Two-strokes aren’t dead. Let me repeat that: Two-stroke dirt bikes-those wonderfully fun machines that are fondly known for chugging mixed gas, singing at high rpm ranges and leaving a trail of sweet-smelling blue smoke-aren’t going anywhere. At least, the blue ones aren’t. How do we know? Because Yamaha told us two-strokes are going to be around for a while. In fact, here’s an actual quote from Yamaha’s Off-Road Media Relations Manager, Tim Olson: “Two-strokes are going to be around for a while.” See? There really isn’t anything to worry about. But just to be sure, we went out and rode the heck out of the 2010 YZ250 two-stroke. Here’s a shakedown of the top five things that we learned from several days of hammering the big blue Zinger:1. Yamaha really is committed to two-strokes. This was made evident by the fact it held an actual press intro for the YZ250, rather than just driving past the back of the Dirt Rider shop and chucking the bike out like a newspaper. A look at Yamaha’s history only verifies its claims of support for the two-stroke product, as the company’s very first motorcycle was a 125cc two-stroke built in 1955 (and it didn’t even make a four-stroke until 15 years later!). And although Yamaha may have all but pioneered the Asian side of the four-stroke motocross movement, it has also continued to renovate its two-stroke line to match the growing technology found in the sport.2. If it ain’t broke, give it bold new graphics. At least, this seems to be Yamaha’s formula. In truth, the 2010 YZ250 doesn’t feature any wild new technology-you still have to jet the carburetor, for goodness sake-and the only two differences between the ’09 and 2010 models are (a) the right radiator shroud graphic and (b) the left radiator shroud graphic. But even without an impressive list of revisions, the YZ250 is an addictive little package due to its potent motor, predictable handling and wholly universal application. We had a wide variety of testers moto this bike, from vet off-road guys to young, hungry pro racers, and everyone agreed the YZ doesn’t need to be revamped each year in order to be completely awesome.3. This motor rips. If you haven’t ridden a two-stroke in a while, the YZ250′s powerplant might surprise you. Not only does the bike produce a more-than-acceptable dose of “get ‘r done!” but it does so with phenomenal jetting. Off the bottom, the Yami clocks in with a crisp, strong lug that slowly builds into clean, powerful pulling once you get on the pipe. The transitions throughout the various steps in the powerband are excellent, and the response and delivery are both well tuned and entirely controllable. A total novice can hop on this machine and feel safe with (although respectful of) the power, while a lifetime pro will still get his or her kicks with the 250 in completely stock trim. The solid pull continues throughout the midrange before arriving in the barky high-end revs and, finally, signing off. Although the performance of the motor isn’t maxed out in stock form-you will read about some positive aftermarket exhaust modifications in our pipe comparison on page 78, and we’ve had great luck with a Moto Tassinari VForce3 on this bike-there is still a lot to be said for how well it works right out of the box.
4. The YZ250 handles like it should. Just how exactly should the YZ250 handle? For one thing, the bike should be able to at least stand up to the average abuse dished out by a normal rider on a modern MX track, with its bumps, ruts and chop. This 250cc two-stroke handles all of the above and then some, absorbing hard hits and G-outs just as well as low-speed braking bumps and kickers. The stability of the ride is impressive, and though it’s not as planted as a four-stroke or as solid as a big 450, you really come to appreciate the lightweight feel of the YZ250. The bike darts around the track with deliberate buoyancy, slicing into ruts and railing through turns with great consistency. Our entire crew of test riders was again surprised by the cornering prowess of this motorcycle, and it seems that if you drag the front brake a tad and keep your speed up, it can do no wrong in rutted turns.5. The true joy is in the details. Vibration on the YZ250 is minimal (proving yet again that aluminum-frame two-strokes rule). The comfortable ProTaper handlebar is an outstanding stock feature, and the Dunlop 756/742FA tires are likewise a welcome gift from Japan. We should also mention the comfortable ergonomics, strong-yet-usable brakes, adjustable clutch perch, durable stock seat cover and about a hundred other tiny details that add up to a complete package that had our test riders bickering about who got the bike next.The YZ250 is a great bike. We wouldn’t be surprised if Yamaha sold more YZ250s in the next 12 months than it did in the last 24. Two-strokes definitely seem to be hotter than Hansel right now, and judging by what the manufacturers tell us and what we’ve read in letters from readers, there is still a great amount of interest in this bike. We even prodded one Yamaha insider about the idea of a two-stroke, WR-styled off-road machine in a future lineup, to which he cagily replied, “Yamaha is definitely looking into the off-road aspect of the YZ250 two-stroke.” All of this serves as even more proof that the bikes aren’t going away soon.Of course, we’re not at all recommending that you throw away your valve shim kit or your feeler gauges. However, you might want to dig through that oily box full of tools under the workbench and find your trusty old spark plug wrench. We have a feeling you might need it again.Specifications: 2010 Yamaha YZ250
Claimed weight: 229 lb
Actual weight (tank full): 228 lb
Seat height: 37.25 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 21.0 in.
