5 Signs That Your Dirt Bike Needs A New Top-end – 2 Stroke

If you buy or put a lot of hours on a 2-stroke motocross bike, chances are it will need the top-end replaced. A top-end rebuild is pretty easy to do on a two stroke engine, and the only special tool you’ll need is a torque wrench for most dirt bikes. However, before tearing your engine apart, there’s several signs that can tell you it has a worn top-end. If you have most or all of the symptoms listed below, you can count on replacing at least the piston and ring, and possibly a cylinder and head. Although, if none of the symptoms relate to your bike, there’s a good chance it won’t need a rebuild yet…

It Takes 50 Kicks To Start My Bike…

This is a common symptom for both two and four stroke dirt bikes. Unless you are riding in extreme climate, your bike shouldn’t take more than a few kicks to get started. Certain bikes require more muscle and/or technique to get started, but a solid running engine will only take 1-3 kicks to start, hot or cold. On the flip side, just because your bike takes forever to start doesn’t always indicate a worn top-end. For more info on a ‘no-start’, read this article on Diagnosing A No-Start

My Bike Is Gutless

Does your dirt bike feel like it lost its power-band(sarcasm)? A worn piston/ring will make the engine feel weak and low on power even when WOT (wide open throttle). This often happens after a top-end has so many hours on it, and will get worse/less powerful over time. A 2-stroke piston can last over a hundred hours if the bike was casually ridden and properly maintained, but an aggressive motocross racer can wear out a top-end in less than 20 hours of ride time.

This Thing Eats Spark Plugs

Shattered CR80 Piston
Shattered CR80 Piston

How often are you replacing the spark plug? If you have to put a new one in every ride, stop and inspect before riding again. If the jetting is right, a fouled spark plug can also be caused by a bad top-end or blow-by from the worn piston/ring/cylinder. This definitely indicates a new top-end is required, as well as a new spark plug. I have personally seen a CR80 that fouled plugs because of a bad top-end. It turned out that the piston was cracked and it eventually just lost compression. The cylinder was used again because it was surprisingly still in good shape! Here’s some more causes of a fouled plug.

Look For Scratches

A scored piston or cylinder can be caused by multiple things. A lack of lubrication from not enough 2-stroke oil in the gas or lean jetting can damage the piston and cylinder, as well as the crank assembly and bearings. Scoring is caused by metal to metal contact, which is common on 2-strokes when they aren’t warmed up properly. It makes me cringe when people try to warm up their dirt bike too quickly, and I see it quite often. A lot of top-end damage is done if you start your bike and immediately ride it hard or rev it without giving it enough time to warm up.

A piston has a certain amount of clearance between it and the cylinder wall. This clearance is for “growth”, because it will get bigger as it heats up. The size difference isn’t much, but if the piston heats up too quickly, it will expand faster and get too big to properly fit in the cylinder bore, thus creating scoring, and possibly a “cold seizure”. Read the article in the link above to learn how to warm up your dirt bike without damaging anything. You should also note that forged pistons, as opposed to stock cast pistons, are slightly smaller in diameter and require more warm-up time to expand; so take extra precaution.

You may have to take the cylinder head off to get a good look at the cylinder walls to check for scoring, but there’s a quick and dirty way to give you an idea of its condition without touching the engine itself. Just unbolt and remove the pipe/expansion chamber so you can look in the exhaust port of the engine. Shine a light in there and see if there’s any noticeable scratches. You can look at the piston as well, but any scratches/scoring that looks like something you can feel with your finger nail is damage and will most likely need repair/replacement. If you can’t see the cross-hatching on the cylinder walls then it is worn and probably out of spec.

Top-end Rebuild
Top-end Rebuild

My Bike Is Super Easy To Kick Over

If you don’t know already, this isn’t a good thing. While most 2-strokes are easier to kick over than a four-stroke dirt bike, you shouldn’t be able to push the kick-start lever down with one finger. If it kicks over with next to no resistance, the top-end is probably down on compression. Low compression will usually go hand-in-hand with taking a lot of kicks to start, as well as a weak engine.

