Story By Kris Keefer | Photos By Adam Booth
Well, we’ve officially waited long enough! Offering a radically different motorcycle from its previous 250cc models, Yamaha is truly changing things up for 2014 in the mid-sized four-stroke class with the release of a completely new, totally redefined YZ250F.
First, the big news: no more jetting – EFI is here! Yamaha finally replaced the carb with a fuel injection system that uses a Keihin 44mm throttle body. Another huge change in the motor department is a rearward-inclined cylinder, just like the blue 450. Because of this new orientation, the YZ250F also adopts the bigger bike’s rear-positioned exhaust, forward-facing intake and wraparound header. The four-titanium-valve cylinder is fed fuel by a high-pressure battery-less electric pump for an optimum fuel/air ratio. All of these engine changes were aimed at more power, especially in the mid-to-high rpm range. Also, Yamaha got rid of the external oil tank for the YZ250F’s wet sump lubrication system.
Although the production units will not arrive into dealers until November, Yamaha graciously let us ride three carefully measured hours on a pre-production unit at Glen Helen for a quick first impression of the bike. So what did we think in those short 180 minutes of ride time? Here are ten things that grabbed our attention:
- Fuel Injection. This one may seem obvious, but not all FI is created equal. The 2014 YZ250F is very responsive and clean. There is zero hesitation (we have felt some bad feeling production fuel injected bikes before) nor is there any sputter or lag. This machine runs smoothly all the way through until there is nothing more to give.
- Bottom End: With FI comes a little less bottom end. That’s to be expected. The new YZ-F has great throttle response but still is a little smoother feeling coming out of corners than we would like. Yamaha did change an ignition map for us and it got a little better but time was of the essence today and we simply just didn’t have enough of it to get it to where we loved it.
- Mid-Range: You better be gripping the blue steed with your legs once you get into the mid range because this is where the fun starts. It has a great mid-range pull that will have you double-checking to see what bike your riding. The motor feels nothing like the 2013. Its mid range power is wider and more useable than the previous model, for sure.
- Top End: Great top end pull that can pull even our heaviest test riders around was the topic of the day at Glen Helen. Third gear pull is great and on long straights the bike can even be shifted into fourth without falling off. The motor is very broad this year and it really shines going up long hills. When we could find a little momentum going up some of the big hills at Glen Helen third gear was our happy place, and the YZ-F rewarded us by wheeling all the way up.
- Over-Rev: The 2014 YZ250F actually revs! Second gear can be left on just that much longer with this new four-valve motor and is by far easier to ride than the 2013. There were a couple short sections of the Glen Helen track that had two quick corners back to back with just a short straight away where you had to decide if you needed to shift up to third or leave it in second, and revving it out in second was the better choice.
- Front Fork: Every Kayaba fork should be this good. The action is so smooth and while the track wasn’t terribly rough it did have some sections that could scare you, yet the fork handled it with ease. The fork does use much of its stroke while riding which Yamaha owners are used to but it still feels like it has damping all the way through the stroke. Still one of the best production forks on the market.
- Shock: We did feel the shock may have been too soft on high-speed compression and we didn’t have enough time to really dial it in. On hard landings or G-outs we could feel the shock blow through at the very end of the stroke. In braking bumps the bike feels balanced and doesn’t ride too low coming into corners. We ran the shock sag at 102mm the whole day.
- Chassis: The bike feels more flickable and easier to change directions on the track. Pivoting mid turn felt easier to do than in years past with the YZ250F. We don’t know the weight of the bike yet but right now we don’t care because it feels light on the track. Numbers can only take you so far and in the real world it’s what the rider feels on the track. No vibration at all was felt on the bike, which is a far cry from the previous solid bar mounted triple clamp.
- Ergonomics: With the all-new bodywork it does feel slimmer up front near the tank/shroud area. This might be due to the fact the shrouds aren’t sticking past the fork tubes this year. Getting up on the tank area in corners is made easier and seamless with the relocation of the gas cap. The bar bend was a little too high for one of our test riders but it’s still a very neutral feeling machine.
- Gearing: We do think that the transmission spacing between second and third gears is too far apart. On more than one occasion we shifted into third and the Yamaha fell off the power too much. We do think going from a 50 to a 51 at Glen Helen would have been better. The motor is so good, however, that a little fan of the clutch and it was back screaming and moving forward.
- Bonus Tidbits: The clutch pull was very friendly and easy to pull. The muffler is a little loud when screaming but is not annoyingly loud like the Kawasaki KX250F. Some test riders said it sounded like a race bike with an aftermarket muffler. Brakes are decent but we would like to get a little more stopping power out of the front brake.
It’s hard to say where the Yamaha YZ250F will stack up against the other 2014 250Fs we have ridden but we do know one thing: Yamaha has re-entered the game with this new YZ250F. Keeping a stable chassis and getting an even better powerplant for 2014, the Yamaha is a heavily improved machine. The other manufacturers better watch their backs come shootout time!