RIDING THE 2020 YAMAHA YZ250FX
The Yamaha YZ250FX is completely redesigned for 2020, and last week I got to spend a couple days riding it in the woods around Union, South Carolina. That’s the home of Randy Hawkins’ Ampro Yamaha race team, and the conditions were absolutely perfect–as long as you brought warm riding gear.
The YZ250FX is the off-road racing version of the Yamaha YZ250F motocrosser. And while it’s accurate to say the bike is redesigned for 2020, it isn’t really all new. In 2019, the motocross version was, in fact, all new, and the FX got the same treatment one year later. So that means the frame is new and much more rigid. The engine was completely reworked with massive buckets in a new head. It also got an integrated electric starter system. The previous FX had electric start, as well, but it was sort of an afterthought, grafted onto an existing design. The new motor was designed to have the electric start from the outset, and there isn’t even a place to put a kickstart lever if you wanted one. The FX also got Yamaha’s Mikuni-based EFI system with wifi connectivity. Just like the motocross version, you can hook up to the bike with any smartphone and retune the mapping quickly and easily. There is a fully EPA compliant version of the same bike (the WR250F) which has a locked EFI system and a few more off-road features like a headlight and radiator fan. The FX is a racer, and is imported as a closed-course, competition bike.
The features that set the FX apart from the full moto version are softer suspension, a six-speed gearbox and different mapping (with a mild map that can be selected from a handlebar switch). It also has an 18-inch rear wheel, Dunlop AT81 tires, and off-road-specific clutch, an O-ring chain, a kickstand and a larger (2.1-gallon) fuel tank. Last year’s FX also had a 2.1 gallon fuel tan–but in that case it was the same as the previous MX model. The new MX bike has a smaller tank, so Yamaha deemed it necessary to made an off-road-specific fuel tank.
The new FX is noticeably lighter than last year’s version. It should be about the same weight as the motocross bike (227 pounds without fuel) plus the weight of a kickstand and whatever difference the six-speed makes. Let’s say 230. The last YZ250FX that we had in our shop was two years ago, and it was 239 pounds. Thinking back, we loved that bike, but we did have a few complaints. First of all, it wasn’t as fast as the motocross version no matter what mapping we tried (then, we used the hand-held Yamaha Power Tuner). Something about the addition of electric start didn’t translate well, and the motor seemed to have some internal drag. That created a problem with the gear ratios in the six-speed. It couldn’t pull sixth gear unless it was on flat pavement with a lot of space. On the paved section of the Hilltoppers GP at 29 Palms, for example, the bike didn’t even pull fifth well, whereas an MX bike would easily attain top speed. There’s no point in a six-speed if you can’t use it.
This bike is different. It’s much faster than the older version. We didn’t have enough room to test top speed, but we can’t wait to get this bike back to 29 Palms. We would guess that it still can’t pull max rpm in sixth on that short straight, but it will at least go as fast as the motocross bike without screaming on the rev-limiter. We didn’t have a 2019 model for back-to-back comparison, but the new YZ250FX probably lost some low-end power. That happened to the motocross bike when it got the same modifications, but that bike still has more bottom end than any of the other 250 four-strokes. The same is true here. It has enough torque to allow fast trail-riding without high revs. The clutch is the best of all the Japanese bikes, and it can take some abuse despite having a super light pull. As for the suspension, it’s still excellent—the best in the off-road world.
We got to ride the new FX back to back with Yamaha’s new 125X off-road two-stroke. Usually, I will take a small-bore two-stroke hands-down over a 250F, but not this time. As much as I like the 125X, I liked the FX better. It was just easier to ride, despite weighing around 30 pounds more. Click on the image of above for a video comparison of the two bikes, and check out the print edition of Dirt Bike for more.
Right now we have a Honda CRF250RX in the garage, ready for a full test. That bike is a direct competitor to the Yama YZ250FX, so we are going to have them back to back on weekly rides as soon as we get some real rain out here in California. It’s going to be fun
Many manufacturers release new adventure bikes at this time of the year. At last weeks EICMA show in Milan, Italy, we got to see the new Suzuki V-Strom 1050. At the IMS show in Long Beach, this concept version of the Suzuki was on display. We don’t know if Suzuki is testing the waters to attract a more serious adventure bike buyers, but if Suzuki was interested enough to build this bike for real, we’re sure they will find riders interested in buying it.
It’s been a full year since we first saw the Moto Guzzi V85, and now it seems like the bike is in full production with a number of variations. Since 2004, Guzzi has been owned by Piaggio, the same group that owns Vespa and Aprilia. The company’s previous big adventure model was the Stelvio, but it was sent to the cornfield by Euro 4 emission regulations. The V85TT is the company’s replacement. It’s still an air-cooled pushrod motor, but modernized and clean enough for Euro 5 and even California. It sells in the U.S. for $12,999, complete with aluminum panniers.
As always, the Ducati Multistrada is stunning. The 1260 is said to produce 158 horsepower.
Before there was Erzberg, before there was Romaniacs and before there was the Tennessee Knock Out, there was Novemberkasan, the original hard enduro. For years this was the most difficult motorcycle event in the world, made so by the fact that it took place in November in Sweden. The terrain was hard enough, but it was almost always frozen solid, and half of the race took place at night. The Husky Good Old Times Blog has a very cool story about the early years of the race and a phenomenal rider named Gunnar Kalén, who won for five consecutive years from 1926 to 1930, then again in 1933. You can read about it on the Husky Good Old Times Blog, here.
The 2020 Dakar Rally switches to Saudi Arabia in January after three decades in Africa and 11 editions in South America. The 30th host country in the history of the race will provide a vast expanse of desert for the cars, bikes, trucks, quads and UTVs leaving on January 5 from Jeddah. It will cross 9,000km of sand to reach Al-Qiddiya on January 17. Toby Price Won the last race after American Ricky Brabec dropped out with a failed motor. Brabec will be back for Monster Energy HRC team and so will Andrew Short of Rockstar Husqvarna. Short is hot off this first FIM Rally win last month. This year will have the best opportunity for a U.S. win in years.
That’s all for now