By John Basher
All new. You'll be hearing those words frequently when discussion turns towards the 2014 Yamaha YZ250F. Although I'm sure you know the ins and outs about the new (there, I said it again) blue bomber, it's only now beginning to find the showroom floors. Long awaited by our eager souls, Daryl Ecklund and I were more than pleased to hop aboard a flight from Los Angeles to the capital of Alabama (that's Montgomery for those who haven't brushed up on their state capitals lately) to ride at Monster Mountain. I've heard great things about the track, and upon arrival this morning to the scenic circuit in Tallassee I wasn't disappointed. Red loamy dirt sat moist and begged to be torn up by the YZ250F's Bridgestone tires. The layout was impressive, with rolling hills for elevation changes and a myriad of challenging and fun obstacles. Monster Mountain is one of those tracks that you dream about but don't think exists. I'm here to tell you that it does.
Now about the all new YZ250F. We're through day one of testing, with more ride time happening tomorrow. Daryl and I logged a bunch of laps on the bike. So far we've messed with the suspension settings and changed the mapping a couple times. I'll admit with brutal honesty that it's challenging to unlock all of the secrets of a bike in a single day at a track that we've never ridden, where there are only other YZ250F to compare to, but we tried our hardest. Take a look at the photos below and accompanying captions to find out our first impression of the 2014 Yamaha YZ250F. The full-blown magazine test session will have to wait until we return to SoCal and start racing and riding the 2014 YZ250F on race tracks that are part of our dirt dyno circuit, not to mention putting it on the real dyno and racing it against its green, red, orange and yellow competitors.
There she is in all of her glory. Yamaha unveiled the first 250 four-stroke back in 2001, and for many years it remained mostly unchanged, until 2010 when Yamaha's engineers made much needed updates. At that time we figured that the bike would come with fuel injection, due to the different airbox and gas tank layout that made room for a fuel pump on the flat-bottom gas tank, but it didn't happen. Yamaha's marketing team admitted that they have toying with EFI for several years, but that they couldn't find a huge performance benefit in making the leap. That is until now. The YZ250F has a 44mm Keihin throttle body with a ten-hole injector.
The list of changes made to the YZ250F would be too long to put here. Suffice it to say that the engine is new (four valves instead of five, with a rearward slanted engine, new cylinder head and design architecture), along with the frame, suspension settings (stiffer fork and shock spring), airbox and body styling.
Riding the YZ250F is confidence inspiring. You don't really think that Daryl Ecklund would get this low if the bike didn't hold a line, would you? We quickly balanced out the front and rear end by adjusting sag, and then started adjusting the clickers. In stock trim the suspension was workmanlike, though we'll tinker more to find super plush settings.
We were really surprised by the throttle response. On other 250 four-strokes we've noticed that first-year EFI-equipped bikes generally suffer from the switch to a throttle body. That doesn't seem to be the case with the YZ250F. Throttle response is immediate, and we didn't encounter any hiccups at any throttle opening.
The YZ250F works best at low-end and midrange speeds, but it's no slouch in the top end. Ecklund was hitting these whoops in third gear wide open and had no trouble keeping the front end up.
Yamaha boasts that the YZ250F is the lightest bike in the class, even though it gained three pounds. We're not going to argue. It feels very light in motion.
Is this Heaven? No, it's Monster Mountain in Tallassee, Alabama. If you remember, Monster Mountain was one of the tracks considered by MX Sports for a National. It didn't happened. Too bad. The layout and dirt are unreal. This is the type of track that you won't stop riding until you run out of gas or daylight.
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