YZ125 vs. YZ250F – The Trillion Dollar Match-Up


Does the monster torque of the YZ250F make it that much better than the light and snappy YZ125? (I would have said million dollar, but that’s inaccurate since that would be like pocket change here in the U.S.) We have to dig a little deeper than what the media and government says. I think we all know that most motocross companies are pushing for the four-strokes because they are “eco-friendly” by not producing as much pollution as the two-strokes, as well as costing much more to repair because there are twice as many parts that can break. But for this battle we will totally scratch those opinionated facts out because they don’t mean a thing in the motocross realm.

I have ridden Yamaha’s YZ250F’s and YZ125’s, and can say that they are two different kind of animals. Both Yamaha motocross bikes have plenty of power and will require some balls to ride fast, but are about as reliable as you can get as far as motocross bikes go. Each bike has its ups and downs, but the question is, “which one is better overall?” Well you’ll have to wait until the next article after I do a little more research on these bikes……. Just kidding.

YZ125

Ahhh, the smell of pre-mix in the morning! Are two-strokes making a come-back? Well, I’ll cover that in a future article… The YZ125 is a serious piece of art. It’s been rated the number 125cc motocross bike in magazines and websites more than any other 125 two-stroke. The light-weight makes it flick-able, the raw horsepower begs it to be revved to the moon, and the suspension is top notch. There’s no question that this bike is ready to race right out of the box. Although you might have to re-jet the carburetor if you are riding in an extreme climate.

How Does It Handle?

Pretty much any modern 125 two-stroke is going to handle well these days, and the YZ is no exception. The handling is among the best in its class. It will ride any berm and the front end will stick pretty well in those pesky ruts. What I like about the 125 is that it has a really low center of gravity compared to the four-stroke, so it made it a lot easier to lay in down in the corners. I am a shorter rider (5’6”), so having a bike that handles well in corners is a must. The YZ125 felt comfortable to ride and cockpit was narrow while the 250F was a little more bulky.

What’s The Suspension Like?

You want good suspension? You got it! The YZ125 suspension set-up is great right off the showroom floor. If you weigh more than 180 or less than 140 lbs then you might want to consider getting some softer fork and shock Springs though. The stock suspension has really good bottoming resistance and can handle a lot. It feels great on any kind of obstacle. Although it may be a little mushy for A or pro riders. The forks soaked up most of the braking bumps and the bike was very controllable in the air and in the corners. It felt stable at all speeds.

What About the Engine?

The engine may be the two-strokes’ greatest set-back against the 250f, but it is no slouch. Any skilled rider will be competitive on this little ripper. The YZ125 may not have the torque that the 250F does, but it has the horsepower to make up for it. Yamaha’s 125 is known for it’s do-it-all engine. It does have more bottom-end power than any other 125 two-stroke I’ve ridden. The mid-range has some punch, and the top-end is never-ending fun. All you have to do is keep this bike on the pipe then you will be able to pass those 250F’s, that’s it.

Additional Notes…

Above are the main topics that riders ask about when deciding which bike to get. I just wanted to give you a few more facts about this bike that could factor into your decision. The YZ125 is a great motocross bike to start out on, and is perfect for younger riders just stepping up from and 85 that don’t want a big four-stroke. This bike is cheaper and easier to maintain. The cost to rebuild any 125 will be less expensive than a 250F just because it’s a two-stroke and has less moving internal parts. That doesn’t mean you will be spending less, because if you don’t maintain it, it will break down eventually. The YZ125 has always been very easy to start. If it’s not, then you have a problem. One of the only extra things you have to do to this bike is add pre-mix to the gas before you put it in the tank and ride.

YZ250F

It’s bigger… It’s badder… Is it too much for the two-smoker to handle??? The YZ250F has been the top selling 250cc four-stroke motocross bike. Is there a reason for this? There must be, so let’s check it out!

Does It Handle As Well?

A simple question, and it will be responded with a simple answer… “no.” You can do anything you want to the bike, such as lowering the radiators, reducing the weight, or shaving the seat, but it’s never going to handle as well as the two-stroke unless you do major modifications. That does not mean it handles poorly. Over the years Yamaha has turned their YZ250F tank into one of the best handling four-stroke dirt bikes. The newer the model, the better it gets. The main difference between this bike and the 125 is that it’s top-heavy, meaning the center of gravity is at a higher location on the bike, causing it to be less stable. This is most noticed in the corners, so laying it down will be a little more difficult for shorter or younger riders.

How About Suspension?

Suspension on the 250F is great for 140-175 lb amateurs, similar to the 125. It has good bottoming resistance and handled jumps with ease. Not much else to say except that the suspension on the YZ250F’s worked well for me.

Does The Engine Make Up For It?

The first time I rode a YZ250F I was blown away. Torque across the entire rev-range was unbelievable. This bike gives you the traction and power down low that you will never get from the 125. The “power-band” is not as fun as the two-stroke. The torque, though, will pull any 2-stroke out of corners. After riding a 250F for a while, the smooth, yet powerful engine just got a little…… I don’t know if I should say it…. boring. It just wasn’t as fun to ride around on as the two-stroke. Racing the YZ250F would be a different story. It’s not exactly about riding whichever bike is more fun, it’s about riding faster and more comfortably than the other riders. This bike helps out a lot on that part, but is it good enough to beat the 125?

