Still the One?
With all of the hype being centered around all of the new 250cc four-strokes from Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda, we must admit that we weren’t overly excited about taking delivery of our 2004 Yamaha YZ250F test bike. How so? On paper the changes made to the familiar machine don’t seem like much and even though it is the bike that has set the standard by which all of the new bikes will be measured, the YZ250F just didn’t seem fresh, new and exciting.
Man, were we wrong! On the track, the 2004 Yamaha YZ250F remains one of the best all-around motocross bikes money can buy, and the changes made to the machine for 2003 do actually amount to a noticeable difference in the way the bike works on the track.
What’s new for 2004?
- A bigger, 48mm fork with revised internals for a smooth, compliant feeling throughout the stroke, while a special new coating reduces stiction.
- New anodized triple clamps accommodates the larger forks and give that factory look while carrying the handlebar aggressively low and forward.
- Brake calipers now contain light, aluminum pistons.
- New, titanium footpegs increase strength, reduce weight, and provide more grip.
- Internal engine mods reduce pumping losses for increased midrange.
- Exhaust flows through an all-new titanium header pipe for light weight.
All in all, the bike is said to weigh two pounds less than the 2003 model. (We haven’t however, actually weighed the bike to see, since I have a tendency to avoid scales whenever possible…) Before we took delivery of the YZ250F, it was hard to accurately compare the new crop of bikes against it, as we have spent the last few months riding a Rick Peterson Motorsports-modified test bike that was bored out to 277cc. Add the fact that we had yet to ride more than one of the new thumpers at the same track, on the same day, and judging how they stack up against one another is virtually impossible!
On the track, the new ’04 YZ250F felt super familiar, but it was readily apparent that the new 48mm forks offered a much-improved ride. While last year’s fork had a tendency to bottom out violently and dive under braking, the new, beefy front Kayaba fork has a stout feel that is not only better at handling big impacts, but more rigid and precise feeling, as well. The result is a better all-around handling machine, and a ton of added confidence in rough conditions or on a jump-laden course.
On paper, the changes made to the engine don’t seem that significant, but the new motor does pack more of a punch than its predecessor. Compared to last year’s engine, the ’04 powerplant seems to have an even meatier mid-range punch that revs to the moon, just like it always has. Without riding the Yamaha back-to-back against the Suzuki or Honda test bikes, we can still report that the Yamaha has the most power up top and handles being revved out in each gear the best.
So, is the Yamaha YZ250F still the king, in spite of all the new competition? It’s hard to say, for sure, without a full-blown shootout. We can report, however, that it is better than last year’s bike and will continue to set the mark for the others. Yes, the 2004 Yamaha YZ250F is that good.
For a video of the new ’04 bike in action, along with more feedback from Doug Dubach and the TWMX testers, click the link on the top of the right column.