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Yamaha WR450 – Test

Having a good look over the Yammi in the garage beforehand revealed a really well put together dirt bike… so here we go
Our off-road Editor, A-grader and ex Rapid Bikes scribe, Ben O’Brien, puts Yamaha’s 2016 WR450F to the test. Here’s his full review. Test by Ben O’Brien Photography by Keith Muir
It’s been a while since I sampled a Yamaha WR450 so I was pretty interested to see how the reverse-cylinder YZ-F motor would go in the 2016 enduro spec WR450F.
Having a good look over the Yammi in the garage beforehand revealed a really well put together dirt bike… so here we go.
The Good Stuff
Airfilter access is super easy thanks to having the intake tract up top in front of the fuel tank, meaning two things. One, you would have to try really hard to drown the WR in a river, I mean really try. Second is that the airfilter stays cleaner for longer… a win-win.
Enduro bikes get abused and coming standard with a cooling fan as the Yamaha does is gold, something other manufacturers should take note of.
If you’re a tinkerer then the Yamaha Power Tuner to adjust the engine tune is an easy DYI option. I did not get the chance to plug one in and see the results in this test but it looks easy to use and for around $400, is something I would end up owning.
The Not So Good
Let me just quickly get the couple of small issues out of the way. Cable clutch – while there is nothing terribly wrong with a cable clutch they just don’t have the same feel as a hydraulic clutch and in 2016 punters should expect a hydraulic clutch on an enduro bike.
Mechanical speedo drive to electronic speedo, this just makes no sense to me, more parts and more weight for no reason. The WR is also an enduro bike and as such I think a 7.5L fuel tank is just too small. Even though it should be technically possible to get 100km out of a tank depending on terrain and riding style – which I feel is the minimum – another couple of litres would be nice.
Everything fits and feels just right. Starting with the bend of the ‘bars all the way to the comfortable and wide footpegs, big tick here. Controls all fall easily to hand and the lack of switches on the bars is nice and easy. Start button on the right and kill switch on the left, simple.
Moving around on the seat is easy as it is very flat and a long day in the saddle is no problem either so another tick. The dual trip computer is also easy to use and see, even while riding.
On The Trail
The 2016 WR fires to life easily with the press of the button, hot or cold with no issues, the starter has been redesigned and obviously they have nailed it. I would like to say that I checked the kickstarter but I really did not even consider using it.
Intake noise does take a few minutes to get used to, as at first you get the feeling your private parts are about to be sucked into the intake tract but this passes after a couple of minutes.
 Power is extremely linear off the bottom before getting meatier in the mid-range making the WR very easy to ride, fast or slow. Riding in the upper rev range on the other hand produces insane amounts of power that few riders could take advantage of on a normal trail ride.
This motor likes to rev having a shorter stroke and larger bore than say a KTM. The ticket was to short shift a little and use the really nice torque for the most part. But, and there is always a but, when your mates pull alongside you crack the throttle and leave them in your dust. The new fuel injection system is also very clean and there are no flat spots to be found across the rev range.
That awesome torque curve makes hills disappear with a minimum of fuss by keeping the back tyre controlled and for a fuel injected dirt bike there is very good feel between your right wrist and the back wheel.
Both front and rear brakes are powerful with good feel, you can’t ask for more than that. Yamaha have upped the front brake to a 270mm job so not only are they very strong they also stay cooler for longer.
Yamaha supplied the bike shod with a Metzeler Six Days Extreme front tyre which I am not a huge fan of, with Dunlop’s dual compound AT81 on the rear.
Feeling comfortable within a couple of minutes of hitting the dirt, I was launching up and off rock ledges, popping over three-foot logs and generally just having a blast.
Out of the gate, with a trail ride to get a good feel for the WR450F, I was struggling with the rear end kicking all over the trail. This was not a one off and was cause for concern. A quick trail-side stop to check all the shock settings and make some changes by slowing high speed damping down and increasing rebound proved fruitful and went a long way to sorting the issue out.