Notes:

The YZ250F was the first four-stroke motocross bike in the 125 class, and has been the most reliable 250F the entire time. Take care of it and it will take care of you. The first years, 2001 & 2002, the bike had manual-decompression, making it a little more difficult and time-consuming to start. That can be fixed with an ’03 or newer exhaust cam because Yamaha switched to auto-decompression. The YZF250 is probably the easiest 250F to kick start. I was usually able to start mine in 1-2 kicks when they were cold.

The bad part about owning a 250F is that it can grenade if you don’t maintain it properly. If it does just “happen” to blow up, the cost of repairs can be enormous, especially if you have a shop to do it. This is one of the only reasons why I don’t like the four-stroke motocross bikes, otherwise I would buy more of them.

And The Winner Is….

Neither bike, because they are just as good as each other…… You didn’t want to hear that, did you? Good, because it’s not true! After comparing the characteristics of these bikes that have been rivaling each other for the past decade, there are still pros and cons that each bikes has. My decision would be to go with the YZ125 because I love two-strokes and don’t like big bills when they explode. For a racing scenario where money is no option and the only goal was to win then I will choose the YZ250F. It has the torque and horsepower that will beat the 125 on almost any track, the suspension is great for me out of the box, and it’s just plain easier to ride faster. That’s why the Yamaha YZ250F is still the better bike in most cases for this match-up.

Furthermore, there are so many variables to consider because not every rider is the same and rides similar terrain. If you have a big bank and want to be on par by technology standards then the 250F is the bike for you. If listening to a two-stroke WOT is music to your hears, and you want to learn better riding techniques as well as a bike that’s easier to maintain then a YZ125 is a perfect bike.

Remember… whatever bike you choose, have fun and ride hard! Good luck!

-Tom Stark

20 thoughts on “YZ125 vs. YZ250F – The Trillion Dollar Match-Up”

  1. This following year i want to ride 125 250f class. Right now i ride a 2 stroke and ive always been looking for the low end to get thru the corners and ruts. I’m considering a 250f by i kinda like the ride of a 2 stroke. any advise

    1. If you haven’t raced a big bike before, or are on a budget, I would get the 2-stroke. They may be a little harder to ride faster, but it will teach you how to ride and use the controls, making you a much better rider in the long run. Plus, they’re cheaper on maintenance, and just plain fun to ride. Good luck!

  2. ive been riding since i was 4 and would love too start racing but don’t have the money šŸ™ anyways i was riding a 125 4 stroke and moved up to a 2000 cr 250 loved it lots of power but it was old and i had problems and for me being 15 and 5 foot 9 and 130LB i could handle it good but i recently sold it for reasons….. anyways i have money for a new one and i was looking at a 2011 yz 125 brand new from the dealer what do you think? I would love to start racing but its really expensive but i have a pit close to my house and i go climb hills and jump the bikes around with my buddies kinda like racing i also trail ride and catwalk down the roads. if i got the 2011 yz 125 i know it needs to be maintained but will the motor last a while i wanna be able to ride fora few years before it blows up?? What do you think??

    Thanks Sincerly Garrisson

    1. If you’re on a budget, I’d look for a clean, low hour ’05 or newer yz125. Save the rest for gas, tires, top-ends, race entries, or suspension when you need it.

  3. How does a built yz125 (Matt Bisceglia rave bike) compare to a yz250f ,and how reliable would his race bike be compared to a yz250f

    1. They’re plenty competitive at the national level. Even in pro ranks they’re not that far behind (just look at Ricky Renner who qualified on one at Daytona Supercross a couple weekends ago). It mainly depends on the rider and the track; 4-strokes have more of an advantage when it’s slick and hard-pack. Compared to a yz250f race bike, it can be just as reliable if not more so.

  4. two stroke may be cheaper to work on but they break a lot more. DIE HARD TWO STROKE FANS ARE JUST BALLERS ON A BUDGET. they cost the same to work on because four stroke break a lot less. there is no comparison between annoying, smelly, outdated two strokes and quiet, eco friendly, and new fast four strokes. yz250f wins hands down.