A new piston ring may be the only thing that needs replacing if the piston and cylinder are still in good shape. Rings only last so long and eventually go out of spec (refer to your manual). If you have the cylinder off, check the ring gap with gauges and compare to what the manual says. If the gap is too big, replace the ring with a new one. You can usually re-ring a piston once before needing a new piston as long as everything else checks out.

These tips are only guidelines. Nothing is set in stone, as every bike is different. Just because your bike is hard to start doesn’t mean it will always need a new top-end. It could be something completely different, such as a dirty carburetor because the bike hasn’t been started for months. I put this list together because these are the most common symptoms of a bad top-end when all of the simple problems have already been checked.

Have fun, and ride safe!

-Tom Stark

Yamaha YZ125 Review – Is It The Best 125 Two-Stroke Ever?

Since there’s not much hope in the economy coming back in the near future, dirt bikers are resorting to things that will give them the best bang for their buck. As a result, 125cc two-strokes have been rising in the used market. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. First of all, you can rebuild the top-end for $150 or less, which can be done in your garage with a little mechanical motivation and patience. They are great dirt bikes to start out on for motocross, as they teach you how to control the throttle, clutch, and controls. Probably the best part about a 125 2-smoker is that they’re an absolute blast to ride! They’re light, quick, snappy, and besides, who doesn’t like the smell of race gas and pre-mix in the morning?!

Which Decade?

Yamaha hasn’t changed their 2-strokes for a while. However, this doesn’t mean it’s outdated. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, as Yamaha has been building quality 2-stroke motocross bikes for years. As long as they make them, riders continue buy them. They are often the first dirt bikes to sell in a dealer, but let’s take a look at why these bikes are so popular in the first place.

1990’s YZ two-strokes are fairly similar. In ’96 they made some changes that lasted until the end of 2001. These are still considered some of the best motocross bikes, especially the 1999 model. They are fast, reliable, and are just a great overall bike.

In 2002 the frame changed, making it lighter, narrower, and more flick-able. However, many people didn’t approve because it switched to a 5-speed transmission. 125’s have a narrow power-band as it is, and some riders just like having that extra gear.

2005 and 2006 are biggest years for the Yamaha YZ125. In ’05 they changed to an all aluminum frame, made some engine changes, as well as changing back to a 6-speed transmission.

2006 Yamaha YZ125
2006 Yamaha YZ125

Power

Power has never really been an issue when it comes to the YZ125. In amateur ranks, these small-bore two-strokes can hold their own against 450’s with the right rider. Of course it can be harder to ride them faster, but they have the ability, and it’s extremely fun doing it. Although 125’s are known to have little to no bottom-end power, the YZ125 has always seemed to have a little more torque down low than the others in its class, making it manageable if you need to lug it in tight areas. Once you get to the mid-range you can start to feel the inner-beast come alive, especially on the later models. As soon as you hit the power-band on one of these tiddlers, you’ll know why they are so addicting. It may scare you at first if you’ve never ridden a two-stroke motocross bike, but you’ll be begging to do it again and again until there’s no more premix in the tank… Throw a pipe on this thing and get it properly ported, and you have race-ready engine on your hands (not that it isn’t with a stock engine).

In 2005, the YZ125 got a new engine and carburetor, which greatly improved the bike. It’s so crisp and fast that you don’t need to touch the bike to be competitive. Although, as the saying goes, it’s easier to make a fast bike faster… Slap a pipe on there, get it ported, run some race-gas, re-jet, and she’s ready to haul the mail!

Handling

While it’s light, fast, and flick-able, some people don’t like the way YZ125’s handle as much as other late-model 125’s. The CR125 has been at the top of its class in the handling department since the 3rd generation chassis came out in 2002. That bike handles extremely well with comfort. The 2002 and newer YZ125 are not far behind though, so don’t let that be the determining factor.

