2008 Yamaha XT250 Review

The 2008 model XT is a major progression for the machine. Displacement is the main area of improvement where engineers bumped the old XT225 from 223cc to the current 249. The boost comes from a 4mm larger bore, but the stroke remains the same (74 x 58mm). It’s still a single overhead cam design and uses fins and air movement to keep things within operating temps. The larger motor puts out a peak of 12.6 lb-ft of torque and 16 horsepower as the motor climbs to 6500 rpm and 7K, respectively. Both of our testers found the output more than adequate for around-town applications. Drivers never took our rabid, muffled engine revving seriously enough to drag, but we were able to pace, or even out-accelerate most four-wheelers in normal traffic situations. Our 180-pound rider was satisfied and found that second-gear starts were more efficient by eliminating an early shift.

“It’s got more jump off the line and a little more pull in the straights,” said our lightweight tester, Sequoyah Munroe. “The 250 proves to be a little more advantageous on the street. However, once I took it off-road, its dual-sport nature began to apostatize.”

Designers changed the gearbox this year by knocking off sixth gear, a change we’re not sure was for the better. Even though the ratios in the new five-speed are close enough for highway use, having tighter gaps would have been an advantage off-road when trying to tackle inclines or tight maneuvers. A little extra leg room on top would be nice as well on the paved sections despite the new tranny’s wide-ratio arrangement. The digital speedo stopped climbing in the high-70s; respectable, but freeway speeds were very uncomfortable. The rev-limiter kicks in at 10,300 rpm, so we were running in the upper 9K’s constantly on the few short freeway jaunts we forced upon it.

Getting back to the dirt, one of the reasons a six-speed would help is due to the excessive weight of the bike. At 289 pounds with a full tank, the XT weighs almost 10 pounds more than Yamaha’s ultra-wicked WR450F enduro! The California model we tested has a 2.4-gallon fuel capacity (the 49-state tank holds 2.6, up from the ’07 model’s 2.3-gallon design). Drain the fuel and the XT lands between the two claimed weights of Yamaha’s comparable DS bikes, the TW200 (260) and WR250R (276). Take your pick, but these are all heavy little bikes.

Part of what contributes to the Yamaha’s heft is a steel chassis. The semi-double cradle design is new this year and said to be lighter, but it’s not a high-tech aluminum frame like on the WR250R. The purpose of the new design is to provide increased lateral and torsional rigidity. We actually thought it was pretty soft during very aggressive riding, but for what it’s made for, the chassis feels just fine. An aluminum lower triple clamp offers weight shavings while a new fork with updated damping settings, a larger front brake rotor (245mm vs. 220), a new round headlight and a half-fender/mud guard combo complete the front end changes.

The rear brake is an all-new 203mm disc with single piston caliper whereas the older model was slowed by a drum unit. Both binders work well with good lever feedback and easy modulation, but putting them to use was marred by the lack of traction. Our biggest complaint about the Yamaha, by far, was the crappy set of tires – which is good because it’s an easy fix. From first-gear speeds all the way to maximum output, the Cheng Shin tires squirmed all over the place. Just looking at the lug pattern, we were expecting good off-road performance, perhaps at the expense of highway comfort. Unfortunately, the tires stink in both environments. Trade them out for a set of Bridgestone Trail Wings like the Honda has. Yamaha uses the TW meats on its WR-R, but is clearly cutting costs with the XT.

Another area where both manufacturers skimp to keep the MSRPs close to $4K is in the handlebars. Steel units are attached to both though the XT uses a crossbar-less design which opens up the cockpit. It’s one example of how Yamaha has worked some modern flair into its XT250, something Honda should take note of the next time it redesigns the CRF. Both our testers and most onlookers who took the time to check out the duo commented on how the Yamaha looks sleek and fashionable in comparison. Special attention to the rider controls, notably the digital computer, and smoother lines throughout the bodywork give the XT a boost in the fashion department.

“With a beefy body, tight graphics and an all digital instrument cluster, the XT250 definitely looks a little cooler than the CRF230L,” notes Munroe, “but you can’t judge a book solely by its cover, or a bike by its graphics in this case.”

Yamaha XT250 Highs & LowsHighs

  • Tight turning radius
  • Better power from the 250 engine
  • Modern computer and bodywork
  • Passenger handholds are functional for multiple uses
  • New rear brake is great


  • Horrible, terrible tires – shame on Cheng Shin
  • Soft ergos encourage too much sitting
  • Where’s sixth gear?