2015 Yamaha YZ250FX First Ride Review

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Last year during our 2014 Enduro Shootout we brought along our favorite motocrosser, the YZ250F, as an extra mount for the support staff. And wouldn’t you know it, everyone wanted a go on it on the trails “just to see how it does.”

The engine power smoked the off-road specific machines, but the 19-inch rear wheel and stiff MX suspension made for a punishing ride in the rough stuff. The gearing was also too short for fast sections and it was a pain to kickstart when stalled on the side of a mountain. We saw potential and postulated with just a handful of changes the YZ250F could be a great off-road bike.

Yamaha was thinking the same thing and surprised us in October with the release of the race-ready YZ250FX. Built on the YZ250F that we love so much, the FX gets a suite of upgrades for off-road duty. Suspension tweaks, an 18-inch rear wheel, an electric starter and a six-speed transmission ticked off all the boxes on the wish list we came up while taking a break on the trail last February. The question that remained was would the YZ250FX be sharp enough for GNCC and Hare Scrambles or would Yamaha neuter the 250F’s handling and power?

We’ll get straight to the point and say Yamaha got it right; so, so right. We spent the day at Cahuilla Creek Motocross’ back 40 bashing technical single track, faster two track and even hit a bit of MX stuff, and we were impressed.

Powering the YZ250FX is the same rearward-kicked mill found in the YZ250F without any mechanic changes to the top-end. The ECU has been revised to smooth the character slightly for better manners, but it is still a ripper. Classified as a closed-course competition model, the FX doesn’t suffer from power-robbing air-induction systems, throttle stops or choked up mufflers. The muffler is a Euro spec MX unit that is slightly quieter than the full-on US moto unit. With the closed-course designation come restrictions for some on when and where they can ride, as there is no spark arrestor. In California this a not a green sticker bike.

Suspension action is spot-on for fast off-road usage and trail duty.

When on the gas the YZ250FX doesn’t feel any less powerful than the MX YZ250F. It still has a solid bottom-end that yanks out of the corners, but it is more controllable when the terrain requires a calm throttle hand. The mid-range and top-end makes short work of fast segments, and fueling is crisp and precise. If you feel the need for more punch or a more docile character, Yamaha’s GYTR Power Tuner can be used to adjust the ECU’s settings. We felt the stock setting is damn good.

When on the gas the YZ250FX doesn’t feel any less powerful than the MX YZ250F. It still has a solid bottom-end that yanks out of the corners, but it is more controllable when the terrain requires a calm throttle hand.

The clutch pull has been lightened for off-road use and we have nothing but glowing praise for the feel and actuation. Gear selection from the six-speed transmission is trouble-free and the ratios are excellent for off-road work. First and second gears are shorter than the FX’s moto cousin and fourth and fifth are longer. Sixth is an overdrive gear for high-speed work.

Gear selection from the six-speed transmission is trouble-free and the ratios are excellent for off-road work.

Starting the YZ250FX is a snap, with just a push on the starter button. Yamaha kept the kickstarter just in case, but we never felt the need to use it other than to find out how well it works. One kick is all it took on the warmed up engine to fire to life. The FX shares the same 160-watt generator that is found in the 2015 WR250F to charge the battery and supply power for an accessory headlight and tail light.

The chassis is identical to the YZ250F, save thinner motor mounts to settle the ride and tabs for a skid plate that isn’t there. It’s strange to see the tabs and we would have expected some sort of underbelly protection on an off-road racer. The other missing bit we wish was included is handguards, but as most racers have a personal preference to size, mounting hardware and shape we can understand why Yamaha went without.

Handling is quick yet planted just like the F model is on the MX track.

Changes to the KYB 48mm Speed Sensitive System Spring Forks include a slightly softer (4.4 N/mm vs 4.7 N/mm) spring rate while the rear shock uses the same rear spring but uses different settings. Suspension action is spot-on for fast off-road usage and trail duty. Initially the soft spring rates add some plushness that keeps the FX on track where an MX’er would be defecting and kicking. When the bumps get bigger the suspension still stands up to the challenge and soaks up big whoops without a fuss. While the set-up isn’t optimal for MX you could hit the track, just take it easy on the triple and over jumping.

Built on the YZ250F that we love so much, the FX gets a suite of upgrades for off-road duty.

Handling is quick yet planted just like the F model is on the MX track. You always know what’s going on with the front wheel. You can jam it into ruts and soft corners without worry. Stability is great at higher speeds as well. Tossing the FX around on tight and technical trails is a dream thanks to the centralized mass of the underseat tank and wraparound exhaust. Even though it is 18 pounds heavier than the MX racer it does not show it. Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires offer excellent grip on soft and intermediate surfaces. And the thicker sidewall profile of the 18-inch rear eats up square edge hits without as much worry of pinch flats. Brakes are straight off of the YZ250F and work excellent in high- and low-speed situations.

With the closed-course designation come restrictions for some on when and where they can ride, as there is no spark arrestor. In California this a not a green sticker bike.

At just $300 more ($7899) than the YZ250F, the 2015 YZ250FX is a deal for those that looked towards a MX bike for off-road racing and riding. Yamaha has done all the work for you and even did some things you wouldn’t be able to do yourself – like adding a six-speed transmission. With a strong engine and predictable handling the YZ250FX is one of Yamaha’s best ideas; even though we thought of it first…

When on the gas the YZ250FX doesnt feel any less powerful than the MX YZ250F. It still has a solid bottom-end that yanks out of the corners  but it is more controllable when the terrain requires a calm throttle hand. Tossing the FX around on tight and technical trails is a dream thanks to the centralized mass of the underseat tank and wraparound exhaust. Yamaha got it right; so  so right with the 2015 YZ250FX.
The ECU has been revised to smooth the character slightly for better manners  but it is still a ripper. The chassis is identical to the YZ250F  save thinner motor mounts to settle the ride and tabs for a skid plate that isnt there. Handling is quick yet planted just like the F model is on the MX track.

(motorcycle-usa.com)

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