Primary Use: Part time motocrosser, part time trail bike, and part time hill climber
Main Mods: Acerbis X-force handguards, FMF Turbine Core 2 silencer, FMF Gnarly pipe, Fasst Company handlebars, V-Force 3 reed cage
Moment of Glory: Getting third place in my class at Glen Helen’s MTA 2-stroke national on a bike with a kickstand.
Forgettable Experience: Over jumping a Glen Helen tabletop and landing to flat! Wrists were sore for a week.
Aftermath: Two Dunlop MX-81 front tires, One MX-81 rear tire, two MX-3S rear tires, numerous air filter cleanings, one new Twin Air filter, and seven oil changes using AmsOil 10-40 synthetic.
The first part of my time with the 2016 Yamaha YZ250X was spent mostly off-road, which is what the bike was designed for and it proved that Yamaha had hit the mark. Since the last update I have been spending more time on a motocross track to see just how different Yamaha’s new YZ250X off-road machine is from its YZ250 moto cousin. The obvious differences are the 18” rear wheel and kickstand, although some will argue that a 19” wheel is a little easier to ride through rutted corners; I did not notice any disadvantages to the 18” wheel. In fact the 18” wheel took some of the bite out of the harsh, square edged acceleration and braking bumps that I experienced at some tracks. The kickstand never bothered me or came down on the track (even on hard landings or over jumps it stayed put).
The power of the YZ250X is a little softer (friendlier) and lacks some over-rev when compared to the YZ250. The extra low-end torque and smooth bottom end of the X model make it much easier to find traction when conditions get slick. For me more traction was most noticeable on starts, every motocross start I have lined up for has ended in a holeshot. The power just seems to smoothly get to the ground and be easy to control compared to a snappier YZ250. The only places on the track where the smoother bottom end was a hindrance were situations where I needed a lot of power in a hurry, such as large jumps out of tight turns or steep hills out of tight turns (think the hills of Glen Helen).
The main downside to riding the 250X on a moto track comes on faster circuits where you need fourth gear. On tighter tracks the shorter third gear can be nice when you only need a little more than second gear. However on long fast straights shifting from the shorter third gear to the taller fourth gear does take some clutch use (to get into the meat of the power). This could be somewhat fixed by dropping a couple of teeth from the rear sprocket which in turn would let third gear pull longer, eliminating the need to shift to fourth. I will be trying this on my next trip to the track!
The YZ250X comes stock with somewhat soft suspension, which isn’t always a bad thing if you aren’t a very aggressive rider. The softer off-road oriented settings make the bike more compliant when it comes to rocks and small trail hack (even when speeds pick up the fork still stays up in the stroke). On the track the softer settings are nice once the track gets rough (especially when you are the last moto of the day at Glen Helen). Although the soft settings are nice on rough tracks, the downside to these settings can be when the track is filled with larger jumps. If you come up short on a jump the suspension is quite soft and feels like it blows through the stroke and rebounds quick. Slowing the rebound down helps some, but doesn’t remedy the situation, so being precise on this machine on jump filled tracks is key.
When it comes to riding the YZ 250X on a moto track in stock form, a vet rider on a vet friendly track would be in love. That’s not to say it can’t be ridden hard on the track, it just means if an expert/ pro level rider wants to ride at their pace, it’s going to be on the soft side and could benefit from heavier springs.