Since its inception, the Yamaha YZ250F has been in a class of its own. In the racing scene almost every privateer was on a 250F in the 125cc class with the belief that it was the closest he could get to factory power. We all knew it was just a matter of time before the other manufacturers took notice of the dominant 250F sales numbers and produced their own bikes. With competition getting fierce, Yamaha gave the ’04 250 a light makeover. Not a lot of big changes, just some small ones that go a long way. As with the YZ125, the most notable change was to the fork. The 250F also comes with a new 48mm Kayaba fork. The motor has a few new goodies to help improve overall performance and durability.Depending on track conditions, the 250F has both strong and weak areas. The new fork works great and is much better than last year’s. The changes to the fork are more noticeable on the 250F than its little sibling the YZ125 because of the 250F’s weight. The fork offers a stiffer ride; the front end feels a bit more rigid and has no flex. The fork stays higher in the stroke under braking and is more progressive. The shock also works really well in stock trim. A 4.7kg/mm spring is used in the rear, and overall the 250F seemed to be better balanced for its targeted weight. The bike handles well in tighter conditions. The Yamaha also feels better when conditions are loamy or hard-packed. In sandy conditions the bike seems to have a bit of a push in the front end, and the center of gravity feels high. Overall the 250F handles well, it just takes some time to dial in. Changing your ride height and setting up the suspension is key to feeling confident. We played around with a few different sag adjustments; we ran the ride heights anywhere from 97mm to about 104mm. The ergonomics are super-comfortable and fit just about anyone.There is no point in beating around the bush–the motor rips! Compared with all the other bikes, the YZ250F has the most usable power. We praised the KTM 125 motor, but the Yamaha is all about roll-on power. All you have to do is turn the throttle and the bike goes. You can ride this bike fast with very little effort, and not much clutch is needed. The roll-on power is smooth and instant. Bottom-end power is awesome. Midrange power is strong and carries over to solid top-end power, which tends to sign off and go a tad flat. Overall the motor feels as though it has strong horsepower. Jetting seemed to be spot-on. The carburetor is fairly sensitive to changes. We played around with needle-clip positions, moving it from the fourth to the third. The best overall setting was in the fourth position, but we had to adjust to climate changes. The transmission worked flawlessly, and the gearing worked well at all the tracks we tested on.With a good overall package, the Yamaha has proven itself over the past couple of years, and even with new competition thrown at it, the bike still stands tall. The changes it got are noticeable; don’t let the same old look fool you. As with the rest of the YZ lineup, the 250F got titanium footpegs and a gripper seat cover. And as for lap times, test rider Sean Collier rode his fastest aboard the 250F by nearly two seconds. Collier was also quick to point out that he was really impressed with how the bike worked for him in stock trim.
| Corey Neuer
ABILITY: Intermediate • AGE: 27 • WEIGHT: 162 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
Since the YZ250F was first introduced I have been a big fan. The new 250F has the best motor by far. It has tons of roll-on power and doesn’t require a lot of clutch compared with the other bikes. The handling department is where I had a few issues. In sandy conditions I had a hard time getting the bike to turn consistently. Even though the Yamaha is no heavier than its competition it felt heavier to me. The center of gravity feels high, as if the front end is always pushing. In loamy conditions it doesn’t push as much, and the front tire feels planted. The new 48mm Kayaba fork is incredible. The suspension is well balanced and soaks up big hits.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 23 • WEIGHT: 145 lb • HEIGHT: 5’8″
I think the 250F has the best motor out of all the bikes. All you have to do is turn the throttle and the power is there. You don’t need very much clutch. The new front works really well–no more metal-to-metal landings. The new 48mm fork makes a big difference. My only real complaint is the handling didn’t seem to be very consistent. I had a hard time fighting a push in the front end. It wasn’t bad, but it surprised me once in a while.
ABILITY: Vet Intermediate • AGE: 33•WEIGHT: 165 lb• HEIGHT: 5’10″
The motor on the 250F is perfect. It has all the power you need at all the right times–just turn the throttle and the bottom-end power rolls on super-smooth. Midrange power is smooth and turns into screaming top-end with a ton of overrev. I liked the suspension with the stock settings, it worked just about everywhere. I also liked the handling characteristics–very controllable and easy to ride fast.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 18 • WEIGHT: 150 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
The YZ250F was smooth off the bottom with a ton of roll-on power. The strong bottom-end carried over into strong mid and top-end pull. It was definitely the fastest four-stroke of the test. The chassis worked well for me; I didn’t feel any flex, but the suspension was way too soft. The fork and shock seemed soft but still soaked up the choppy bumps well. The new fork works well and has good bottoming resistance but needs to be more progressive.
ABILITY: Novice • AGE: 32 • WEIGHT: 160 lb • HEIGHT: 5’7″
The first thing I noticed was the ripping motor. The YZ250F is the fastest bike in the class, but it’s also easy to ride. The motor creates roll-on power that makes it possible to carve around a corner at half throttle, and then pin it as you exit the turn. Sometimes all it takes is a quick stab of the clutch, but the YZ250F is always there and willing to come alive and pull hard.
At first I felt like I was having a hard time getting the bike to settle into turns, but we cured the problem after a few adjustments to the fork. The YZ250F turns without much effort, but a couple of bikes were easier to tuck into the inside line. The YZ250F may not be the most nimble jumper, but for me it was the most solid. I feel more comfortable dialing in new jumps on the YZ250F, because it seems to straighten out no matter how I land. The new 48mm fork took a proven, confidence-inspiring package to an elevated level. You can push the YZ250F and it doesn’t do anything spooky. I think the combination of this refined chassis and a strong motor that feels somewhere between a 125 and 250 makes this the most fun bike to ride for me.