2019 All-NEW Yamaha YZ85: First Ride Impression

It’s About Time but Worth the Wait if you ride Mini’s

Story: Jackson Gaines and Ray Hensley, Photos: Scott Hoffman

Although the YZ85 received some updates to the look few years back, it’s been well over a decade since it received a full overhaul. If you are an 85cc rider, it’s a good time to be around 5-feet tall and 100 lbs.

The long awaited NEW YZ85 is here to roost.

2019 is going to be a big year for Yamaha, especially for the younger fans. Not only has the YZ85 received the full treatment, Yamaha also launched an all-new YZ65 this year—a bike that had not been in their wheelhouse since the ’80s. Yamaha also has a new YZ250F coming out as well.

First off, let’s not talk about what’s not new since pretty much the entire motorcycle is new. To keep final costs down, Yamaha retained the same look of the YZ85 since it had some updates not too long ago. From there, the new model retains the same frame dimensions as before but that’s where the buck stops.

Ray Hensley has more experience and years racing mini’s than the combined age of two typical 85cc racers.

The YZ85 gets an all-new more powerful power-valve engine. At the track, from the get-go, we could tell this new motor is way better than the older model. It has gobs more bottom end and offers a way longer power curve. Yamaha claims that at a certain RPM range, there is a 50-percent increase in performance. The transmission has also been beefed up to take on the added horsepower. The cylinder has new porting specs, a CDI unit, and an exhaust all which help put the icing on the cake. The suspension has been updated to match the added power (36mm coil spring adjustable fork up front) and the swingarm and link is all-new as well. The front brake is more powerful and has updated an brake line routing like its larger YZ siblings. Yamaha also added more adjustability with the four different handlebar positions to pick from. One of our test riders took advantage of this option since he is a taller 85 rider.

Nor-Cal racer “Action” Jackson Gaines was impressed with the new YZ overall and its adjustable bar mounts, he is a tall 85 rider.

We spent the day with two test riders, Ray Hensley and Jackson Gaines, at Cahuilla Creek MX. Cahuilla is an open natural terrain track with lots of elevation changes along with a hard base and sandy topsoil.

Although the chassis and ergonomics are very similar to the older model, both of our test riders commented that it felt better and had more room to move around. A lot of this might have to do with the new ProTaper-style bar and adjustable upper bar mount, seat foam, rear swingarm, and suspension. Like noted above, our taller rider felt even better on the bike in the afternoon by adjusting the handlebar forward.

Since we had a 2018 YZ85 on hand to compare to the 2019, it was pretty evident from the start that the new power valve-driven engine is finally up to speed. The 2018 power curve is so narrow and hard to keep on the pipe compared to the 2019 it’s like night and day. The ease of riding the 2019 YZ85 was noticeable in a matter of laps. Our seasoned test rider realized really quick that he didn’t need to abuse the clutch to keep the engine pulling through even sandy turns. The ’19 has gobs more mid-range and the power curve is broader compared to the ’18. When riders switched back to the 2018, they both commented that it felt dated, slow, and the suspension was all over the place. Yamaha hit their marks with regard to performance on the ’19. One of our test riders would have liked a tad bit more top end and overrev but he is also a little heavier than the average 85cc rider at 125 lbs.

The chassis and suspension are the second bump to the new YamaDog. The updates match the engine and outperformed, especially when directly compared with the 2018 test mule. These were all long overdue changes for the YZ85 and things that the youngsters and/or lifelong 85cc riders will embrace. The new fork holds up in the stroke better than before—more bottoming control and adjustability for a wider range of riders. The shock is also well-balanced with the new fork and kept the bike tracking, even at speed, when tackling Cahuilla’s fast downhills.

With only a day on the bike, the improvements to the 2019 YZ85 compared to the older model were evident on our first session out. As the day went on the bike only got better and it’s hard to compare the two bikes because the 2019 is so much better in all categories. Yes they look very similar but that is pretty much the only element the two bikes share. If this was a two-bike, one-day shootout, the 2019 is heads-to-toes better than the 2018 YZ85. At this point we can’t say how the new Yamaha stacks up with the competition, but on its own, it’s a huge leap forward for the bLU cRU.

And don’t forget that if you want to test ride one of the new Yamaha’s, you should attend one of the Jason Raines Motocross Demo days. They offer demo rides on all 2019 motocross models including the new YZ85:

Yamaha also has the BlueCrew Amateur support at major off-road and motocross races if you happen to be a racer:

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