2015 Yamaha YZ250FX
FEEL THE FX
Words: Chris Pics: Paul
For a company that has stuck to its core values for many, many years, the Yamaha Motor Corporation have done something that no one expected them to do: step outside the confides of their stable model range. The YZ250FX is a change of guard for the tuning fork brand, a shift in a different direction, but it’s a direction we are welcoming with open arms.
When people think of cross-country models, the mind skips pretty quickly to the European brands of KTM, Husqvarna and even Gas Gas – never a thought of the country of the rising sun. But one of the Japanese manufacturers has pulled up its socks, strapped on its boots, grabbed themselves a brand new weapon and aren’t afraid to use it.
That weapon is the YZ250FX.
Yamaha have been known to make, what I like to call, an interim bike: updating a model completely, and releasing that bike until they are ready to unleash the real killer they have been working on. In 250F form, it was the first bilateral beam YZ250F. It was still carburetted and didn’t follow their MO of reverse-cylinder technology. It was good but didn’t really have that, you know, that X factor. Then, in 2012, the WR450F was gifted the same frame used as the 250F, while keeping the reliable five-valve donk, but just injecting it. Again, that was nothing mind-blowing, and still shied away from the reverse-cylinder way of thinking – and that just didn’t make sense with all the work going into the motocross four-fifty.
Well, with the release of the new 2015 WR250F and YZ250FX, the cat’s out of the bag. These are models that Yamaha have clearly been working very hard on, which will no dbout inevitably flow through to all-new WR and FX four-fifties.
Obviously, this is not one of those interim models; this is it’s the real deal. You can be sure that the reverse cylinder engine is here for the long haul and Yamaha are going to use it everywhere.
WHAT’S THE GO?
Besides the lights and model branding, the YZ, FX and WR are all ao similar that it’s pretty hard to tell them apart. Yamaha have taken the YZ250F, and simply added what was needed to create their new WR250F, which we tested in DRD 113. Then, at the same time, they figured they wouldn’t stop there and cut a few things loose from the WR, grabbed a few extra YZ bits and created what we have here: a real hard-nosed cross-country machine.
Like the WR250F, the FX’s shock shaft is 4mm longer than the YZ250F’s, giving an extra 10mm of travel. The FX is said uses the same front spring rate, but heavier rear spring, with cross-country specific valving to help with the faster speeds. It also steals the WR’s engine mounting brackets, said to produce a more forgiving ride and make the frame less rigid.
From the YZ, the FX has grabbed the exhaust system, which has a spark arrestor already fitted. The engine is the same across the board, but each model has a different ECU mapping, with the FX being closer to the YZ than the WR. It runs a heavier flywheel and, of course, has the six-speed gearbox that is a must on a cross-country model. The FX also takes the WR’s clutch, which has lighter springs, but also some special friction plates in the middle that claim to offer a better feel.
Add to all that a decent o-ring chain, electric start to go with the side stand and it seems like a bike that was made for the Kiwi market – funnily enough, it was.
And it was made by Kiwis, too: being developed by Josh Coppins and Peter Payne (Yamaha Motor Australia’s Brand Developer Manager). The two got together and were heavily involved with the conception and execution of the entire FX project. That, right there, is one of those quality stories that you could tell your grandchildren.
Out on the track, it feels basically identical to a YZ250F. The extra cross-country components adding up to around an extra nine kilograms are virtually unnoticeable out on the trail. The bike retains its ability to flick from left to right with ease and soak up the bumps on high speed square edges. Yamaha are renowned for having a tall seat and, with the fuel tank under there, it’s definitely tall. But, at the same time, it is very flat. It’s super easy to move around on. With that height comes the ability to move the handlebars to four different positions, catering for the long-armed type of rider.
I was worried that the suspension was going to be far too soft and that would take away from what could be a great handling bike. But the combo of 4.4 spring rate on the front and 5.6 on the rear actually worked very well across the board. In national racing trim, I would still go up a few rates for my 95kg weight. But, for everything else, I think I would prefer this bump soaking setup that gave good feedback and a pretty plush ride.
