PROJECT BY// MATT BERNARD/DAMIEN ASHENHURST
PHOTOGRAPHY// KATRINA VERNON/SHANE BOOTH/DAMIEN ASHENHURST/MATT BERNARD
Introducing the most enjoyable project bike yet: the Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke
For the past six months or so I’ve been considering buying a second-hand two-stroke, either a YZ125 or YZ250 two-stroke; however, funds just didn’t allow it. So, with a gap in racing and a gap between project bikes I came up with a grand plan to have a sweet two-stroke in my garage for the next six months. Let me introduce you to the new love in my life: the new-look Yamaha YZ250.
LET THE FUN BEGIN
Before the fun came the jokes from my mates: “Good luck, you’ll have arm pump in a lap”; “No more Maccas for you”; “Have you got accident cover?” Blah, blah.
I picked up the YZ as soon as it was ready. Then I hit deadline and sat staring at this beauty who was just begging me to throw a leg over her. Fast forward a week and we were headed to my girlfriend’s parents’ farm for some grass-track fun with some friends.
I’ve never ridden a bike for so long with a smile on my dial. My mate Grant and I swapped bikes over and over, each fighting for a lap on the two-stroke. This bike is an absolute blast to ride. Although I was probably a few seconds slower per lap on the two-stroke when compared to a 450, I felt about 35 seconds quicker. She slides, wheel-stands and smashes ruts and wherever the front wheel is pointed it goes with maximum acceleration and minimal fuss. It’s excitement plus when you’re on the YZ250.
To ride one of these fast, you certainly need to be way more refined in your technique. Gear changes need to be precise and clutch use efficient; fine throttle control is important so as not to land square on your arse. The bike is light and easy to muscle around despite the aggressive nature of the power.
Due to its light weight, it stops quickly and as you become aware of its powerful stopping ability you can push deeper and deeper into turns.
WHAT’S TO COME?
Stage one of the Project YZ250 two-stroke is a full-GYTR build. Using products only from the Yamaha genuine products catalogue, we will begin the transformation from awesome to super-awesome. A GYTR pipe and muffler start the project; we’ll test a heavier flywheel weight and a range of neat little bits and pieces.
Stay tuned …
5 OF THE FIRSTS
These are my five initial thoughts on the YZ250:
* Everyone stops and stares. A two-stroke draws a crowd and every time it was on the track my mates stopped to listen to the thing scream off its head.
* The new look is a winner. The bike is modern and the graphics that come standard are top quality.
* I have never railed ruts so well. I’m not sure what it is but I could get into the rut and just nail the gas time and time again.
* It’s not for everyone. A mate of mine who rides a WR250F, and not very often, threw a leg over to see what all the fuss is about. He handed it back very quickly.
* The brakes are awesome but are going to get even better very shortly.
Using products from Yamaha’s genuine accessories catalogue, we tweak the YZ.
I can’t stop raving about the YZ250. I was unsure whether I’d be a massive fan of it or not when I first picked it up; I thought it would be a real handful.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised, though. Sure, it’s a rocket and a very busy machine to pilot — but I’m loving every minute on it.
There were a few things I wanted to do to the YZ straight off the bat: first, a pipe and muffler. If you own a two-stroke, it needs to sound bad-arse; there’s nothing better than listening to this thing on full song. So, with a list of recommended products from Yamaha’s genuine accessories catalogue, we went shopping.
TICK THE LIST
First on the list was the GYTR pipe and muffler. With that fitted to the blue machine, the bike is not only snappier and more aggressive; it feels like it revs quicker and cleaner through the rev range.
I haven’t done anything with the jetting yet. It felt pretty spot on during its first ride with the pipe and muffler but I’ll be investigating some jetting changes in the near future. Although the power seems to hit harder now, the curve is still nice and fat and I haven’t found it any more difficult to hang on to. I’m happier with the pipe on there; it’s improved it quite a bit in my eyes.
