Yamaha’s CDR Monster folks Energy rider Luke Clout holds the #1 plate on his YZ450F.
Years ago blokes raced around in the dirt on fourstroke motorcycles. Big, heavy, clunkers you could ride to the track, race, and ride home on. But then off-road racing got serious. From the late 1960s those old, slow, four-stroke thumpers with names like Matchless and Norton started getting kicked into the weeds by a new breed of lightweight, fast-revving, two-stroke motorcycles,mostly from Japan. The more complex four-strokes with their cumbersome valve trains could not provide the instant hit the new two-stroke riders craved.
That was the way it was all through the 1980s and most of the 1990s…until Yamaha unveiled the revolutionary YZ400F – a lightweight and agile four-stroke motocross bike that revved like a two-stroke. The new four-stroke’s power output was exceptional, and its linear, widespread power delivery made the bike super controllable and easier to ride – and to win on.
Cue a mass exodus of two-stroke riders back to valves, camshafts and timing chains.
Fast forward to today and engine choice is no longer so cut and dried. The ‘how-many-strokes?’ debate is more of a horses-for-courses situation as junior riders start out on the simpler, lightweight two-strokes then graduate to four-strokes as they turn senior. Yamaha’s YZ250F is the crossover point, a bike that can be ridden by both juniors and seniors. A bike that is currently dominating the race scene in both Europe and the US and has won four of the last six 2021 shootouts in the US media.
For 2022 Yamaha didn’t need to make many changes to the all-conquering YZ250F. Nor to its big brother YZ450F. But in a move designed to help teenagers make the big step up from the YZ85 to the YZ250F, Yamaha has fully reworked its little legend YZ125. This model has not had much in the way of R&D for fully 15 years. Despite that, young Aussie Bailey Malkiewicz became world junior champion on the firecracker in 2018. So the YZ125 has always had the power and agility to get the job done. And now it gets a boosted 125cc engine, improved suspension, updated brakes, improved ergos, and new, modern, YZ styling for the perfect blend of race-winning performance and real-world usability.
Other notable changes to Yamaha’s lineup of race-ready two strokes include an improved YZ85 and a new-for-2022 YZ85LW (Large Wheel) model with improved stability and more of a big-bike feel through the addition of a larger 19-inch front wheel, 16-inch rear wheel and longer swingarm.
The YZ85 is a seamless step up from the entry-level YZ65 to keep young guns in the VictorYZone. For 2022 both 85s feature enhanced rider ergonomics, a more efficient intake-tract design, lightweight aluminium subframe and swingarm, improved rear-brake master cylinder, updated radiator-shroud plastics and new premium graphics reflecting the YZ’s unmatched racing heritage.
And then there’s Yamaha’s flagship YZ250 two-stroke.
With its consistent and wide power delivery, this versatile race bike can do it all – freestyle, enduro, motocross and more. YZ250 performs at all levels, from cutting laps in your back yard to national-level racing and, like all two-strokes, is easy to work on and affordable to maintain. For 2022 the YZ250 receives a lightweight braking system, updated suspension settings, improved ergonomic design with updated YZ styling and new premium graphics.
COVID has put a handbrake on Aussie racing recently which has been a challenge for race teams. The current situation has left Yamaha’s CDR Monster Energy rider Luke Clout holding the #1 plate on his YZ450F. Clout joins Yamaha Factory riders around the globe, like current AMA MX #1 Dylan Ferrandis and MXGP MX2 #1 Maxime Renaux, in highlighting the Monster Energy Racing Edition colour schemes, which are now available on the YZ125 and YZ250 twostrokes as well as the YZ250F and YZ450F four-strokes.
So the decision between two-strokes and four-strokes is not as clear cut as it once was – the VictorYZone range offered by Yamaha alone is comprehensive, with a model offered at each stage of a rider’s development. Go the hard-hitting power of a lightweight and easy-to-maintain YZ250 or the broad spread of easily controllable – and tuneable – power of the rider-friendly YZ250F?
Sadly, some manufacturers have moved away from the two-stroke layout. But these simple and fun machines will continue to play an important role in Yamaha’s YZ lineup. As Product Planner Derek Brooks from Yamaha stated, “At Yamaha, two-strokes are in our blood. That’s why we continue to develop and offer a full range of off-road two-strokes, and why we are so excited about these important new updates to our lineup.
“The new models are all about providing the fun and exhilaration of a lightweight, powerful two-stroke to the next generation of riders. We feel that Yamaha YZ twostrokes will continue to play an integral role in developing young riders and building future champions.”