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2011 Yamaha YZ250 First Ride

Thursday, January 6, 2011

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2011 Yamaha YZ250 First Ride Video
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Watch the revised Yamaha in action in this 2011 Yamaha YZ250 First Ride Video.
Yamaha is still bringing the premix-burners to the United States, something no other Japanese manufacturer can claim, and we had a chance to enjoy these high-revving machines with a ride day at Milestone MX. We’ve already reported on the 2011 Yamaha YZ125 First Ride, but the Tuning Fork crew brought out the quarter-liter machines as well to prove their capabilities. For 2011, Yamaha has made slight revisions that aim to make it easier to distribute across the world.

In order to make the YZ250 meet emissions for all of Yamaha’s global markets, the silencer was increased in length by 75mm and the core diameter swelled from 27 to 30mm. This allows for 66% more glass wool and the decibel output is now a claimed 96 dB. Unlike the 125, which required minor jetting changes, Yamaha altered the 250 cylinder head to increase the volume by 0.5cc and dropped the compression ratio from 10.9:1 to 10.6:1. Yamaha claims this helps with lower fuel qualities as well. Otherwise, it’s the same old YZ250 that has been available for the past several years, with a chassis that hasn’t changed since 2005.

2011 Yamaha YZ250
Yamaha hasn't done anything radical to the YZ250, but it still has a powerful, responsive engine that works very well in the right conditions.
Fortunately for Yamaha, and all aspiring racers, the AMA now allows 250 two-strokes to race alongside 250F machines in amateur competition – making it a true 250 division. There’re a lot of arguments about two-strokes versus four, but there’s no denying that the 2T makes more horsepower and weighs less, which are critical factors for racing and simply the enjoyment factor. To see some comments on the subject, check out the rider reviews from when we compared the 2009 YZ250 with a batch of same-sized thumpers during our 2009 250 Motocross Shootout.
Our day of testing at Milestone MX had soft, moist dirt all around – perfect for the zingy YZ – and soon our concern was trying to keep the front end down. Yamaha uses a 66.4 x 72mm bore and stroke to crank out an abundant power curve that is generous down low and surges into a ripping upper midrange and top end. Keeping the YZ on the meat of its powerband is easy to do with a smooth, light clutch and clean jetting. Our faster riders were keen to keep the bike singing at all times and had no complaints about the Keihin carburetor.

“’Awesome’ is about the best word to explain the motor on the YZ250," says test rider Nick Thiel. "You can short-shift the bike and it pulls great, or over-rev it. The throttle response is crisp and it has that great two-stroke feel. I couldn't ride this bike enough; it was an absolute blast. The motor just plain rips and the faster and harder I rode it the better it seemed to run.”

Attacking Milestone’s jumpy track with a snappy powerband was more difficult for our slower riders as controlling the hit takes a little getting used to. It definitely doesn't have the mindlessly smooth power curve of its four-stroke counterpart. Keeping below the horsepower hit to smooth out jump faces is accomplished with a quick upshift from the five-speed transmission, and it still has the power to get over obstacles. Proper gearing is important and our testers had varying opinions about the stock sprockets.

2011 Yamaha YZ250
2011 Yamaha YZ250
Climbing off the multitude of four-strokes and spinning laps on the YZ250 is a breath of fresh air, especially for those who like to whip.
“The only issue I had was the in tight switchback sections where I was between second and third gear,” says pro-level rider Chris See. “To fix that I would go up one or two teeth on the rear sprocket depending on the track, also to give the bike a little more bark out of the corners.”

All of our riders liked the lightweight (227 pounds claimed) feel and responsive aluminum chassis. Getting the bike to turn in rutted corners takes almost no effort and the bike glides through rough corner entries with little concern. The Kayaba suspension is good, but not perfect. More than one of our testers found the 48mm speed-sensitive fork to be harsh in the midstroke, though speedy intermediate Nick Thiel thought otherwise.

“The suspension on the YZ250 is great right out of the box,” argues 175-pound Thiel. “It has surprisingly good bottoming resistance with no mid-stroke harshness and great initial feel. It sits high in the stroke in the rougher sections but also settles well in the inside ruts. It has a really balanced feel around the whole track.”

