Now that we have about five years of Armageddon under our belts, things are sort of returning to normal. The YZ250F that we knew was coming has finally arrived, at least in pre-production form. The bike is exactly what we knew it would be. It’s a scaled-down version of the big YZ450F, complete with fuel injection, a reverse head with the exhaust in the rear, the intake up front, and the “mass centralization” theme that was the battle cry back in 2010. The bike is such a substantial change that it will be late for the 2014 selling season, and in fact won’t be in showrooms until the end of this year. Yamaha didn’t want to completely miss out, and to keep the public’s attention, the company flew a handful of pre-production bikes to California to give the press a sneak preview.
Handling reviews aren’t as clear cut. The 2013 version was great in that department, so improvements won’t come as easily. This bike is very different in feel. It has some of the same traits as the 450. The front end feels light and turns with the throttle. With both Yamahas the front end bites best when the bike is ridden hard. That characteristic is much milder on the 250, but still noticeable.
As far as injection goes, the bike is clean. The carburetor version hiccupped in rough terrain, and now the bike seems glitch-free. Other positive notes: the suspension felt good and there’s no reason to assume it’s any different from the 2013 model, which was excellent. The bike has a tight layout with the bars back in the standard position, but you have four possible handlebar locations, and the bike is roomy enough for a six-footer with the bars all the way forward.
If you’re looking for a bottom line on how the bike will stack up with the rest of the class, you’ll have to wait until at least November, when the first production bikes will have in the U.S. But so far, so good. Yamaha had a lot of ground to make up, and if the preproduction bike we tested is any indication, the company is right on track. Just a few seasons later than planned.