Here at Dirt Rider, we’re pretty picky about our bikes-like ‘vegan at a barbeque’ picky. So picky, in fact, that rarely does our crew of test riders and staffers test a bike that we all can have fun on. More often than not, the perfect machine for one guy will be a nightmare for somebody who is perhaps a bit faster, fatter or older, and we end up just agreeing to disagree on what we like. We even have one guy on staff (I’m not going to name names, so we’ll just call him “Carl”) that will write off a motorcycle if he doesn’t like the seat. Now that’s picky!However, all of our differences were seemingly set aside at the recent Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke intro. On that sunny day at Glen Helen, we finally found a bike that everyone can enjoy. No matter who we put on the bike-a fast pro racer, a 125-loving weekend warrior or a vet tandem bicycle rider-all our guys came back from their laps on the YZ250 with gigantic, mud-stained grins. We even took the bike to a different track just to be sure, and without so much as setting the sag between riders (something that we’ll typically do up to a dozen times on some test days), the Yamaha was a universal fun creator for all who rode it.
What makes this bike so awesome isn’t groundbreaking technology (you still have to jet it) or innovative revisions (the only changes for 2010 are the stickers on the shrouds). Rather, the YZ250 is an addictive little package due to its potent motor, predictable handling and wholly universal application. To begin with, the powerplant on this bike produces a crisp, strong serving of low-end lug that escalates into good, clean, on-the-pipe power. The response is excellent, and the delivery as the motor winds up is incredibly controllable. Up top, the bike continues to bark before finally signing off, at which point (or, ideally, a little bit before) you simply grab another gear and let it eat all over again. The Yamaha doesn’t require as much clutching on an MX track as you may think, and if you simply carry your speed and keep the revs in the peak portion of the powerband (say that five times fast), you won’t miss that 450cc four-stroke of yours one bit.As far as handling, the Yamaha has a race-proven chassis that stands up to just about whatever you can throw at it. From big braking bumps to hard hits and G-outs, the YZ250 retains a light, nimble feeling without being flimsy or unstable. Sure, the stock suspension may be slightly soft for heavier or faster riders, but overall the motorcycle is incredible controllable and surprisingly easy to ride. In the corners, the Yamaha shines with excellent tracking and a settled, consistent feel, not at all what you would expect from a non-thumper. In fact, the lack of vibration on the YZ250 really gives the rider a lot of confidence, especially at higher speeds.
In terms of application, the YZ250 is as well rounded as they come. We’ve yet to test the 2010 anywhere but on MX tracks, but we spent plenty of time off-road with the near-identical (minus those graphics) 2009 machine and had plenty of fun with it off-road as well. From tight trails to flowing single track and back to EnduroCross-style rocks and logs, there isn’t a lot that the YZ250 won’t conquer. Additionally, we know from experience that these machines are easy to maintain, cheap to own and still incredibly popular with aftermarket companies. Whether you want to make a 450-slaughtering race bike or an armored-out woods weapon, the mods are easy to find and even easier to install.Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be putting even more time on the YZ250 before featuring a full test on the bike in Dirt Rider magazine. Also, we’ve already begun testing exhaust systems on the YZ for an upcoming pipe shootout, so you two-stroke lovers out there will see even more of your favorite bikes in print. Stay tuned!