2014 Yamaha YZ250F – First Ride (Video)
Back in the game with a new fuel-injected motor!
To say that the 2013 Yamaha YZ250F was badly in need of an update would be an understatement. This motorcycle was not obsolete, but its competitors were leaving it in the dust with regard to innovations. The last bike in its class to retain a carburetor, the 2013 YZ-F had not been updated in several years save for a few minor tweaks. Fortunately, Yamaha had big plans for its little four-stroke, and in 2014 the blue brand is releasing a completely redesigned, totally new machine. ’Bout time.
First, the big news: No more jetting—EFI is here! Yamaha finally replaced the carb with a fuel-injection system that uses a Keihin 44mm throttle-body. Another huge change in the motor department is a rearward-inclined cylinder, just like the blue 450. Because of this new orientation, the YZ250F also adopts the bigger bike’s rear-position exhaust, forward-facing intake and wraparound header. The cylinder head, with four titanium valves, is fed fuel by a high-pressure battery-less electric pump. All of these engine changes were aimed at more power, especially in the mid-to-high rpm range. Also, Yamaha got rid of the external oil tank for the YZ250F’s wet-sump lubrication system.
Although production units won’t arrive at dealers until November, Yamaha allowed us to ride a pre-production unit for three hours at Glen Helen Raceway in California to give us a first impression of the bike. So, what did we learn in those short 180 minutes of ride time? Let’s sum it up with the following 11 points:
1. Fuel injection: Not all FI is created equal. The 2014 YZ250F is very responsive and clean. There is zero hesitation when we twist the throttle; nor is there any sputter. This machine runs smoothly all the way through until there is nothing more to give.
2. Bottom-end: FI typically means a little less bottom-end power; that’s to be expected. And while the new YZ-F has great throttle response, it’s almost a little too smooth when coming out of corners. Yamaha did change an ignition map for us and it got a little better, but we didn’t have enough time to get it to where we’d love it.
3. Midrange: You better be gripping the blue steed with your legs once you get into the midrange. This is where the fun starts on the 2014 YZ250F, which pulls so well in the midrange that you will double-check to see what bike you’re actually riding. The motor feels nothing like the 2013, thanks to its wider powerband and much more usable power.
4. Top-end: Great top-end power that can pull even our heaviest test riders around was the topic of the day at Glen Helen. Third gear pulled great, and on long straights the YZ250F can even be shifted into fourth without falling off. The power is very broad this year, allowing the bike to shine on long hills. When we could find a little momentum going up some of the big hills at Glen Helen, third gear was a happy spot, letting the 2014 YZ-F climb all the way up with ease.
5. Rev-happy: The 2014 YZ250F actually revs! Second gear can be left on just that much longer with this new four-valve motor. In a couple of short sections of the Glen Helen track where it might have been wise to shift up to third with last year’s bike, we found that revving it out in second was the better choice.
6. Fork: Every Kayaba fork should be this good. The action is so smooth. While the Glen Helen track wasn’t terribly rough, it did have some sections that could scare you, but the fork handled these with ease. Much of the stroke is used while riding, which Yamaha riders are accustomed to, but there’s better damping through all the travel. In short, this is perhaps the best production fork on the market.
7. Shock: The shock may have been set too soft in high-speed compression, and we didn’t have enough time to really dial it in. On hard landings or G-outs, we could feel the shock blow through at the very end of the stroke. In braking bumps, the YZ250F feels balanced and doesn’t ride too low coming into corners. We ran a shock sag of 102mm the whole day.
8. Chassis: The bike feels more flickable on the track. Pivoting mid-turn is is much easier than in years past with the YZ250F. We don’t know the weight of the 2104 bike yet, but it feels light on the track. Numbers can only take you so far, and in the real world it’s what the rider feels. And speaking of feel, no vibration was felt through the new rubber-mounted handlebar, a far cry from the 2013 model with its solid mounts.
9. Ergonomics: With all-new bodywork. the 2014 YZ250F does feel slimmer up front near the tank/shroud area. The shrouds aren’t sticking past the fork tubes this year. Getting up on the tank area in corners is made easier and seamless with the relocation of the gas cap. The bar bend was a little too high for one of our test riders, but it’s still a very neutral-feeling machine.
10. Gearing: The spacing between second and third gears is too big. On more than one occasion, we shifted into third and the Yamaha fell off the power too much. Switching from a 50- to a 51-tooth rear sprocket at Glen Helen would have been better. The motor is so good, however, that a little fan of the clutch is all it would take to get the engine screaming and the bike moving forward.
11. Miscellaneous tidbits: The clutch pull was easy, and although the bike’s loud when the engine is screaming, it’s not annoyingly so like the Kawasaki KX250F. Some test riders said the 2014 YZ250F sounded like a racebike with an aftermarket muffler. Brakes are decent, but we would like to get a little more stopping power out of the front brake.
It’s hard to say precisely where the new YZ250F will stack up against the other 2014 250Fs, but it’s clear that Yamaha has re-entered the game. With its stable chassis and better powerplant, the 2014 YZ250F is a heavily improved machine. Other manufacturers had better watch their backs come shootout time!
View images in photo gallery: