The release of a new bike is always exciting. I, Rob Holyoake, find new technology, as well as updates to engine and chassis, fascinating, especially with how usable and easy to ride the bikes are nowadays. I am a two-stroke boy at heart and when I saw the release of the new YZ125, as well as the updated YZ250, it made me extremely excited and very curious as to how they had improved on the two longest serving full-size production bikes in motocross.
Words: Rob Holyoake | Lead Image: Yamaha Motor Europe
The YZ125’s had a major facelift in the engine department. It boasts a new cylinder, head, piston, power valves, v-force reed block, Keihin PWK 38mm carb with TPS sensor and power jet, exhaust, 8mm longer conrod, heavier flywheel and revised air intake. When on track, I felt the bike had managed to keep its great attributes and power characteristics from the older generation. They have managed to improve it too! It now pulls stronger through the mid-range and top end, which creates much broader power. The motor had a nice amount of torque on the bottom end, which kept me from abusing the clutch and I felt the mid-range was quite strong for a little bike.
Something that surprised me was how crisp the bike sounded with the stock pipe on, because two-strokes normally sound a bit like an enduro bike with the stock pipe bolted up. I know the sound itself may seem insignificant but to some, especially me, the sound’s a part of the reason why I love two-strokes. The six-speed gearbox has been strengthened to manage the YZ125’s extra power, some gears have been widened and the clutch engagement felt positive. Heavier, but light enough to have some modulation.
I am a lover of the YZ125 chassis; the control and feeling you get on this bike is incredible especially. It speaks volumes when the main frame has not been changed for almost 17 years. Yes, the main frame stays the same again in 2022. However, it has been given a new subframe and bodywork. The new bodywork is modern looking, which is a welcome update, with the new seat being the most noticeable thing. The height has been lowered at the front and raised at the middle and back, to create a flatter-feeling seat. It has really brought the feeling of the bike bang up to date. The flatter profile really helped when it came to standing and sitting, because of the slightly increased peg-to-seat distance. It’s also bolted from the centre of the seat with one bolt instead of either side of the subframe.
Braking has been improved. The YZ125’s been fitted with updated Nissin Callipers front and rear. It now has the same callipers, discs and pads as the YZ250F and YZ450F. The front brake is much more powerful than on the previous model and copes with the heat much better. It is very modular, yet powerful, and gives you a connected feeling to the front wheel. The rear brake is not more powerful. Actually, if anything it is less powerful. I don’t think that is a bad thing though, because it has gained more feel over the previous model. I always felt the 245mm rotor was a little too touchy. The 240mm disc and new calliper gave me so much more feel and confidence.
The suspension has also received some updates; the front has been re-sprung and re-valved, and the shock has had a refined valving spec. The rear felt predictable and it tracked well on the exit of the corners. I made no adjustments to the suspension and it felt good for a ballpark setting. I found the front a little soft in the quicker sections of the track, which gave a harsh feeling through the handlebars at times.
The GYTR-kitted YZ125’s a great improvement on the stock bike. The kit includes a cylinder, head, v-force reeds, jets, needles, ignition and pipe… Once the jetting was dialled in for the heat and humidity, it ran really clean all of the way through the power range. It was really noticeable how much more torque the bike had. I was able to use inside lines in places where outside was the only option on the standard bike – I also noticed I could pull a gear higher in some places.
I think if I could have gone up a tooth on the rear sprocket then I could have pulled a gear higher everywhere. On the bike I rode they also had a 110/90/19 rear tyre and a wider rim. You could get away with the wider tyre, because of the extra edge in power. It made a difference to the grip, especially in the faster more sweeping turns on the track. The top-end power is a big improvement over stock too. It will rev higher and produce power further into the rev range than the standard bike. It’s the most fun bike to ride out of the whole YZ range, in my opinion.
The YZ250 has received a few changes for 2022 too; new bodywork, subframe, air intake, brakes front and rear and revised suspension. I found the power on the 250 a little tricky to handle; the power is mostly bottom-end grunt and that takes as bit of taming. I felt the power would be better off being moved higher up in the rev range to give the bike a more gradual power curve. The new brakes help out the overall ride more than I was expecting, as the front is more powerful and is more resistant to fade than the previous model.
The rear brake, I felt, was actually less powerful, which I quite like. It allowed me to have more feel. Suspension-wise the shock felt good and the rear end felt stable and progressive in the faster sections of the track. The forks felt a little soft, on the entry of some of the faster corners it would dive a bit too far into the stroke giving me a harsh feel through my hands. This would be easily fixed with some heavier springs or maybe going harder on the compression.
Yamaha also make some GYTR parts for the YZ250, Those make a huge difference to how the bike rides, even though the changes are minimal. It comprises of just a pipe and flywheel weight. If you have ridden one of the previous YZ250s, it is likely that you have tried this set-up before. The initial hit of power had been tamed down, which made the bike so much easier to handle. It also meant that I could use the torque of the engine without it trying to take off.
It felt like a win-win situation, because it tamed the initial hit of the bike down and gave it a nice progressive power curve throughout the rev range. This meant less gear changing and an easier bike to handle through the tighter turns on the track. I think that if you buy one of these bikes, the pipe and flywheel weight should be your go-to modifications. It transforms the way the bike rides.
The 2022 YZ range has been brought up to date with its competition. It’s proof that a solid, tested and reliable package with a few updates is still be competitive with cutting-edge technology. A few modifications on both bikes can go a long way and the GYTR parts are a safe bet. If you want to try the new YZ range yourself, then get signed up to one of their MX Pro Tour test days. They will not disappoint. I am so glad that Yamaha hasn’t forgotten about two-strokes, as are so many other riders.