Honda XR250L, Yamaha TT-R250, Suzuki DR-Z250 – Motorbikes Reviews, News…

12 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Honda XR250L, Yamaha TT-R250, Suzuki DR-Z250 – Motorbikes Reviews, News…
Suzuki DR 250
Suzuki DR 250

Honda XR250L, Yamaha TT-R250, Suzuki DR-Z250 (November 2005)

What’s the pick of the litter when it comes to entry-level 250 dirt bikes? The Dirt Bike Trader mag crew come up with the answers

The bikes in this shootout are not the latest and greatest, but they are good learners’ bikes, or ‘step-up’ bikes from something smaller to something larger. They don’t have high revving, high-risk engines, lightweight components, razor sharp handling and seats like a plank. These bikes are of the ‘old school’.

They have softish suspensions, so learners can ride them without getting beaten up, soft power, less ground clearance but lower seat heights than their modern counterparts, electric-start and single-cylinder air-cooled engines.

You can take them on-road too because they have all the paraphernalia required for that role – mirrors, full lighting, dual purpose rubber and all that jazz. All three have been around since the weather so they’re a known quantity. They’re easy to live with too, and although considerably heavier than the latest 250 four-strokes, designed to get you to the flag with the least physical and emotional stress.

If you’re expecting arm-stretching power from these engines, forget it; they won’t pull a sailor off your sister. They won’t intimidate anyone either, and that’s a good thing when you consider who these bikes are aimed at. All are very forgiving engines though, and the DBT crew pushed the forgiveness button all day.

The other thing we’ll say is that these engines are whisper quiet. If you want to make a stealthy getaway to the pub, your wife won’t notice you’ve gone.

And here’s another thing: they might be doughy but these 250s will go anywhere a modern, competition-oriented 250 will go.

Getting up a crappy hill is usually a confrontation between rider skill and angle-of-slope, but if you know the basics well enough, you might be left behind by a faster rider on a CRF250X or a WR250F, but you’ll get up the same hill nonetheless if you have dirt tyres and dirt gearing.


Before we take these bikes into the bush and do rude things to them, let’s see how they stack up on paper.

#1: PRICE: Now here’s an interesting thing. These bikes share a market niche, so none can afford to be slower, fatter, larger or much more expensive than any of the others. That’s why there’s a certain homogeneity in the specs, sand in the retail prices. From the dearest to the cheapest, here’s the dollar deal:

XR250L: $8190

DR-Z250: 7990

TT-R250: 7899.

There’s only $290 bucks in it so don’t get hysterical over the price of the Honda. And, by the way, when you’re researching bike prices, don’t take the manufacturer’s recommended retail as the last word. Many dealers have their own discounted prices and these can be several hundred dollars under recommended retail.

In that case the price difference between the Honda and the others could be negligible.

#2: WARRANTY: Most modern 250cc four-strokes have laughable three-month ‘warranties’ that in no way reflect the amount of moola you spend to buy one. (Honda’s CRF450X has a three months parts-only warranty. Whaddya think of that?) The warranties on these particular four-strokes are more generous though, because they’re not hard-core dirt weapons that’ll be thrashed every weekend, or worse, raced, so there won’t be as much collateral damage or as many civilian casualties. Here’s how far the respective manufacturers will open their wallets on product support:

TT-R250: Two year warranty, unlimited kilometres.

DR-Z250: One year warranty, unlimited kilometres.

XR250L: One year warranty, unlimited kilometres.

#3: WEIGHT: Heavy bikes are harder to manoeuvre at low speed, and they’re a bastard to pick up when you drop ’em. From the heaviest to the lightest, here’s the drum on dry weight:

XR250L: 128kg

TT-R250: 120kg

DR-Z250: 118kg.


Yamaha and Suzuki yes, Honda no. This, in our opinion, is a mistake. As an example, the Suzuki’s battery died, and the engine twice fouled a plug during this test. Had it not been for the kickstarter, all this bike would have done is take up space in the garage. As for the Honda, this is not the same engine as they use in the XR250R.

It’s a version modified for electric-start and no back-up kickstarter is available for it. Here’s our advice: if you’re struggling through the mud, the blood and the beer on dual purpose tyres, carry a tent. Why?

If you drain the battery you’ll be sleeping with the wombats.

#5: SEAT HEIGHT: Don’t believe the Suzuki spec sheet. This bike has a seat height of 890mm but the spec sheet says 920mm.