The second product I bolted on was an oversized 270mm GYTR front brake rotor: it was pretty easy to fit and has definitely made a difference to the braking power. Coming from riding four-strokes regularly, the brakes were good but the bike wasn’t stopping me in the manner I’ve come accustomed to. The 270mm brake rotor has certainly changed that and I recommend anyone jumping back to a two-stroke to try an oversized rotor.
While we’re on the brakes, I fitted the GYTR front brake and clutch levers. These are adjustable, which is great for small or big hands.
I’ll continue the GYTR upgrade over the next couple of issues. One of the intriguing products I have to try is a heavier flywheel weight from GYTR. These are said to smooth the power out and help make the bike more rideable and less of a handful. They’re quite popular among off-road riders when on two-strokes and plenty of MX guys are jumping on board and running these on their 250 two-strokes, so I’m pretty keen to see how much of a difference it makes.
All the products fitted from the GYTR catalogue, as well as some other trick bits and pieces, will have an improvement factor and a purpose on the YZ250. The plastic chain guide will prevent bending the standard one, the billet clutch cover which will look brand new throughout the entire project. I’ll also move to a more comfortable set of Pro Taper handlebars and an impressive bolt-on set of footpegs from Pro Taper as well. Oh, and the bike is getting an all-new look thanks to Ringmaster Images.
It’s full steam ahead on Project YZ250.
THE GYTR LIST
GYTR nickel-plated exhaust
Heavy off-road flywheel
270mm oversized rotor and bracket
50T alloy sprocket
GYTR case save
Alloy rear disc guard
Billet clutch cover
Yamaha hour meter and mount
Plastic chain guide
Pivot clutch lever
Pivot brake lever
Yamalube will be keeping the Yamaha YZ250 in tip-top shape throughout this project and over the coming issues we’ll take you through each of the products we’re using.
The YZ250 gets the Ringmaster Images treatment
With the updated plastics for this year, the Yamaha YZ250 already gets a lot of attention at the track or on the ute. The more edgy design and improved styling of the new look brings the bike back to life and we have taken it to the next level.
Ringmaster Images has been at the forefront of motocross graphics since 1997, supplying high-quality graphics for race teams and riders around the country. They have already pimped-out Cam Sinclair’s Yamaha YZ250 with the new plastics so after a quick email with Craig at Ringmaster, our DIRT ACTION machine was copping the full makeover.
I’m a fussy bugger when it comes to my graphics, but the guys at Ringmaster nailed a design pretty darn quickly. Something that looks cool yet has corporate appeal.
STICK EM UP
The graphics themselves were quite simple to stick on. The plastics on the new YZs have quite a few curves and are less simple than the old design, but the Ringmaster kit fit perfectly. It’s important to ensure you clean the plastics very thoroughly and follow the handy instructions that are included with the graphics.
After a couple of hours in the shed and a good thorough heating with the heat gun, the bike had transferred from stock to sick and had taken on a whole new look and appeal. For now the bike looks sweet, but next issue I will fit the Ringmaster Images seat cover. It’s black and will help complete the look of the new machine.
The Ringmaster kit ticks off another to-do on the list. The GYTR modifications have improved the bike’s performance and now with the kit the bike has the look to match. There are a few more bits and pieces to go on from the GYTR catalogue, which will further improve both looks and performance.
I’m still enjoying riding this bike immensely, but have a new-found respect for the young guys who are fit and talented enough to ride these machines at the pointy end of the Under 19s and Lites classes at a national level. They are in no way, shape or form easier to ride fast than a 250F for the average rider and, being a heavier rider, getting a start on this bike is where I find the biggest advantage. If you nail a start on this bike, half your race is done for you.
It’s now back to the shed for some more GYTR products, a wicked set of Pro Taper handlebars and footpegs that have now arrived, and then to the track for some more laps — good times.
The Yamaha YZ250 gets some Pro Taper loving
Over the Christmas break, the YZ250 had some upgrades in time for the New Year and first to go on were Pro Taper ’bars.