2005 was the first year of the aluminum frame, which is still claimed to be one of, if not the best 125 two-stroke made. It’s lighter, faster, handles better, and just overall rides more like a modern motocross bike.

Suspension

Yamaha continues to provide top-notch suspension in their motocross bikes, and the YZ125 is no different. The older bikes from the 90s left something to be desired compared to modern mx bikes, but in the 2000’s they have some of the best suspension out of the box. Bottoming-resistance is one of the leading factors of it being at the top of its class. The ride isn’t as harsh as some of the other bikes, but like any other motocross bike, you will want to get it re-valved if you weight less than 140lbs or more more than 170lbs depending on what kind of riding you do.

In 2006, which was the last year of any major updates, the YZ125 received new SSS forks, which are considered a big upgrade. If you can find a good deal on clean ’06, buy it! If you find a nice ’05, I would definitely buy that too. For someone that’s not a pro rider, you probably won’t notice much of a difference between the two. Besides, most racers get their suspension re-valved for their weight and riding style anyway.

You Should Get A YZ125 If You:

  1. Want a light, nimble, quick bike
  2. Like mixing gas and the smell of premix
  3. Want to go back and learn the basics
  4. Like snappy power
  5. Want a dirt bike that’s cheap to maintain
  6. Want to rub it in when you beat friends on four-strokes
  7. Don’t want to make the jump all the way to a 250F
  8. Want to rebuild top-ends at home

You Shouldn’t Get A YZ125 If You:

  1. Don’t like mixing gas or the smell of premix
  2. Want a smooth and very predictable power-curve
  3. Like checking valve clearances
2001 Yamaha YZ125 2-Stroke
2001 Yamaha YZ125 2-Stroke

I’ve owned my share of YZ125’s, and they’ve all been great. The most reliable motocross bikes I’ve owned, and they’re just so much fun to ride. Of course, the newer the better, but even a 1999 YZ125 is a great bike to get started in this awesome sport. Check out my other articles on how to find deals on used dirt bikes!

-Tom Stark

 

Are 2-Strokes Making A Comeback?

Whenever I hear the words “two-stroke,” I immediately think of someone ripping it up on a good ol’ 125 dirt bike. I don’t know what it is, but the the sound of a finely-tuned two-stroke just gets me pumped. Two-strokes will always rule in my mind because they’re just too blasted fun to ride, even if I have to ride one illegally someday because it’s “bad for the environment.”

125 2-Strokes

For the past several years four-strokes have totally dominated the motocross bike market, but something tells me that two-cycle dirt bikes are not done. There are still many ways to get more power and less pollution out of a two-stroke. Some of these have been in the works by the popular Austrian company KTM and the lesser known Italian motorcycle company of TM, as well as Maico International.

These two companies have been working on something that will for sure bring the two-smokers back on the podium. With the new technology they will be able to bring the pollution level down to that of the four-strokes, if not lower. This technology has been working on outboard boat motors for decades. My question is, “why hasn’t it already been put to use on motocross bikes?!”

This “new to dirt bike” technology is direct injection…. Instead of having a carburetor that inconsistently squirts the fuel into the reeds and the engine, direct injection will squirt the fuel “directly” into the cylinder of the two-stroke engine. Once the timing of the injector is perfected, there will be hardly any unburned gases going out the exhaust because the injector will only spray the gas mixture when the exhaust ports are covered by the piston. This is will not only burn much cleaner, but it will increase torque throughout the entire RPM range. More torque = more traction = faster acceleration = faster than four-strokes.

There are other ways of bringing the two-strokes back, such as experimenting with cylinder porting, crankcase volume and shape, testing exhaust pipes with different shapes, angles and lengths, as well as making them lighter. Cylinder porting does depend on the rider, but if you want a screaming 125 like it should be, then porting for that can make a significant difference compared to stock 125’s today. Pipe companies have put so many hours into testing pipes for 125’s it’s not even funny. Although you may hear that aftermarket pipes just change the power curve and don’t add horsepower, some companies have managed to squeeze more power out of the bikes as well, especially on the big-bore 125’s.

