Yamaha celebrates two iconic machines that define a generation.The world waits for no one, unless of course, it’s the Yamaha YZ125 or YZ250, two modern day bikes that have stood the test of time and will continue to do so. With literally thousands of 2005- 2021 YZ125s and YZ250s in the market place, the legacy of such significant motocross bikes will live on for a long time.
Think back to what you were doing in 2005. The population in Australia was just a tick over 20 million, John Howard was the prime minister, Schapelle Corby wanted to go ‘boogie boarding’ in Bali and landed in jail for nearly 20 years and Yamaha unveiled two all new two-stroke motocross bikes in the YZ125 and YZ250.
Fast forward to 2021, and after 16 years, the legendary bikes are getting a makeover. The 125 gets plenty of performance upgrades as well as modern styling while the YZ250 gets a chic new look. But how does a bike remain relevant for 16 years with little to no updates? How does it not get blown away with modern technology in a world that changes by the hour?
In the early 1990s, the YZ125 was the slowest bike on the track. Up until 1996, the water truck was a major rival in a shootout against the YZ125, but for the 1996 model, Yamaha released an all new YZ125 to salvage some pride and get things back on track on the small-bore class. The bike was a success and from 1996 through to 2004, minor tweaks were made to keep it at the front of the pack.
Then in 2005, in the face of the on-coming four stroke onslaught, which Yamaha was leading, the tuning fork brand unleashed the all new YZ125 with an alloy frame. Simply put it was lighter, faster, handled better and after 16 years has proven itself to be one of the most durable and reliable motocross bikes ever made. One magazine stated, “It was the best 125 ever made.”
What made it special?
It was light. The aluminium frame combined with a range of other weight saving saw the bike drop considerable weight. Then add the best motor on the market, the best forks on the market and built with magnifying glass attention to detail and Yamaha produced one amazing machine.
In the next 16 years, the number of changes could be counted on your fingers. First up came a global spec for the bike that saw the US, European and South Pacific version of the bike all come with the same jetting and suspension specs. Then there was an upgrade in suspension to bring them into line with the Yamaha four-stroke models and lastly a styling update that dragged them into a sleeker, modern look.
But the two most important components of the bike never changed, The motor and the frame. The motor of 2005, aside from a couple of jets, is essentially the same as the motor in the 2021 model. The frame is identical. The bike ripped in 2005 and it still rips in 2021. But the 2022 model is going to set the bar even higher as the new YZ125 comes equipped with more motor, more suspension, more performance and even more fun.
Despite continued updates from the European brands, the YZ125 continued to not only sell well in Australia, but it also raced well as riders continued to flock to a tried and proven race bike. Yamaha Australia even offered a GYTR exhaust, silencer and reed-block as standard on their YZ125s and sales remained strong in the face of stiff competition.
Results also remained impressed for a bike with no advance in 16 years. Kade Mosig won on a YZ125 in 2005 while Alex Larwood won in 2018 and only a broken spark plug stopped him in 2019. And the motor was still the same.
Why Buy a YZ125?
A YZ125 is the perfect transition bike from riders in the teenage years. Jumping from an 85 to a 250F is a massive leap in terms of performance, weight, cost and even maintenance. The YZ is light and flickable and still to this day, many say the easiest and best handling two-stroke made. From the box, performance is good and there are also a wide range of performance parts you can buy for the bike. Working on it is a breeze and even those with limited mechanical knowledge can replace a piston without too much fuss.
2021 is the last year of an amazing bike and one that is significant in the development of many of the current pro level riders. We defy anyone to ride a YZ125 and not come away impressed and with a smile that explodes from your helmet. It has that effect on everyone.
By now you know the 2022 YZ125 has had a major make over. The motor packs a serious punch and the pin point handling steps it up to the next level. It's the kind of package that will have teenage boys all over the world slamming berms, railing ruts and making memories that will last a life time.
There is nothing a YZ250 can’t do. Like the 125, when Yamaha nailed the right formula on the 250, the package was amazingly good and simply ahead of its time. The ‘94-’95 YZ250s were good, but in 1996, Yamaha almost out smarted themselves and produced a bike that sounded and looked good on the drawing board, but didn’t come to life on the track, so for 1998, they looked to the past to forge a better future and a re-tweaked and styled 1994 model motor came wrapped in a 1998 model and the bike was on its way back to the top.
With a range of small updates, the 1998 motor morphed into the 2004 motor and the bike that catapulted Chad Reed to superstardom. Reed always mentions the 2004 YZ250 as one of his favourite race bikes.
In 2005, Yamaha left the motor as is because it was a clear class winner at the time. But it wrapped it in the new alloy frame, some updated KYB forks and it was the platform for the next 16 years. Like the YZ125, it received some updates in that time and those were hand-me downs from the four-stroke range. A universal spec bike, upgraded suspension and some new styling, the YZ250 of 2005 and the YZ250 of 2021 are the same.
How Does it Remain Relevant?
Simply put, it is one of the most versatile high-performance bikes on the market. You can race it on a motocross track, tackle the bush in an off-road event, then turn it upside down on the FMX ramp with equal parts grace and aggression and the YZ250 will take it all in its stride.
It was the bike of choice in the early and mid-2000s and was the lone ranger in the fight against the four-strokes. It battled long and hard but by 2008, the valve and cam machines had taken over the racing world.
Then it became the FMX bike of choice. The FMX riders loved the responsive power, the light feel of the bike, the low maintenance and the ability to cut holes or make grab rails where required. Even now there is a movement back towards the YZ250 in FMX as the modern four strokes have limitations in FMX with the design of airboxes and where grab handles can be placed. Jarryd McNeil and Pat Bowden are two FMX riders who have continued to feel most at home on the YZ250 and despite many offers or options on four strokes, continue to fly the skies on a two stroke.
It also proved to be a great bush bike. The YZ250 is also a great bush bike. With user friendly roll-on torque, a smooth power curve – for a two-stroke – and requiring less than an hour to replace a piston, the YZ250 continues to win fans.
In 2022, the motor that has stood the test of time, not to mention been on unlimited podiums around the world, is retained. You can’t have too much of a good thing. But the ergonomic layout of the bike has been dragged into the 21 century and the look is sharp. Is there a better sounding bike on the planet than a sharply jetted, race gas running YZ250 two-stroke with a Pro Circuit pipe and silencer?