In 2015, after Euro brands had been long dominating enduro and GNCC-type racing, Yamaha stepped into the game with a serious contender, a closed-course off-road competition model to do battle with the Austrians and others from tree to tree around an enduro course. The Yamaha YZ250FX is heavily based on the YZ250F motocross bike, but has been outfitted with essential off-road racing components, some of which would be costly to impossible to build out yourself. For 2019, the field is becoming more crowded with Honda’s new CRF250RX and KTM’s 250 XC-F. How does the Yamaha stack up to an increasingly competitive class? We made our way to the California desert to find out.
As mentioned previously, the YZ250FX has been in Yamaha’s lineup since 2015. Due to the popularity of the 250FX model, or perhaps to just test the waters, Yamaha released the YZ450FX the following year. The FX line for Yamaha has become increasingly popular in the GNCC crowd and, in the right hands, is a bike capable of challenging for the top spot on the podium.
The YZ-FX differs from the YZ-F in a few expected ways, but it’s not just a motocrosser with a flashed ECU and different spring rates. The YZ250FX receives a larger two-gallon fuel tank which sits under the seat to allow access to the tool-less airbox cover situated where you’d normally find the gas cap. While the FX uses the same KYB suspension components as the F, the FX features softer springs front and rear as well as specific damping characteristics to help the bike keep traction over a variety of terrain whereas the stiffer springs of the F model would be more likely to deflect off of objects under heavy impacts on the trail. The ECU has been modified to deliver smoother power lower in the rpm-range. Being a closed-competition bike, owners are able to use the GYTR accessory Power Tuner to change fueling and ignition parameters to best suit varying terrain and riding styles. Standard off-road fare such as an 18-inch rear wheel, sealed O-ring chain, and kickstand are also found on the YZ250FX.
The biggest change Yamaha made with the FX is the wide-ratio six-speed transmission. Five-speed close-ratio transmissions are often found in motocross models where first gear is super tall to snag those holeshots, whereas the wide-ratio trans has a lower first gear that helps during technical trail work and hillclimbs. Also, for riding in the California desert, with our wide-open sandy expanses, sixth gear is a welcome overdrive.
Out on tight technical trails, the Yamaha’s power delivery and low first gear really allowed the 250cc liquid-cooled four-valve Single to shine. The FX’s powerplant provides the strong hit of power in the low to mid rpm-range that off-road racers and enthusiastic trail riders alike, need to blast from turn to turn. Unlike others in the off-road competition category, the Yamaha does not offer any adjustable-on-the-fly power maps. That means for riders back east or those riding in muddy or greasy conditions over tree roots and whatnot, the initial hit of power and torque could be a liability, but not one you couldn’t tame with the accessory Power Tuner.
The fully-adjustable KYB suspension keeps the bike planted over all sorts of terrain. While my initial thought was the fork was somewhat harsh, after spending some time on the bike, I appreciated the KYB components at both ends. As speed ramps up, the FX’s suspension does a fantastic job, whether it be in sand, over rocks, or on hard pack, the KYB units impress. The fork and shock do feel like they’re set up to be raced, and at my moderate skill level, they felt most comfortable at a faster clip.
Even when the trails tightened and the pace decreased, the 250FX never overheated, and we spent a fair amount of time on tight single track.
The YZ250FX feels very well balanced. Heading down steep descents, the ease with which the front brake is modulated was appreciated. Tip-toeing through rocks, riding up and down steep terrain, and throwing the bike into turns, the 250FX’s mass-centralization allows the rider to feel comfortable in all conditions keeping the bike predictable on the trail or track – a feeling that cannot be understated for racers focusing on putting down their best times.
Overall, the 2019 Yamaha YZ250FX is a strong contender in the GNCC racing category and a fantastic trail bike for those looking for a performance-oriented option. The power down low that builds in almost an explosive manner makes the bike loads of fun to ride fast, and the overall handling feels better at speed. We expect the 250 may be getting an update soon to bring in some of the new technology from the 250F, but as it stands, the YZ250FX is a great bike whether it be at the races or out on the trail. Does it stand out against Honda’s newcomer, the CRF250RX? There’s only one way to find out.
|2019 Yamaha YZ250FX Specifications|
|Engine Type||249cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Valve Train||DOHC, four-valve; 31mm intake, titanium; 25mm exhaust, titanium|
|Bore x Stroke||77.0mm x 53.8mm|
|Induction||Keihin fuel injection, 44mm throttle|
|Ignition||Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Starter||Push-button electric starter|
|Transmission||Constant-mesh 6-speed return; manual|
|Final Drive||O-ring chain|
|Front Suspension||49mm KYB fork with speed sensitive damping; 12.2 inches of travel|
|Rear Suspension||Fully adjustable KYB single shock, 12.5 inches of travel|
|Front Brakes||2-piston caliper; single 270mm disc|
|Rear Brakes||1-piston caliper; single 245mm disc|
|Front Tire||Dunlop AT81F 90/90-21 w/ tube|
|Rear Tires||Dunlop AT81 110/100-18 w/ tube|
|Ground Clearance||12.8 inches|
|Seat Height||38.0 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||2.0 gal.|
|Color||Team Yamaha Blue|
|Curb Weight||249 pounds (claimed)|
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