2017 Yamaha YZ250FX Off-Road Racing Test
Since its debut 2015, the Yamaha YZ250FX has proved itself to be the best that Japan has to offer when it comes to quarter-liter off-road competition bikes.
We love the meaty power delivery, great handling, and do-anything suspension so much that the 2017 Yamaha YZ250FX has become our go-to bike for just about everything—from tight single-track to wide-open desert racing, the YZ250FX does it all.
We rode and raced the YZ250FX almost completely stock, with the most significant performance mod being the obligatory Scotts Steering Stabilizer that we outfit to every off-road motorcycle we race.
An Enduro Engineering Skidplate and Cycra Rebound Handguards added necessary protection to the YZ250FX. To keep us legal, a Yamaha GYTR by FMF PowerCore 4 Muffler with a USFS-approved spark arrestor installed. To make sure everything ran smoothly, we have a Yamaha GYTR Power Tuner on hand.
Racing is expensive, so we aimed to get the most out of the stock components and use the money saved to fund entry fee and transportation costs. We used Bel-Ray products exclusively, and kept detailed notes at every service.
The YZ250FX proved to be an excellent platform to race on a budget. First off, the power delivery is so strong that it feels like a cheater-bike at times, with more torque than your standard 250cc four-stroke and great on-top over rev as well.
The KYB SSS fork is legendary for their progression and their ability to stay up in the stroke, soaking up small bumps as well as providing the ability to skim the tops of deep whoops. We love them.
Keeping the suspension sag at 105mm was key to overall balance and damping action. When not racing, we made adjustments when adventure riding with a backpack, that way we could still rail turns without losing front-end grip, even when fully-laden.
Unfortunately, the KYB fork also has a reputation for leaky fork seals, so we replaced the stock seals and wipers with SKF seals and 5w Bel-Ray High Performance Fork Oil. Even after 20 hours of punishment, which is beyond the factory service limit, we haven’t experienced any leaks and the damping action hasn’t deteriorated.
The stock clutch has survived well past its expected life too, due in large part to the Bel-Ray EXS Synthetic Ester 4T 10w-50 engine oil we swapped over to at the first oil change.
Each oil change was routine. There were minimal metal shavings clinging to the magnetic drain plug. The engine oil service interval is 7.5 hours, and we found that to be about right, especially given the fact that the oil capacity is a mere 850cc.
With the reverse-cylinder layout of the Yamaha engine, the air cleaner is located up top where you expect to see the fuel tank. This keeps it very clean and dry in the nastiest conditions, be it silt or creek crossings. In fact, it stayed so clean that we typically cleaned the air filter when it was time to change the oil, just to keep fresh Bel-Ray Foam Filter Oil on the Yamaha GYTR Performance High-Flow air filter.
We did find that in tight single-track racing we were overheating the rear brake. New OEM pads and Bel-Ray Racing Brake Fluid put a stop to brake fade and cooking the rear brake.
Likewise, Bel-Ray Super Clean chain lube actually allowed us to get nearly a whole season out of the stock chain and sprockets! Even after pressure washing, the grey wax finish from the chain lube was intact—very impressive.
Our favorite memory of riding the 2017 Yamaha YZ250FX was showing up to a dry and dusty desert National race with the bike completely caked in mud from riding the previous day in the forests of Northern California. With no more preparation than adjusting tire pressure, we put the YZ250FX on the box and had to withstand questions and comments from the other desert racers like, “Where was the mud hole? I must have missed it!”
We’re going to miss having the 2017 Yamaha YZ250FX at our beck and call, as it has truly proved itself to be a very competitive and versatile machine, a complete blast to ride, and virtually bullet-proof over the long-haul.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: AGV AX-8 Evo
- Goggles: Utopia Optics
- Pants and jersey: Alpinestars Racer Braap Limited Edition
- Gloves: Alpinestars Racer Bomber Limited Edition
- Body armor: Alpinestars Bionic Pro
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10 Bomber Limited Edition
For specs and a photo gallery, click to page 2