The YZ is very easy to work on. Everything’s nice and simple: there are minimal amounts of electrical cables and it’s spaced out nicely, which makes working on the bike not a hassle at all. I’m not going to lie and say I absolutely love working on dirtbikes. Truth is, I’m not a huge fan. Sure, I love tinkering and fitting new parts and products and improving the motorcycle but I’m more into the result than the work needed to get there.
This month, we fitted some more GYTR products and also the Pro Taper Contour handlebars. To go with the Pro Taper Contour handlebars, a set of full-diamond grips will replace the standard Yamaha grips. I’m a fan of a really thin grip so the Pro Tapers do the job there and are much softer than the standard Yamaha jobs.
Next month, the Pro Taper footpegs will also go on and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference they make to the slightly small standard pegs.
Last issue, the YZ got an all-new look thanks to the Ringmaster Images graphics kit, which is still looking a million bucks. We finished it off this month with a gripper seat cover to top off the YZ’s all-new look. Seat covers can be tricky little suckers to fit sometimes — be prepared to wear some skin off your fingers and thumbs. A bit of heat and a lot of stretching had the Ringmaster cover on and looking the goods.
The gripper cover allows me to really keep my weight forward and not get ripped backwards and end up swinging off the back, making the bike more difficult to control. In those tight ruts, you can unleash the aggressive power of the YZ250 while keeping your weight glued forward and over the bars and the front wheel tracking around the turn before you exit the rut.
If you’re a fan of our Facebook page you would’ve seen some of Damien’s epic shots from our session in the sand. This bike is so much fun when the terrain is soft and forgiving. You can truly crank this beast over and feel the wrath of the two-strokes donk.
Riding the 250 on the sand track, I began to feel the limits of its suspension. With my weight on it, the bike isn’t up to the mega big bumps and rolling whoops. Next ride I’m going to work with the clickers to see if I can get it close to where I need it before we go and invest in suspension work.
Oh, and The GYTR clutch cover has been fitted and helps give the bike a truly finished factory look.
SO FAR SO GOOD
You simply can’t have a two-stroke without a pipe and muffler on it. The GYTR system added some aggression and excitement to the already impressive power of the YZ. I prefer it like this; if I wanted a bike that was tame, I wouldn’t be on one of these things. Bring on the arm pump!
270mm oversized rotor and bracket
This made the biggest difference to my enjoyment on the YZ250 so far. Riding both the 450 and 250 two-stroke, I tend to overshoot turns or come in way too hot and forget about the lack of engine braking for the first few laps. The 270mm GYTR disc made an absolute world of difference — it’s freakin’ awesome the amount of power you can get out of the brakes with a standard hose.
50T alloy sprocket
The standard gearing on the YZ250 works pretty well for the majority of riding I do. I mainly enjoy grass-track riding, so it’s got heaps of legs for the straights but still pulls nicely out of turns. Plus the alloy sprocket is way lighter than the standard steel version and looks way cooler.
Alloy rear disc guard
The standard plastic disc guard is pretty flimsy and Damien lost the one from his WR pretty quickly. So the GYTR alloy product is not only a lot better looking; it’s also better for longevity and protecting your disc.
Billet clutch cover
A billet clutch cover is the absolute coolest of cool. The GYTR model is used by heaps of race teams around the world and is an impressive bit of gear. It takes a lot of riding to wear one of these out, whereas a standard one lasts about three laps before it looks crappy.
Pivot brake lever
I’m a big fan of pivoting brake and clutch levers though it’s taking me a bit longer to get used to these. They are more of a square shape than I’ve used previously, but still very cool. Each ride I’m more at home with them.
The black Pro Taper contour handlebars are very, very cool looking. I chose the YZ high bend as they seemed to be the flattest of the range and so far I’m pretty darn comfortable with them.
The full-diamond single layer Pro Taper grips are well suited to me. I don’t like having layers and layers of rubber between my hand and the bars, so these work well and despite their soft nature have lasted well.