See struggled with an unbalanced feel which affected the handling, but had success after getting a better feel for alternate clicker settings.

“I think the fork is too stiff for the rear end, which makes it very difficult on flat turns or turns without a rut or berm,” he says. “I softened the front compression, added more rider sag on the shock and firmed up the high-speed compression and sped up the rebound. After we made those small adjustments it was a wonderful machine.”

Even while trying to sort out the suspension, it’s still obvious that the YZ is a quick-handling machine. Changing lines through rolling whoops is simple and picking lines through corners leaves riders plenty of options. Rider ergonomics are comfortable and moving around on the saddle is simple with a flat profile and handlebar/footpeg placement that suited our riders varying from 5’10” to 6’1” in height. Despite outdated bodywork, the midsection is easy to grip and the bike responds quickly and easily to rider input. A side note about the blue plastics, the rear fender is the worst and we’d love to see it updated to match the sharper four-stroke line. The same can be said for the YZ125 for that matter. Watching our fast guys toss the bike in the air over every single jump on every lap was a good sign that it’s pretty dang fun to handle in the air.

2011 Yamaha YZ250
2011 Yamaha YZ250
Amateur riders looking for a 250 to win races on can consider the YZ a viable option.
“I was able to turn underneath a lot of the four-strokes, but the bike also rails the outsides,” says Thiel about the YZ’s handling. “It works awesome on the face of jumps and is really easy to scrub on as well. The cockpit definitely has you in attack position at all times, which I love.”

All four of our testers enjoyed the YZ250’s potent powerplant and lightweight handling, though our two fastest riders definitely enjoyed it most. While it’s not at the competitive level of 450 motocrossers, all could agree that for amateurs competing in the 250 class, the YZ can be a viable option for collecting trophies. At $7150, it's the same price as a YZ250F, but it can also be raced in the 450 division where it costs considerably less than the competition.

“I still don't believe this bike can compete in the premiere class (professionally) week in and week out," says regular 450 pro racer, See. "On the right track this bike could be right in there with the big bikes because of its light, agile aspect. The YZ250 is a great machine for the weekend warrior who just wants a good time and a machine that you can just mix your gas and ride.”

“I can't fathom why these bikes have become a thing of the past,” adds Thiel. “The two-stroke is extremely easy and cheap to maintain, they are an absolute blast to ride and the 250 is still extremely competitive. Why every amateur racer doesn't race these in the 250F class is beyond me.”
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2011 Yamaha YZ250 Specifications
2011 Yamaha YZ250
2011 Yamaha YZ250
Engine: 249cc liquid-cooled twov-stroke; reed-valve inducted
Bore x Stroke: 66.4 x 72.0mm
Fueling: Keihin PWK38S carburetor
Transmission: 5-speed
Final Drive: Chain
Front Suspension: Speed-Sensitive 48mm Kayaba, compression, rebound adjustable, 11.8 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Kayaba shock, compression, rebound, preload adjustable, 12.4 in. travel
Front Brake: 250mm wave rotor, dual-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 245mm wave rotor, single-piston caliper
Front Tire: 80/100-21-51M
Rear Tire: 110/90-19-62M
Seat Height: 39.1 in.
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 15 in.
Fuel Capacity: 2.1 gal.
Curb Weight: 227 lbs. (claimed)

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Will -should of known this would happen...  January 30, 2011 10:50 PM
Every conversation regarding 2-strokes turns in to a "2-stroke vs 4-stroke" debate. LOL. Some people like 4-strokes. Midrange is fun too. Just sayin.
nathan -bring back 2T's  January 12, 2011 06:01 PM
anyone that wants to further the cause of the two stroke can find a petition at www.twostrokemotocross.com

it is basiclly asking the AMA to allow up to 150cc two strokes in the lites class and up to 300cc two strokes in the open class. while it isnt parity it is a step to getting two strokes back onto the scene.

