2015 Yamaha WR-250F
In 2009 I got the chance to ride a Yamaha WR-250F in the Peak District of Northern England. It was an all-day outing with Overlander Trail Tours. I wrote an article about the ride that got published in Dirt Rider Magazine. See: http://www.dirtrider.com/features/online-exclusives/141_1004_a_british_off_road_adventure/
It was a quite an eye opening experience since it was the first time I had ever ridden an enduro bike or especially a Yamaha WR 250F. I was surprisingly impressed with the bike. I could not keep from praising the motorcycle for its light nimble handling, forgiving power band and properly silenced muffler. In Great Britain these bikes are street legal off the showroom floor and so they have to meet stringent decibel levels. I later published an unedited version of the article in my blog. Did I mention that I loved the bike? The new 2015 model is a very highly upgraded machine because it borrows a lot from the motocross version without losing the enduro tuned engine and suspension.
I never imagined that I would purchase the bike myself. That is until the 2015 version showed up on the showroom floor of my local motorcycle dealer. I took one look and I was over the moon in love with the bike. I couldn’t stop drooling. It is the most updated version of the venerable Yamaha four stroke enduro bike that I had ever seen. It incorporates the latest motocross suspension (KYB speed sensitive spring forks and KYB rear shock with a 50mm piston; both front and rear with Kashima coating) and the radical center of gravity design that the Yamaha engineers had dreamed up with the motor and fuel tank in the center of the bike. It incorporates the backwards engine and four titanium valves from the motocross version, the YZ 250F.
Of course it is fifty-state legal, but the thing that really caught my eye was the fact that it looks a lot like the class winning 2014 YZ250F. From the backwards engine, to fuel injection, to the latest Yamaha motocross suspension; it was a lot more than just a replica of the famed Yamaha motocross machine. On top of that it has a wide ratio six speed transmission, a lightweight plastic skid plate, an eighteen inch rear wheel, a fan for low speed sections, an engine tuned for enduro riding on single track and conquering big, scary obstacles, a side stand, electric start and an enduro computer complete with a low fuel light indicator and engine light. With one or two minor modifications it is a competitive mount for riding national enduro type events.
I was hooked and I purchased the bike without a second thought even though it had the ungodly seat height of thirty-eight inches just like the motocross version and it weighed quite a bit more (248lbs dry). It had a big power deficit compared to the Yamaha YZ250F and it cost a few hundred dollars more. It had virtually no power once you got into the upper revs but had a torquey low end and a decent mid-range.
At the advanced age of sixty-five I didn’t need a race bike and the fact that it had almost the same motor, chassis and suspension as the motocross version with enduro tuning made it irresistible. On top of that it was good for the environment with a mildly tuned four stoke engine.
So does the bike perform or does it just look good? In short; the answer is a big YES! Once you are in motion riding the bike, it disappears underneath you and feels basically weightless. It is light and agile until you crash and try to pick it up. That is when you feel the extra weight. The suspension deals with small low speed hits as well as huge high speed G-outs. I am still breaking it in and so I have not fiddled much with the settings except for the pre-load. This post is just a first impression.
At one point I tried to power my way through a set if steep faced seemingly endless whoops and when the bike hit the weak high rev part of the power band the front wheel dropped. I gave it throttle going up the next whoop and it flew into the air and came down front wheel first into a deep depression between whoops. I thought that would be the end of my test ride, but the forks absorbed the hit and I motored on through the whoops. It was amazing although not as versatile through the whoops as my open class bikes. They have an endless power band no matter how long I have to hold the throttle on to clear a long section of whoops (my CRF 450 and KX 500).
It climbs the most steep, treacherous and rutted trails and comes back down as smooth as silk. It winds around tightly spaced trees and goes over roots without flinching. It feels unstoppable on the most hazardous single track. Just hold it on and go. If it is necessary you can shift up or down through the gears or slip the clutch. However, most of the time you can just use the throttle and go where ever you want to go. The bike can be flicked around effortlessly. It steers mostly with the front wheel or you can slide the rear wheel by leaning the bike and spinning the rear wheel around with the throttle. Of course, you can steer with both the front and rear wheels if you prefer. It is that versatile.
It jumps naturally without any theatrics and you can just use your weight and the throttle bring up the front wheel to clear obstacles in the trail or get good air coming off of jumps. Of course it is not as powerful as a motocross bike and so you are limited on the track. But, if you choose your lines and your gears carefully you can keep up to some degree. It is advantageous if there are a lot of tight turns that the bike can flow through without having to slow down and where you can use the throttle to maintain momentum coming out of the corner. You feel like a pro throwing it around on this type of track.
By the time of my second or third ride the rings seated in and now it is like my one-twenty-five two stroke of old but much, much faster. You just leave the throttle on and use a little clutch and it jumps to attention in the upper revs. It is a typical Yamaha clutch which is one the best in terms of engagement and disengagement. It is always right where you need it with a very progressive feel. The bike is so powerful that it feels better than an open class bike in terms of throttle response. Wow… Now I can go through those whoops without the fear of the front wheel dropping and hitting the steep edge of the next whoop.
I still don’t have a lot of seat time but these are my first impressions of a near stock, not heavily modified bike. Later I will describe the bike more fully as I get more time to ride it in enduro type conditions.