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By: Jason Giacchino

July 2010 - Off The Pegs

Yamaha Further Seals the Raptor Gap

Yamaha Raptor 125

Yamaha Raptor 125

Yamaha Raptor 125

Yamaha Raptor 125

I don’t play brand favorites when it comes to the what’s happenings of the major ATV manufacturers; especially these days when, having had an opportunity to carve test laps on examples of each of the big four Japanese branded 450s, one from the USA, one from Canada, and one from Austria.  There is absolutely no doubt in this author’s mind that a rider can be competitive on OEM equipment originating from all over the globe.

That said it takes a pretty secluded viewpoint to overlook the incredible attention Yamaha, in even a time of economic uncertainty, has been paying to the sport performance segment of the ATV industry.  After all, while a majority of its competition is holding fast with carry-over models in the hopes of the global economy showing signs of improvement, Yamaha has been busy dropping all-new performance-oriented ATVs on the market first in the form of the YFZ-450R, followed by the more woods-friendly 450X, and it appears 2011 will witness but another manual clutch sport ATV model joining Yamaha’s ever-growing lineup.

With the YFZ designation being devoted to Yamaha’s race-oriented quads, the Raptor moniker has been synonymous with the company’s sport/performance trail models.  Until now the Raptor line has been pretty thorough with a 90cc, 250-, 350-, and 700cc model choice holding down the fort for sand, trail, woods, and recreation riders looking for zippy performance and long-travel suspension.  For 2011 the gap between the Raptors will become even tighter as Yamaha will be the first of the Japanese manufacturers to target the void between the 90 and 250cc displacement class.

Enter the Raptor 125; a brand new sport entry based on the highly successful Raptor 250.  Nestled within its steel frame spars is a single overhead cam (SOHC), 124cc air-cooled single-cylinder mated to a manual clutch, 5-speed transmission package.  To get the go-juice to the ground, Yamaha spec’ed 18-inch rear and 19-inch front Maxxis low profile sport tires and a slightly smaller 428 chain (to decrease drag).

All new plastics coupled to the lighter engine result in a 30-pound weight reduction over the already-lightweight Raptor 250.  Other than these differences, the 125 will boast all of the features that have made the 250 so popular in the last couple of years: Dual hydraulic disc brakes in the front, single hydraulic disc in the rear and long travel suspension numbers (7.5 inches up front, 7.9 inches out back).

While proponents will be quick to scoff at the lack of a high-tech mill providing the horsepower in the newest Raptor, Yamaha’s logic is that overcomplicating things in this emerging segment could only potentially discourage beginner riders looking for sport performance right from the get-go.  Besides, if the aftermarket success of the Raptor 250 is any indication, the industry will be awash with hop-up and performance enhancing components for the 125 in no time.

Additionally, Yamaha has been the first of any of the major manufacturers to recognize the demand that exists in the small-bore performance quad market; a place currently dominated by Taiwanese and off-brand knock-offs, many of which lure purchasers in with attractive initial pricing but lack any sort of dealer network or parts support.

Like all of the Raptor models, the 125 is targeted toward trail riders seeking sport performance though we’re excited by the prospect of using the new machine as a starting point to create some slick custom race equipment (not unlike the popularity of pit-bike racing a few years back).  Additionally, since this quad is the first of its kind, we wouldn’t be surprised to witness the formation of a new air-cooled 125cc racing class begin to spread among facilities around the nation just as had happened with the Raptor 250 a few years ago.

As if all of the excitement surrounding an all-new sport quad weren’t enough, we hear Yamaha’s slapping the wheels they developed for the YFZ-450X (which were both lighter, stronger, and designed to resist pinch flatting) onto the flagship Raptor 700 for 2011.  The Raptor 250, meanwhile, will finally receive the factory upgrade racers and fast trail riders have been begging for since the machine’s inception: All new shocks with tuning potential that puts the suspension on even some of the current 450s to shame!  These babies will offer piggyback reservoirs, preload, compression, and rebound adjustment right off the showroom floor.  Also, as an added bonus, if initial spy photos prove accurate, it looks to us like they will bolt right up to the new 125.

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