Yamaha has answered more prayers than the Pope with the release of the YZ250X, but it comes with strings attached
Where does the YZ250X sit in the grand scheme of things and why was I so excited to ride this bike? These are valid questions because, while many of us, myself included, wanted to see another Japanese two-stroke enduro bike on the market, there’s been a brilliant orange-coloured 250F available for some time in the 250EXC.
So what’s the big deal? I honestly don’t know the answer. Sometimes emotion for bikes or brands is stronger than we can comprehend and at my age the Japanese two-stroke remains the bedrock of my introduction to dirtbikes, so maybe that’s it.
Built to Bash
I put together a trail-ready YZ250 as a project bike a couple of years ago and I freakin’ loved it. The biggest change I made was to tune the suspension for off-road but I left the engine stock. I never regretted that choice, but to have a somewhat settled delivery via a narrower (and higher) exhaust attached to a wide-ratio five-speed gearbox out of the crate is a big plus and Yamaha did this on the X without completely losing the bike’s aggression and fun factor.
It’s not the beastie the motocross cousin is but it certainly hasn’t swallowed a handful of Prozac. The 18-inch rear wheel is a nice touch and of course there’s a sidestand, plus the fuel tap now has a reserve setting.
The YZ250X is all about fun for me. It has to be because I’m finding it hard to picture its place in Australia. In New Zealand, it should sell well and good luck to them — we’re jealous. Victorians can rec-rego it, so that leaves private-property riding and racing for the rest of us.
But offroad racing has long left the 250 two-stroke behind and in some races (such as the A4DE) you still need a registered bike. Also, the bike arrives without a headlight, tail-light and appropriate wiring — that’s an extra cost that brings us to the price of the X, which is $10,499 rrp (add around $500 for the light assembly, which is only needed for rec rego).
If this bike is expected to take sales away from KTM, this will present an issue for some when you can buy the 250EXC for $1500 rrp more and access registration and receive electric start, hydraulic clutch, speedo and bashplate as stock equipment.
It’s great, but…
The YZ250X is a thrilling bike to ride and it carves tracks like few others. You can feel the stiffness that the motocross heritage bestows but that’s also part of what makes this bike take lines like a slot car.
The engine is brilliant. It straddles an old-school sound and feel with a purposeful fury but it’s manageable in tricky conditions and on hills. It’s versatile but never really hides its family tree — novice riders would find it confronting as it pitched them on their arse. But the intermediate-to-advanced rider will find a bike that will challenge at some points but reward so big when you get things right. Nailing a single corner in a day on this bike is enough to keep you grinning till the next weekend.
Yamaha got this design right long ago and it has plenty of life in it yet, but why do we need another unregistrable bike? This may be more a folly of legislation than bike design and the Kiwis have that side of things sorted so much better than we do, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to see just where the YZ250X fits in here in Oz.
Readers will have noticed we’ve been putting together a YZ125 project bike over the past few months and the valid question is why would we choose to do that but question the 250X? We have to be really careful where we ride the 125 and that side of it is a pain in the arse — but we’re building it because the YZ is just a spectacular bike to ride and we can’t get enough of it.
The same goes for the 250X — if you know you have somewhere to ride it then get on it, because it’s about as much fun as you can have with your pants on. And, let’s face it: it’s illegal to ride on single-trail in NSW even if you’re registered and that’s what we spend most of our time doing in the bush. So the government has to start seeing things our way in return for our taxes and votes, right? It’s insane that I essentially have to break the law every time I ride and I’m denied the right to legally ride a bike as great as this.
We can only lament the nanny-state, green-obsessed, regressive legislation that keeps us from enjoying bikes like these and stare longingly across the ditch to New Zealand where these bikes will be welcomed with open arms. We have more open space than the moon and yet we’re governed as though this country belongs to a concerned few and the rest of us don’t deserve access.
The bottom line is that Yamaha has an amazing lineup of 250s here but we’ll really only get to know two of them well in large numbers: the YZ250F and the WR250F. Two of the best 250s on the market, for sure, so we’re not complaining … too much.