1999: Finally fast! The motor that currently blesses the YZ
made its debut in ’ 99. The YZ dominated magazine shootouts
from this point on.
2005: Aluminum came to the YZ. The aluminum-frame bike
introduced in ’05 remains fundamentally the same today.
1995: Big cosmetic changes came in the purple era. The production YZ was slowly falling behind in the horsepower war
but still handled well. 1997: The switch to blue in ’ 96 was accompanied by a new frame and bodywork. The motor remained a little dated in ’ 97.
1999: Yamaha finally got sick of being the opposite of
fast in ’ 99. The old motor was entirely tossed out. The YZ
powerplant hadn’t received this much attention since 1992,
and it probably hadn’t received this much improvement
ever. The bike’s throttle response and fun factor increased
significantly. For the next few years, Yamaha refined the
motor in small ways, but it’s essentially the same today. In
these years, Yamaha dominated magazine shootouts.
2003: The YZ’s frame was next on the hit list. The chassis got a remake in 2003 with slimmer bodywork and a
new airbox. But, by this time, more and more development
resources were being diverted to four-stroke projects.
2005: Yamaha gave the YZ250 one last present before
turning out the lights in the two-stroke R&D department. The
YZ got an aluminum frame. It’s interesting to note that
Yamaha had been testing aluminum as a frame material for a
long time—even predating Honda’s 1997 CR250R. When
aluminum finally came to the entire YZ line, Yamaha used a
conventional backbone layout instead of a perimeter design.
The test riders were doing whatever it took to make the new
frame handle like the old one. Since then, Yamaha switched
to a perimeter layout for the four-strokes, but the YZ250 and
125 have been essentially unchanged since 2005.
STILL THE ONE
Today, the Yamaha YZ250 lives on, and its future seems
safe. Aside from the fact that there would be riots if it were
discontinued, it still sells enough to justify its place in the line.
And currently, not even four-stroke sales numbers are very
impressive. When the market recovers, no one can say if the
two-stroke will make a comeback. But in the meantime, if
one bike deserves to carry the two-stroke flag, it’s the YZ. ;
1986: This was another complete redesign. The ’ 86 Yamaha
got a new chassis and bodywork, and most of the motor’s
internals were massaged. The front brake was hydraulic. The
most important of all the changes was the relocation of the
rear shock. Now, the Monoshock rear suspension (now called
“Monocross”) was essentially the same as that of a Honda,
with Suzuki and Kawasaki soon to follow. The advantage of
having the first single-shock rear end was long since forgotten.
After this, there was a long period of minor changes. The
years of complete bottom-to-top redesigns were at an end.
But, the motor gained massive low-end power in 1987 and yet
another set of bodywork in 1988.
1989: The Kayaba fork was inverted, which launched
years of controversy. To this day, many insist that the oldstyle fork with the inside tube on top was a better design.
No matter, the inverted fork would stay, although it would
improve greatly after its debut in ’ 89. For the next few
years, Yamaha made dramatic changes to the YZ’s appearance. It got new plastic in ’ 93 and turned purple in ’ 94. But
the most significant change was the new top end in 1995,
with a power-valve chamber that looked like a huge tumor
on the side of the motor. In these years, Yamaha was losing
the horsepower war to Honda, but making steady gains in
the suspension department.
1996: Everything except the motor changed in 1996. The
frame was redesigned, and between new bodywork and a
new color, the YZ got a new identity. The annual changes in
color stopped, and from this point on, Yamaha would be
known as the bike in blue. The motor, however, was still a