VINTAGE TECH SHOOT OUT: YAMAHA BLASTER 200 2-STROKE VS. YAMAHA RAPTOR 250 4 STROKE

Which was better?

It has been a decade since the final Yamaha Raptor 250 left the assembly line and even longer for the Yamaha Blaster 200 2-stroke, but even today the debate continues – Which one was better? We’re jumping back nearly 12 years for the answer when we pitted the two against each other in a Dirt Wheels shoot-out, both machines equipped with the aftermarket mods that were popular during their time. The pricing also reflects the time period, so be prepared to find out how harsh inflation is. Just so you know, we’d still pick the same winner today. Enjoy the read!


YAMAHA BLASTER 200 2-STROKE VS. YAMAHA RAPTOR 250 4 STROKE

It was a sad time when Yamaha announced it was going to discontinue the 200cc, two-stroke Blaster after the 2006 model year. Industry changes and strict EPA guidelines forced manufacturers to significantly reduce the amount of two-stroke machines they produced, so the Blaster and Banshee were cut from the lineup.

Fortunately for Yamaha and smaller-sized sport quad riders, the ATV that replaced the Blaster, the Raptor 250, is great. The Raptor is similar in size and operation, and features an air-cooled, four-stroke engine.

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HISTORY

Both powerplants found in these quads were taken from motorcycles in Yamaha’s lineup. The Blaster engine came from the IT 200 Enduro bike, and the Raptor 250 engine powers a European, Yamaha motorcycle called the Tricker.

The Blaster has been around since the late ’80s. It received only one major upgrade in its entire existence. It was that good compared to its competition. In 2003, Yamaha replaced the hard-to-maintain mechanical disc rear and front drum brakes with hydraulic discs at both ends. At that time, the headlight also was integrated into the front nose piece, giving it a sleeker look.

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For this test, we wanted to take another look at how the old Blaster compares to its newer replacement. There are tons of used Blasters for sale and plenty of aftermarket parts to freshen up a machine if you find a good deal on one. Remember, rebuilding a two-stroke costs a fraction of what a four-stroke rebuild is. The biggest problem you would have with a pre-2003 machine is getting the rear brakes in good working order.

Our 2001 Blaster did need a new rear brake cable, and we also removed the oil injection tank, and the carburetor top was replaced by a Motion Pro unit.

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COMPARISONS

Yamaha’s Raptor 250 has a much higher price tag at $4500 than the last (2006) Blaster did at $3300. Our test unit was actually a 2001 model we purchased for $800.

A stock Blaster is powered by a 200cc, two-stroke engine with a manual clutch and a six-speed gearbox. The Raptor’s four-stroke powerplant has five speeds, a manual clutch transmission, two-valves and a single overhead cam displacing 249cc.

Suspension systems are similar, utilizing dual A-arms up front and a steel swingarm out back. Yamaha did not use the same chassis for the Raptor as was used on the Blaster. A new frame, suspension geometry and, of course, bodywork were all developed for the Raptor. Yamaha only gave the Raptor a fraction more wheel travel. The numbers read 7.1 inches at both ends of the Blaster and 7.5 front/7.9 rear for the Raptor. A huge handling improvement made to the Raptor 250 is found in the 19-inch rear and 20-inch front tires. The Blaster was equipped with 21-inch balloons at all four corners.

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MODIFICATIONS

To make these machines more like what a typical owner would ride, we made a couple of upgrades. Both machines were equipped with $75, aluminum Renthal handlebars replacing the stock steel units. They also had their stock exhaust systems replaced by new FMF products. Retail price for the complete Blaster system is $350, and the Raptor’s slip-on muffler we used will set you back $199.

Jetting requirements on the Blaster included a Dyno Jet kit (#DN190) with the needle placed on the top clip, a change to a 170 mainjet and three turns out on the fuel screw using the stock pilot jet. The Raptor worked great without any jetting changes after we installed the FMF slip-on muffler.

To freshen up the Blaster’s powerplant, we dropped in a Hot Rods stroker crank with 4mm additional stroke ($230) and a 1.5mm overbore Vertex piston ($92). To do this, the cases had to be machined and new Cometic gaskets ($80) were installed. On the intake side of things, we installed a new Moto Tassinari reed cage ($148) and a new foam air filter. Our older Blaster also received a full set of Race Tech shocks, DG nerf bars, front bumper and swingarm skid plate.

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POWER UP

An electric starter is found on the Raptor while the Blaster has a conventional kick-starter. Yamaha’s Blaster has always been an easy machine to start. One light kick will usually fire the two-stroke engine up. The choke is easy to access on the carb, and warm-up time is minimal. The two-stroke tone is slightly lower than the Raptor’s four-stroke engine.

Out on the track, handling and power differences were very noticeable. Power-wise, the two-stroke Blaster has very little bottom end. You have to ride the clutch coming out of the corners and keep the revs up to accelerate fast. The stroker kit and added displacement helped this a little but didn’t make it quite as rider-friendly as the four-stroke power of the Raptor.

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That broad power of the Raptor makes the machine great for any skill level. You can lug the thumper around and not worry so much about gear selection.

When you do want to go fast, our 218cc Blaster has the ponies if you know how to find them. Rev it hard, shift often and you can win a drag race or even turn faster lap times on the Blaster. However, for the average rider, the easy-to-use Raptor 250 will produce speed.

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We had three riders of different skill levels record their fastest laps around our local track (AV Motoplex.com) and the results were very telling. The beginner’s times showed the biggest difference. On the Blaster, his lap time was 3:44 seconds. On the Raptor, his lap time dropped to 3:11. Our intermediate tester’s lap times were a bit closer. On the Blaster, he turned a 3:04 time, and on the Raptor, a 2:57 lap.

When our pro rider took the controls, a faster time of 2:47 was turned on the modified Blaster, versus a 2:50 on the Raptor. This tester admitted he was really abusing the motor and clutch to get it to go that fast. However, the Hot Rods crank and Vertex piston held up well to the abuse.

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TRAIL TIME

On the track and trails, the Blaster’s handling characteristics were decades behind the Raptor’s. When you turn the Raptor, it goes exactly where you point it. The Blaster pushes in the corners even when using large amounts of body English.

Over jumps, the Blaster would always fly front-end high. When the Blaster was designed, wheelies were more important than lap times; so the Blaster is a wheelie machine, if you can find the sweet spot of the powerband and keep it balanced. The Raptor is also a wheelie master. But in the air, the Raptor flies flat and is even more controllable.

With the upgraded shocks from Race Tech and lower-profile tires on the Blaster, that machine offered plusher landings. We have always said that the Raptor’s shocks were a little on the soft side. And for 2011, Yamaha listened and made them compression adjustable.

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CONCLUSIONS

Which one is better? The Raptor 250 is better. While it’s not always faster, it handles better, is more comfortable, newer-looking and stops quicker. The Blaster tends to push or even two-wheel in the corners, where the Raptor corners more like it is on rails. Power levels on the Blaster can be higher if you know how to find them. If you don’t, the more forgiving Raptor is a better choice.

However, if you already own or can find a great deal on a Blaster (2003 or newer), the Blaster is worth considering. You can make an older Yamaha Blaster worth owning with help from companies like Hot Rods, Vertex, Moto Tassinari, Dunlop and Renthal.

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