Exploring Motocross History: Rick Johnson’s 1984 Yamaha YZ250 Legacy

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In this week’s edition of Two-Stroke Tuesday, proudly presented by Decal Works, we delve into the legendary 1984 YZ250 ridden by Rick Johnson. This iconic bike marked his championship victory that year and foreshadowed the future as it was a production-based model. By 1984, Yamaha foresaw the impending implementation of production rules and took proactive measures.

Prior to the season kickoff, Yamaha summoned Broc Glover and Ricky Johnson and delivered a bold declaration: for the 1984 season, they would be piloting production-based bikes. Despite their contracts stipulating access to works bikes, they were given the ultimatum to switch. Unwavering, both Glover and Johnson chose to remain with the team.

Regrettably, the 1984 YZ250 that propelled Rick Johnson to victory wasn’t stellar in its stock configuration. Despite undergoing a redesign the previous year, it lagged behind its Honda and Suzuki counterparts. Enhancements such as a modified exhaust system, porting, and select specialized components were employed to elevate RJ’s machine.

Rick Johnson's 1984 Yamaha YZ250 Legacy
Rick Johnson’s 1984 Yamaha YZ250 Legacy (Credits: Dirt Bike Magazine)

Even the front suspension remained largely based on stock elements, with minimal upgrades such as the Simons Anti-Cav kit in the fork. The rear shock boasted an Ohlins setup, providing some performance enhancements. Nonetheless, Johnson managed to secure four out of ten Nationals that season and clinched the des Nations title alongside Jeff Ward, David Bailey, and Johnny O’Mara.

A year later, Johnson ventured into testing with Honda, leaving a lasting impression. Reflecting on the experience in an interview with the LA Times, he expressed bewilderment at why Team Honda hadn’t dominated every race. Subsequently, RJ made the pivotal decision to sign with Honda for the 1986 season.

Presently, Rick Johnson’s 1984 YZ250 is under the ownership of Hugh Parker. Remarkably preserved to its appearance at the conclusion of the ’84 season, the bike retains original features such as the stock Z-spokes and drum rear brake.

Yamaha’s 1984 YZ250 featured the brand’s second iteration of a linkage rear suspension system, a precursor to configurations akin to contemporary designs introduced the following year.

Despite its championship-winning pedigree, the bike boasted surprisingly stock components, including footpegs that remained virtually unchanged.

The engine received modest modifications including porting and utilization of a longer rod compared to the stock YZ model.

Rick Johnson’s 1984 YZ250 stands as an esteemed relic of motocross history, meticulously documented and preserved. Despite offers to revisit its saddle in subsequent years, Johnson has opted to keep its legacy intact.


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Curious about KTM’s latest two-strokes introduced for 2023? We had the privilege of testing the new 300 and all other competition models at Red Bud last week. Click on the image to witness Mark Tilley pushing the limits!

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