Interest in trail riding has been growing over the past few years. With so many enjoyable sites and trails nearby, it’s no surprise it’s been picking up. Naturally, for those getting into the sport, the search for an ideal trail bike can be daunting. Yamaha, however, hopes to make it much simpler with their offering, the Serow 250.
The Serow, named after a mountain goat, has been around for some time. For this model year, Yamaha has blessed it with some timely updates to keep it competitive in its segment. And for us to truly appreciate these updates and the bike as a whole, Yamaha Philippines invited members of the media to sample the new bike on the Sapang Bato trail in Pampanga.
Most noticeable in the updated Serow is its new look. It’s now available in two-tone white and orange or white and blue. It retains the 100 mm halogen headlight in front, but features a new LED rear tail light for better visibility. Yamaha has reworked the rear fender to accommodate the new tail light as well as distinguish it from its predecessor.
Powering it is a 248 cc air-cooled 4-stroke single cylinder SOHC engine. It is fuel injected and produces 19.6 PS at 7,500 rpm and 20.3 Nm of torque at 6,000 rpm. These figures may not be new but what has changed is the model’s emissions compliance. The Serow 250 is now Euro-4 compliant thanks to a reworked exhaust that adds an additional canister to limits emissions. There’s also an O2 sensor in the exhaust pipe to ensure a constant optimum air / fuel mixture — vital when going off-road in a mountain where the air can get thinner as you climb.
What sets the Serow apart from the competition are elements that make it ideal for a trail. First of all, it has low engine noise so as not to disturb nearby residents. It has long stroke suspension to tame even the roughest of bumps for a comfortable ride. Its long seat allows for a variety of riding positions, letting the rider find one that returns the best balance for the situation. Toothed footpegs also ensure good grip even when your riding boots are caked in mud. Finally, there are grip handles in the rear to easily pick up the bike if you drop it over an obstacle.
Many of these features would prove more valuable once on the trail already. I’m no off-road expert and so I had my apprehensions about taking the Serow to a trail frequented by hardcore 4x4 drivers and trail riders.
Like most trail bikes, the Yamaha Serow is relatively high but not too much for the short of stature. Its seat height of 830 mm is accessible for most riders. It’s also quite light, tipping the scales at just 133 kg wet weight.
Paired with a 250 cc engine, that’s quite a lot of power, particularly for off-road terrain. Most of the time, I find the bike practically idling along over most of the bumps compared to our colleagues on XTZ’s that were already revving high.
The knobby tires on the 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear wheel seemed to find grip even where there seemingly was none. I easily rolled through muddy tracks and soft riverbeds with no problem. Admittedly, the only part it struggled with was a short stretch of soft lahar. To be fair, everyone seemed to have trouble keeping it straight here.
Once out of that area, we were traveling pretty quickly over the river bed. Our colleagues had advised me to keep my shoulders and elbows loose. After all, I was tense for the first few kilometers. Sure enough, it made much of the terrain easier to handle.
There were short stretches of steep descents as well and this is where the Serow’s low gearing proved invaluable. By simply leaving it in first gear, I rolled down the hill easily and at a comfortable speed without needing to feather the front brake.
The gearbox seemed like a perfect fit for this kind of terrain. The gears where just the right speed for a variety of situations, you’ll find yourself hadly on the brakes at all. It was easy to regulate over many obstacles with a light clutch and responsive throttle.
I also realized just how easy it was to lock up the rear wheels in this kind of terrain. Thankfully, the front brake always returned grip when needed.
There was one stretch where I found myself in trouble. In the middle of a river crossing, I had managed to stall the bike repeatedly and dig the rear wheel in the soft riverbed. The electric starter was a godsend in this situation. Thanks to the rear grab handle, I was able to lift it out of the rut and start up again.
It wasn’t just a simple trail ride as many would expect. Yamaha had laid challenges on various stations along the way where we were to solve challenges with what we knew about the new Serow 250. These involved matching the performance specs with the figures and spotting what’s new with the Serow. Getting the challenges correct allowed us to collect flags. Each flag corresponded to a cash donation, groceries, or supplies for indigenous families our teams were paired up with.
Later on, these flags would be tallied up, the donations collected, and handed over to our partner families. It was an appropriate gesture as this trail passes through ancestral domain owned by these indigenous families.
From left, Coach Mel Aquino with winning team Maynard Marcelo of Wheel 2 Wheel and Benedict Maniquis (Motodeck), with Yamaha's Jude Camus.
In the end, all those involved: from Yamaha Philippine staff, the invited members of the media, and indigenous people came home happy from a unique trail ride that benefitted all.
The Yamaha Serow certainly proved itself as a great bike whether for starting trail riders or veterans. Its light weight, incredible grip and perfect gear ratios made what I thought would be a challenging ride surprisingly easy.
I certainly understand the appeal of trail-riding now, and with a Yamaha Serow 250 priced at P229,000, might seriously think about getting into it.