2-Stroke

Weight is another major issue that the big companies can perfect on their two-stroke motocross bikes. It’s pretty obvious that Yamaha has not done much to their two-strokes when their 250cc four-stroke motocross bike weighs five pounds less than their 250cc two-stroke.  A four-stroke of the same displacement as a two-stroke should weigh more just because it has more parts. A light two-stroke would put a four-stroke out of its misery, especially if it has all of the above done to it.

It’s only a matter of time until two-strokes are booming again and we hear the sound of music at the tracks. The technology is here, it will just take one smart company to build and start another revolution of two-stroke dirt bikes…. Are you ready?

-Tom Stark


What Dirt Bike To Buy For My Kid?

Are you thinking about buying a dirt bike for your kid but don’t know which bike to choose or look for? I will give you some background on name brand bikes for kids to help you make a decision. Choosing the right bike for your young rider is very important, especially if they’ve never ridden before. Kids start riding as young as three years old, so once they are able to ride a bicycle without training wheels they should be capable of riding a dirt bike. And please don’t put training wheels on a little dirt bike, that just defeats the purpose.

There are a few factors that come in to play when finding the right dirt bike for a kid. Age, experience, size, and where you are going to ride all come in to play when looking for a bike. There are 50, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 125, and 150cc four-stroke dirt bikes that are mostly meant for off-road and trail riding. For the smaller two-stroke dirt bikes, there are a couple different 50s, 65s, and 85cc bikes. These are used for motocross racing.

Off-Road Bikes

50cc

There are a few different 50cc dirt bikes, but the most common is the Honda CRF50F/XR50R. This is where dirt biking starts for every little kid that has never ridden before. These things are almost bullet proof if you maintain it properly. If you are looking for a first bike for a kid that is under 7 then this is probably the best choice, unless they are bigger/taller than the norm. There is also the Suzuki JR50, Kawasaki KDX50 and Yamaha PW50; all of which are oil-injected 2-strokes that are very light and perfect for the smallest of riders, and the Yamaha TTR-50 which is about the same as the CRF, so it just depends what color you like best.

70 & 80cc

Honda made the CRF/XR70 and 80cc bikes for kids that are just starting, but a little too big for a 50cc. The 70 has a taller seat height with a little more power than the 50, but the 80 has a clutch which is perfect for training the little ones without letting them ride on a fast bike.

100/110/125/150cc

Honda has been known for their XR/CRF100 which reaches to a variety of riders. It has a clutch and is just right for the older kids to learn on if they are too big for the CRF80F. The 100 is a great trail bike because it has just enough power, and it’s also big enough for an adult, so this bike should be easy to find used, and cheap I might add. Kawasaki and Suzuki decided to make the ultimate pit bike for kids and adults. The KLX110/DRZ110 (Parts are interchangeable) has become popular because of how much power it has, or is able to put out, for its size. The 110 is an automatic, so it’s great for smaller riders that want more power than a 70 without going to a clutch yet. Yamaha also has a bigger off-road bike for kids, the TTR-125. The TTR-125 is a popular model for bigger kids just starting out. It has a clutch with enough power to haul riders around, young or old. Honda also has the CRF150F for riders that want more power and a taller ride height than the 100. Although the set-back for the 150 is that it weighs about as much as a full-size motocross bike. These mid-sized off-road bikes are popular for a reason, and this means that they have usually been ridden a lot and probably abused. So if you’re looking at buying a used one then make sure it is clean, it has somewhat low hours, and has been well maintained.

Motocross Bikes

50cc

There are a couple different name-brand 50cc motocross bikes for kids, and they are both KTM two-strokes. KTM has the 50 SX Mini, which is for the smallest beginning racers. There is also the 50 SX which is bigger and suits a little taller beginning racer. These bikes both have a one-speed automatic transmission and are liquid-cooled. KTM 50s are expensive, but they are perfect race bikes for your little kids that are ready to tear up the tracks. There are also Chinese companies with 50cc motocross bikes, which aren’t made with as much quality.

