It’s as if Yamaha engineers got three wishes from a
motocross genie back in 2014. First, they wished for a
new 250F that everyone loved. Then, they wished for three
consecutive national championships. And finally, they
wished a suspension plague on all other manufacturers.
After three years, however, the magic is beginning
to wear off. Other makers are shaking off the curse, so
Yamaha had to go back to work on the YZ250F, making
a significant number of changes to the engine and frame.
The head is different with reshaped, steeper intake ports.
The piston, crank, rod and cams are new. The gearbox
has a number of changes, and the frame has been altered
for different flex characteristics. The footpegs are 5mm
lower, and the suspension has new settings. The bike still
has the only two-spring fork in the class with the KYB SSS
Listing the Yamaha’s strong points is simple—every-
thing. The bike has decent power from the bottom to the
top. It’s reasonably light and it handles well. But, the only
area where it truly excels is the suspension. The fork,
in particular, was unanimously voted as the best in the
shootout. Even though the new WP air fork is good, it’s
still not up to the Yamaha’s standards. The fork is set up
properly for an intermediate rider in the 170-pound range,
but if you’re a little heavier or lighter, it doesn’t seem to
make much difference. When something works this well,
everyone loves it. The Yamaha also has good clutch feel,
decent brakes and is well built. Yamaha still has the most
reliable bike in the class.
The most significant sign that the Yamaha might be
nearing the end of its reign is the fact that it doesn’t top
any category except suspension. It’s not the lightest or
the quickest. On top, the KTM and Husqvarna are far
more powerful, and on the bottom, the Honda has more
torque. Its dry weight of 222 pounds was once the lightest
in class, but now the KTM, Husky and Kawasaki are lighter, if only by a few pounds. The brakes are good, but not
as good as the Brembos on the Euro bikes. In turns, the
Yamaha is still no match for the Honda or Suzuki, but it’s
still pretty darn good.
The Yamaha works well in both worlds. It’s easy to ride
for novices, and pros still love it. No other bike in this
shootout is as universally respected by riders of all levels.
In power output, it’s well behind the KTM and Husky, but
no one has ever accused the Yamaha of being slow.