2011 Yamaha Raptor 250R First Ride 0
Yamaha is making a big push in the entry-level sport ATV market for 2011. With the Raptor 250 at its heart, Yamaha first introduced the all-new Raptor 125 that we tested in the 2011 Raptor 125 ATV First Ride. It uses a smaller engine in the same 250 chassis to suit riders who want a little less. But what about riders who want just a little more? Yamaha addresses their needs this model year as well with the 2011 Raptor 250R.
The standard Raptor 250 is a machine capable of giving a wide range of riders a foot in the sport ATV world. However, Yamaha realized that it’s not uncommon for some 250s to be passed around the family, so to speak. What works well to introduce new riders to the sport can still provide endless fun for riders who are quite capable of riding larger, more powerful machines. Compare it to the pit bike phenomenon. Yamaha knows that the Raptor 250 is being abused by more experienced riders and those riders are often upgrading their little machines for more performance. It was decided to cut out the middle step and just offer a higher performance machine that still retains its user-friendliness so it can better suit all types of riders.
The stone reliable 249cc air-cooled engine doesn’t need to be hopped up. In fact, keeping it mellow is part of what makes it a challenge to ride hard. However, the parts that really suffer the most from an over-aggressive pilot, or one that has simply outgrown the standard 250, are the shocks. The standard Raptor 250 suspension is pretty basic – good, but basic. Adjustability is limited and advanced riders can find the limits with ease. A new set of suspension has been bolted on and the new components are very impressive. Instead of five-way preload adjustable shocks up front, the 250R gets fully adjustable piggyback units. The extra reservoir allows for greater and more consistent damping of the rebound and high/low-speed compression, while a preload collar adjusts ride height. Wheel travel from the double-wishbone setup is the same 7.5 inches. Out back is a preload, low-speed compression and rebound adjustable shock that controls the straight axle with 7.9 inches of travel.
So just how aggressive can you get with this thing? Watching factory Yamaha ATV racer Dustin Nelson clear every obstacle on the Vet track was pretty impressive. Even though we couldn’t get over the two biggest tabletops, coming up short was actually less abusive than it is on some full-size quads. The beefed up suspension easily handles the 250R’s light weight and jump landings are its forte. We were particularly impressed with the front end’s ability to land off-axis without slamming down and jerking the bars out of the rider’s hands. We stiffened the rear shock as we picked up some mud in the morning and sped up the rebound a couple clicks, but otherwise left everything alone, even as the track got rougher toward the end.
Aside from the much improved suspension, Yamaha equipped the 250R with a sleek LED taillight to replace the bulky, red bulb unit and also installed an adjustable front brake lever – another nod to bigger, faster riders. The aluminum wheels now have an outer-rolled edge for more strength and eliminate a seam that packs with mud. The comfortable seat gets a new cover as well which provides better grip.
Aside from those few items, the R model is identical to the standard Raptor 250, and we’re fine with that. The one item we still question is the lack of a reverse gear. Yamaha says this is to keep weight down and that the riders who want to rip around on these, particularly the 250R, don’t necessarily want a reverse. Well, we’d love to have one of these in the garage to rip on, and we’d still like a reverse… For a motocross track, there’s no need, but the 250R would be great on the trails too and it might come in handy. With a claimed curb weight of 330 pounds, it’s easy to argue that you can simply lift one end. The main point is that this is a pure sport model and those typically don’t go backward, so we’ll leave it at that. However, the five forward gears work flawlessly. We hammered through the gearbox mercilessly and only missed one shift all day. Clutch actuation is smooth and doesn’t have one hint of grabbiness, which is good for newer riders.
The engine runs extremely well with plenty of power and solid fueling from the 29mm Mikuni carburetor. Our test day was very mild which meant no need for a choke before thumbing the electric starter. Yamaha had equipped the Raptor with one of its GYTR mufflers ($350) and we found the package to have plenty of smooth power for hauling our nearly 190-pound rider.
A seat height of 28.7 inches helps keep weight low and the slender 250R is easy to pitch around. The Dunlop KT205 rear and KT201 front tires provided good grip on the soft soil at Milestone MX. The 19-inch rears drift predictably and are solid under braking which is handled proficiently by hydraulic discs. Wheelbase is a manageable 43.7 inches and the handling on the little Raptor is one of its highlights – it’s quick but planted. Our test unit also had a GYTR front and rear grab bar and nerf bars. The nerf bars were a nice addition though we used them less than we do on larger ATVs. Ergonomics are comfortable enough for a 5’11” tester and the new gripper seat cover helps hold the rider in place when hanging off either side. With 2.4 gallons of fuel available we played most of the day with the thumb throttle maxed out before having to fill up.
Yamaha’s 250R model (MSRP: $5099) is only $500 more than the standard Raptor, but if a person were to upgrade their components individually the extra pricetag would be nearly $2000. Because the 250R retains every ounce of its entry-level features like the friendly engine, adjustable throttle, low seat height and manageable ergonomics, the extra scratch is well worth it. If there’s a good chance your Raptor will get abused by larger riders (be honest, even if it’s for your teenage daughter you’re still going to hammer it occasionally) the upgrades are entirely appropriate. If it’s used solely for an entry-level rider they’ll be able to extend their time with the Raptor as their skills build, so the 500 bucks makes sense across the board.