2020 Yamaha YZ250FX

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First Impression: 2020 Yamaha YZ250FX

Big changes straight from the moto bike, the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F is ready to rip up the trails and take some Ws!

As usual with OEMs that have a large range of dirt bike options, Yamaha introduced major changes to their flagship motocross bikes first, then a year later trickled those changes down to their off-road compatriots. Thus, the case of the 2020 Yamaha YZ250FX. In 2019, the YZ250F (MXer) got a top-to-bottom tune-up with a new frame, changes to the engine, new body work, handlebar map switch, and new engine mounts, among other small changes. Not only does the FX get all that, it also gets some changes to its off-road specific features including a larger gas tank, new side stand, new skid plate, and new stock mapping.

Click here for the 2019 YZ250F review, and/or check out all the changes to the 2020 Yamaha YZ250FX here.

With all those changes there isn’t much that separates the F from the FX, which is on purpose. The FX isn’t a watered-down, play bike version of the YZ-F, it is designed to be as much of a racer as the F is on the track, but on the trails. What does separate the FX, however, are a few off-road specific extras. That would include off-road-tuned suspension, a different clutch pack, larger gas tank, six-speed wide-ratio transmission, O-ring chain, and 18-inch rear wheel. 

On The Trails

Our testing grounds for the YZ250FX was legendary off-road racer Randy Hawkins’ property in South Carolina. With three different loops set up on his expansive, heavily forested compound, we had a taste of fast trails, super tight single track, and some tricky “A” sections that included some steep climbs, a creek jump, and challenging descents. 

Power

The YZ250FX is a beast of a 250 four-stroke. In map one, it has nearly the same power characteristic as its motocross brother, which is strong, torquey, instantaneous, and aggressive. For moderately tight to more open trails (more West Coast) this is perfect and exciting to ride. When you need to snap up over a log or pop out of tight 180, the power is on tap and eagerly waiting for a twist of the throttle. 

But, for super tight trails and when traction is a minimum, having a mellower option is very nice. So, instead of having to make it yourself with the Power Tuner App, Yamaha has preloaded the YZ250FX with map two as a less aggressive option, accessible by the handlebar map switch. Popping over to map two stretches out the power delivery, allowing you to ride smoother and with more control with less of an “on/off” feeling that you can get in map one. Map two doesn’t make less power, it just seems to rev a little slower and soften the edges of the power. I stayed in map one for about half the day, then switched to map two, and I wish I would have switched sooner. Ultimately, the smoother power just made it easier to dodge the trees and stay on the trail. 


Narrower body work.
Lower seat in the middle and rear.

A major feature of the YZ250FX is the six-speed transmission. Not only is there an extra gear compared to the MX version, but the spread of gears is also much wider. First gear is crazy low, and to be honest, rarely used on even the super tight sections. This is for gnarly, Erzberg style rock gardens or for picking your way up a hill that doesn’t have a trail on it. Second gear is lower than the MXer’s second gear, making it perfect for trail use. I was shifting between second and third most of the time. I didn’t have use for fourth, fifth, and sixth gears in such a wooded trail system, but I think it would be safe to say that desert racers wouldn’t be disappointed. 

Suspension

Right in line with the motocross bike, the KYB SSS fork and KYB shock are very much on the performance end of the spectrum, rather than comfort. This is where the FX differs from the WR or even the YZ125X that we also rode in SC. The fork and shock feel firm and give the rider a bit more trail feedback than softer suspension setups. But that doesn’t mean that the bike is uncomfortable. Normally when suspension feels firm it might not hug the ground as much and want to skitter over the trail, but somehow the YZ250FX felt extremely planted like it was glued to the ground. This suspension maybe jostled me around a little on the super tight sections, but allowed me to charge into obstacles much faster and gives the bike a much wider range of usable speeds. Some off-road bikes that have super plush/soft suspension only work well in low to moderate speed situations, but the YZ250FX can handle everything from creek beds to wide-open whoop sections. 

18-inch rear wheel.
New kickstand.
New skidplate.

Handling

With the updates to the latest YZ chassis, the FX is extremely predictable, and the harder you ride the bike, the better it feels. I really felt like I was on a moto bike when railing through the ruts and banking off of the trail berms. The whole bike has a tight, firm feeling that gives the machine a racy feel and great rider feedback. With the lower seat in the back, the bike has less of a “pocket” feeling and allows the rider to move around on the seat easier. While I didn’t really have a problem with the width of the 2019 YZ250FX, the 2020 has slimmer body work and it definitely doesn’t feel big between my legs. 

While the bike does feel pretty nimble and agile, it isn’t as razor-sharp turning as some other off-road machines. This was especially noticeable since we also rode the YZ125X at this intro. While on the 125X I only had the occasional tree tap, but on the YZ250FX on the same trail, I clipped every third tree just about. There is a combination of forces at work here. First, I rode the 125 all the first day, so I was sort of calibrated to that bike. Then, hopping on the 250FX, I tried to give the bike the same turning input, which just wasn’t enough. Not that it is a heck of a lot heavier, it just has more moving mass and takes more effort to change direction. 

Cons

While this would be at the top of my list of bikes to race off-road, there were a few things that I need to mention. One, no handguards. Two, the electric start wasn’t being very cooperative. In all fairness it was about 30 degrees both days while we were riding so the cold definitely didn’t help things, but even with the bike warmed up, the FX would rarely start in gear, and even in neutral took many stabs at the button. Third, for an off-road bike, it seems really loud. Obviously, we didn’t have any sound testing equipment out there but I could hear all the four-strokes on the property no matter where I was. 

Last Word

With the risk of being too generous, I think that the YZ250FX could be close to the elusive “one bike for every ride” machine. The suspension, chassis and powerfull motor can handle motocross, no problem. The wide-ratio transmission can handle extreme enduro to wide-open Baja racing. The larger tank adds some range and the kickstand adds some practicality. Plus, I’m more of a 250 than 450 guy anyway. With so much to like and so little to not, its kinda hard not to be on the bLUcRU after riding the 2020 Yamaha YZ250FX. 


Specifications

Product Yamaha YZ250FX
Model Year 2020
Engine Size 250cc
Engine Type Four-Stroke
Engine Displacement 250cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke; 4 titanium valves
Bore x Stroke 77.0mm x 53.6mm
Compression Ratio 13.8:1
Fuel System Mikuni® fuel injection, 44mm
Ignition
Transmission 6-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive Chain
Suspension Front KYB® spring-type fork with speed sensitive damping; fully adjustable, 12.2-in travel
Suspension Rear KYB® single shock; fully adjustable, 12.5-in travel
Brakes Front Hydraulic disc, 270mm
Brakes Rear Hydraulic disc, 245mm
Tires Front 80/100-21 Dunlop® MX3S®
Tires Rear 110/100-18 Dunlop® MX3S®
Overall Length 85.6 in
Overall Width 32.5 in
Overall Height 50.0 in
Seat Height 37.6 in
Wheelbase 58.3 in
Ground Clearance 12.6 in
Rake/Trail 27.2°
Fuel Capacity 2.2 gal
Curb Weight 245 lb
Features
Miscellaneous
Price $8,499
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