What's HotFirst and foremost on the Hot List is the power delivery. The small improvements Yamaha has made to the veteran motor of the 250F class shows how versatile the original was. Just by moving exhaust pipes around and transporting the power through a smoother-shifting and better clutched drive system, Yamaha engineers have woken this motor up substantially. It's still very easy to ride and delivers one of the most consistent power deliveries in the class. The new YZF still doesn't rip as hard down low as last year's most aggressive bikes, but it is plenty alive to keep them in sight (or move right past them with tons of traction!). 2009 is proving to be a banner year for motor improvements. We can't wait to see what everyone else has to offer and just where the Yamaha YZ 250F stands. Right now, and compared directly to our freshly rebuilt 2008, the '09 is a much stronger, more capable racer in engine alone.The second most-improved engine component (next to the exhaust system) is the clutch assembly. The new, less complicated rubber damped system is delivering amazingly solid engagement.Last year, we burned through a clutch in the first 10 hours before our shootout but our '09 is still grabbing strong as it approaches the decade-hour mark. The lever feel is improved and its adjustment is convenient but the point where the plates engage to the basket is the most impressive. The connection is solid to say the least. And while the range of modulation is narrow for some, the control it provides is ample for all. It seems as if the power on the 2008 we tested alongside was going through a filter in the clutch before it made its way to the rear tire. That feeling is gone in the 2009 assembly for sure. This is boosting the more solid bottom end power feel as well.Next up in the hot room is the handling. We've all heard the praise for Yamaha's straight-line stability and excellent bump-compliant suspension in the past few years. Likewise, we've all heard the grumblings from those who dislike the aluminum framed YZF's cornering.While we're still preaching proper bike setup (including the ever-important race sag) to make the YZF turn as good or better than anything, we can't help but notice how much easier it is to enjoy the curves on this '09.More so than with the YZ450F, the swingarm and linkage flex character changes are showing up big time on the 250F. All of our test riders felt this bike charged through the corners better than in ' 08. We had Yamaha technicians busy unbolting mud-packed radiator shrouds to clean out the louvers from the seriously deep rut railing our pro-tester Chris Barrett put the bike through. There is a much lighter resistance in the bars compared to last year's bike and the rear stays behind you.When we jumped to our '08 test mule, the "old" bike felt heavier in the bar and less-reluctant to lie over and stay down all the way through a corner. It wasn't terrible but it required a bit more attention to steer-counter steer input than we had to put in on the new bike.No doubt the stronger power delivery is helping the bike settle in corners as well.On the straights and through the bumps the YZ 250F is maintaining a great ride. However, the 2009 bike seems valved on the stiff side. We softened the front end up 3-4 clicks on the compression end at every track we tried and dropped the rear down to 102mm of sag for the best balance. Our rebound settings in the fork were closer to stock but we still sped them up (less damping) to keep the bike happiest.Overall, Yamaha's KYB setup is one of the best for providing great progression with ample bottoming resistance.We've seen stock suspension components from other brands sack out and loose their hold up in 10 hours. Not so with this set. We're still at the settings you'll find in this story's chart.The other new part of this bike we've been thrilled to test is the new front tire. The Bridgestone 403A is just like our 2008 product of the year 403 with a flatter profile and less round shape. This gives the tire a bigger footprint, really, for a much more controlled corner feel. This tire works as good, if not better than the standard 403 in all conditions but full soft. Like a wider tire would, it can get "floaty" in the softest stuff and veer towards vagueness.Make sure you spot your sag setting correctly and get your suspension dialed in as this can have as much influence in front end traction as tire choice.What's NotThe fancy black side covers look like fancy scratched black side covers almost immediately and the shrouds mysteriously grab some of our high-kicking test-rider's boots at times when they lay the YZF over in the turns.What it isThe newest Yamaha is a great example of improving what you already have. Similar to the KTM 450 SXF we've tested this summer, the Yamaha YZ 250F's improvements have improved its weak points and enhanced its strong points. The bike always ran strong from mid up. Now it has more bottom with the same powerful mid and top end. The suspension was always great at holding us up to high-speed hits and big jump landings. Now, it keeps us charging through corners better than ever.Like all first tests, we have to evaluate this bike without its competition (mostly because we don't have the competition yet). So if you're waiting to make your buying decision, hold on a bit longer while we shuffle in the rest of the '09's to compare.While it's clear this is a nicely updated version of last year's bike, it's still the step before Yamaha makes big changes to the YZ lineup. And that can make buying one the smartest thing you've done in a while or the most premature, depending on where the blue-team goes in the future.Test Rider OpinionsFrom 08' to '09, the Yamaha YZ250F has 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. Yamaha had enough confidence in their new bike to throw a fresh top end in the '08. Even with the new top end the '09 was still faster, handled better and overall just a lot more fun to ride.Although they 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. Now, I'm used to riding a 450, and at 180-185lbs, I'm not what you call an ideal Lights 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 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 they made to the 450 and man, this has to be the best cornering blue bike I have 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 handlebars. You know what, forget the handlebars. 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 faster or slower, 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 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 you plenty of adjustment for those ProTaper bars, which should let any rider get comfortable on the bike. I was definitely impressed with the new Yamaha and although this is the first '09 250F that I have ridden, this test made me want to load it up in my truck and take it home.
--Chris Barrett/ 25 years old/ 6'1"/ 180lbs/ 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 okay 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 suspension was too stiff for my weight at first and the bumps in the ruts were trying to pop my front tire out of the line. We dialed it in as much as possible with the stock springs (Editor's Note: Yamaha states that stock springs are intended for riders in the 155-180 lb range. Anyone outside that will need a new spring rate) and it worked a lot better.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 motor pulled great. This bike is fast on the top end!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, it feels narrower than last year's model.The only thing I didn't like about the bike 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.This bike has gotten a lot better in a year. I was never able to get comfortable on the 2008 YZF, but the 2009, after some fine tuning, was dialed in almost perfectly for me.--Chris Plouffe/ 15 years old/ 5'5"/ 120 lbs/ Intermediate.