I had the absolute privilege of being asked by a chap called Steve if I would like to test ride his recently restored Yamaha 250. I didn’t need asking twice, I can tell you!
We arranged a day and time to meet up. I was sooo excited, I have never ridden a two stroke bike before.
Let me start with a little bit of history about the Yamaha 250.
Back in 1972 Yamaha first produced engines with reed valves, called Torque Induction. This system helped deliver more low-end power and quicker engine response over the entire RPM range.
The 250 replaced the outgoing YDS7 model with Yamaha changing the front end and squeezing in some reed valves in front of the carb and into the backs of the cylinders and this heralded the start of a new era for two strokes.
The 250 was fast, light, flexible and handled. Yamaha added the ‘Torque Induction’ graphic to the side panels as a reference to the new system and continued to use a four bearing crank, the use of two main bearings per cylinder meant the RD’s bottom end was always that little bit more resilient than other bikes on the market.
The petrol tank was fitted with a locking cap and the dash is simple yet elegant combined with functionality – everything you need is there: two lights for the indicators and a bulb checker which was advanced for it’s day.
The new black switch gear on both bars was easy to use and proved to be something Yamaha would continue to use on future models.
Steve bought his 250 back in 1982 and back then it was his second bike that he used when it was raining as he didn’t want to get his main bike wet.
A few years later children came along and the 250 was consigned to the back of shed. Some thirty – yes 30(!) years later the 250 was uncovered and a meticulous restoration project beckoned. The bike was started and amazingly the engine roared into life straightaway.
Steve, and his mate who was helping with the rebuild, started stripping the bike. The frame and the swing arm were sent off for powder coating and the paintwork was re-done to, if I may say so, a beautiful standard.
The blue, to me, is iconic of the bikes from the seventies and has a lovely shine to it.
Unfortunately the exhaust was not salvageable and had to be replaced with a new one but it is a standard exhaust for that bike. I love the long clean lines of the exhaust and to me, it sets the bike off nicely.
The wheel rims and spokes have also been replaced but the original hubs remain as to do the handlebars, yokes and clocks albeit they have been restored.
The forks are original but were pitted so they went off for re-chroming but the rear shock absorbers had to be replaced.
All in all, Steve says that about 80% of the bike has all its original parts that have been restored and/or rebuilt.
I did not know, but there is a sixth gear on the 250 but it has been blanked off but the later models do use this.
Finally, the bike was back on the road and Steve started riding it again. Up until this point the engine had not been touched and was still running as well as it did back in the 80’s.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that the engine was treated to the same meticulous rebuild that the rest of the bike has received.
So, my time had come to ride the bike. I jumped on the bike and went to press the start. It doesn’t have a start button! It has a kick start. Having never used one before, I was fairly impressed with myself that I started it on the second kick.
The smell of two stroke was amazing. I am of the firm opinion that you can’t beat that smell. If only they would bottle it!
I set off. As I did I went to change into second gear and got a false neutral instead and the engine revved a little – I was wincing to myself at this point. Sorry Steve!
As I pulled away and got the rest of the gears ok, the bike came to life. It was so easy to ride and smooth and just handled the corners effortlessly. The noise and the smell was amazing and I could feel that I had a huge grin on my face. I was loving it.
As those of you who have ridden two strokes know, they tend to have a relatively narrow power band but once you get it into this rev range, for the size of bike it goes really, really well.
Obviously being somebody else’s bike, I didn’t feel that I could go too far but I still managed a nice ride on some roads I know.
Compared to modern bikes, which let’s be honest, makes it pretty easy for you, it is a whole new way of riding. You really feel that you are riding the bike, reading what it wants and how it wants you to do it. Before this I was never sure that I fancied a classic bike but now my opinion of them has firmly changed.
The only downside were the brakes. The brakes reminded me of my old ‘65 Mustang. If you wanted to stop, I found it prudent to give it a weeks notice. To be fair they were substantially better than the Mustang but I suppose I am used to riding a modern bike with ABS.
Pretty soon I adjusted my riding to take account of the brakes and once I had done this they were no problem.
All too soon my ride was over and I parked back up and reluctantly handed the bike back to Steve. What an awesome bike it is. Yamaha certainly knew what they were doing with this bike.
I had decided by the time I got back that I definitely needed a two stroke in my life. They are just so much fun and the grin factor is right up there.
Thank you Steve for allowing me the opportunity to have a ride on your 250 pride and joy. I can definitely see why you love it so much.