It seems to me that a lot of work has been put into the valving on the FX and the end result is very pleasing. Our test track consisted of gravel roads, hard-pack bush tracks and an endurocross course, all of which the FX had no trouble with. It didn’t kick when slamming into big log obstacles, nor did the front deflect off rocks when travelling at high speed.
The front end is a real attrbitute, as gripping and turning the bike seemed a lot easier than when I previously rode the YZ250F, which I did on the same day. It would dive in very quickly and predictively as if the steering angle was slightly steeper, which it is: due to the longer shock shaft being combined with a 2mm steering head spacer. But in no way did this deter from its straight line stability. It ploughs through rough terrain without the hind of any head shake – that was lucky, too, as the engine loved to go!
All ‘round the world, Yamaha’s 250F seems to have been a bit of a crowd favourite, and is currently smashing the competition in the States. The combination of the straight shot of O2 from the airbox into the throttle body and out the back of the rear slanting cylinder, along with the EFi and ECU mapping, make this 250F very excitable. It’s responsive from the bottom of the range and revs out a lot further than you think it will, meaning holding a gear for longer is definitely an option you can take. But, on top of all that power, the real beauty of this engine is its ability to really chug along very low in the revs and keep pulling from right down low. The heavier flywheel weight really works a treat, making slow going and playing all very easy. The lighter springs seem to work well, too, and the special friction plates saw clutch fade at a bare minimum. It didn’t rev out as quickly as the YZ, but it also put that power to the ground a lot easier and provided better traction.
Though with the FX running the 18-inch rear wheel, you will notice the rear getting better grip off-road with the larger sidewall from the tire. This allows more flex and greater rubber contract over roots, holes and holes. The side stand it worth its weight in gold, too. And the electric leg means there is no effort into getting it fired up. The only effort you will need to expel is trying to wipe that stupid grin off your face.
The six-speed gearbox, in my opinion, is what brings this whole package together. The previous five-speed boxes that Yamaha have used have been good for moto but not ideal for the bush. In order to get a decent top end speed, the gap between second and third has usually been a tad big, leaving a gap that can catch you out at times. This can be mitigated with a sprocket change but that’s only shifting the problem. With the new gearbox, there are no gaps in the shifting process and every gear pulls strong straight from the previous one. Sure, top gear isn’t excessively long, but it will provide adequate transport section speed.
Although, from someone who has only ever raced with five-speed shifters, it initially took a little getting used to. See, third and fourth are not my normal picks for the special tests in an enduro, as it’s more second and third for such tasks – with third being your go-to gear when it comes to five-speed ‘boxes. With the low first gear on the FX, and second being the play around gear, I found myself shifting between third and fourth more than usual, which felt wrong in my head, but translated to a good power delivery on the track.
It’s plainly obvious that Yamaha have their sights firmly set on a certain European manufacturer; and if there is one bike that’s set to re-claim riders who have previously defected, well, this will be the bike. Its ability to be so darn close to both the YZ and WR, yet unequivocally stand alone as its own, makes this FX something the people are going to go crazy over.
Yamaha mean business – and from the looks of things, business is good.
2015 YAMAHA YZ250FX
Engine Type: 249cc liquid-cooled DOHC four-stroke; four titanium valves
Bore x Stroke: 77.0mm x 53.6mm
Compression Ratio: 13.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) Keihin® 44mm
Transmission: Constant-mesh six-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Front Suspension: KYB Speed-Sensitive System, inverted fork: fully adjustable, with 315mm of travel
Rear Suspension: Fully adjustable single shock with 315mm of travel
Front Brake: Hydraulic single disc brake with 250mm rotor
Rear Brake: Hydraulic single disc brake with 245mm rotor
Front Tyre: 80/100-21 Bridgestone M404-A
Rear Tyre: 100/90-18 Bridgestone M403
Seat Height: 966mm
Ground Clearance: 325mm
Fuel Capacity: 7.5L
Wet Weight: 113kg