2002 YZ250F–JAN 2
By the end of the 16-round supercross series, the controversial YZ250F had won half of the mains and half of the titles, so no less than two dozen 250Fs showed up at Glen Helen for the start of the 24-moto national series. Factory riders, aftermarket-team members and privateers alike made the jump to thumperdom in a week. At the start of every one of those 24 motos, 250Fs filled at least seven of the top ten positions, and the grumbling from the two-stroke camp became outright whining. And, with a win record of zero of 24 125cc motos, the YZ250F had a weight penalty attached to it for ?02. While a two-stroke 125 could weigh as little as 194 pounds, the YZ250F would have to weigh 216 pounds, or 22 more than the class standard.
Undaunted, Yamaha improved the new breed for ?02 and shaved another pound of weight. At this rate, Yamaha and the AMA will butt heads in eight years over this weight rule, but there are other ways to maintain the advantage, unfair or otherwise, until then.
SECOND VERSE, SAME AS?
Second, Yamaha worked long and hard on putting more of that smooth power to the ground. Suspension was almost completely reworked in the process. Yamaha transferred all of the suspension changes done to the YZ250 and YZ426 to the 250F, including a more-rigid swingarm, 5mm-longer shock, new linkage, two-piece fork piston and slick-coated fork tubes. These upgrades give the ?02 250F a big advantage over the ?01?and every ?02 125 we?ve tested. The fork is the best in its class; it reacts to stutter bumps better and doesn?t have any spike on slapper landings. It resists bottoming better than the ?01 but could use stiffer springs at the hands of Larry Ward or Rodrig Thain. We even like the YZF fork better than the YZ125?s.
Out back, the new shock setting not only gobbles up everything with more authority than the fork, it provides even more rear-wheel traction, both straight-line and side-bite. The 250F is the most stable machine in the 125 class, and it feels like its tires are somehow magnetic. The bike feels very planted at both ends and puts an end to the term “Yamahop.” And the high-low compression clickers let you tune the ride for every track, condition and riding style. We wonder if it would be this stable if it were lighter, but the handicappers at the AMA make this a moot point.
IF IT AIN?T BROKE?
Yamaha addressed that, too, with a larger 245mm rear brake disc and more aggressive rear pads. Run it in harder, stomp on the more powerful brake and pivot off that ring-ding in front of you. Just don?t stall it. Yamaha made some improvements on the 250F?s weakest link, but it still isn?t cured of the high-compression starting blues. The ignition map that brings more torque also eases starting a bit, as does the larger hot-start circuit, but stalling the Yamaha still exacts a huge price in a race. Namely, you have to look down at the carb, find the hot-start knob, pull it, go through the mandatory start-drill.
TRAIN OR TRAIL
BITS & PIECES
IS IT REALLY CHEATING?
As far as pro racing goes, the 2002 YZ250F is a cheated bike, not a cheater bike. It?s being cheated out of a relationship with Jenny Craig. As for the other 99 percent of us dirt bike enthusiasts, it?s the ultimate motocross bike for any class, especially age categories. Heck, throw a Thumper Racing 290cc kit in it and race it in the 250s, where it?ll just meet the 224-pound 500cc limit!