2nd Place of the 2018 250F MX Shootout: Yamaha YZ250F

Torquey, plush, and stable

Yamaha YZ250F
“The Yamaha has the most bottom-end punch and is very predictable at speed.” —Cody JohnstonJeff Allen

The Yamaha YZ250F is unquestionably a remarkable machine. The bike has won every Dirt Rider 250F MX Shootout since 2014, which was the first year the rearward-facing cylinder head engine was released and also the first year the bike became fuel injected. While some may say the bike is becoming a bit long in the tooth—and it was clear that Yamaha put most of its emphasis on releasing the all-new YZ450F in 2018, as the only changes the YZ250F received for the new year were race team-inspired blue rims and new graphics—the YZ250F is still a great machine. While we don't have a crystal ball, we anticipate the YZ250F will be all new in 2019 and will receive many of the changes the YZ450F received this year. Nonetheless, despite receiving only cosmetic changes, the YZ250F still finished in the runner-up spot in our 2018 250F MX Shootout.

Yamaha YZ250F Dyno Chart
2018 Yamaha YZ250F | Dyno ChartDirt Rider Staff

Engine

The YZ250F engine is unlike any other powerplant in the class. When one thinks of a 250F engine, what commonly comes to mind is a mellow bottom-end, decent midrange, and good top-end and over-rev power. However, such is not the case with the Yamaha. The YZ250F has the best bottom-end power and midrange power in the class. Both of these qualities make it feel like a larger-displacement engine and allow the rider to lug it lower in the rpm than one would ever think possible on a 250 four-stroke. This also makes it easy to ride the bike a gear high in even the tightest of corners. The strong low-end and midrange power makes it a very likable powerband by a wide range of riders of differing ability and sizes.

However, if there's an area where the YZ250F isn't as strong as its competitors, it's in the top-end power. While the Yamaha is by no means a slouch in this area making 35.3 hp at 12,470 rpm, the power feels like it tapers off in the higher rpm and especially when it gets close to the rev limiter, which encourages the rider to shift once reaching the upper midrange in order to keep the bike in the meat of the power. A few minor complaints about the YZ250F: It has the most engine braking in the class, a loud muffler, and a more audible airbox intake noise than all of the other bikes. All in all, the YZ250F is an excellent engine that appeals to many riders and was consistently one of the highest-rated engines among our test riders over the course of the two-day shootout.

Yamaha YZ250F
“The Yamaha engine can be comfortably lugged lower in the rpms than any other bike in the class.” —Andrew OldarJeff Allen

Suspension

For many years, Yamaha has been widely praised for having the plushest suspension in the class thanks to its KYB SSS coil-spring fork and KYB shock, and the same is true this year. In fact, the YZ250F was the highest rated in the suspension category on both days of the shootout by our test riders for good reason. The fork offers the most comfort and plushness of any other bike and stays that way throughout the entirety of the stroke, which is confidence inspiring because of how predictable it is. The fork has good bottoming resistance as well but rides a little lower in the stroke than others, and a few test riders felt it was occasionally a little busy on faster parts of the track and under hard braking.

Yamaha YZ250F
“The Yamaha has tons of raw power and great suspension.” —Bradley LionnetJeff Allen

While the fork was well liked, the shock received lots of praise as well for many of the same reasons. It feels the plushest of all and gives very little negative feedback to the rider on any type of impact. One of the most notable qualities of the KYB components spec’d on the YZ250F is that they accommodate a wide range of rider sizes and skill levels in stock form. A great example of this is that one of our pro-level test riders made zero changes to the bike because he was so happy with how it felt in stock trim.

Yamaha YZ250F
“The Yamaha is ready to win local races in stock form.” —Steve BonifaceJeff Allen

Handling

If there’s one area where the YZ250F is least highly praised, especially in comparison to its excellent engine and suspension, it’s in the chassis/handling category. The YZ250F feels like the largest bike in the class. It feels wide in the radiator shroud area when you first sit on it, but most test riders commented that the sensation disappears once on the track. Part of the tall feeling of the Yamaha comes from the slightly stinkbug stance the bike has in stock form, which can be alleviated by increasing shock sag, but that can negatively affect the bike’s cornering ability, which is one of the YZ250F’s weaknesses to start with.

Yamaha YZ250F
“The Yamaha is a strong overall bike that is ready to race in stock form.” —Michael WickerJeff Allen

Some test riders felt like the bike didn’t corner the greatest because it had the tendency to stand up in corners and didn’t settle very well. Another reason the bike feels like it struggles in the corners is due to a somewhat vague feeling in the front end, which occasionally makes the front end feel like it wants to push or wash out, especially in flatter corners with no rut to help guide the front end. What the YZ250F lacks in cornering ability, it gains in straight-line stability—so much so, in fact, that it was praised by nearly every test rider as being the most stable-feeling bike in the class.

Why It Should Have Won

It has an amazing engine that produces more bottom-end and midrange than any other machine in the class, the most well-liked and comfort-oriented suspension, and the best straight-line stability.

Yamaha YZ250F
"The Yamaha has the plushest suspension in the class." —Andrew Oldar
"If I were to have to race today, I would take the Yamaha." —Steve Boniface
Pete Peterson

Why It Didn't Win

It’s not the best cornering bike, and it lacks some top-end and over-rev power.

YZ250F Settings Stock Best
Fork Compression 11 7
Fork Rebound 12 11
Shock Low-Speed Compression 11 9
Shock High-Speed Compression 1.125 1.125
Shock Rebound 14 14
Shock Sag (mm) 100 100