Footpeg height: 16.25 in.
Fuel capacity: 2.1 gal.What’s hot!
- Fun, fun, fun!
- Excellent stock power and crisp tuning.
- Corners incredibly well for a two-stroke.
- Lightweight, easy to work on and dependable to own.
- Yamaha is the only Japanese manufacturer with a 30-day warranty.
- Only legal to race against 250cc four-strokes in certain races and classes. Sorry, MX pros! You have to fight the displacement disadvantage.
- Stock exhaust isn’t the best option available for the bike. Sorry, Yamaha!
- Don’t expect to be as fresh after a moto as you were on your thumper. This bike takes energy to ride.
Fun! That’s the first word that comes to mind when I ride the YZ250. The bike is super light, easy to maneuver and sounds awesome! The YZ250 two-stroke also has a good motor. Great response leads into controllable bottom-end power and transitions well into strong, broad mid power. The bike runs a little flat up top, but I know that it can be woken up with an aftermarket exhaust system. The Yami comes a little too soft for my liking. But even with this lighter suspension setting the bike is well controlled and really predictable. You can hammer into the braking bumps, set up and settle into a rut, berm or flat track turn, and get on the gas early to power out of any turn carrying tons of momentum. I was really impressed with how well it tracked on acceleration. Coming out of corners carrying all that momentum you can only hope that the YZ will hold tight and track well especially when you’re hitting bumps at an awkward angle. This machine had it all covered!Pete Peterson
5’10″/160 lb/Vet Novice
The newer blue 250 two-strokes have been somehow too much for me. They felt big and unwilling to do what I wanted-mostly because of the strong engine and a throttle that was too eager to get into it. I wasn’t expecting a great ride when I climbed onto the 2010 YZ250, but this bike won me over before I’d finished a lap. The bike already had an FMF Gnarly pipe and Shorty silencer on it, so it wasn’t stock, but by today’s standards this would count as a cheap mod (priced out a two-stroke exhaust lately?). If you’re a novice motocrosser, this transforms the beastly Yamaha into a four-stroke-like comfort ride with plenty of power that’s easy to keep at bay, yet always available if you want it. The bike then becomes a strange hybrid of controllable power while still retaining that two-stroke desire to leap off the ground on jumps and feel light and agile in the turns. The YZ isn’t as plush or as calm as a 450, but when you want to really ride, not just point and twist, Yamaha has the weapon.Jimmy Lewis
5’10″/185 lb/Old Pro
I like new stuff. I like different stuff, too. So a semi-out-of-date 250cc two-stroke should be right up my alley, and this YZ250 is just that. Ever since Yamaha hooked up the two-stroke YZ with an aluminum frame, the bike has been a solid performer with a workhorse of an engine. From the second I got on the 2010 with its two new tank stickers, I was having a great time and really couldn’t find anything to take issue with. It isn’t as polar with any characteristic-handling, power delivery, suspension-so that it bugs me, and at the same time it never reaches that spectacular level of performance when compared to some bigger and smaller four-strokes. But the bike is bulletproof, easy to work on, cheaper and one of the most versatile machines this side of the two-stroke KTM XCs.