So I’m sitting in the office working on some random project when I get a call from Stacy Berger at Ohlins USA. He starts telling me they have a 2009 YZ250F with the Ohlins TTX44 rear shock and TTX front cartridge kit installed. I said that’s great, must be a nice ride! And I’m thinking to myself, you are telling me this because? “We want you to ride it and let us know what you think. Do you have a track you would like us to meet you at with the bike and a mechanic?” My head begins to buzz. Did I hear right? Be cool Benjamin, just give him an answer. The first track that comes to mind for a quick turning, flick-able 250 with some of the trickest suspension components on the planet holding the wheels on is Iron City MX in Blacksburg, SC. A phone call to track owner Patrick Moorehead, and all the arrangements were made. All we had to do was wait for the day to come.
Iron City is about 45 minutes drive from the EDM offices, it’s not open for practice or racing as often as most people would like but the facility is one of the best in the region with excellent dirt, elevation changes, irrigation and a really fun layout. It’s a place we test a variety of products so we all know it very well. In addition to this the track gets really rough making it a perfect place to do a suspension test.
True to his word, Stacy delivered an Ohlins YZ250F with a mechanic named David Behrend. Like most mechanics we’ve met he was soft spoken and low key and he was a great help setting the bike up for each of the three test riders. Being the oldest and heaviest of the three I required heavier springs (4.7 )in the fork and on the shock (52). Sag was set at 105mm. For 2009 Yamaha only made a few changes to the 250 starting with a redesigned exhaust system that has a 60mm-longer titanium header for better low-end grunt plus a 50mm-shorter aluminum silencer for better low-rpm throttle response. The carburetor jetting and CDI ignition mapping settings are reworked to deliver increased engine performance with the new exhaust. A New clutch eliminates the judder spring and uses a floating rubber damper instead of a coil spring to provide better clutch performance.
To accommodate a greater variety of riders the top triple clamp has two sets of mounting holes, providing 4 handlebar positions. standard, 10mm back, or 10mm or 20mm forward. For 09 there is a newly designed swing arm and suspension linkage that is lighter and more rigid to improve cornering and rear wheel traction and a new rear hub that is lighter and designed for a larger 25mm diameter axle (up from 22mm), for more rigidity.
We didn’t ride the YZ250F with stock suspension so we won’t be telling you what we thought of it. But, we did ride the Yamaha with the Ohlins kit and we’ll be happy to let you know how killer it felt. Iron city is a relatively fast, rough track with some well spaced technically challenging jumps. Setting up suspension to work well on the entire track can prove to be difficult since you are trying to accommodate braking and acceleration bumps and hard landings. To work properly the suspension has to be plush initially with excellent bottoming resistance.
Most people try to find the smoother path through any particular obstacle, it’s the most logical approach. Before each of us took the Yamaha out David said “hit everything you can as hard as you can”. It defies logic but when you are putting a suspension through the wringer, it makes perfect sense. There was no way to get the fork to bottom hard. Over jumping landing ramps and landing in the flats with little forward momentum is usually the best way to get a good CLACK out of a fork… nada. Landing on the face of the up ramp on a double will usually result in a healthy impact with the bottoming cones. Again nothing! While this is not really all that difficult to achieve, adding oil or turning in compression will usually stop bottoming issues. The trick is finding the harmonious point where a fork doesn’t bottom and feels compliant and plush over the little stuff. The TTX cartridge system handles this complex situation with ease. Blasting through braking bumps no longer makes you wish you were wearing a mouth piece to protect your teeth
The cartridge kit completely replaces the internals of your stock fork, including the damping rod. Adjustment is the same as stock – compression clickers on top and rebound on the bottom. A nice touch is the compression adjustment screw, it’s set at an angle so you don’t have to squeeze past the handlebar to make adjustments..
The TTX44 Rear shock replaces the entire stock unit and makes a lap around the track more like sitting on the sofa at home playing a video game than bounding over terra firma. Ohlins positioned compression and rebound adjustments at the top of the shock so you don’t need to put your head in the sand to adjust the rebound, another nice touch. In addition to compression and rebound Ohlins has something called Chassis Stability Control (CSC) which is adjustable at the bottom shock mount. The CSC controls both compression and rebound valving at the same time enabling you to go from firm track settings to plush trail settings in a matter of a few clicks. The SCS is super sensitive and two or three turns is all you need to make the transition.
As an experiment, next time you are at the track, pick a random rider and watch him as he goes through the different sections. Look at his handlebar and see what it is doing. Is it bouncing around a lot? Watch his hands closely. Does it look like they could be fast dribbling with a basketball? Or does it look like they are simply moving up and down as his wheels glide over the bumps? This is what you are looking to achieve. The same test can be applied to the rear fender.
Good suspension will do more to increase your speed, reduce fatigue and increase your confidence than any other change you can make to your bike. Paying close attention to your suspension setup is vital if you want to improve as a rider. If you are serious about riding, the TTX system is amazing and well worth the investment. And while it’s not very likely they will send a support mechanic to your next practice session, you can easily call their technicians while you are at the track and ask them to help you dial in your Ohlins parts.
What did we think?
The Ohlins suspension did very well at Iron City. A rough, outdoor track with plenty of braking and acceleration bumps that really worked the bike over. The Ohlins setup was able to let the suspension do its job without transmitting all that track to the rider. This is the biggest advantage to any serious rider or racer. You wont see any gains on a dyno, or hear any new exhaust sound from a suspension. What you get with Ohlins is something far better, increased endurance for you the rider. The plush suspension was able to soak up a lot of the small hits and holes on the track, while providing excellent bottoming resistance. This allowed me to ride harder, longer motos with less fatigue. Good news if you want to win races. If you ride for fun, you will appreciate being able to click off lap after lap without thinking your forearms are going to explode.
I am absolutely crazy about a suspension that soaks up all that is thrown at it. Imagine riding a bike that you could push and push and push without the fear of it getting away from you. This is a 250 with Ohlins suspension. The Yamaha motor has enough grunt to let you get things moving quite quickly, but not too fast and the suspension just felt better the more out of control I felt. It was nice to be able to whack the throttle open and hang on for the ride. The Ohlins suspension took all the hard edges off Iron City MX.
I couldn’t pick a better setup for a 250. The motor on the YZF250 pulls strong, even on a hilly track like Iron City, the bike could easily lug me up the big hills and through the loamy turns. Once you add the Ohlins suspension, you have a great competitive package with only a few hop-ups. The TTX44 rear shock felt settled while in rutted turns and doesn’t step out of line on braking bumps. My favorite was the fork – the Ohlins TTX Cartridge kit felt great on the bike. I.C. was rough, rutted and had more than a handful of sharp edges, high speed rollers, large braking bumps and kickers on the faces of jumps but nothing seemed to be problem for the suspension. The best part of the suspension was how much confidence it gave when going through the rough obstacles.