2008 Yamaha YZ250F
We hate to do it again, but the Yamaha is in the bottom half of our 250F comparo for the third straight year. It's damn good, but the Tuning Fork engineers need to give us something to get passionate about with the little Yammie.
purposely builds the YZ250F to be a Mello Yello, but there's a reason the refreshing, lightly carbonated beverage isn't seen in convenience store coolers anymore. Sure, it's nice to drink, but these days people expect to get a kick from their canned fizz. That's where you get the Monster Energy, SoBe and Rockstar behind the frosted glass of your local 7-11, if you get our drift.
On the dyno, the YZ-F topped out at 12K rpm, the highest of our group, but the overall numbers coming off the rear wheel were markedly lower than the class leader - nearly 8% in fact. Sometimes slight power aberrations can be overcome depending on how the machines put their ponies to the ground, but our crew agreed that the Yamaha has a definite disadvantage. Torque output is also on the diminutive side, especially at lower rpm. The Blue machine starts to make up ground on the others as it nears the rev limiter, but it still feels like the bike is spinning its figurative wheel.
Chuck Sun put it into perspective at the end of our testing by saying, "The Yamaha felt smooth and easy to ride, but it seemed like it was screaming all the time, laboring on the top end, but not really going anywhere. There's not quite the bottom power of some of the other ones, but it builds rpm nicely into the middle and top of the range. It's very similar to the 450 on its characteristics."
Therein lies the problem. On a 450, the seamless, easy-building power will translate to faster lap times and extended endurance, but the quarter-liters need more of an aggressive personality. Yamaha obviously disagrees since it has been consistent with its 250F motor dynamics over the past several years, but we say it's time for a change. Someone needs to light a fire under that blue ass and bring it to life a bit. A compression boost from 12.5:1 to 13.5:1 isn't going to cut it.
Chuck Sun seemed to have the Yamaha pretty well figured out - as you can see.
Other than a slightly anemic motor, the Yamaha is extremely pleasing. It definitely has the most room inside the rider triangle and the massive footpegs make sure the rider can adjust themselves inside the cockpit. The only complaint about the ergonomics came from our resident ProTaper hater, who doesn't favor the stock bend. However, comfort was something mentioned frequently with the YZ-F. Not only was the rider interface accommodating, but much of our affinity for seat time with the Yammie came from the Kayaba suspenders.
"I applaud Yamaha's bold move," says Sun, "opting to find a soft setting that really soaks up the chop in a plush manner and without bottoming. There's a little too much movement for my weight, however."
Hilderbrand, who is comparable in poundage but notably slower, also felt the forgiving nature of the Kayabas was a high-ranking attribute. "It's plush on G-outs and seems like it always gets really close to bottoming. That's OK though, because it stays very plush and gets increasingly progressive at the bottom of the stroke. The rear end is always tracking too."
Yamaha is the only Japanese manufacturer not to utilize wide, flat side spars on its aluminum chassis. This is a dividing factor for us where some riders prefer the slimming sensation it provides while others feel like there is less to grip with their legs. Either way, the Yamaha has a good chassis, and this was one area of the scorecards where we feel the results are misleading. The YZ-F finished last in the chassis/handling department, but to say we were unhappy with the way it performed through corners or while bouncing down rough straights would be untrue.
At 220 lbs, the Yamaha is heaviest in our quartet. The weight distribution is the same at 49% front bias, but we truly couldn't say that the Yamaha ever felt heavy. The only comments made about weight were that the Honda and Suzuki feel comparatively light, but none of the machines were described as portly. However, every pound counts when a machine is hurting for power. We'd love to put the Yamaha higher in the rankings, but until the Tuning Fork breathes some inspiration into it, that day will have to wait.