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Clean Steel Frame vs Roached AL frame

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Hey. Just visiting from the 250f sub-forum, with an opinion question. Basically I've decided to get back on a 125 after many years. Mid 30's now, intermediate rider, single track trails and mx practice days for riding. Plan on racing a hare scramble this summer and maybe a couple of mx races.

I need some opinions from the ppl with experience. I'm looking at getting rid of my freshly rebuilt/restored 2003 yz250f to get on a yz125. After getting familiar with the 125 sale market, as it applies to my price range and location, I'm faced with a dilemma. Here's the question.

Would you buy/trade for a very clean steel frame 03/04 or would you take a typically used (most likely abused) 05+??

Seems like that's as far as my budget will take me for bike prices in my area. Thanks in advance.

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For what it sounds like you're going to do, I would take the really nice of 03-04 bike over the unknown 05 bike.

But then again having an 05 bike would be nice, with the aluminum frame and better components.

I have owned everything from an 01 YZ250 to an 04 YZ125 and for the riding I do, I could not tell a difference except for the engine size.

On another note, I would not worry too much about the cleanliness of the frame, but pay more attention to the shape and cleanliness of the engine in the internals of each bike

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On another note, I would not worry too much about the cleanliness of the frame, but pay more attention to the shape and cleanliness of the engine in the internals of each bike


That brings up another question. I'm looking at an 03 that appears to be very well taken care of, possibly a lot lower hours than most of bikes from that era, but it's never had any service besides pistons and oil changes. Would you take that bike over a suspect AL frame?

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The key word you used is appears. I've seen many bikes that look nice, but the internals were not taken care of. Case in point is a yz250f I recently bought, it look nice but when I change the oil the oil was basically black, so that tells me that it probably was not truly maintained as it should have been.

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Steely over Aluminum for desert. 06 up for track. 

Dont let open chamber suspension change your opinion. They are good when set up for rider specs. 

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I think you'll find a lot of love for the steel framed bikes, don't get hung up on the aluminum hype. There are guys that swear the controlled flex of the steel frame is favored over the stiffer aluminum frame. I would buy the the cleanest overall bike I could find, saving some in the budget for suspension work regardless of year.

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Thanks for the replies. From what I've read so far it sounds like there are a lot of advantages to the 05+ bikes. 6 speed, suspension, motor, and of course resale.

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59 minutes ago, ca_101 said:

Thanks for the replies. From what I've read so far it sounds like there are a lot of advantages to the 05+ bikes. 6 speed, suspension, motor, and of course resale.

You will NOT find that in Steel 02-04 on 125. But, you can put a complete 98-2001 trans-plant 6 speed in it. 

All 250's still have the 5 speed. But, that didn't stop anyone from adding 3,4,5, WR gears either. 

Edited by Gary YZDOC

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I have both an 03 and an 06.  Despite all the "upgrades" (new motor, aluminum frame, SSS suspension, 6 speed, yada yada), I prefer the 03.  Not a huge difference, but the 03 just works better and is more fun.  Lap times are the same.

I am an off-road rider/racer, and both of my YZs have been set up by the same well-regarded suspension tuner.

Bottom line--with a YZ 125, I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on any good-condition bike after 98.  In my experience the differences are far less than magazine articles would have you believe when you ride them back-to-back.  And the steel models tend to be much more reasonably priced.  

Besides, it's great fun to totally smoke somebody on a new bike with what is clearly an old bike!

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15 hours ago, ca_101 said:

Thanks for the replies. From what I've read so far it sounds like there are a lot of advantages to the 05+ bikes. 6 speed, suspension, motor, and of course resale.

I'm not sure where you've read of the "advantages" but it's not from the people here that have owned them here.  As far as resale, I've never bought a dirt bike based on resale. I buy dirt bikes on overall condition.

Edited by zeke383
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I'm not sure where you've read of the "advantages" but it's not from the people here that have owned them here.  .


The SSS is not considered and advantage over the 03 46mm open chambers? The general consensus is not the 6-speed is preferred over the 5-speed?

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But these are exactly the responses I was looking for. If the differences are that marginal, then I would definitely choose a clean bike over the latter.
Fwiw, I don't put a lot of stock in resale, but I do consider it. My interests change a lot; I might only keep a bike for a year or two, then try something different. And in my experience the steel frame bikes take a hit on value. They're dated. In my eyes they're just different and the overall differences in eras is just what I was interested in. Are there enough positive differences to start a little further behind for the same amount of money up front? Doesn't sound like it.

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I've had a 2011 yz250, a steel framed 2001 yz125 and now a KTM250SX. This is not a post about ktm vs Yamaha, but I have always favored a steel frame. For most people properly set up suspension will be good regardless if it's the sss or not. Yes sss is better stock but if you're getting back into the sport I would not turn down a clean pre 05 bike. Checkout some builds on here and vital and you'll find the steel framed YZs are pretty highly regarded and even sought after from woods riders. Don't get hung up on popularity or resale value.

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The appeal of the SSS is simple, it can be revalved and setup for ANY rider. A slower new rider or a professional off road or MX racer, anyone. It's a very versatile fork. The older 05 and previous fork had it's limits but can easily be tuned for most riders, just not all. 

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I bought an 05 yz250 and it was in bad shape plus it needed a good bit of work so I got rid of it. Not long after, I found an 04 that was like new and I've been riding it since. I only use it as a woods bike and I love it, I have just as much fun on it in the woods as I do with my 15 450 on the track and I was pretty surprised by that.
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6 hours ago, Texasxcrider said:

The appeal of the SSS is simple, it can be revalved and setup for ANY rider. A slower new rider or a professional off road or MX racer, anyone. It's a very versatile fork. The older 05 and previous fork had it's limits but can easily be tuned for most riders, just not all. 

Having revalved a few open bath KYB's, i would say you actually can revalved them for all needs.  For instance you can easily add a low speed compression stack to make it behave much better in the woods.  No, it's not better than the SSS.......but I can make it pretty dang good.

 

 

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A good clean 125 is like a unicorn. Very hard to find. Don't limit yourself to Yamaha only. I just picked up a Honda cr125 2002 that is rumored to be very slow and have a super narrow Power Band. I rode one many years ago and it was jetted poorly and I contributed to the myth that they are horrible running bike. This particular one that I picked up is jetted well and runs great. Shop around for other brands besides Yamaha. You could end up riding sooner than waiting for the right yz to come along.

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