Bike Tests 26 Aug 2011

Launch Test: 2012 Yamaha YZ250F

MotoOnline.com.au rides and rates Yamaha’s heavily revised 2012 model YZ250F in Queensland.

Yamaha’s YZ250F has so far flown beneath the radar when it comes to fresh new releases for 2012, but judging by the excitement that swept through the Australian media at Stanmore’s national launch in Queensland, you’re about to read all about it.

Externally the Lites class contender from Yamaha looks strikingly similar to the current model, but look closer and you’ll see some very important changes including a brand new frame that’s visually much different.

Bulkier than ever before, the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F now has a type of twin-spar set-up when it comes to the aluminium frame, designed to increase rigidity. It also features new mounting brackets and an enlarged swingarm pivot, all changes that are essentially designed to add stability while maintaining swift steering capabilities.

The top triple clamp, which originated on the YZ450F, is now 150 percent more rigid, changed from a forged item in 2011 to a cast item for next year. In a bid to keep the quick-steering capabilities, Yamaha has reduced the offset from 25mm to 22mm as well. Effectively, trail has been increased by three millimeters for added stability.

Yamaha has adopted the YZ450F’s fork outer tubes and lower triple clamp also, albeit with specific YZ250F settings that are set to improve damping in the mid to end of the stroke. The shock absorber has a thinner inner rod (diameter is now 16mm from 18mm) and the fluid passage (rebound side) has been changed.

MotoOnline.com.au rode Yamaha's brand new 2012 model YZ250F in Queensland during late August.

MotoOnline.com.au rode Yamaha's brand new 2012 model YZ250F in Queensland during late August.

Also designed to increase rigidity is a wider swingarm end piece, which is now 13.9mm instead of 11.4mm from last year. Other revisions include new seat foam material, an updated muffler to meet FIM standards, plus the fueling system has been modified to suit E10 fuel (not recommended by Yamaha, however).

Now that you’re aware of the vital chassis changes, the engine upgrades are just as important. Once again Yamaha has opted to leave the motor carbureted, citing the weight advantage as the reason. Put simply, Yamaha believes the advantages of EFI aren’t enough to give away kilograms when it hits the scales.

Yamaha is claiming that the bike is the lightest in the class at 103 kilograms wet, which is a whopping 3.9kg lighter than what Honda’s CRF250R weighed in at during ADB’s 2011 shootout earlier this year. You’ll have to weigh it yourself for confirmation of those figures though…

What Yamaha has focused on for this year is improving mid- to to-end performance in its five-calve engine, making the throttle action better and reducing vibration in the process. A lighter piston has been fitted, and along with a lighter gudgeon pin and circlip, Yamaha says it’s an 8.7 percent weight reduction.

The piston offset has been modified, which all results in less horsepower loss through friction. There’s a high ratio twist grip, plus the new CDI optimizes advance ignition timing. The crank web, balancer and balancer weight have all been optimized to match the new lighter piston also.

The Yamaha engine has been improved for 2012, but doesn't have EFI for the new year.

The Yamaha engine has been improved for 2012, but doesn't have EFI for the new year.

A larger air filter guide shape makes for a larger intake that offers more airflow, and the carburetor bore size has been increased from 37mm to 39mm thanks to a shape revision that’s now straight instead of tapered.

During our test, it’s important to note that Yamaha revised the jetting to a 70 leak (95 is standard), 40 pilot (38 is standard) and a 175 main (185 is standard). The PR needle remained set at number five.

Considering the large amount of modifications that Yamaha put into the 2012 YZ250F, all it really needed to top it off was a fresh new look. Realistically though, the current model was only released in 2010 and still looks the goods when lined up alongside its opposition.

Now we have all of the technical information said and done, it’s time to share our ride impression that took place at the Stanmore Motocross track, complete with national Pro Lites number two Kirk Gibbs on hand to show us the fast way around.

Also on hand were GYTR Rockstar Energy Yamaha development team contenders Luke Arbon and Shaun Redhead, making for an exclusive introduction to the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F for the media outlets and moto-journalists privileged to be invited along for the ride.

The 2012 Yamaha YZ250F could be one of the big suprises in Lites bike shootouts.

The 2012 Yamaha YZ250F could be one of the big suprises in Lites bike shootouts.

