Riding Impression: 2009 Yamaha YZ250F

This bike changed motocross and continues to be a solid performer in a class that’s better than ever.

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It's hard to believe that the YZ250F has been in production for nine years. Like the YZ400F before it, the 250F was the first of its kind back in 2001, helping fuel the four-stroke revolution that changed motocross forever. The age of zingy 125cc two-strokes is now all but a distant memory, and you can point the finger at the original quarter-liter Thumper for their demise.

By today's standards, the original 250F with its blue painted steel frame—which also served as an oil reservoir for the dry-sump engine—would be considered a dinosaur. Yearly refinements have kept the YZ a perennial Lites-class contender. A major redesign in 2006 outfitted the 250F with an aluminum frame and new suspension.

That same basic design is still used and is effective enough that, with just a couple other tweaks, the $6549 YZ250F remains a top player in a very competitive class. For '09, a new swingarm, suspension linkage and rear wheel hub are said to reduce twisting forces, while allowing more vertical flex and increasing horizontal stiffness.

The liquid-cooled, 250cc powerplant still breathes through five titanium valves driven by double overhead cams and retains dry-sump lubrication—oil resides in a reservoir tucked neatly between the lower front frame rails. The Ti exhaust header has been lengthened by 60mm, while the silencer was shortened by 50mm for improved low-end power and better throttle response. Ignition and carburetor jetting were altered accordingly. A new clutch features eight rubber dampers in place of the six coil springs previously used to absorb engagement shock, improving feel and durability.

After months of weekly abuse, the YZ gets an A-plus for reliability. It still feels amazingly fresh and has only required the requisite oil- and air-filter changes. Ridden back-to-back with the competition—though not in formal shootout mode—the YZ feels as though it lacks the outright power and light, nimble handling of some of its competitors. That being said, the Yamaha always feels planted, stable and less busy than some others in the class. Credit goes to the aforementioned swingarm/link changes, the speed-sensitive, 48mm KYB fork and excellent bite of the Bridgestone tires; combined, they take the guesswork out of riding the YZ quickly.

After nine years, the YZ continues to perform, and its unique character gives a predictable ride that instills confidence lap after lap.