A LITTLE ATTENTION, PLEASE
For 2015, the keepers of Yamaha’s corporate wallet decided to give a little love to the two-stroke line. For
years, Yamaha’s unofficial policy toward the YZ125 and
250 was: “You’re lucky they’re still here.” Actually, it’s true.
We were lucky. The sales figures for the YZ two-strokes
were unimpressive. That’s the real reason Honda, Suzuki
and Kawasaki left the segment. New four-strokes cannibalized sales of the two-strokes. Many people pointed out
that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, claiming that if the
two-strokes had received the same amount of development, they would have been more competitive both on the
track and in the showroom. Fair enough, but there wasn’t
enough money for both
programs, and the
Now Yamaha is at least acknowledging that the YZs
deserve attention. The two-stroke faithful would be delighted with even a morsel, because the 125 and 250 haven’t
seen many updates since 2007, and they both look a little
like vintage racers sitting brand new on the showroom
floor. But, realistically, the bikes simply couldn’t be redesigned from scratch. There wasn’t enough in the budget.
So, an allowance was set for a few big changes. The first
was suspension. The YZ four-strokes had speed-sensitive
KYB forks that were said to be among the most expensive
of all OE front-suspension units. They would be easy bolton changes but might go unnoticed, so new plastic was
added to announce that the two-strokes were indeed different. In the end, the 2015 YZ two-strokes got one change
in function and another in form. That’s not bad.
Both the 125 and the 250 motors are still pretty good,
even if they aren’t the fastest in their respective classes.
The fact that they are unchanged isn’t necessarily bad.
Yamaha has the technology for direct-injection two-strokes
in its marine division. The HPDI V Max 175 is a V6 two-
stroke that displaces 2596cc, produces 175 horsepower,
and is clean enough to earn the California Air Resource
Board’s two-star rating. When the dirt market is ready,
Yamaha engineers probably reason that will be the next
motor change. It would be a waste to redesign a conven-
tional two-stroke motor that is on the
way out. For now, we’re delighted
with the changes Yamaha did make.
Riding the 2015 YZ125 is pretty much like rid-
ing any YZ125 from the last decade, except
it’s new and has a new fork. It’s a great
experience. In case you don’t know
what’s so good about the little YZ, it
can be summed up in one phrase:
it makes you good. It’s so light that
it makes you feel like you’re super-
rider. The bike weighs 200 pounds
without fuel, so if you go from an aver-
age 250F to the YZ125, it’s like taking
off a backpack filled with about four bowling
balls. That’s why people say it’s the best-handling current
dirt bike. You can have your way with it. Any 125 might
be in contention for the honor, but what always made the
Yamaha special was its suspension. Even before the new
front end, it was the best in its class. With the addition
of the KYB speed-sensitive fork, it
gets better in some situations. You
might not notice much of a change under most
conditions, but the new front end definitely feels
more stable at the extreme ends of performance.
It handles sharp, rapid hits very well and is capable of
over-jumping the biggest jumps without dire
Still, with all other things being equal,
YZ125 YZ250 YAMAHA
two-stroke suspension suffers when
compared to four-stroke suspension.
This isn’t about the fork or shock; it’s
more about the bike’s ability to track
in a straight line. A 250F with the same
chassis will handle whoops better and
hold a line. It isn’t a huge deal on most
tracks, just ones with poor traction and lots
Yamaha gave the new two-strokes plastic surgery and
a new KYB speed-sensitive fork. Both bikes
also got a new clutch
perch with a quick
adjuster and new
Dunlop MX52 tires.
The sales potential still
doesn’t justify a complete
makeover, but two-stroke
lovers will be delighted
with the new look.