2008 Yamaha YZ250 - First Test - Dirt Rider Magazine

Being "middle of the road" can mean a lot of things. It's a term for average or just placing something in the center of two extremes. With a shrunken class, the Yamaha YZ250 has adopted this place in class among its competitors, the Suzuki RM250 and KTM 250 SX. Call it a middleman.What the two-stroke Yamaha has going for it is a highly tuned quarter-liter mill that pumps out way more horsepower than any four-stroke. Yep, that's right, on a per cc basis you'd be hard-pressed to buy anything with cams and valves that gets the job done on this level. Don't forget that! And the power is buttery smooth and snappy aggressive all in one package. It will tractor, dare we say, "like a four-stroke" and still respond with a ferocious snap with just throttle or even harder with a snap of the clutch. Overall, it's a tad slower than a 450cc four-stroke, mostly because the powerband is shorter and you'll have to make more shifts between the corners on a two-stroke. And in class, the Yamaha doesn't have the bottom-end tug, torque and snap of the RM250 nor the smooth, fast and flat pull of the KTM. Here, the YZ is walking the center aisle.Since the two-stroke has been sitting on the sales floors a lot longer and not selling to the same degree as its thumping brothers, it hasn't gotten the attention come R&D; time, either. This year Yamaha gave the YZ250 some of the upgrades to the fork, mostly for reduced weight and some setting changes to the shock to match. Could we tell? No, not really. The YZ is such a solid handler that we've hardly lodged a complaint against it in the last few years. It makes a four-stroke-even some of the 250Fs-feel porky and yet the YZ250 still remains plush. It has a pretty light feel through the bar; Yamaha has found a really good balance to the ride. It isn't unstable. Riders get the feel of the track, just not too much of it. Then the bike gets really planted and grabs traction. It doesn't bounce as much as the Suzuki in the chop nor stick as well as the KTM on its tires but again sits right in the middle. And since contemporary tires have become a bit better, the YZ's stock Dunlop D739 leaves a little bit to be desired; we swapped it to a D745 and saw a big improvement in bite in the turns.Are you afraid to mix your gas? Is only having a 9000 rpm power peak just too low for you? Does that funny, higher-pitched sound irritate you? Or are you just plain pissed that you have to race against bikes nearly double the displacement? These are all logical questions in the four-stroke world consumers have created, leading us to believe that this may just be the last year of the Yamaha YZ250. It's still a great bike but everyone seems to want to get rid of the middleman.Specifications
MSRP: $6399
Seat height: 37.7 in.
Footpeg height: 16.8 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.9 in.
Claimed dry weight: 212 lb
Weight (ready to ride, no gas): 219 lbWhat's Hot!
Light, flickable, powerful two-stroke
Reliable and very simple to work on
A very solid package, box-stockWhat's Not!
The front tire is as dated as two-strokes are
More pipe to dent
An endangered species coming from JapanOpinions
Lately I've been more open to a two-stroke as my only moto bike. The three 250cc two-stroke players left are the KTM, RM and YZ. The RM wants a rider with better reflexes than I have, but the KTM and the YZ remain extremely attractive options. Both have engines that give away only a little to a 450cc four-stroke. The YZ has a great, light feel that's hard to beat. The weight is a plus for handling and stopping. The brakes feel great compared to any 450, but they aren't special; a two-stroke 250 simply has less mass to slow. It also has less routine maintenance to worry about. Riding a two-stroke again is almost like a holiday. Clean the air filter and mix gas, have fun, repeat. I haven't felt the need to change the gearbox oil just yet. I have to say that's a big attraction. The YZ is still the best overall two-stroke MXer out there. But KTM is closing in. Even the years when the KTM motor was stronger, the YZ was better thanks to amazing roll-on, but now the suspension plushness is the only thing keeping it in the class lead. Long live two-strokes!
-Karel Kramer/6'1"/210 lb/NoviceI used to think 250cc two-strokes were too powerful and too fast. But riding 450cc four-strokes has mellowed the feel of the 250cc two-stroke to a point where I really like them. In fact, I have more fun on the two-strokes so that's what I'm riding moto on, by choice. I was thinking that Yamaha was going to stay in the two-stroke game a little longer, the blue engineers timed the upgrade to the aluminum frame just right to get a longer life out of the bike. But with the overall slowing of bike sales, having four full-size YZs on the same sales floor makes it a little crowded, especially in a tight market. If you and a lot of your friends could buy up all of these two-strokes, I still think it would be too late. Suzuki has already admitted the RM250 is dead. The only saving grace is that KTM will be there to catch you. But if you don't like orange, better go blue right now.
-Jimmy Lewis/5'10"/185 lb/Vet Pro