2015 Yamaha YZ250FX and WR250F - First Ride

These new Yamahas represent off-road done right.

2015 Yamaha YZ250FX action shot

By building the new YZ250X, a race-ready cross-country racer, Yamaha has taken a page out of KTM's playbook. That's a good thing, because this new 250FX is essentially the award-winning YZ250F motocrosser with additions that make it appeal to the off-road market—namely, a six-speed wide-ratio transmission, an electric starter, and an 18-in. rear wheel. And after throwing a leg over the new 2015 Yamaha YZ250FX and taking it on some trails at Cahuilla Creek, I'm impressed. This tuned-for off-road YZ is an instant hit.

Power from the rearward-slanted 250cc single is great. There’s plenty of low-end oomph, which means there are no issues when trying to get up and over rocks or out of steep ravines. Roosting out of corners is fun, too. This bike is motocross fast on corner exits and acceleration, yet the power deliver us is smooth and controllable when you’re navigating technical terrain. The 44mm Keihin throttle body offers precise fueling and keeps the power consistent through the mid-range and all the way up to the very potent top-end. And just like on the YZ-F, the ECU of the new FX is programmable via the GYT-R Power Tuner. The stock setting, however felt pretty right on.

2015 Yamaha YZ250FX static side shot

A lighter clutch pull is welcome although not exactly necessary for a 250. The clutch has been modified to cope with the demands of off-road. Engagement and feel are ideal for off-road needs, such as slipping the clutch when climbing a rocky hill. And you don’t need to do that very often with the new wide-ratio transmission. Gears are spaced evenly, and first does a fantastic job when conditions are tight and nasty. And it’s even better when the terrain opens up and the YZ-FX is clicked into sixth gear. The FX pulls without the stress and overtaxed feel of the previous five-speed model. Did someone say Bonneville?

According to Yamaha, the new 250FX weighs 18 pounds more than the YZ-F on which it’s based. Blame it on the extra gear, the battery, the large-capacity generator, the starter motor, the heavier rear-tire, the kickstand, even the O-ring chain. Thankfully, the extra weight is hardly noticeable after you’ve thrown a leg over the slim saddle. Helping the lightweight feel is the YZ’s configuration; its rearward facing engine and wrap-around exhaust allow for better mass centralization. Further helping this effort is fuel carried in a more central location and heavier parts such as the muffler being tucked in closer.

2015 Yamaha YZ250FX dirt riding action shot

Overall handling is excellent. The YZ250FX is stable and agile, giving the rider full control over direction change. The front tire has a planted feel, making the bike comfortable for off-road work. There is none of the deflection that a full-fledge MXer experiences when driven hard into off-road corners. Suspension is tuned for competitive off-road racing, with the fork featuring a slightly softer spring rate than on the YZ. The shock uses the same spring as the YZ, but with dedicated settings. Of note, the engine brackets are 4mm thick as opposed to 6mm on the YZ-F. This helps to calm the bike for off-road and translates to a more agreeable ride. The 18-in. rear wheel also helps absorb rocks and tree roots better as well as reducing the chance of pinch flats.

Yamaha says it took the best parts of the YZ-F and new WR (see below) to create the FX. I believe them, but the bike does need a skid plate, and the exposed tabs welded on the frame look tacky without a covering. For the most part, though, the fit and finish, as expected from Yamaha, is well thought-out, with one exception: An exposed wiring harness was caught by a stick while I was riding, which jabbed a fuse cover open. That stated, the new 2015 Yamaha YZ250FX will surely strike some fear in the orange brigade, because this new cross-country racer is a serious contender.

YAMAHA WR250F

Yamaha’s other fresh entry in the off-road market for 2015 is the all-new WR250F. It too is an offspring of the YZ250F motocrosser, and it differs only slightly from the YZ-FX. The WR is more of a classic enduro. By that, I mean it’s intended for recreational trail riding and non-competition use. But it still can be considered a serious racer if desired. It features everything good about the YZ250FX, but it also has lights, a skid plate and an enduro meter. Also, the suspension is a bit softer, and necessary modifications have been made to meet stringent CARB and EPA emissions standards. That means the WR250F has a spark-arrestor and gets a green sticker in California.

Modifications to appease the eco-crowd are minimal. The engine is identical to the FX’s; the difference comes from a quiet muffler, throttle stop, intake resonator, and a locked ECU. Essentially,the WR250F is only an exhaust and an ECU away from being the same fire-breather as the 250FX. Yamaha even sells a closed-course ECU for $110.

2015 Yamaha WR250F static side shot

I rode the 2015 WR250F in a closed area with its throttle stop and intake resonator removed. Even that way, the WR feels a bit gutless compared to the YZ-FX, though it’s still a suitable trail mount. The bike can be revved high to get moving quickly, but the powerband is not as usable as that of the YZ-FX. From bottom-end to the midrange it’s lean, which causes the bike to have a little initial hesitation. As a result, it’s harder to get the WR unstuck in nasty terrain. It’s tough for the rider to find a balance between wheel-spin and bogging.

Yamaha didn’t skimp on suspension as it has on past off-road models. The 2015 WR250F features the same high-quality KYB Speed Sensitive System Spring fork used on the YZ250F motocrosser. The fork and shock both have lighter spring rates than the YZ250F. The fork uses the same spring rate as the FX but the shock is softer. Another difference: The WR fork has axle clamps designed for the odometer. Overall handling is much like that of the YZ250FX, but the WR manages to be more comfortable without feeling squishy or bottoming too much.

Yamaha says the WR is nine pounds heavier than the YZ250FX, which makes it 27 lb. heavier than the YZ250F motocrosser. The weight here is a little more apparent than on the FX. The WR reacts a little more slowly than the sharp-responding MXer, but that’s what you want when you’re cow trailing all day.

SPECIFICATIONS
2015 Yamaha YZ250FX 2015 Yamaha WR250R
LIST PRICE $7,890|$7,990
ENGINE TYPE Liquid-cooled DOHC single|Liquid-cooled DOHC single
BORE x STROKE 77.0 x 53.6mm|77.0 x 53.6mm
DISPLACEMENT 250cc|250cc
TRANSMISSION SPEEDS 6|6
FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL 12.2 in.|12.2 in.
REAR WHEEL TRAVEL 12.5 in.|12.4 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.0 gal.|2.0 gal.
SEAT HEIGHT 38.0 in.|38.0 in.
FRONT BRAKE disc|disc
REAR BRAKE disc|disc
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT 247 lb.|258 lb.

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