FIRST RIDE: 2017 YZ250FX
I’m a big fan of the Yamaha YZ250FX. For me, it’s the best 250 four-stroke for everything, including motocross. Having just wrapped up the 2017 250 MX comparison, I know that some of our test riders think the KTM and Husky 250s are better on the track, but those are mostly opinions from Pro motocross guys. The YZ is much easier to ride for everyone else. And the FX version has almost the same power output as the MX version, plus electric start, an 18-inch rear wheel, a kickstand and a skid plate. The gear ratios are wider, too. All those things make it better off-road, and in my book don’t hurt it for sportsman-level MX and GP racing.
The suspension is actually excellent across the board. It still has a spring fork, which is softer than the one on the MX version. It works perfectly off-road and on tight tracks. Interestingly enough, speed is the major determining factor in how stiff or soft suspension should be, not how rough a track is. When you get into faster tracks and bigger jumps, the FX is clearly undersprung. That’s okay, it should be.
For 2017, the bike has a lot of changes that are of non-world-shaking nature. The frame has lower footpegs, different engine mount brackets and a bigger front brake rotor. The motor has a new head, a new piston and a new rod. There are are total of 23 changes, ranging from heat treatment to redesigned bushings. The most noticeable one is the absence of a kickstart lever. Yamaha joined KTM in making the bike electric-only, and saved almost 2 pounds in the process. Weight still is the bike’s most serious shortcoming. Without fuel, it comes in around 237 pounds. That’s 15 pounds heavier than the MX model. You can save here and there with a lithium battery and an aftermarket pipe, but it’s hard to figure out where all that weight is. The electric starter, obviously doesn’t help, but KTM makes an electric start 250F that weighs 217 pounds. We’re still learning more about the bike and there will be a full test in the February issue of Dirt Bike.
AHM built an incredible YZ250 two-stroke for us that we can’t wait to ride. So far, RJ Wageman is the only test rider to swing a leg over it for photos at Milestone MX. The bike has everything you could want in a two-stroke, but what really sets it off is the bodywork from RTech. This is a new seat/shroud combo that will retro fit any YZ all the way back to 2001. It looks fast.
We also got involved with a rebuild project with a 2003 Suzuki RM250 and Swedish pro rider Robert Lind. We sent the motor away to LA Sleeve, installed a WP Cone Valve fork and threw everything at the bike. Unfortunately, it’s a long way from being finished. Between jetting mysteries and a long list of other setbacks, it needs more work. We have to give Robert credit for getting through a few turns for photos. Stay tuned.
Our 2017 450 MX shootout is in the closing stages of testing. Were are pretty sure that there will be a new winner. Of the six bikes, the Honda, KTM and Husqvarna have major changes. The Yamaha has a few, while the Kawasaki and Suzuki are almost unchanged.
The biggest questions for our test riders revolve around the new Honda CRF450R, and how does the WP AER 48 air fork affect the standing of the KTM and Husqvarna. If you remember, the Kawasaki was crowned the winner in our 2016 shootout, but even then we made it clear that the KTM and Husky would be more serious contenders if they saw an improvement in suspension.
JESSY NELSON DAY
Every year we hold an invitational ride day to say thank you to some of the companies that have supported us. In the past, it’s never been open to the public. This time around, however, we’re dedicating the day to Jessy Nelson, who was injured earlier in the year. Everyone is welcome to come to Glen Helen on December 7th to show their support for Jessy, although the track itself won’t be open for public riding. The details haven’t been worked out, but there will be autograph signings, a silent auction and we expect it to be an upbeat get-together for everyone. More details will be announced shortly.
The 2016 AMA EnduroCross Championship will wrap up inside the Citizens Business Bank Arena this weekend in Ontario, California and Colton Haaker is on the verge of wrapping up his first title. The Husqvarna factory rider comes in with a fourteen point lead over KTM’s Cody Webb and only needs a seventh place finish to clinch it. Haaker has five wins and two second place finishes so far in 2016 but EnduroCross obstacles make nothing a sure thing.
Webb, the two time defending AMA EnduroCross champion, has two wins, four seconds and one third place finish so far in 2016 and will need to win to keep any hopes of a third championship alive.
The battle for third position in the championship is also very interesting as Husqvarna’s Mike Brown currently holds a five point lead over twenty year old Ty Tremaine, who rides for the RPM KTM team. Brown is a motorcycle racing legend that refuses to give an inch while Tremaine is proving to be one of the stars of the future.
Beta backed Kyle Redmond and Max Gerston are currently fifth and sixth and still have a chance at third as well. Seventh is held by SRT KTM backed Cory Graffunder. Trystan Hart and Noah Kepple are close behind holding eighth and ninth respectively and are also among the young riders mixing it up with the extablished stars. And speaking of established stars, GasGas backed Geoff Aaron rounds out the top ten.
The EnduroCross Junior Championship within a championship recognizes riders that are 21 and under and Tremaine holds a solid lead in that battle. Canada’s Hart is second and followed closely by Kepple.
There is also a manufacturer’s championship on the line in Ontario and for the first time in several years, KTM is facing stiff competition from Husqvarna. The manufacturer’s championship counts the main event points for the top two finishers for each brand and Husqvarna currently has a one point lead over KTM, 289 to 288 respectively. And Beta is a solid third with 206 points.
In the Women’s class, Canada’s Shelby Turner holds an almost insurmountable 21 point lead coming into the finals. The KTM rider has six wins and one second place finish so far in 2016 and should clinch her first EnduroCross title this weekend. Beta’s Morgan Tanke is currently in second and RPM KTM’s Rachel Gutish is third but out with an injury suffered at the ISDE.
The Open Amateur, Vet and TrialsCross classes will all be gunning for AMA Grand Championship number one plates as the regional winners at all eight events (including the morning race in Ontario) face off in the evening main events. In the Vet class, former champion Kurt Nicholl will be attempting to take the number one plate on the Alta Electric bike.
Don’t miss out on the action, you can get tickets at www.endurocross.com/buy-tickets. You can also get tickets at the following local Powersports retailers.
All eight rounds of the 2016 AMA EnduroCross series will air on the CBS Sports Network for the second consecutive year. For CBS Sports Network information, please visit www.cbssportsnetwork.com
2016 AMA EnduroCross Championship Schedule
Date – Location – Arena / Additional Information
August 27, 2016 – Duluth, Georgia – Infinite Energy Center
September 3, 2016 – Brandon, South Dakota – Badlands Motor Speedway
September 10, 2016 – Salt Lake City, Utah – Vivint Smart Home Arena
September 24, 2016 – Scottsdale, Arizona – WestWorld – Intl Off-Road & UTV Expo
October 1, 2016 – Denver, Colorado – National Western Events Center
October 22, 2016 – Everett, Washington – XFINITY Arena
November 5, 2016 – Nampa, Idaho – Ford Idaho Center
November 18-19, 2016 – Ontario, California – Citizens Business Bank Arena
* Subject to change
“ANYONE CAN DO IT” … right!
This is an incredible video that just came out from Husqvarna. The most memorable line from Graham Jarvis is “anyone can do it.”
NEW SHOT GEAR
See you next time,