We love to explore new trails. There is nothing like the smell of wet trees and pine needles as you pick your way to the top of a giant hill, only to look out at the never ending forest below. Clean, clear lakes shimmer in the distance, and occasionally there are a few small towns scattered between them. It’s that image, we see in our dreams, we seek out in every ride into the woods, and only a very lucky few will ever know. ATV’s are the perfect way to explore the vastness of the forest, and there are few places a 4WD utility quad cannot go. We’re still thrill seekers too however, and occasionally we just want to push the throttle to the stop and feel the power of an awesome sport quad beneath us, as we brace ourselves against the pegs. Recently, we had the chance to do exactly that on Yamaha’s Special Edition Raptor 700, Raptor 250, and the racy YFZR 450. Forget the trees, today we were headed to the beach for an adrenaline shot!
Best Intro Sport ATV of All Time – The RAPTOR 250
Most riders learn to ride on a little dirt bike or ATV they picked up cheap from a person no longer needing it, by trade & barter, or as we did, from a garage sale down the road. For riders today just entering the sport, pray that garage sale has a Yamaha Raptor 250 sitting out front. We’re a little envious actually. The Raptor 250 is that good!
Usually, we cover all the technical details on any model first, but the most important detail about the Raptor 250 doesn’t get bolted to the chassis or engine; it’s the “FUN FACTOR”! Regardless of their size or skill level, everybody has fun on the Raptor 250, and if two or more get together, we guarantee a race will break out! It’s so comfortable and it handles so well, we guarantee you will quickly feel like a pro and want to challenge yourself and others at every opportunity.
When Yamaha designed the Raptor 250 they didn’t cut any corners, or offer a reworked utility chassis, and claim it was a sport machine as some other OEMS have done. The Raptor 250 is an all-sport machine from the wheels up. With its racy, muscular lines, it’s the best looking sport ATV, regardless of model or manufacturer, all wrapped in a slightly smaller package. A sleek and narrow seat and great-looking bodywork leave no doubt what this machine was designed for.
A lightweight steel chassis cradles the quick revving, 249cc two-valve, four-stroke engine with electric start, and rather than a boring CVT system, the Raptor 250 features a five- speed gearbox. New sport riders need to learn to shift, and we applaud Yamaha for making no compromises in this area! At only 313 pounds, the Raptor is over 50 pounds lighter than its closest competitor, and whether flying through the air, or pitching it into a corner, this is a HUGE factor in handling. At the rear, a simple direct link shock helps the Raptor skip through the rough stuff, and the front features dual A-arms with preload adjustable shocks. For all but the biggest jumps, the suspension handles the landings with ease, and in the air it flies in a very balanced, neutral position. It’s extremely confidence inspiring for new riders.
Maintenance is another area where new riders must hone their skills, and thankfully the Raptor 250 is very user-friendly in this area also. Since the engine only features an oil cooler and no radiator, all a rider needs to do is change the oil on a regular basis, and this is easily done. Pull the bottom drain plug, and change the small filter found behind a 3 bolt cover on the right side of the engine. Under the seat is an easy to remove washable foam air filter, and adjusting the chain is super easy as well. As long as a rider changes the oil, keeps the air filter clean, squirts a little lube on the chain, and greases the suspension pivots (they have grease zerks), the Raptor 250 will run forever. There is really no excuse not to maintain it, and we have got over 2500 miles on ours with not one problem.
We have taken our Raptor 250 to the trails, to the track, to the dunes, and out in the snow, and it has never let us down, even in power-robbing sand. Handling is spot on, the engine puts out a nice, peppy powerband that is easy to control, it delivers plenty of thrills, yet won’t intimidate less experienced riders. It’s super comfortable, and it looks GREAT! Regardless of the terrain, we always get the “fun factor” with the Yamaha Raptor 250, and for smaller or less experienced riders, there is nothing better to learn on. With proper maintenance, expect many generations to do the same. We love it!
The Championship Winning YFZ 450R
We will admit our first ride on the original YFZ 450 several years ago was a little strange at first. Our initial thought was ‘this thing is too small and short to be a serious racer.” Then we fired it up and headed out onto the motocross track, and we have never thought that again. Handling was outstanding, power was incredible, and everything worked as a package; Yamaha got it right! The new YFZ 450R picks up where the ground breaking original YFZ 450 left off and is even better!
With the new YFZ450R Yamaha once again broke new ground, with a chassis that is built from massive main aluminum castings, and the entire front end of the YFZ 450R is bolted to the rear portion. To retain flexibility, both lower frame rails and cross members are tubular steel, but at the rear Yamaha again chose to go with their cast aluminum subframe, and a cast swingarm. Long travel suspension is found at both ends, along with a set of highly adjustable shocks that rival any aftermarket brand. You can really dial them in for your riding style! Front suspension offers 9.8 inches of wheel travel, and a rear linkage type suspension offers 11 inches of travel.