if you want to have a choice about whether you ride a fun explosive bike or a boring old tractor head to this site, sign the petition and make your voice heard
mx4ever1 -2T rules  January 12, 2011 06:51 AM
Here is why, 1- Lighter ( That's a lot lighter ), 2- More power per CC, 3- Snappy and crisp, 3- Easy to start, 4- bikes are a lot cheaper, 5- Easier to maintain and repair, 5- Cheaper to maintain and repair, 6- Runs a lot cooler ( Less chance to get burned ), 7- Higher ground clearance ( without being taller ), 8- Engine a lot smaller and more compact, And more.....
Thiel, That's exactly why (Easy and cheap to maintain, Lower priced ), The Japs manufacturers dump them and went for the 4T's. You know how much they make in a year, just with the sells of the valves alone ? Also, Look at the bikes from 2002 on. Almost no major changes. Everything change and evolve except our machines. Instead, They stick us with the heavy, big, wimp, thumper engines that doubles their profits. Buddies, Let's get back our rights by demanding our beloved 2T. An high tech, Improved one.
Ren Schmidt -Pres. of Revanche2strokes.com  January 11, 2011 05:05 PM
@Brett You relay my thoughts and rants very well. The Japanese will soon get this when the masses go from buying their over priced inferior machines and they all start buying from the Europeans. Hopefully the AMA ( that used to stand for Americans and not for the Japanese yen ) get it soon enough or they too will be on the same list as the Dodo bird. In Europe, they are listening to the people and trying to make their voices heard and accomadating their wishes, unlike here, where money talks and while we do, we are not heard. It is not just enough for Yamaha to make 2 strokes, they need to support them at the national level, so fans can see that they are serious about them, this would be a win/win and Yamaha would not be able to make them fast enough. My fear is, that they don't support them, so the buying public quits buying them because of it, and they can then stop the production of them.
Brett -2 strokes rule  January 11, 2011 04:18 PM
Give a 2 stroke engine direct fuel injection and pressurized oiling. No need for premix, cleaner than a four stroke! KTM can do it.
Ren Schmidt -Pres. of Revanche2strokes.com  January 9, 2011 11:32 AM
@Nathan You are 100% correct, that's why it's a good thing Yamaha makes this bike, but a bad thing that they do not support it on any front. They really want them to go away and not supporting them will force this to happen. Not a dime is spent on updating the two 2 strokes, other than BNG's. You wait and see, the buying public has alot of power and they will soon use this "power" to dictate the outcome. People do not like to be lied to, like the big 4 are doing, or told what to do or buy, other than the kool-aid drinkers who follow and do whatever they are told to. My point is, the Europeans are making 2 strokes and allowing them to compete fairly. When the spineless AMA is close to bankruptcy and the fans have gone to the Europeans for their bikes, the Japs will finally "get it," Unfortunately, this will probably manifest in the Japs "buying" the Euro companys and thus killing the 2 stroke. We need to support the 2 strokes and as ( or more ) importantly, we need to fight to get the rules changed, this will allow people to see the truth and the rest should take care of itself. Even the 4 stroke fans should support the fair ruling change, if I was a 4 stroke racer/rider, I would want to beat the best on fair terms, not having the rules skewed in such a way that there's no way I couldn't lose. Plus, are we really ALL going to sit still and watch something being forcibly and unfairly taken away from us, remember it won't be long before "they" come after the 4 stroke, then what? Support companys like ours and the many others that are fighting for their survival.
nathan -unfair rules  January 8, 2011 11:07 PM
“I can't fathom why these bikes have become a thing of the past,” adds Thiel. “The two-stroke is extremely easy and cheap to maintain, they are an absolute blast to ride and the 250 is still extremely competitive. Why every amateur racer doesn't race these in the 250F class is beyond me.”