65cc

KTM and Kawasaki are the only name brand companies that still make a 65cc two-stroke motocross bike. KTM has the 65 SX which is more expensive and usually the racers that are serious buy them. Right from the factory KTM puts aftermarket parts on their bikes, such as VForce reeds on the two-strokes, handlebars, and Brembo brakes. The Kawasaki KX65 is what riders that just want to race buy because they are so cheap. That does not mean that they aren’t fast, they just aren’t always as reliable and don’t have a very high re-sale value. Both are great race bikes for intermediate younger riders in around the age 7-10 that have been riding for some time. These bikes are usually not used for trail riding because they are not as easy to ride and lug around as a four-stroke is.

85/105/150cc

85cc motocross bikes are the start for a young teen aged racer. They have more power than most any kid could use, which makes these bikes a blast for adults or adrenaline-junkies as well. KTM, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha all make an 85cc two-stroke mx bike. Honda put a stop to their two-stroke inventory after 2007, but people still buy their late model bikes. Instead, Honda wanted to start a revolution for mini-bikes with their all new 150cc four-stroke motocross bike. It was well talked about, but once it came out it died slowly. They are powerful bikes and are easier to ride than an 85, but the weight and cost lost it for them. Usually these CRF150R’s (Big and small wheel) were bought by racers with money because they also needed quite a bit of maintenance. If you have money and your kid loves the easy ride-ability of a four-stroke then this would be a good race bike to buy.

If you don’t have a deep pocket, then an 85 or 100/105cc two-stroke stroke is a great choice. Your kid will love you for getting them one of these bikes; before they flip it at least once, that is. If you find someone selling a used 85 that hasn’t been flipped, then you’re either lucky or they’re lying. 85s are pretty much race-only bikes. I’ve trail-ridden with one, and it was not very fun because of the lack of power down low. The Honda CR85R and Yamaha YZ85 hit harder and are more snappy than the others because they don’t have a power valve. KTM’s 85 SX comes with aftermarket goodies from the factory like all of their other bikes, so it’s probably the fastest out of the lot. Kawasaki’s KX85 and Suzuki’s RM85 are very similar and are used by many riders that are on a budget because of how cheap they can be. Honda and Suzuki both have a larger wheel 85, which helps those taller kids that quite aren’t ready for a 125 or 250f.

Kawasaki and KTM have a big-bore 85 to compete in the supermini class (86-112cc). Kawasaki’s KX100 is a big wheel and has plenty of power for any young racer. KTM has a 105 SX which is one of the best power-to-weight ratio bikes you can buy, and also has larger wheels. When it comes down to choosing an 85,100/105, or a 150cc four-stroke motocross bike for your kid, it depends how big your pocketbook is, what fits your kid, and what color you like best.

If you know what bike you want to get, check out my article “How To Buy A Dirt Bike“. Thanks for viewing, and good luck buying the right bike for your kid.

-Tom Stark

Top 5 Motocross Bikes of the Decade


This past decade saw much change and technological advances compared to the 1990’s. The Pro National scene went from 99.9% of the bikes being two-stroke (Yamaha’s YZ400 was about the only thumper out there in the late 90’s). 2001 was the beginning of the end for the 125 2-stroke because of the YZ250F, and soon after, the other companies followed suite. By 2006 the scenario had done a complete 180. Within the past 10 years, there have been some atrociously made bikes, as well as the best bikes ever made. This list may not include the entire globe, but should cover the United States, along with many other countries that have similar inventory of bikes. My list is objective and unbiased; I am going by which bikes are being sought after and bought the most, both new and used.