The standard pegs on the YZ are too small. I went for the Pro Taper 2.3 platform footpegs and haven’t looked back. These are totally customisable and offer a much better footing for your boot. The YZ is a busy bike to hang on to, so it’s important to have good grip with your feet and keep them planted on the pegs. I can’t say a bad word about these.
More sand riding and a new plan for the YZ250.
I had my last ride on the YZ250 this month. It was sad but, of course, heaps of fun. We headed out to Pacific Park to shoot a video and get some action shots of the big girl before she heads back to Yamaha.
Well, that was the plan, anyway, but the plan has changed.
It was still my last ride for the moment, however. The YZ250 has been a great bike to have in the stalls at DIRT ACTION. I’ll never forget the first ride I had on the bike at my girlfriend’s parents’ farm. The grass tracks there are fast, flowing and built to rev a bike on, so it was suited to the YZ.
That day, my mate Grant and I put about three or four tanks of fuel through the bike. We would moto our 450s then swap as soon as the other got a bit of arm pump on the big girl (or till one rider begged the other to get the heck off it).
The last ride was a wicked amount of fun in the dark sands out the back of Pacific Park. Boothy spent plenty of time riding the thing also and you can see that he put in the majority of his pro career on a two-stroke. It certainly blew any cobwebs out of the thing as it screamed and screamed lap after lap around the track.
The video is still to come but there’ll be plenty more Yamaha YZ250 action in DIRT ACTION. The boss, Damien, has got the green light from Yamaha to slap on a headlight and convert the YZ into an enduro weapon. You saw Tuffy’s YZ a couple of issues ago — well, this is the new-age version: a 2013 Yamaha YZ250-come-WR. Stay tuned!
GYTR pipe and muffler for going.
GYTR 270mm front rotor for stopping.
BEST DAY’S RIDING
Howes Valley: first ride on the big girl.
WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY
Nothing — other than moto more.
WHATELSE I’D DO
Have the suspension revalved.
Sand. I had more fun when the ground was forgiving of my lack of throttle control and I enjoyed it way more than hard-pack.
Even though these guys are still supporting the Yamaha with its new direction, I’d like to thank them for coming on board when this project kicked into gear:
Craig and the guys at Ringmaster Images
Gav at Serco for the Pro Taper accessories
Our YZ250 takes a break from the motocross track and looks at spending the rest of its time exploring the wilderness
When Matt’s time on the YZ250 was up we asked Yamaha if we could keep the bike and do a bit of a dream setup to turn this fire-breathing motocross machine into a somewhat tamed enduro/trail bike. Obviously, the lack of ADR hampers the build to a degree but, for those with private property, rec rego or a yen to race, the YZ is an option — and what an option it is.
To get started, I sent the suspension to Chad’s Offroad Setups in Victoria so he could work his magic. Chad has heaps of experience with YZ250 builds and he knew exactly what to do. I’ll let Chad explain in his own words the awesomeness he bestowed on the YZ.
“We fitted the MX-Tech E7 Bladder compression assembly to smooth out the fork action, SKF fork seals for better fork action and durability, InnTeck fork bushings and, of course, the Kashima outer fork tubes so you have smoother fork action.
“In the rear you have a shock that’s valved for off-road with an MX-Tech low-stiction piston band to eliminate drag of the standard piston in the shock body for a smoother, drag-free action.”
OK, that all sounds great — but does it work? Hell, yes, it does. It’s a far more compliant bike in the bush and nowhere near as punishing as the stock setup. Chad did a top job and it’s gone a long way to making the YZ bang-on for the bush. See it, hit it and move on: that’s the best way to describe how it works.
So, with the suspension sorted, the only other part I had to get started with was a GYTR bashplate, which is obviously essential for scrub running. With that on I took the YZ out for a quick run to get a feel for how the bike behaves in the real world.
