New In Blue
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Scott Hoffman
The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here — Yamaha updated its 2022 YZ250 two-stroke! Well, at least the hearty two-stroke connoisseurs were waiting for this moment! After sharing relatively the same platform over the last 16 years, Yamaha hasn’t made any ground breaking changes to the classic YZ, the oldest production bike on the market by the way. However, 2022 still doesn’t see ground breaking changes. What it does see is a new look and a refinement of some key components and characteristics to bring it into the modern world.
Starting with the new look, changes include all of the plastics, airbox, subframe, gas tank, and seat. To go along with the modern styling, upgraded brakes that are seen on the YZF models now adorn the YZ250. The final revision to the YZ was stiffening up the suspension with stiffer spring rates and updated valving front and rear.
Going into this test, we really weren’t expecting much out of the YZ. On paper, it shared the same basic platform and therefore it should feel very similar to the YZ250’s of yesteryear. We can sufficiently say that’s not the case! Every aspect of the bike feels different, dare we say better, than the previous generation bike.
What might be the best revision to the bike is the updated ergonomics and rider triangle due to the styling change. The YZ now feels like a modern bike, not a mid-2000s steed. A flatter seat profile and thinner bodywork and gas tank area really liven up the fit and feel of the two-smoker and bring it up to today’s standards. It’s much easier to move around on the bike and you feel like you are sitting on top of the bike, not in a little pocket.
While the powerplant and carburetor didn’t receive any updates, the YZ motor feels quite a bit different. We can nail this down to the different airbox and air inlets. Yamaha’s 250cc two-stroke has been known to be a bottom end monster, hitting hard and having loads of power down low, but struggling in the mid-top end range. For ‘22, this has changed quite a bit. The gnarly hit is taken away and replaced with a smoother, easier-to-ride pull down low and broader power that extends into the mid-top end. It still doesn’t have the top end and overrev of say a KTM, but it’s much closer up there and the bottom end still has plenty of juice in it to be more than competitive. Simply put, the power is broader and smoother than ever with this platform.
Onto the suspension, Yamaha has been nailing the suspension on all of their bikes in recent years, but the YZ two-strokes haven’t necessarily fit that bill. Some of our testers have noted that the old YZ’s were on the softer side, and because of that, they felt harsh at times. Going back to the drawing board, Yamaha has revamped their settings and stiffened up both ends of the bike with springs and valving. What does this equate to out on the track? A well balanced, performance based machine.
Both sides of the suspension work in unison and compliment each other on the track. Front and rear, the components have very good hold up and ride higher in the stroke, which actually makes it feel “softer” and “plusher” than before. The track at Cahuilla Creek wasn’t overly rough, but it developed a lot of high speed chatter and square-edged bumps that wouldn’t necessarily favor a stiff suspension setup but the bike performed well throughout the day. We targeted sag to be around 103-104mm and with that, minimal clicker changes were made. For our lightweight, faster test rider, we didn’t make any changes. For our heavier set, vet tester, stiffening up compression on both ends was needed to compensate for some added weight. Still, we were able to find comfortable settings for the wide range of riders.
Handling wise, the bike still feels like a YZ250, though with some added precision and a lighter, more agile feeling bike. The stiffer suspension aids in the precision as it’s more reactive to rider input and it’s easier to put the bike where you want when you want. Likewise, the thinner bodywork and flatter seat profile boost this feeling and allow you to move around quite a bit easier. The brakes are very good and an improvement over the previous years. This felt especially important on the two-strokes as you don’t have engine braking to help slow you down, only the brakes themselves can do the job.
All in all, the 2022 YZ250 is an improved bike. We preferred this newfound smooth and broad power. It made the bike more fun to ride being easier to control and expanded where in the power the bike can be ridden fast and effectively. The suspension feels very good and well balanced for our Pro and Vet level test riders alike with fairly minimal changes. Handling wise, we believe these YZ frames are some of the best aluminum frames on the market and this bike’s new bodywork and styling gives it that little extra edge we didn’t know it needed.
We tried pricing out a “conversion” to make your 2021 and older YZ simply look like this bike, minus the brake and suspension updates, and it is costly. A new fuel tank and subframe significantly add to the cost of the typical airbox and plastics upgrade. In total, we found that to be around $1100. After riding this new bike and going back to an old one, the difference is clear.