WE BUILD A KEVIN WINDHAM REPLICA YAMAHA YZ250 TWO-STROKE
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Kevin Windham had a long and illustrious career, racking up wins over 19 years while racing for three different factory efforts. In the latter stages of his time in the limelight Windham had a folk-like following, thanks to his daring Supercross opening-ceremonies transfer jumps and willingness to wax poetic about motocross. And, had Kevin been born 10 years earlier, he likely would have been a multi-time National Champion. Unfortunately for “K-Dub,” he had the misfortune of racing at the same time as Ricky Carmichael. Still, nearly 20 years ago, Kevin was Yamaha’s future hopeful—“The Can’t-Miss Kid.” He was catapulted to stardom after winning back-to-back 125 Supercross titles, and by 1998 he was supposed to shake up the establishment.
Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Kevin Windham started off the 1998 AMA 250 Supercross series sluggishly, but gained momentum down the stretch. In a four-week span he scored two wins and two second-place finishes. Then the wheels came off while he was leading the Charlotte Supercross. Windham mistimed a double and broke his collarbone. Once the season moved outdoors, Kevin seemed aloof and disconnected from racing. It was later discovered that the Louisiana native was embroiled in a bitter dispute with Yamaha team manager Keith McCarty surrounding Kevin’s then girlfriend (now wife) spending time at the Yamaha trailer. The feud led to a series of arguments, contract disputes and finally a lawsuit. Once the smoke cleared, Windham had cut ties with Yamaha and moved on to an unceremonious two seasons with factory Honda.
What’s the point of this story? Nostalgia has a way of muddying up the gory details of the past and fogging our memories. The MXA wrecking crew often sits around the pits fondly discussing the glorious bikes of long ago—not the racers who piloted the ancient iron to success. It’s the machinery that matters. And so it goes with Kevin Windham’s factory Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke from 1998. The deep blue plastics worked symbiotically with an all-black seat and blue steel frame. Windham’s race bike oozed factory styling. A bold “8” was prominently displayed on the number plates—twice the size of modern race digits. Many will remember how clean and undisputedly cool K-Dub’s YZ250 was.
This leads us to Cycra Racing’s 2014 Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke, which is a modern take on Windham’s old race steed. In order to embody the best of past and present, we commissioned Cycra Racing, one of the premier aftermarket plastics companies, to bring Kevin Windham’s 1998 YZ250 back to life. Leafing through old issues of MXA for inspiration, Cycra Racing hit it out of the park. We know that a true-to-life Kevin Windham Replica would use a 1998 Yz250 as its base, so just consider this an ode to K-Dub more than an exact copy. We have nothing against building a 1998 version, but we’d rather have SSS suspension and modern accoutrements — so shoot us!All that remained was putting the pieces together, which Cal Northrop from FTI Suspension gladly did. It’s amazing what can be accomplished through teamwork. And, surprising even to us, we didn’t go overboard with the project build. That’s because the late-model Yamaha YZ250 needed very few revisions. Let us highlight the changes.
Engine. Wiseco makes an assortment of piston sizes and compression rates for the Yamaha YZ250. It’s obvious that the bike needs more power in order to stay somewhat competitive with the latest KTM 250SX and Husqvarna TC250 offerings. For that reason, we ordered a Wiseco high-compression piston. Complementing the boost was an FMF Fatty pipe coupled with an FMF Powercore 2 stainless steel silencer. Those additions gave the YZ250 more power. An 8-ounce flywheel weight was installed to smooth out the hit. Why a flywheel weight? It improves the two-stroke’s power—and the 1998 factory YZ250s ran them.
All engines produce power, but every one has a unique feel. The Cycra YZ250 top end felt tighter than a drum. It’s amazing how the Wiseco high-compression piston made the engine suddenly become brand new again. Overall, the modifications created greater hit. The flywheel weight did tamp bottom-end surge—in a good way—particularly on tight tracks, and we went back and forth between stock gearing and one extra tooth. In our experience, FMF’s Shorty silencer would have created more bottom-end grunt than the Powercore 2.
Suspension. Cal Northrop at FTI Suspension didn’t need to do much to the magnificent Kayaba SSS suspension. He stiffened up the valving for big hits and balanced the front and rear for optimal handling. The YZ250’s pedestrian cornering traits were livened up with a set of Xtrig ROCS adjustable triple clamps with two offset options—the stock 25mm and a more extreme 23mm. We preferred 23mm.
FTI’s mods resulted in a more progressive feel than the stock setup. The forks didn’t drop down in the stroke as much. We’ve noticed how the front end tends to shake when the YZ250 is ridden hard, but that didn’t occur with the FTI-tuned Kayaba forks. Here is how we set up the FTI suspension.
KAYABA SSS FORK SETTINGS
Spring rate: 0.46 kg/mm
Compression: 10 clicks out
Rebound: 12 clicks out
Fork-leg height: 5mm up
Oil quantity: 360cc
KAYABA SHOCK SETTINGS
Spring rate: 4.7 kg/mm
Hi-compression: 1-1/2 turns out
Lo-compression: 10 clicks out
Rebound: 10 clicks out
Race sag: 105mm
Upgrades. Companies earn their reputations based on the products they sell. Few consumers are more fickle than motocross racers. Fortunately, there are a bevy of businesses that make great products. Best of all, they don’t require you to take out a loan on your 401K. We especially liked the Tusk Impact wheels, Wiseco complete clutch, CV4 radiator hoses, Dunlop MX3S tires, Twin Air filter, Braking oversized front rotor, Cycra Rebound hand guards, Hammerhead shifter and rear brake pedal, Renthal Kevlar grips, SDG gripper seat cover, and IMS footpegs. Armored Graphix brought the Windham design to life with its completely custom graphics kit.
Our Kevin Windham replica Yamaha YZ250 was a success, because it blended a retro look with new technology. It’s the perfect bike for those who want to relive the days when two-strokes ruled motocross but still want the benefits of modern comfort. And, at only a few thousand dollars in aftermarket modifications, the Kevin Windham YZ250 should leave change in your pocket. Riding has never looked so good.
KEVIN WINDHAM REPLICA YZ250 SUPPLIER LIST
Cycra Racing: www.cycraracing.com
FTI Suspension: www.ftisuspension.com
Armored Graphix: www.armoredgraphix.com
Works Connection: www.worksconnection.com
Twin Air: www.twinairusa.com
FMF Racing: www.fmfracing.com