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By: Jason Giacchino

December 2007 - Off The Pegs

Bring on the 250s

Yamaha Raptor 250 SE Orange/Black
Yamaha Raptor 250 SE Orange/Black

You really have to hand it to Yamaha. Not only has the company held strong in the days when Japanese manufacturers wouldn’t touch performance quads with a ten-foot pole, but they’re also credited with sparking the red-hot 450cc class revolution with their YFZ450 back in 2003.  Regardless of which brand earns your loyalty, Yamaha deserves accolades for their resilience and understanding of the potential of the sport ATV market.

Even to this day the tuning fork company isn’t about to lie idle while the industry goes through its current retooling phase (the end of the production 2-stroke).  We’ve been talking quite a bit about the cult classic Blaster of late and the countless number of aftermarket companies who continue producing (and selling) parts and accessories for the now defunct model.  While it would have been easy to close the chapter on this entire market segment, Yamaha has instead been quietly working on the Blaster’s replacement.  Wearing the proud Raptor label of its 350 and 700cc brothers, an all new 250cc play quad is about to be released for 2008 here in the US.

While I for one feel like the high tech 250cc mills being used in the motocross bikes would have made an absolutely incredible ATV platform, the new quad’s development team has instead taken the increased reliability and ease of maintenance route in their spec sheets.  As such, the Raptor 250 is an air-cooled, single overhead cam, two valve 249cc four-stroke mated to a manual clutch 5-speed transmission.  Unlike its Blaster predecessor, however, the days of mashing a kick starter are long gone.  All of the Raptors feature electric starting.  Like the Blaster, Yamaha has trimmed off all of the unnecessary pieces and bits in the name of simplicity (and weight savings). In this case that means no reverse gear.

Where the big Y did pay careful attention was the braking department as the Blaster’s manual drums left a lot to be desired! This time the Raptor 250 will offer up hydraulic discs all around.  Suspension travel is adequate for sport riding (trails especially) with 7.5 inches of preload adjustable squish in the front and 7.9 inches in the rear.  With a dry weight of 312 pounds and a 43.7 inch wheelbase, it is apparent that Yamaha is really looking to the same type of rider who would have purchased a Blaster: Someone seeking zippy performance and a tree-carving nimble chassis without the steep costs or maintenance-heaviness of the bigger bore race or sport models.

What makes this latest effort even more noteworthy is the simple fact that the competition in this class is basically nonexistent.  Somewhere between now and the early 1990s (when models such as the Honda 250X and Kawasaki Mojave ruled the roost) the market swung into the reasoning that 250cc machines should be based on utility platforms and targeted as beginner-only machines.  CVT (automatic) transmissions and shaft drive were commonplace in the once proud 250 four-stroke ranks, but Yamaha plans to take the buying public back to the manual clutch/ chain drive era of yesteryear.

Unlike the Raptor 350, Yamaha hasn’t just rebadged a preexisting model or stuffed a new motor into the old Blaster chassis. Instead the Raptor 250 is new from the ground up.  Taking what experiences they had gathered from development and servicing of the YFZ450 and Raptor 700, Yamaha knew exactly what it wanted from its latest sporty effort.  The front-end geometry is actually inspired by none other than the YFZ itself.  The front shock bodies are directly off the Raptor 700 (with softer spring rates). Best of all, they’ve wisely designed the motor with individuals who may seek additional performance down the road in mind.  The available GYTR kit alone (jetting and exhaust system) increases horsepower by a whopping 15%!

Presentation is spot on as well, with plastic and headlights that pay homage to the YFZ and bigger Raptors and color choices that go beyond the standard blue.  Other options include a gray and red scheme, orange and black, and all black (with custom decals).  Trick-looking black rims are standard in all color schemes.

As an individual who just recently built up a ’95 Blaster into a modern race quad, I can attest to the fact that Yamaha has addressed all of the bugaboos that plagued the old 2-stroke then went above and beyond to assure the new Raptor a long and healthy production run.  We hope that this model will rekindle interest in the 250cc sport class and get the attention of all of the manufacturers.  They’ve done it once already, so it’s a definite possibility.  Then who knows, maybe in ten years I’ll pick one of these Raptors up and spend my summer turning it into a full race quad.  That’s what I like about Yamaha; they’re always thinking of the future.

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