the reason everyone abandoned them is because they strokers were made to run with bikes nearly twice the capacity. allowing 250 vs 250 in the amatuer races wont help them sell that well either because all the factory guys will still be riding 4 strokes so they will be winning races and that is what the buyig public will see. they may sell more as a result but until the factories start backig 2 strokes they will never really take off
Ren Schmidt -Pres. of Revanche2strokes.com  January 8, 2011 03:40 PM
Mr. Thiel, thanks for the article, but, I must take offense to your comment, "I still don't believe this bike can compete in the premier class" Answer me this, please, would it compete if the rules were fair and 250's raced 250's? Yes it would, the comment should have been, I can't believe a machine with so many advantages has to overcome stupid rules, it should be allowed to race fairly. Everyone always "pits" the smaller 2 stroke with the twice sized 4 stroke and then they say "it can't compete." We should all be fighting for them TO COMPETE FAIRLY and not write them off as inferior. We stroker fans appreciate the article, but, we need to shift our focus to righting the wrong, not participating in the assanine ruling the once mighty 2 stroke has to obide by.
Ren Schmidt -Pres. of Revanche2strokes.com  January 7, 2011 03:55 PM
Yamaha deserves kudos for continuing to build the almighty 2 stroke, however, I do not want to complain about this fact, but, they should do more to assist them in racing at the AMA pro level. Their 4 strokes and riders get factory help in some fashion or another, but, the smoker boys do not. They make a fantastic 2 stroke, but I sense that if they don't support them and people quite riding/racing them, maybe they will go away. This would be a travesty, the 2 stroke is what propelled ALL 4 of the big 4 to their world position and the 2 stroke should be supported on every front. Not just a token bone thrown out to the faithful.
Consumer -First choice  January 7, 2011 11:49 AM
This Yamaha was my first choice for a new bike in 2010. However I bought the KTM250SX. I didn't just base my decision on the fact that the KTM was cheaper alone, rather I did it because of their continued development of their 2stroke motorcycles. With the current trend in the Japanese markets to eventually discontinue 2cycle motorcycles, this leaves the public as well as myself feeling Asian 2stroke purchases are a risky venture.

Oliver -KTM  January 6, 2011 10:05 PM
Correction, the only other bike I wish for is a KTM 250-SX, but at $6,600 and rave reviews, they're sold out. One would think the other manufacturers would catch on.
Oliver -Love my 2-smoke  January 6, 2011 09:23 PM
I have a 2007 YZ-250 and love it. I put a 10 oz flywheel on it which made the power more tractable (less blood blisters) yet remains very snappy. The bike takes a little more work than a four-stroke but sooooo fun and rewarding. It rails everywhere but I think the place it does best is through whoops. The bike never swaps. You have so much confidence in whoops that you can pin it and even turn over the tops. It's incredible and inspires tons of confidence. Every year, I see a new crop of bikes, yet I remain completely happy with my trusty YZ-250.
kevin -that's why ktm is here  January 6, 2011 08:15 PM
Modern chassis, modern suspension, modern engine, and less money than the YZ250. To bad there isn't a 2011 to be found in the US.
Jaimeb -Two strokes  January 6, 2011 06:35 PM
AMA should allow a 350cc limit for two-strokes to compete in the premiere class - easily making 55-60 rwhp to compete. A stock 2011 250cc two-stroke KTM makes about 51hp at the rear wheel, but lacks the loooong mid range punch of the big 4-stroke bikes, so 350cc should do it. This Yamaha you tested should easily make 46-48hp and will outrun any 250cc 4-stroker out there!

To Mr. Thiel, since Yamaha came with the 450 4-s years ago, technology and lots of dollars from all manufacturers went into making them ligter and more competitive. Markets move where the money is (and vice-versa), and here we are, surrounded by 4-strokes!

Dan -2 strokes please come back!!!  January 6, 2011 05:52 PM
I cant wait to see the yz 2strokes kick the **** out of the slow fat 4stokes in the amateur class then maybe the other 3 big guys will start bringing back thier 2srokes because they wont want to be imbarressed by yamaha.
Tim -BRING THEM BACK!  January 6, 2011 04:22 PM
BRING BACK THE TWO STROKES!!! With fuel injection please.
Stevie -Hmmm.  January 6, 2011 03:06 PM
Everything old is new again. Now bring back the 500 2 stroke in a modern chassis and give the 450's a run for their money. And I'll never have to shim a valve again.