By comparison, the modifications and updates done to the 2009 Yamaha YZ250F may seem mild. Other brands are releasing much more made-over versions of their Lites-class weapons, and 450s are quite revolutionary this year. So why would you go to the blue crew in ’09 if you’re riding a 250F? Because it seems everything they’ve changed is working.Do Yamahas have a turning issue? Up to this point, the accusation that they do could be successfully argued. Although we’ve been able to get both sizes of the YZ-F motocrossers to turn well (with some of the fastest lap times in our shootouts), we’re not about to claim they’re the easiest to get along with in the corners. Bike setup has been critical in the past, especially for the lighter 250F which seems to be in for more of a fight in the handling department than its bigger brother the mighty 450. This really becomes obvious when you get ahold of 2009 models.While both of Yamaha’s full-size MX bikes received almost identical updates in the chassis, the YZ250F gets more of a motor-based makeover with a new clutch assembly and exhaust system. Yamaha engineers must have grown sick of hearing about the soft bottom-end power on last year’s bike because all of their updates are aimed at boosting the bottom while preserving the YZ-F’s mid-to-top prowess.The simplest, and cheapest, way to make more power is to modify an exhaust system. They’re easy to test (since you don’t have to tear apart a motor for different settings), and they’re almost endless in their tunability. Yamaha settled on an exhaust system design that tuned up the YZ250F in two steps, or maybe three depending on what you count.First, the header is 60mm longer right as it exits the motor, before the first bend. Next, the muffler is 50mm shorter. This loss in muffler length is in a crucial place; it’s the last section of the muffler that’s shorter. Or the part that hangs out the most. From the muffler mount forward to the midpipe, the muffler is almost identical to the ’08 unit. Last, the steps in the header are gone and now the exhaust system stays a consistent diameter throughout the midpipe.These are small changes, sure, but they make a big difference on the track. Our first testing feedback told us the Yamaha was awake down low where it once was asleep. It’s not the gnarliest motor out of the corners or when accelerating hard by a long shot. But what it still may lack in snappy excitement it will more than make up for in traction and forward drive. This is a step in the right direction and much more than a baby step. When ridden back to back with our ’08, the improvements were substantial.Carburetion tweaks seem to have the motor running crisper on the track as well. In fact, the entire motor is quieter and much smoother running than our ’08 was a year ago. No doubt the enhanced ignition mapping in the new bike is assisting with this improvement. More than one (in fact, most) test riders commented negatively about the engine noise and rough-at-times running on last year’s model. So far, the issue hasn’t come up with the new Yamaha.The new internal clutch system may have more to do with this better-sounding engine than anything. Previously, the Yamaha 250F clutch had a judder-spring-damped engagement. Also, the six coil springs on the back of the basket have been replaced with eight rubber bushings for 2009. Steel clutch plates throughout the clutch pack are now identical, whereas last year’s spring-damped system required a thicker steel plate against the inside of the basket. Overall, the new clutch assembly should have a longer service interval (due to there being no steel-on-spring contact creating contamination in the oil bath) and surely there will be less heat and noise. With all those benefits of the new clutch, the one you’ll enjoy most might be the simple engagement of it all.The new clutch bites solidly and quickly with a narrower modulation window at the lever. Engine power is delivered directly to the ground immediately. For some, this engagement might be too fast. But for all DR testers so far, this is proving to be a great power enhancer. At around eight hours of run time the clutch is showing zero signs of fade (and that’s with a seasoned professional, a lazy magazine editor and a hyperactive 15-year-old intermediate abusing the beans out of it). Our ’08 clutch didn’t hold up as well.But what about the handling? Does it turn or what? The fast answer to that is yes. It turns quite well, actually. And much better than the previous YZ250Fs. If you’ve been paying attention, you know all there is to know about Yamaha’s new swingarm and linkage. If you haven’t, here’s a recap: It’s now hydroformed and engineered for more flex up and down (as two prongs of a fork moving vertically in unison as well as alternating up and down like a swimmer’s legs). Also, it has more side-to-side or horizontal rigidity. The linkage is redesigned to complement and mate up with the new swingarm yet its ratio is identical to the previous year’s model.
Now, this is where the differences between Yamaha’s 250F and its 450F come into play. If you’ve been reading, you know we were happy with the 2009 450′s handling even though we didn’t notice much of an improvement with the new swingarm (see the YZ450F test in the October ’08 issue). “It surely isn’t worse,” we said. We never had as big of a turning/handling issue with Yamaha’s 450F as we did with its 250F anyway.On the 250F, this swingarm change seems to be making a huge difference. The new flex character delivered a much calmer bike in the ruts, berms and sweeping flat turns than we expected after riding the same update on the 450. The entire chassis seems more calm and relaxed, and the effort you exert to nail turns is much less.Equally impressive is the blue bomber’s now-confident front-end feel. Thanks largely to Bridgestone’s Yamaha-exclusive M403A spec tire, the 250F is less surprising when braking and steering than it has been in the past. This bike requires less steering input and gives you more rewarding corner performance.This is where the package of improvements really comes together for the little Yamaha. The new front tire holds you in place better. The new linkage and swingarm allow the bike to settle and hold a turn more confidently. The new exhaust system (with a shorter muffler helping to centralize mass), ignition settings, jetting specs and clutch improvements put it all together by getting the power out sooner and with more oomph.When you start to think about it, the power is helping the chassis, and the chassis is helping the power…so it’s all good.There are also new visible goodies that might influence your buying decision. The new clutch system is complemented by a stronger and easier-adjusting perch. The new seat cover has more grip and is easier to clean. The top triple clamp has bar-position options through 30mm of movement fore and aft, and the bar is clamped through the same bar mounts as the 450F (4mm taller than last year’s 250F mounts).As a package, the Yamaha 250F is looking pretty nice; at least as nice as it has ever looked. And the ’09 YZ-F updates seem to be improving its performance even more than they did to the 450. Will this be the year Yamaha is on top of the 250F podium? We’ll let you know as soon as we shoot it out with the other contenders.2009 Yamaha YZ250F
MSRP: $6599; white, $6699
Claimed dry weight: 204 lb
Actual weight (no gas): 215 lb
Actual weight (tank full): 227 lb
Seat height: 37.2 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.7 in.
