The pre-production 2014 Yamaha YZ250F made a good first impression with us.
The reversed-cylinder YZ250F that we all knew was coming is finally here - well sort of. When Yamaha unveiled the long-awaited new machine last month, they also said that the bike would not be showing up at the dealers until November. Ouch! Worried that the public might not want to hold out that long to get their hands on a new 2014 250F, or forget about the new YZ while all of the other manufactures are introducing their own new machines, Yamaha shipped a few pre-production units to California for the media to ride and to get the word out. (Yamaha will also be holding another media introduction on the actual production model in September or October.)
The 2014 Yamaha YZ250F is probably the most exciting new motocrosser of the new year. Unlike a few of the other manufacturer's 2014 250F models, some of which are carbon copies of their previous models or are only slightly modified, the new YZ250F is truly an all-new ride.
As mentioned, the new YZ won't be here for a while, but Yamaha gave us a chance to spend three hours on a pre-production version at Glen Helen Raceway, and we can tell you right now, it is far and away an improved machine.
The YZ250F feels light and agile in the air and rock solid on the ground.
But first, what's pre-production? In Yamaha's description, it's basically a test run for the assembly line. About 50 pre-production units are built to make sure the assembly line is working properly (especially with an all-new model), and this also gives Yamaha the opportunity to use these bikes for things like marketing, shows, brochure photography, early race-team testing and in this case, giving us (the media) a chance to spin a few laps on one. Yamaha assured us though, that the bike we rode will be identical to ones that will be coming off the assembly line later this year.
We had a three-hour window of opportunity to ride the pre-pro YZ and we made the best of it by basically riding the bike non-stop the whole time. And we loved every minute of it.
Simply put, the YZ is fast.
We were probably most impressed by the new four-valve (formerly five-valve) motor, which pumps out plenty of broad and very useable power. It pulls hard off the bottom, right through midrange and through top-end. At first, though, we wanted a little bit more on top, but one quick adjustment with Yamaha's GYTR Power tuner fixed that. The bike is downright fast. We found the bike to pull each gear much longer than before, dramatically reducing the amount of shifting per lap. It'll pull third gear out of the turns, or other situations, that it wouldn't do last year. And shifting, we might add, is extremely smooth and precise.
The YZ's outstanding motor hooks up and pulls hard out of the turns.
The previous YZ250F was already a solid handling and well-suspended machine, and still is. Although the track wasn't too rough, the bike soaked up what bumps (mostly braking) there were extremely well. The suspension doesn't feel overly soft or stiff, just firm and well-balanced. And the front-end seemed to offer excellent feedback, maybe a bit better than the new YZ450F. Overall, the 250 does feel a lot like the 450 but a bit more confident-inspiring, a lot of which has to do with it just being a less-powerful and less intimidating 250.
The bike also feels light and agile, and it corners quite well. It also seems to stay in the ruts better than before and tends not to stand up as much.
Our only real gripe with the bike was the front tire. It provided decent grip on the dry and hard-pack, but as soon as it rolled over anything wet or loamy-wet, it would give way without warning. The tire seemed to pack quickly and lose traction. The rear tire, however, hooked up well.
Unfortunately, the 2014 YZ250F won't be available to the public until November.
Overall, we were very impressed with the new YZ250F, it seems to be just the bike we've been hoping and waiting for from Yamaha the past couple of years.