What you should know about
Yamaha’s big surprise
1. We didn’t see it coming. Six months ago, Yamaha stunned us
with the announcement of its new, fuel-injected off-road bike. All
we had been hearing was bad news about the economy, and suddenly Yamaha reinvests and reinvents its WR450F. Good for them.
2. Yamaha already had most of the pieces. The frame came
from the YZ250F, and the motor is pretty much the same as the
older WR450F, with the exception of its new fuel-injection system.
This uses a capacitor to light up the EFI box and the fuel pump,
just like the YZ450F. The WR has a battery for the electric starter,
but it doesn’t need one to run.
3. In stock form, the WR meets EPA and CARB emission
standards. It’s approved for public lands and a California greed
sticker—sorry, green sticker. What confuses us is that it comes with
a throttle stop that only allows half throttle. Virtually everyone
replaces this with the part from the YZ. It also has a pea-shooter-size baffle within another baffle within the exhaust. Again, most
customers remove this. With both restrictions removed, the bike is
still much quieter than the KTM or the Beta, yet it’s technically no
longer legal, while those bikes are. Apparently, Yamaha’s internal
standards are much higher than KTM’s, Beta’s or even Honda’s.
4. With those two restrictions gone, the WR motor is fairly
strong. It’s faster than the old WR and just a little faster than the
Honda, but it’s not in the same league as the KTM, TM or Beta, all
of which are much more powerful throughout the powerband.
Yamaha did an OK job with the fuel injection. It has a smooth transition from off to on, unlike the jerky YZ motocrosser. It has an
occasional lean stumble down low, but you learn to live with it.
5. Yamaha knows the motor is no ball of fire. The company’s
accessory group offers a $100 competition kit. This consists of the
new throttle stop and a whole new CPU. The CPU has performance
settings that bring up the performance level a notch. If you add a
race pipe, it’s suddenly in the same league as the KTM power-wise—a stock KTM, that is.
6. The new frame works. It makes the WR feel much thinner,
more compact and more agile than the old WR. Big riders might
find it cramped, but it’s still a good-handling bike, especially on
tight, low-speed trails. The more twisty and difficult the trail, the
better the bike behaves. The steering is excellent.
7. At higher speeds, the WR is stable, but the bike’s weight is
a factor. It weighs 262 pounds without fuel, and while its laser
steering and narrow chassis can cover that up at low speed, there’s
no cheating the laws of physics. At a faster pace, the bike’s mass
makes braking more difficult and direction changes more physically
8. The suspension is firm. It’s more race-oriented than that of
the older WR. In the past, the WR fork was so soft it would virtually
collapse on steep downhills and wallow in whoops. Now, it stays
high in its stroke and can handle much rougher terrain. The flip side
is that it’s not as cushy and friendly on super-slow trails.
9. The five-speed transmission has a good spread, but the
shifting is notchy. The clutch has the stiffest pull of the group.
10. The new WR is a much more serious package than its predecessor. It’s still a little fluffy by KTM standards. The price is impressive for a brand-new model, at $8090, but you’ll have to spend about
$400 more to get the most from it. We’re just happy it’s here.