  5. To zac Chiz your wrong. I look and been researching all 125 2 strokes and the 250f from yamaha to honda to kawasaki to ktm( what i bought) to suzuki. Yes your right they to break more but you just need to find a good 125 that was taken care of for my sx 125 i can get a whole top end (wiesco) for 180 shipped to my door. I was looking at some of the 250f and the want like 320 t0 450 just for the piston and also 4 strokes ive noticed on the used ones for sale when they were rebuilt it doesint say a new top end like most 2 strokes it usually says on the ad piston, rings, cylinder, crank, valves an that is expensive someties a few grand sure they might last longer and you dont need to maintain them as much but to me 2 strokes are funner. I Had a 2000 cr 250 it was a big mistake every ride i had to change something i had it in the garage like 5 times and didint even put a tank through it but i finally got ride of it. I told my self i would not by another 2 smoker but i bought a ktm 125 sx (2 stroke). Its a 2002 too but was well taken care of and has alot of aftermarket goodies. The bike works amazing starts 1,2 kick when cold and put 3 tanks in it so far and it runs amazing and is not bad on gas. If you lean towards a 2 stroke there cheaper and can last just as long if you get a GOOD bike that was well taken care of and if you also maintain it the bike will work good and wont break much besides for 180 for my top end it doesint hurt to through a new one in every winter so when it does break it could score the cylinder. Anyways you get my point to me there alot funner and if you maintain last a pretty good amount of time. Alot of times the reason why you have then blowing up and breaking is because idiots run it out of trans oil and ruin the vrank bearings or there mixin it too lean and the motor is kot getting enough oil so it blows too rich and it can clog up the carbarator and people just not letting the bike warm up and it makes little marks and possible even holes on the piston. Maintain your bike and run it right good trans oil good premix oil and ratio also supreme gas in it doesint hurt and the righ jetting will get it lasting a while. Remeber maintain your bike and it will maintain your money in your account.:) lol

  6. Hello im looking to get my first dirtbike and i ride on my friends ttr 125.. im stuck between these two bikes…which would be the right bike for me? I am 15 5,9 160 pounds

    1. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend the yz125. It’s a really fun bike, easy to work on, and will teach you how use the controls and ride the bike harder.

  7. for anyone wondering, i am 6’3 230, i have a yz125 and if your looking for power then its the bike for you. im big compared to other riders but this bike has no problem pulling me up hills in 2nd or 3rd gear. i just started back riding in the spring and now im getting ready to buy maybe a 250f or 450f but i just wanted to let everyone know that this bike is the best 125 out there hands down.

  8. I’m 13 years old and most people would think these bikes were WAY to big for me but im 5’6 and 145lbs and i can man handle the living crap out of my 105cc cr85r expert supermini, I road both bikes this summer at the local track and i loved the bottom end on the 250f but im so used to the two strokes that i was dissapointed with the top end.. Now when i rode the 125 it wouldnt stop suprising me! the handling was superb and even for my size and weight it was easy to hande and i practically fell in love!!!. Now I thought for a month now that i,d pick the 250f but now that ive read so many forums about this ive now bought the knew 2012 yz 125 and i thank you for helping me make the right choice.. SINCERLY,
    MICHAEL BAILEY@
    WYNN RACINGĀ©
    We intend to WYNN

    1. No problem, glad to hear you’re happy with the new purchase! I’m the same height, and once you get on the bike it doesn’t matter nearly as much. In fact, a lot of the best motocross riders in the world are (were) only about five and a half feet tall.

  9. Quick question, I’m getting an after market exhaust… FULL system, and I’m thinking about getting a PRO CIRCIUT , but which is better a PRO CIRCIUT or FMF? Im thinking PRO CIRCIUT

    THANKS.
    MICHAEL BAILEY@
    WYNN RACINGĀ©
    WE INTEND TO WYNN

    1. It depends on what you’re looking for. Most pipes these days don’t add a whole lot of power; they mainly shift the power-curve. They’re both good. Do a little research for your YZ125 and pick the better deal/customer service.

  10. Hi Tom, great article. After riding a few bikes on holiday I i think its time to have a bit more fun. I have found a 2001 yz125 – just had the top end rebuilt. is this any good?

    1. If you’re asking if the bike is any good, then yes. While it is over ten years old, it still handles well with the suspension dialed in, has good all around power for a 125, they’re reliable, and is overall a blast to ride. Depending on who rebuilt the engine, it may or may not be a good thing. Ask to see if they have any receipts for the work done on it. If you get a good enough deal on it, you can always just tear down the top-end to see if it was done right.

  11. I have a 2005 yz 125 that I got just a couple months ago. It has a pro circut pipe and muffler universal bars and revalved suspension. Overall it is a nice bike and I like it I used to ride a 2005 crf 100f and boy is there power difference. Actually I was looking at these two bikes and I made the same choice as Tom with the yz 125 because I do mainly woods and open feild riding with the occasional hitting of the track my friend has. I also hit jum

  12. I have a 2005 yz 125 that I got just a couple months ago. It has a pro circut pipe and muffler universal bars and revalved suspension. Overall it is a nice bike and I like it I used to ride a 2005 crf 100f and boy is there power difference. Actually I was looking at these two bikes and I made the same choice as Tom with the yz 125 because I do mainly woods and open feild riding with the occasional hitting of the track my friend has. I also hit jumps at my place but not over and over and over. The other reason I bought it was less maintence was a must I can’t afford the big money dish outs. But Tom I have a question for you that I should have asked the guy who I bought it from but with that revalved suspension is it still ok to jump it he said that its softer for doing the trail riding but I want to know if it is ok to jump and I think it’s a little to soft I way 145 and it drops a lot when I sit on it but I don’t know much at all but I drove my friends kx 125 and first off it is way more snappy and uncontrollable but also I feel as if his doesn’t sag as much as mine and his is all stock thanks!

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