It’s a different animal, for sure. It’s angry but so much fun on the trails, if a bit too much to keep in check in delicate situations, so that leads us to the next step in the process. We’ve got a fly-wheel weight to add and I’ll be returning to the stock exhaust and pipe to not only smooth the power but quieten the monster down a bit. I can also add a base gasket to lower compression but I don’t want to mellow it out too much.
This is going to be a fun build and, I reckon, a rewarding one.
The YZ250 is turning out to be all about the fun factor
The YZ250 bush basher project is coming along nicely and one of the more surprising things to me is just how close this bike is to being a great enduro mount without major mods.
Before I go much further, though, I’ll acknowledge the one and only truly major change I’ve made to the bike, which was with the suspension. Chad’s Offroad Setups tooled the YZ for me I certainly benefitted from the fact that Chad has a heap of experience building YZs for himself and others.
He promised me I’d like the work and he was so right. I did find it a little stiff at first but with a little clicker spinning I soon found my sweet spot and the bike came alive.
I’d also removed the GYTR exhaust and pipe this month because that thing brings out the animal in the YZ and I needed it to settle and be more manageable. I returned to the stock setup and that, combined with the worked suspension, presented a bike that’s not just more compliant but a hell of a lot of fun without losing its original appeal.
I took the appearance one step closer to enduro with a trip to Ballards Offroad and the addition of handguards and a headlight — as well as the obligatory pipe guard so my battles with the bush don’t result in some crushed metalwork.
The YZ is amazingly good in the bush. Flat-out, wide-open turns are orgasmic and the way it steers and changes direction in the bush is mind blowing. It’s so precise and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever ridden a bike quite so nimble and planted while remaining able to flick around and rail any slight berm or rut. It’s making me look good sometimes and I like that the most because I need all the help I can get.
I haven’t fitted the flywheel weight as yet but I will before next month to help alleviate stalling. I don’t need the power to settle much more now the stock pipe is back on and I kind of want it to keep a bit of the off-the-leash surges you get from time to time.
It’s a surprisingly torquey engine that has no problems with hills at all. While I thought it was to be the first change, I’m still running the stock gearing and I see no reason to change except that it runs out of puff early on the long, open runs compared to a six-speed purebred enduro bike.
As it stands, the YZ is firming as one the top three bikes I’ve ever had in my shed. That’s a big call but, honestly, it’s that much fun and that’s what I’m judging it by: the fun factor.
IF YOU BUILD IT …
Damo reckons the world needs a registrable YZ250 — Yamaha Australia has heard it over and over again. So here is his plea to the boss men.
So what’s the single best thing about riding the YZ in the bush? I get that question a bit.
The answer is the outstanding cornering ability of the YZ250. I’ve just spent a year on the WR450F and, while it’s a great trailbike, one of things that stops it from making an easy transition to race bike is its inability to turn precisely on all surfaces and at speed.
The YZ doesn’t give a toss where you are or how fast you’re going; it just plants itself and sort of looks back at you asking why aren’t we grabbing a handful of throttle? And for that I have to thank years of development from Yamaha and the insane suspension work by Chad’s Offroad Setups.
One thing I got asked recently that interested me was, “Don’t you miss the electric start?” To be honest, I’ve barely given it a thought. It’s a 250 two-stroke; it’s not exactly a tough ask to kick it over and it always starts easily. Being a dedicated bush basher, I’m surprised it didn’t occur to me that I was missing out on something that could make my life easier but I truly couldn’t care less.
Noise is something I am conscious about and while I hate riding with noisy bikes I despise being the one on the bike that makes the most noise. It’s not just that it’s a shitty thing to do in the bush these days but it’s also fatiguing to have to listen to a loud pipe all day.
Moving from the GYTR exhaust and pipe to the stock is a good idea. If you have the stock setup in place, leave it there is my advice. It’s a good system for the trails and it’s well within reasonable sound levels. The GYTR system is an animal, though, so if the motocross track is where it’s at for you it’s a ripper of an option to get more aggression from the YZ.
PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?