We knew something was wrong when we lined them up at HQ. Here’s the news on bum altitude:

TT-R250: 910mm

DR-Z250: 890mm

XR250L: 875mm.


We picked 40 kilometres of the tightest trails we could find. Lets face it, these aren’t fire trail blasters. This is how much juice they


Yamaha: 39.1km/2.5L, or 15.6 km/L

Honda: 39.1km/2.8L, or 14.0 km/L

Suzuki: 39.1km/2.7L, or 14.5 km/L

None of these is gunna break the bank when you haul up at the bowser. From the Suzuki’s 10.5 litre tank you should get about 150km. From the Honda’s 9.7 litre tank you’ll run about 135km, and from the Yamaha’s 10 litre tank about 160km.

All things being equal of course, which they never are with fuel consumption, so you can view these figures as slightly if not totally rubbery.


Hard and soft: All came with the clicker settings set dead in the middle of the adjustment range. For our crew, who all weigh in at 80kg and above, the Suzuki and Honda are on the soft side, a trait that our super-novice appreciated. The Yamaha is noticeably firmer.

It’s still plush but the more experienced riders prefer the Yamaha.

How much adjustment. Reasonable amounts on the forks. The Yamaha has 22 clicks on compression, the Honda 20 clicks, while the techno-freak Suzuki has 24 clicks on rebound and 16 on compression.

On the rear the Honda has 20 clicks of compression adjustment. We can’t tell you how much rebound adjustment it has because we can’t get past the chain-guard to get at the screw. The Yamaha had only compression adjustment on the shock, with 22 clicks from softest to hardest.

The Suzuki had a screw with two and a quarter turns from softest to hardest for compression, and another screw with six turns from softest to hardest for rebound.

Do they work. The respective suspensions soak up the little ripples well. Tottering along at steady speeds is a very comfortable affair, however the Honda shows a nervous tendency when the going gets rough.

It isn’t enough to scare experienced riders but it did worry our novice. We attempted to rectify this by stiffening the suspension but the clickers seemed to have little effect on the fork action, and hence no effect on the nervousness. Even with clickers dialled right up to Hard it was still a soft ride.

The clickers on the Suzuki and Yamaha produced noticeable effect. Two of our riders reckon the Yamaha is too stiff with the clickers wound right up. Then we were actually surprised by the improvement in the Suzuki once we got the suspension dialled in.

With its low centre of gravity it was king of the flat turns. We were also surprised at how much corner speed you could hold on the yella terra.

When things get rough the Yamaha is the best performer of the bunch. Its stiffer suspension, along slim lines and flat seat make it the easiest to move around. The Yamaha also feels the lightest, which makes the TT-R easier to ride ‘fast’ for longer.


All run Nissin brakes so you’d expect them to be similar in performance, but the Suzuki throws a spanner in the works. It’s the standout of the bunch. The front is super strong with plenty of feel, in fact it’s better than many of the race bikes we’ve ridden lately. The Honda and Yamaha have plenty of feel but just don’t match the Suzuki for power.

Don’t get us wrong, they’re up to the task of hauling you to a stop, but riding the Suzuki you realise how much better it is.

The DR-Z has the best rear brake too. The Yamaha has a nice neutral feel and in any other company we’d be telling you what a nice brake this is. Unfortunately the Honda rear brake has little feel and locks up easily.

The longevity of these engines, coupled with a minimum for maintenance, is a major drawcard for novices. Apart from oiling the chain dumping the engine oil and keeping the air filter clean there isn’t a lot to do. The three have good easy access to the air filter, although it was surprising to find a paper filter on the Honda. It’s simple to maintain, sure, you merely replace it, but it does emphasise the Honda road bias.

Paper filters are bad news when riding in muddy slop. Both the Yamaha and Suzuki come with a much more (dirt) appropriate foam filter.


Each bike has a area in which it excels. It’s fairly obvious that the Honda is designed more for street use, and with that in mind we’re giving it the Best Commuter Award. It feels more at home on the pavement than the other two.

The Yamaha is the tallest, the slimmest, and has the firmest suspension. There’s no doubt it’s been made with more dirt emphasis so the TT-R gets the Best In The Dirt Award.

The Suzuki is a real surprise packet. It isn’t far behind the Yamaha in the bush, and with its torquey engine and low seat height it’s obvious that this one should get our Best Beginners’ Bike Award. Going a little further, here’s the split for the other categories:










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