5. Yamaha YZ250

Yamaha YZ250 2-Stroke

Yamaha is the only Japanese manufacturer that still imports their two-stroke motocross bikes to the U.S.. They have had it together the entire time, but the YZ250’s best years are 2005 and newer. The lightweight aluminum frame and updated suspension (2006) makes the bike nimble, quick, and easier to ride. Power right out the box is excellent for almost any amateur, so there really isn’t much you need to do for it to be competitive, other than a suspension re-valve for your weight and riding style. The YZ250 has quite a bit of bottom-end power for a 2-stroke, and has plenty up top. You can move the power-band around with an aftermarket pipe if you don’t like the stock curve. Probably the best modification for engine performance is porting. It’s relatively cheap, and if you get it done by the right person this bike will absolutely rip.

4: Yamaha YZ125

Yamaha YZ125 2-Stroke

I know I said that four-strokes have dominated the pro motocross and supercross scene the past several years, but that doesn’t mean people don’t buy two-strokes anymore. In fact, riders are realizing how expensive four-stroke motocross bikes can be if there is a major failure, so they’re moving back (or to) two-strokes. Don’t fool yourself, the 125 two-stroke is a very fast bike, even stock, when properly tuned. When James Stewart entered the pro-scene on a 125, his lap-times were often as fast or faster than a lot of the 250cc riders because he knew how to ride his KX125 so well. He continued to beat four-strokes in 2004 when 250F’s started becoming “the bike” to race, so you know the bikes wasn’t lacking, that much.

The Yamaha YZ125 has reigned has “the bike” to get in the 125cc-class for many years now. It may not have the best of everything, but as an overall package it’s arguably one of the best motocross bikes ever because it is versatile. Although, the motor hasn’t changed much since 2001, and the chassis/suspension since 2006, there really isn’t a whole you need to do to this bike to race it.

Unlike most other 125’s, the YZ125 has some bottom-end power. So if you’re not afraid to finger the clutch a little, you can turn it into a woods weapon because it is so light. The center of gravity is lower than four-strokes, adding to its maneuverability. I like riding both two- and four-stroke dirt bikes, but getting on the pipe and ripping it up on a YZ125 is just too much fun!

This bike also makes my top 5 list because of how easy maintenance is, as well how cheap it is to repair if something major happens because of less moving parts. A four-stroke engine costs 3-4 times as much if something catastrophic happens, especially if you have a shop do the work. On a two-stroke, as long as you change the oil regularly, a top-end kit (usually just a piston, rings, gaskets, etc.) costs around $100-150. Even if your cylinder gets scored you can re-plate it to new condition for about $200.

3. Yamaha YZ450F

You guessed it, another Yamaha. Not only are its two-strokes good, but so are the four-strokes. The first year of the YZ450F was 2003 (superseding the YZ426F). This is when the bike was titled “Impossible To Ride.” It did have a lot of torque just because it’s a 450, but the top-end power was unbelievable. It was hard to hang on to the bars for less-experienced riders (Here I’m thinking, “supermoto, supermoto….”). Well, it is a little harder to ride than most others in its class, but any 450cc motocross bike is going to have a lot of power if it’s fresh. Don’t let all the “internet hype” get to you, it was still a great bike. In fact, some say it had the best 450cc from 2003-2005.

2003 Yamaha YZ450F

The second generation YZ450F got even better (for the most part) in 2006 with the all-new aluminum frame. This reduced weight and helped with handling (more on that in a little bit). The power curve was changed considerably, changing from a top-end monster to a more mellow beast. Some complained, others loved it. Don’t worry, the engine is probably the easiest to change, it just takes a little dough.

Moving on to other things, the YZ450F’s suspension is good in stock form. Just make sure it has the correct spring rates for your weight and riding style. The handing on this bike is said to be an issue. Supposedly the steel frame was to blame and made it feel heavy and turn slower. I mentioned that 2006 is when Yamaha switched to aluminum frames for its four-stroke motocross bikes, and doing this resulted in better turning and handling for this bike. 2010 is really when handling was a positive for the YZ450F with the new bilateral-beam frame and centralized weight. It made it feel more like a two-stroke, but not quite because of its weight.