I mentioned last month that this particular bike is among my very favourite bikes of all time. The reasons are pretty simple and tick the boxes of almost everything we look for in a bike.
It’s light, agile and stable. It’s comfortable and easy to live with in the shed. It’s also got an engine that can play the muppet game that suits me but also move some earth should the planets align and I actually get a corner right. It’s far more versatile than I thought it would be in the beginning and, while I thought it would be fun, it’s more than I imagined by a large factor. This bike is nuts.
So, here is my plea to Yamaha Motors Japan: please don’t give up on the YZ. It has so much to offer and it wants to be a part of our lives. It likes having a headlight on it and handguards and everyone who rides it falls in love in minutes. Surely this is the definition of a great product.
KTM’s biggest-selling bike is a two-stroke. Yamaha has a great two-stroke that it can proudly offer up against any other manufacturer’s machine. You would own the Japanese two-stroke market because, well, look around — everyone’s left the party. The Euros turned up with their obscure liquors and dance music and the Japanese picked up their sake glasses and went home.
Except Yamaha. You may be starting to fade a little given you’ve been partying with this bike for many years but grab a Red Bull and fire up because we want you to stay.
We want to be able to register your bike and ride it in the bush. If you build it they will come.
Take some money from the remote-control helicopter department, or the tennis racket guys, or maybe disendorse Steve Lukather as a guitar ambassador. Toto was a shitty band, anyway.
The YZ250 enduro model would be a point of pride for the company and yet another iconic bike for the world — no, wait, screw the rest of the world — for Australians to embrace.
Anyway, have a think about it over sushi. Call me if you need to talk about it.
SO LONG, BLUE
Time to hand the YZ250 back after our split project test. What a bike! Now the only test will be getting it back off Damo
It’s now time to shed the bits and pieces that turned the YZ from a purebred motocross bike into a bush weapon. We split our time on the bike in half, with six months of use as nature intended (motocross) and six months as a trail bike. What we found was the YZ was far more versatile than we’d appreciated and under that race-hardened blue skin is a capable enduro machine that can serve as trail bike just as easily as it can race.
As I’ve said before, this bike has slotted itself onto the podium of top bikes I’ve owned. It’s light, it handles amazingly, it’s got power and punch and it’s cheap and easy to live with. About the only thing it doesn’t have is a sixth gear … and rego.
I’ve ridden it on open tracks and a heap of tight tracks and I can ride it as fast, if not faster, than anything else I’ve taken in there. The way it plants itself in a corner is beyond what a large percentage of what the current crop of enduro/trail bikes can match.
But it’s the exiting of the corner that spins your beanie. Pull out of a tight corner in second and when the YZ hits the pipe you want to be facing where you want to go, because this thing will come on and bolt like a feral cat on steroids. But on the flip side you can ride the YZ quite delicately. It’s a torquey engine that has no problems with hill climbs, even with the stock gearing. In fact, I left the gearing as it was because it suited how and where I ride.
BOING GOES THE YZ
The YZ needs suspension work to be a true and forgiving bush machine. In fact, I really didn’t like riding the bike with stock motocross-ready suspension.
I handed that job over to Chad’s Offroad Setups and they wove some magic. Chad knows the YZ well and it shows. It’s up there with the best suspensions I’ve ridden.
I also used the stock pipe and silencer in the bush for two reasons: it mellowed the power hit the GYTR unit gave me and brought the decibels down as well.
I never lamented the fact that I didn’t have electric start or a hydraulic clutch — or anything, really. This was just about riding and getting a buzz from your bike. The YZ supplies buzz by the bucket load.
If you’re in a position where you can avoid the need for rego, the YZ is a legitimate choice for an enduro bike. The one thing I didn’t test well is what mileage I could get from the stock tank and that might be the only other consideration for you.
Overall, though, I’m stoked to have spent my time on the YZ250. It’s a great bike that surprised me, thrilled me, scared me and made me get that stupid man-grin that only a good bike can bring on.
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