Hanging in the back of the pack with the EX, the Blaster is here for far different reasons. Far from the easy-access fun that the 250EX and Z250 represent, the Blaster is the more archaic of our two "old-school" models. No electric start, no reverse, a two-stroke powerplant and no autoclutch means the Yamaha takes some know-how to operate. One tester, with moderate experience, began the test calling it the worst machine he'd ever operated in his life but did a 180 and put it in first place by the end of the test.
Fresh from a remake for 2003, the Blaster received a new headlight--molded into the front plastic--and disc brakes sourced from its big brother, the Raptor. The disc brakes are a welcome improvement and erase one of the long-standing gripes about the little machine. The other (that it has too much motor for its chassis) still applies.
Small, aggressive riders seem to favor the Yamaha the most. Light and compact, it's the smallest ATV here. Riders not afraid to get on the throttle will get the most from the Blaster, gunning it into its powerband and getting the back end sliding. Not helping things back there are the most antiquated tires in this test. The balloonlike hoops look like holdovers from the days of three-wheeled ATVs, and they are! A limiting factor while cornering, they tuck if pushed too hard. Less aggressive riders had trouble turning at all. The front tires will push in corners if not attacked aggressively and could cause you to drop out of the powerband.
Suspension was another concern. At casual speeds it was fine; it worked through its stroke for a reasonably plush ride. However, as velocity increased the machine reached its limits quickly and without much warning. It was good in whoops--up to a point. Its generous power and light weight help hold its nose up, but in trying to keep pace with the Z250 or Kawasaki Mojave, it blew through its stroke and bottomed out, causing all kinds of mayhem with the bouncy tires taking up suspension duties. Technical terrain was also tricky, as the explosive power, combined with really low ground clearance between the rear wheels and no reverse, made things interesting.
Unlike every other quad here, the Blaster lives for the dunes. Its superior top-end power had it railing along where the others bogged down. The same characteristics had it claiming top dog in top speed, but we'd have a hard time recommending that anyone find themselves tapped out in sixth gear on the twitchy Blaster--at 60ish mph it was roughly equivalent to a 400cc four-stroke.
So how did this seeming basket case claim a spot higher than Honda's rock- solid 250EX? Simple: price and potential. The Blaster's longevity and popularity have earned it a huge aftermarket following. For the $700-$900 you save in the purchase price you could get a set of shocks and tires and fix the handling woes; and a few dollars more will buy you a pipe to broaden the powerband.
An oil-pressure warning light...
An oil-pressure warning light is the only indicator on this dash.
Rookie riders who had never...
Rookie riders who had never ridden an air-cooled two-stroke before our test were concerned about the variety of noises the Blaster's powerplant made.
The lightweight quad has the...
The lightweight quad has the longest-travel front suspension in the test, but its poor damping has it blowing through the stroke on a regular basis.
+ Great motor
+ Bargain priced
- Bad suspension
- High-maintenance two-stroke
= Great potential with strategic hop-ups