2. Honda CRF450R

Honda CRF450R 4-Stroke

Red has always been a popular color, and there’s a reason why; they make high-performance bikes. Honda’s CRF-R line is near the top in almost every performance category, but the thing that has held them back from others is the reliability. Granted these are full-on race-bikes we’re talking about, but some of Honda’s early model four-stroke motocross bikes have had some problems causing failure much sooner than others in its class. The valve-train malfunctions were primarily on the CRF250R its first few years, which is why I chose the CRF450R to be on this list.

The first year of Honda’s 450cc four-stroke motocross bike was 2002, when Yamaha was still making the YZ426F, so it had a little edge. The CRF450R helped bring down the two-stroke legacy in pro racing. You know something is wrong when Kevin Windham on Honda’s 450R is passing Ricky Carmichael (aka the GOAT) on an RM250 two-stroke. No disrespect to Windham because he is one of the smoothest riders in the history of motocross. It’s just that “RC” is clearly a faster rider when he is healthy.

Honda has been known to make dirt bikes that handle well. The bilateral-beam aluminum frame on the CRF450R is just the same as far as four-strokes go. Point it and it goes there. The ergonomics are great for most riders as well. Suspension has always been on par or better than other bikes in its class. Over the past few years Honda has been making their 450 easier to ride for more riders right out of the box, bringing out the fuel-injection (second company to do that behind Suzuki’s RMZ450). There have been some glitches, but then again, what bike doesn’t when it introduces something completely new?  Overall this is a very powerful, easy to ride fast, and great handling bike for riders of all experiences, which is why it’s so popular.

1. Yamaha YZ250F

Yamaha YZ250F 4-Stroke

Yep, that’s right. The YZ250F is The Top Motocross Bike of The Decade. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It’s the most popular 250cc four-stroke motocross bike, and for many good reasons. It was the first one made, and by a few years two. The first year of Yamaha’s 250F was 2001, and it was an instant success. People saw how powerful it was and how much torque it had compared to a 125 two-stroke.

Yamaha knows how to make a four-stroke motocross bike, plain and simple. Their 250F has always been known as the most reliable out of its entire class, even in its early years. It was a bit porky and hard to start at times in ’01 and ’02 with its manual decompression, but once they figured that out in 2003 this bike was a force to be reckoned with. No more clutching out of every corner, bogging out and casing jumps, or having to perfect your shift points. Once the pros started riding them, everyone wanted one. The thumping and thundering sound of a four-stroke ripping up the track is loved by many, but hated by many as well.

The YZ250F’s engine characteristics weren’t number one once all the other companies figured their 250F’s out, but it was mainly lacking some down-low. It was a pretty easy fix with an aftermarket exhaust or cams, but that’s only if you wanted it easier to ride with a smoother power-band. Yamaha has always had great suspension, and the YZ250F is no different. Ready to race out of the crate as long as the spring rates fit your weight and riding style.  Ergonomics have been a positive for the most part. The early models were a little chunky, so the newer you get the better.

Handling is something that people always complained about, but I think that most of the propaganda came from people reading magazine reviews. Statements like “It can’t turn right,” or “It stands you up in corners” are usually from people that have never ridden the bike. It’s not as dramatic unless you are a Pro or fast A rider. You can also re-valve the suspension, change bars, triple clamps, springs, ride height, and many more things to get it to corner. Other than that, the YZ250F is a great bike and is very reliable. There are riders that get 200+ hours on stock and with everything still in-spec if they aren’t racing it hard. That’s saying something for a high-performance, high-revving machine.

Now remember, this list is the top motocross dirt bike of this past “Decade”. If it was within the last few years this list would more than likely be completely different. These bikes have been the most popular for the most amount of time in the past ten years. The reason why I did that instead of the last few years is because not everyone has the budget to buy that new of a bike. Some riders that are looking to start out in this extreme sport want cheaper, yet competitive and reliable bikes. I want to give those riders (YOU) the benefit of knowing these things so that you can stay with the competition.

-Tom Stark