar mounting holes, the posts are reversible for multiple options and pushing the ProTaper bars forward helps open things up. It also allows the rider to scoot forward easier and get more weight on the front end for better handling. The YZ is dead-stable and it’s by no means a slug through the corners, but it doesn’t have the agile feeling that some other bikes do despite a significant weight advantage. Last-place rankings for handling and ergonomics were a pair of black eyes for the YZ-F, but the real nail in its coffin is that engine. It was universally disappointing and this is a class that needs muscle most of all. Even though it doesn’t matter in the scoring, our three most consistent riders all posted their slowest lap aboard the Yamaha by a considerable margin.
It was a tough year for Yamaha in the shootout, and what makes it even tougher is that this is still a great bike – one that has character not found on the EFI machines. In a class full of high-technology bikes, this 250F feels a little dated. Here’s hoping that 2012 sees a big redesign that has the YZ250F back up at the front of the pack.
Yamaha enjoys a weight advantage by sticking with the carburetor. Opening up the cockpit makes for better handling.
2011 Yamaha YZ250F Rider Impressions:
Nick Thiel – 6’1” – 175 lbs – Intermediate
Right off the bat the cockpit felt cramped for my liking and the bars felt like they were in my lap at times. A new set of bars would probably be a quick easy fix. As soon as I got on to the track I noticed that the motor was lacking the bottom end or even mid-range punch that the other bikes had. Once you got it up to speed it started to sing but then quickly signed off leaving you with the rev limiter. I was unimpressed by the motor on this bike to say the least. I experienced quite a bit of clutch fade and the feel was also strange to me. The handling was just ok it didn’t do anything great nor did it to anything terrible in a straight line. Cornering was another issue all in itself; it pushed horribly in the faster sections and was really difficult to get to the inside of ruts. But once you did get it there it seemed to track pretty well. The brakes were good and had a good feel. In my opinion it’s time to go back to the drawing board with the YZ250F.
Stability remains class-leading with the YZ250F. There’s very little that can shake the Yamaha off its line.
Chris See – 5’10” – 160 lbs – Pro
After riding the Yamaha 450 I was anxious to see how its little brother would fare. This was the first bike that I did my first moto without any changes. As the track got rougher all we did was stiffen the compression on the forks and shock and it was perfect. The YZ250F handled the best out of all the Lites bikes. I don’t know if it’s because the engine won’t allow the bike to go any faster, but for a stock bike it worked wonders in the suspension department. As for the brakes and clutch components I also have no complaints in these areas.
The Yamaha could have probably won the shootout except the engine kills all its dreams. It is just considerably slower all the way through the powerband – as if someone left a rag inside the airbox. It has to be revved so hard that it makes me a little leery. I believe that if Yamaha could make some improvements in the motor area, the Blue Stallion would be back on top of the class. Unfortunately, for now it is at the bottom of my list.
Kyle Lewis – 5’10” – 180 lbs – Vet Pro
This bike just did not work for me. I didn’t like the motor; it was flat on the bottom with not too much up top either. I liked the way I felt sitting on the bike (ride position) but just didn’t feel comfortable with the suspension along with trying to get it to corner. The brakes did nothing for me either. For me this bike would be my last pick.
JC Hilderbrand – 5’11” – 177 lbs – Novice
This is how I imagine a Supercross bike should feel. The motor cranks out tons of power right off the bottom and helps make up for poor corner speed, and if I could actually skim stadium whoops then this is the bike I’d want to do it with. The Yamaha doesn’t get off-line, ever. Unfortunately, I don’t ride Supercross, so the Yamaha doesn’t really do it for me. I’m a short-shifter so the engine is fine for the most part, but on bigger tracks there’s no getting around the wide-open throttle and that’s where the Yamaha really hurts. It’s drastic how underpowered this bike is on the top-end. It revs high, but there just isn’t a lot happening in the upper rpm. It seems like it would be the other way around with the carburetor, but the bottom-end grunt is really nice.
As for the suspension and handling, the YZ-F feels a little fatter than the other bikes up by the tank – except for the Kawasaki; it’s kind of pudgy too. Cornering is mediocre, but straight-line stability is rad. I liked hammering through rollers with confidence, but the Kayabas aren’t as supple on the small stuff as I remember. That’s a big downer for me since the blue bike has been a favorite of mine in the suspension department. Yamaha says it didn’t change anything, but I can say that it’s not my favorite anymore – it just can’t match the CRF. Come on, Yamaha, give us that full-blown redesign!
Tod Sciacqua – 5’8 – 170 lbs – Vet Expert
Yamaha has some spotty carburetion and it’s not very powerful so it’s just not in the same class as the other bikes. It pops and sputters… The best thing is that it’s stable in a straight line. I can’t imagine that bike getting headshake. In that sense it’s good for just pinning it. I wouldn’t mind racing it in the desert or at a grand prix, but Yamaha needs to step it up. The new white shrouds look funky too.
Brian Chamberlain – 6’0 – 190 lbs – Vet B
I struggled to get comfortable on the Yamaha. Ergonomically it’s small for someone my size. Mainly the bars are just too low and narrow. This is an easy aftermarket upgrade, but it did make it hard to feel comfortable during testing.
Handling is very predictable and the chassis isn’t easily upset, but the bike turns in a little slow. It requires more thought and effort to get it into a corner or to make adjustments to your line. Stability is really good and I was never able to upset the front end at speed.