Footpeg height: 16.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 1.9 gal.Other notes: Rebound settings on the shock are highly useful for delivering traction in conditions of chattery acceleration bumps. Open up the adjuster a couple of clicks to improve bite at the rear under these conditions.Opinions
From ’08 to ’09, the Yamaha YZ250F received some major improvements. We rode the two years back to back to compare them, and the ’09 was hands down an all around better bike. The ’08 we rode didn’t have a tired, worn-out motor, either. We’d even thrown a fresh top end in the ’08. Even with the new top end, the ’09 was faster, handled better and overall was just a lot more fun to ride.Although Yamaha didn’t make a lot of changes to the motor, the new exhaust system added quite a bit more bottom while still keeping the mid to top-end power. I’m used to riding a 450, and at 180-185 pounds, I’m not what you call an ideal Lites class rider. So whenever I get on a 250F I’m usually disappointed with the lack of power, but not so with the new Yamaha. The new system gets to the power a lot quicker than the ’08, and on a 250 that’s exactly what I was looking for. The bike was easy to keep in the meat of the power and never really let me down when I was stretching for the bigger jumps. Another nice touch was the completely new clutch. It was very responsive and was actually…almost…I guess I would say crisp. I know crisp doesn’t generally describe a clutch feel, but that’s how it felt. There was no slop and no guessing where the release was. It was the same every turn, every lap and every time I rode the bike.
Probably the biggest and most enjoyable improvement on the Yamaha would have to be the new linkage and swingarm. This was the same change Yamaha made to the 450, and man, this has to be the best cornering blue bike I’ve ever felt. The ’08 wanted to stand up and step out of the ruts if you weren’t absolutely committed, but the ’09 drops right into the ruts with little effort. Just lay it over and drag the handlebar. You know what, forget the handlebar. This thing was dragging the radiator shrouds. The Yamaha had me looking for the deepest ruts on the track to throw the bike into. It didn’t matter if it was a faster or slower line, I always came out with an ear-to-ear grin on my face and screaming at the top of my lungs. And surprisingly, even with such great cornering, the bike was still very stable at high speeds. The suspension on the YZ-F worked great in all conditions and never gave me that unexpected “close-your-eyes pucker.” The adjustability was also impressive. We were able to dial in the suspension from the fast, loamy, choppy tracks to the slower, hard-packed, chattery tracks with just a few clicks.The ’09 YZ250F was a blast to ride. The improved power, handling and awesome brakes made you want to charge into turns and test the limits of yourself and the bike. Yamaha also added a new triple clamp that gives plenty of adjustment for the ProTaper bar, which should let any rider get comfortable on the bike. I was definitely impressed with the new Yamaha, and though this is the first ’09 250F that I’ve ridden, this test made me want to load it up in my truck and take it home.
-Chris Barrett/6’1″/180 lb/ProOverall, the 2009 Yamaha YZ250F is a good bike and an improvement over the 2008, for sure.Due to my size and weight, the bike handled just OK with stock suspension settings. However, once we began to soften it up, it handled great. It’s very stable and I didn’t once get headshake on the fast straights. At first I couldn’t get comfortable turning the Yamaha, but after plenty of clicker adjustments the suspension began to work in the corners for me. The bumps in the ruts were trying to pop the front tire out of the line. We dialed it in as much as possible with the stock springs, and it worked a lot better. (Editor’s Note: Yamaha states that stock springs are intended for riders in the 155-180 pound range. Anyone outside that range should consider a new spring rate.)I think this motor is better for a wide-open track, since I didn’t feel like it had as much bottom as my Honda. From mid to top the YZ-F’s motor pulled great. This bike is fast on the top-end! The only thing I didn’t like about the Yamaha was the bottom-end power. I’d like more down low. Everything else was good and I can see it’s a good pick for everyone from beginner to pro.I’m still a little small on these big bikes, but this one felt great to me on the ground and in the air. It didn’t feel heavy at all. Also, somehow it feels narrower than last year’s model.This bike has gotten a lot better in a year. I was never able to get comfortable on the 2008 YZ-F, but the 2009, after some fine-tuning, was dialed in almost perfectly for me.
-Chris Plouffe/5’5″/120 lb/Intermediate