2020 has been a weird one. Agreed? When I got given the opportunity to test the 2021 YZ250 I jumped at it, quite simply, especially considering the launch took place at the historic circuit of Bilstein in Germany. A regular on the ADAC series schedule and host of the 1981 Motocross of Nations, a historic edition as Team USA claimed their maiden victory with Team Great Britain finishing second. When I arrived I was eager to get out and ride, half of the track lies in dense woodland and, after crossing a road (tarmac and all), the other half sits on a grassy hillside. An idyllic setting for a motocross track.
Yamaha has given the 2021 YZ250F updates that almost mirror what they improved on the YZ450F for 2020. The chassis has had refinements to the twin-spar section at the top of the frame and the walls have been made thinner, to compliment this they have thickened the frame cradle and changed the material the engine mounts are made out of. Top engine mounts are now made of steel and the front mounts made of aluminium. The top triple clamp has been redesigned to produce a difference flex characteristic and the bar position has been moved forward. The wheel spindle has also been made thicker on the inner diameter to work in harmony with the other changes up front. I noticed these changes the most at corner entry – the front end had a confidence-inspiring feel that let me push hard into the corners to carry momentum. That is extremely important on a small bike and a feeling every rider should strive for. Overall, it gave the bike a slightly more precise feeling. It felt as if I could be very accurate with where I placed the wheels when it came to slower technical sections.
The 2021 YZ250F is still running the KYB SSS forks and KYB shock. From standard it is great suspension and has incredible potential to be really dialled in for any rider with a bit of tweaking. The shock and fork settings have been revised, for more low to mid-damping. The shock felt good, to me when riding at least, and it had a very good feeling on choppy bumps at low speed. The forks felt comfortable at low speed, but on the higher speed sections of the track they were a little soft at the top of the stroke. This would make the forks dive a little and at speed the front felt a little unstable at times. There was a section on the track that had quite a hard g-out and I noticed it this there especially. Suspension is such a ball-park area, however, because of the varied size and abilities of riders. I believe that the KYB forks are the best standard forks on the market and with a basic set-up they will be dialled in for you specifically, therefore ensuring they are doing what they need to.
Engine wise the bike has received some updates to improve mid to top-end performance: Cam lift has been reduced by 0.3mm and valve overlap has also been reduced from 81° to 72°. The air intake’s been given some much-needed updates and the airbox lid’s been given extra intake vents. To further this they have increased the volume of the intake port to let the bike breathe. To give the bike a more pleasant exhaust note, they have also lengthened the silencer 70mm and increased the volume 340cc. I could feel how much stronger the engine was in the midrange and top-end immediately – it really made the bike easier to ride compared to its predecessor. Progression of the power through the range was stronger and the over-rev improved as well, but if needs be then it can be revved extremely hard. Engine braking has also been reduced and that really compliments the chassis, giving the bike more stability at corner entry.
To really bring the package together the bike has been blessed with the same brakes as its big brother, a new front calliper, disc and pad. The rear also has a new calliper, mount and smaller 240mm disc. The front brake is very powerful, but has great modulation. It had a positive connected feeling from my input on the lever to my front wheel, which is always a good thing. The rear brake has a softer feeling, which I think helped the stability of the bike under braking massively due to it being harder to lock up.
Like the 2020 YZ450F, the new YZ250F has an on-the-fly map switch. This means you are able to switch between two maps whilst riding with little effort. When you download the Power Tuner app, there are three pre-made maps with the option to create your own. The app is more of a trial and error process, in my personal experience, but out of the pre-existing maps I would pick my favourite and then base the custom map off of that. If you are prepared to learn how to use it then you can really reap the benefits of having a power characteristic that is tailored for you.
I was also able to test a fully-kitted GYTR bike, as well as a YZ250F in standard trim. GYTR is Yamaha’s in-house tuning department and their main goal is to provide performance parts that are effective yet will not compromise on reliability. I could tell the difference as soon as I started the bike – the engine note was much more aggressive. Whilst riding the difference was impressive, it was graced with more power right across the range. I found I could run a gear higher than I could on the standard bike in a few sections, simply because it had so much more grunt. That was so evident that I later asked one of the mechanics if they changed the gearing, and their answer was no! If you wanted to race a YZ250F at a national or higher level, the GYTR kit should definitely be considered as an upgrade to an already great base-level bike.
I feel the bike has benefitted from all of the small refinements that have culminated in a bigger improvement. I really liked how stable the bike felt on corner entry and I also loved having a motor that was a little stronger in the top-end than the previous motor. The chassis and engine work together really well to give great feedback and feeling to the rider. The stopping power of the new brakes gives you the confidence to push the limit too. It’s a comfortable bike to ride for all abilities and with some basic set-up personalised for you it will be a competitive bike at a local and amateur national level. If you were to race it at a higher level then the GYTR kit will give you the extra edge you are looking for.
Words: Rob Holyoake | Lead Image: Supplied