On track the chassis changes are easy to feel, real changes that are related directly to the handling characteristics. From day dot the YZ250F has been slightly slow to steer, only in the initial turn-in point. Now, it’s a single motion and you’ll be amazed at the improvements.

The Yamaha has actually enjoyed a very solid year already with wins in the Australian Four Day Enduro and British Motocross Championships. Gibbs and Arbon also finished runner-up in their respective MX Nationals classes, with the YZ250F picking up more 250F moto wins on a national level than any other manufacturer (22 in total).

Considering its impressive CV, Yamaha had to be sure in the changes it made and they’re all done with a purpose. That’s what has amounted to a greatly refined ride that will benefit everybody from your aspiring pro racer to the weekend warriors.

The steering feels faster than last year and more precise, but the stability is also improved. At times the rear-end would kick over the bumps when hit on the wrong angle, but never did it skip sideways or feel uncontrollable. What that does is instill confidence in you as a rider.

You can push hard and the suspension will work with you at the front and rear, proving that Yamaha has focused on balance when it comes to suspension. Changes in the clickers were easy to feel too, although I felt comfortable from the outset as soon as the sag was set for my 72 kilograms.

As for the brakes, they’re not overly powerful, but ultra consistent, and I personally wouldn’t ask for anything more. The stiffer seat foam is comfortable, and the Pro Taper handlebars are back again with supreme strength and their signature sweeping bend. Ergonomically, the package suits the frame and offset to a tee.

More rigid than before thanks to a new frame and various chassis revisions, the handling is vastly different.

More rigid than before thanks to a new frame and various chassis revisions, the handling is vastly different.

Motor-wise, the power is strong and you have the option of revving it hard or lagging third gear out of the turns. It’ll pull without hesitation and has the torque to match, plus the over-rev is a little more forgiving for those rev-happy riders in the field.

In fact, the only place where I could fault the engine is a few times in between the tabletops that make up the second straight at Stanmore. If you happen to over-jump and panic rev, there is a slight bog that can be noticed. While it only happened when I made the rider error, it certainly wouldn’t steer me away from buying a carbureted bike.

Overall, the engine is impressive though, a great improvement that makes for a strong foundation to riders to race with. Add a pipe and jet it to your requirements then you’ll be hole-shotting motos in no time.

“The power’s good and it definitely feels strong all the way through from the bottom to the top,” Gibbs noted. “I don’t like revving bikes very much, but you can rev it hard and it definitely feels like you can use all the power of the engine by running through its gears.

“The frame feels rigid going into the turns and you can really push it into the corners. The suspension obviously wasn’t set up like my race bike, but you could feel it has good potential even standard. I’m not a real fast steerer, but I felt comfortable and feel happy with what we have to work with as a base.”

Serco Yoshimura Yamaha's Kirk Gibbs was on hand to show the Aussie media what the YZ250F's capable of.

Serco Yoshimura Yamaha's Kirk Gibbs was on hand to show the Aussie media what the YZ250F's capable of.

Arbon was also impressed with the new Yamaha that he’ll race in Super X. Used to riding his much stiffer race bike, he said he’d stiffen up the forks, but apart from that he believes he’ll have a good base to work from when it comes to developing his new race bike.

“For me I felt the forks were a little bit soft into the turns, but other than that the bike felt really stable,” Arbon said. “It tract really well out of the corners though, and I think a few adjustments with the clickers on the forks would have us set to go.

“I’ve been riding a stock practice bike all year as far as the engine goes and I think that this one is stronger all the way through. The new 2012 model feels really strong, with a throaty mid-range – that’s what I look for in a bike. It feels like a tractor, so it’s awesome to ride and really easy to keep in the power range.”

And the final piece of good news for Yamaha fans? Despite all those changes for the new year, Yamaha has retained the same pricing structure for the new year at $10,999 for the blue model, while the special edition white version is just $100 extra at $11,099.

Stay tuned to MotoOnline.com.au for a release date when it’s announced by Yamaha Motor Australia.

Take your pick - you can purchase the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F in either an SE white or customary blue.

Take your pick - you can purchase the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F in either an SE white or customary blue.

Rider Wear

Jersey/Pants/Gloves: Answer JS Collection (Wired Red)
Helmet: SixSixOne Fenix Shards (black/white)
Goggles: Oakley Mayhem
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Neck brace: Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support
Knee brace: PodMX K700

Note: Products are clickable if reviewed in the Product Centre

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