The motor of the YFZ 450R is an EFI equipped 449cc power plant that is all new from the castings on up. The castings, crankshaft, gearbox, bearings and head have all been beefed up for increased performance and reliability. While the older YFZ had an external oil tank, the new engine now offers an internal oil reservoir built into the lower end of the engine. Power output is awesome, with a solid hit and strong pull, but like the Raptor 700R it’s still predictable and easy to control. Even in power rubbing sand, the new engine offered more than enough guts to conquer any dunes with ease, and the suspension made launching down the back side of jumps, a breeze.
As with its brothers, the Raptor 700 and Raptor 250, the YFZ 450R is designed for performance, but also for rider comfort and ease of operation. Well-designed bodywork allows a rider to shift their body as needed, with little to get in the way. The key was moved to a location just ahead of the steering column, and next to the key is a small indicator light panel that warns riders of any trouble. It’s impossible to miss the large “T-bone” seat, which is comfortable, whether you are cruising along on top, or when hanging off the side railing a corner. At each side of the fuel tank are two large black panels that continue on to the rear fenders, and they can easily be removed for maintenance or a good bath. Thankfully, the air box is found under the seat and features a washable air filter. Another unique feature is the standard “Pro-Taper” style fat bars, which are mounted on adjustable clamps.
Wherever or however you ride, the YFZ 450R is a fantastic ATV! On the trails or on the track, it is equally capable of delivering trophies or an afternoon of trail or dune thrills. It is so easy to ride; it will practically find its own way to the checkered flag.
CALL of the WILD – The RAPTOR 700
We are often asked what we like to ride. That always depends on the terrain, what we are planning to do, and even the skill of the people we are riding with. For any type of sport riding though, there is always one bike that is near or at the top of the list.
The Yamaha Raptor 700 has been one of our favorites since our first ride years ago. When it was introduced, it was the largest displacement sport ATV ever built, and it holds that title to this day. There is much more to the Raptor 700 than only displacement however, and nothing has come close to seriously challenging the Raptor 700 for our unofficial title as the best performance ATV ever built for experienced riders who like to play in the sand, or aggressively attack the trails.
When the Yamaha engineering team designed the chassis for the Raptor 700R, they built a chassis unlike any other. The rear of the main frame is built from forged and cast aluminum, while the front remains traditional round steel tubing, and the two are bolted together with high strength fasteners. The injection molded bodywork on the Raptor 700 fits very well, with nothing protruding to catch your boot or riding gear. The only exception to this, is the pointy tips at the end of the rear fenders, which are placed a little too high for some reason. When hopping on or off, they catch our foot at times. Beneath the bodywork is a cast aluminum swing arm with an eccentric-style carrier for easy chain adjustment, a suspension linkage, and a single-piston brake with a large diameter piston and an oversized pad for excellent stopping power.
While the first thing most people notice about the Raptor 700 is the looks, it’s the sound that really gets attention. Fire up the 700cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine and a throaty growl rumbles from within, almost like an uncontrollable beast waiting for a chance to get out. Climb aboard, slip it into gear, and let it show you what it’s got. Unless you are one of the top ATV racers in the country, we are betting it’s got more than enough to give you a thrill!
Thanks to an EFI system powering the 700cc engine, throttle response is instant, and there is almost nothing you cannot conquer. In fact, if you do find yourself staring up a hill big enough, you question the Raptor 700’s capabilities, don’t question the Raptor; see your priest and next of kin instead! The engine has the torque of a tractor, and we have lugged it, shifted at the wrong time, left the throttle alone in a gear or several too high, and it refuses to give up! It’s almost impossible to stall! ATV performance is much more than a horsepower contest, though.
Performance begins with an ATV that simply fits well. The controls must be in the right spot, the seat must be comfortable, yet not get in the way when you move your body during aggressive riding; the pegs must be strong and at the correct height in relation to the seat, and the tank must be narrow enough to allow your knees to shift as needed. This is one area where Yamaha really excelled with the Raptor 700. It’s super comfortable to sit on or to ride aggressively!
At high speed the Raptor 700R is very stable and confidence inspiring. You can definitely notice the extra weight in the air or in tight corners, but it is so well-designed that it doesn’t do anything crazy in the air. Pitching it sideways and slinging dirt everywhere is easier accomplished with throttle control rather than body position, and through the whoops the Raptor tracked very well, which is expected since much of the geometry is identical to the race winning YFZR 450. One of the few things we dislike about the Raptor 700 is the tires, which never really seem to get much grip, and we can often feel them slide through the corners, rather than hook up. The Special Edition package even offers a wave rear brake rotor, special graphics, and beefy aluminum front bumper and heel guards. It’s the sum of all parts that make the whole however, and overall the Raptor 700 is a fantastic package.
To answer the question on what we like to ride, the Raptor 700R is the ATV we will pick almost every time for aggressive all-day play riding. In the sand it’s a sure thing!
The Yamaha sport ATV lineup is in our opinion, the most complete sport machine lineup from any manufacturer. Want to learn and play on the best intro machine ever? Try a Raptor 250! Need a motocross racer capable of winning the pro class? The YFZR can get you there. Is all day play riding and slinging sand your thing? The Raptor 700 is perfect for it! There may be competing models that surpass the Yamaha machines in some areas, but as a group, nobody passes the Blue bikes! We’ll gladly ride one anytime!
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Yamaha Motor Website