– Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2003 Yamaha YZ250F: MD Ride Review – Part Two

The most difficult reviews to write are those involving bikes we fall in love with. First of all, it is difficult to remain objective. Second, it is difficult to find meaningful criticism. Thirdly, you risk sounding like a sap when you heap nothing but praise on a machine.

All of these concerns apply to Yamaha’s 2003 YZ250F. Yamaha, of course, deserves the bulk of the credit for the superlatives journalists have thrown, and I am about to throw at this machine. Some circumstances beyond even Yamaha’s control, however, contribute to the desirability and effectiveness of this MX weapon.

The emergence of the “vet class” rider here in America has hugely impacted motocross bike sales in the U.S. Basically, amateur riders thirty-years-old and up (25-years-old and up, in some instances) ride, and race, anything they want. From KX500s to big-wheel 80s (yes, I really have seen that), the vet class racer rides whatever makes him feel most comfortable, and confident.

The vets are older guys, with more money to spend, and, typically, less physical conditioning than their younger counterparts. Guess what? All of these factors play directly into Yamaha’s hands when it comes to marketing the YZ250F.

The following comments are not only typical, they border on mandatory, when a motocross rider removes his helmet after riding a 250F for the first time. “Man, I never had so much fun on a bike before.” “This bike is so easy to ride, and it doesn’t tire me out — I can only go hard for five laps on my 250 two-stroke, but I seem to be able to ride this thing all day without getting tired.”

To be fair, this reflects the fact that Yamaha has built a great motorcycle, but also reflects the fact that a relatively small-displacement four-stroke motocross bike hits a “sweet spot” with amateur riders. This has to be why Honda announced its own 250cc four-stroke motocross model well in advance of its availability for purchase at Honda dealers (indeed, its production date is probably eight months away). It’s all about stemming the tide of defectors to the blue machines.

If you started reading this article expecting to see some specific discussion about riding the bike, you are in luck. I’m getting to that. The 250F has great maneuverability on the track (flickability, if you will) — something described to me by Yamaha test rider Doug Dubach when I interviewed him in June, 2000 about the then-unreleased 250F (see Doug’s comments here). When Doug told me that the 250F was almost easier to maneuver than a 125 two-stroke, I was surprised, but he explained that the four-stroke engine characteristics make the bike feel more “connected” to the track, with better traction and, thus, frequently better ability to change lines.

The 2003 250F, as I related in Part One, is nearly seven pounds lighter than last year’s 250F. Last year’s bike felt light and maneuverable, and this year’s bike is more so, for two reasons, including the reduced weight, and the improved ergonomics (flatter seat, lower tank, slimmer profile, etc.).

Combine this 125-like feeling of lightness and maneuverability with a huge torque advantage over the 125cc two-strokes (see our discussion on that subject here), and a dramatically wider spread of power, and you have a bike that flat works for riders of all skill levels from a handling and engine performance perspective. Sure, the guy who wants the power of a 250cc two-stroke or a 450cc four-stroke isn’t going to be satisfied with the 250F, but the number of amateur motocross racers who actually need that extra power is probably smaller than expected (sort of like the number of guys who think they “need” a 1000cc sportbike for street use — they’re out there buying big bikes, but very few, if any, can actually use the extra performance available from the big-bore engine).

One thing that is purely Yamaha’s doing is the suspension settings on the 2003 YZ250F. Stock, out-of-the-box, settings are just about perfect. Our pro-level tester, Russ Somers, rode the YZ250F and declared the valving “spot on”. At over 200 pounds, and very fast, Somers needs stiffer springs front and rear, but the valving works. Spring rates work, as well, for riders of average size and average ability.

Both the fork and shock have the ability to absorb small, square-edged chop on higher-speed sections of the track, yet still handle big hits appropriately. This doesn’t happen by accident, and manifests the level of effort put in by Doug Dubach and Yamaha’s other test riders. Basically, even picky riders will find it hard to justify the expense of an after market re-valve job on the fork or the shock.

The 250F corners well, and tends to stay hooked-up better than a two-stroke. If you are coming from a two-stroke, you might need to change your cornering style, a bit. First of all, the engine braking will affect your timing. Although different riders have different opinions on the desirability of four-stroke engine braking, it can be used to your advantage, by keeping the front tire “biting” more than a two-stroke, and acting, in effect, as a brake assist (one of the reasons riders don’t get tired as quickly riding a 250F). It is different, however, and Honda has taken the approach of dialing out most of the engine braking in its four-stroke motocrosser, the CRF450R.

After riding the 250F quite a bit more, I am really impressed with its jumping ability. As I stated in part one, the bike feels almost as light as a 125 in the air. I stand by that statement, and I have to add to it the fact that the 250F jumps very predictably. I can almost always arc the bike perfectly (landing with the nose down at the perfect angle to match the slope of the landing). This is, of course, after adapting to the engine braking, which particularly affects the amount of throttle you apply on a jump face (don’t chop the throttle on a jump face — something you might get away with on a two-stroke).

I have to agree that the 250F has a very high “fun factor”, as well. Something about the four-stroke power delivery (meaty, torquey and predictable), and those more widely spaced power pulses (remember, a four-stroke combusts half as often as a two-stroke at the same rpm) make it a laugh to ride, really.

Can it win races? In the vet class that depends. You won’t get hole shots against 250 two-strokes and 450 four-strokes (not to mention the occasional KX500 or CR500). You will out-last your buddies who get arm pump on the fifth lap of a twelve lap race, however.

By the way, the 125s are not dead by any means. The 250F has pushed 125 designers, and the small two-strokes still have some advantages. They are still 10 to 15 pounds lighter (close to 20 pounds in the case of the Honda CR125R), and they have a snappier, although much narrower power delivery. They can also produce as much or more peak horsepower. As we noted in the recent Suzuki RM125 review, these traits are drawing their share of converts from bigger machinery.

The 250F nevertheless remains a unique combination of rider-friendly power and handling. Which all leads to my earlier comment about sounding like a sap. I’m guilty. Honda is coming to the 250 four-stroke party (and so are, no doubt, Suzuki and Kawasaki), but right now Yamaha has this sweet spot all to itself. More important, Yamaha has not simply relied on the basic goodness of the concept (a 250 four-stroke that handles like a 125 two-stroke with gobs more torque) they have sweat the details, and those details are very, very good (including suspension, and, this year, ergonomics).

The U.S. MSRP of the 2003 Yamaha YZ250F is $5,599. Take a look at Yamaha’s website for additional details and specifications.

wordscape cheatgun mayhem 2 unblocked games