Back in the rough stuff with the shock behaving much better it is easy to push through the rough rocks with confidence. There is also plenty more adjustment in the shock, which would allow even more control over the rear end.
KYB’s AOS 48mm dual chamber forks have been tweaked from motocross to suit enduro duties. When pushed hard they had a bit of a spike or harsh spot at about half stroke, but considering this test bike was only 200km old that’s not really surprising and dual chamber forks are known for requiring a long run in period.
Riding at an average trail pace the Yamaha was a little on the firm side, again with only a couple of hundred kilometers on the clock this would loosen up to be pretty much spot on.
Upping the pace closer to race pace, the WR was still planted but the front end was a little soft in big drop offs and G-outs. Overall the front end behaved exceptionally well, especially in the rocks.
After a good trail ride, cutting laps around my special test loop and testing the WR450 for its intended purpose I dropped into some technical riding of undercut rock ledges, three foot high logs and similar.
Amazingly the bike performed very well, only stalling a couple of times due to the fuel injection off the very bottom flaming out every so often – this is certainly not the bike’s intended purpose but it did exceptionally well.
In fact when cutting test laps the change of direction for a 450 was outstanding, flicking from corner to corner with ease. I would put this down to how the weight is placed in the frame and the tilted back cylinder.
Riding the 2016 Yamaha WR450F over a wide range of terrain showed that this a serious bike that will suit a huge range of riders, racers and terrain and the WR450F is well priced at $12,999 +ORC. Or for an extra $200 you can get the 60th Anniversary model in yellow for $13,199 +ORC.
The completely new 2016 WR450F engine comes directly from the YZ motocrosser with the reversed cylinder and all. The front intake makes complete sense for an enduro bike, keeping the airfilter high and dry, as well as away from all that dust off the rear wheel.
Going away from the five-valve design of the past, the WR450F now runs the four-valve head with double-overhead cams matched to the Keihin fuel injection system.
With a bore and stroke of 97.0 x 60.8mm, this engine likes to rev. In saying that it also has bulk amounts of torque, so choose your riding style. The throttle-body is also 2mm larger than last year’s WR, now at 44mm making for better top-end power.
Being mated to a five-speed gearbox with slightly changed second, third, and fourth gear ratios and an all new clutch the engine is also truly enduro ready and the WR450F’s clutch has been upgraded and includes new friction plates for better feel.
The exhaust sound is crisp but not obtrusive, while the Yamaha holds just under one litre of engine oil in its wet sump. Engine power is also fully adjustable with optional Yamaha Power Tuner which is simple to use and runs on batteries.
Sitting on the 2016 WR450F it truly feels like a much smaller bike and is narrow between your legs and easy to move around on. The aluminium bilateral beam frame has been modified for enduro use along with the engine mounts to reduce rigidity for better bush manners.
The KYB Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) forks have been taken directly from the YZ with shim and spring changes to make for a much plusher ride and have an added bonus of reducing the chance of cavitation, thus providing a more consistent ride from start to finish.
Other notable changes include different radiators for increased cooling and a cooling fan as standard. The radiator shrouds with graphics recessed into moldings look better for longer and have been redesigned to increase airflow, again reducing running temperatures.
Nice touches include the four way adjustable handlebar position, 270mm oversized front brake which is noticeable on the trail and the top mount easily accessible airfilter.
Keyless starting and extremely minimalistic wiring keep everything very neat and easy to maintain. The speedo is easy to read and has both low fuel and engine warning lights.
The 2016 WR450F weighs in at 117kg without fuel or 123kg with a full tank of fuel.
Off Road Kit is supplied standard with the WR450F and includes :
Rear number plate/LED light
Braided steel front brake hose
Barkbuster hand guards with WR molded in the plastic guards
Brake snake, rear stop light and hydraulically operated switch
Full power muffler insert
YZ airfilter cage
Racing wire harness for headlight and tail light.
Specifications: 2016 Yamaha WR450F
Price: $12,999 + ORC (13,199 + ORC, SE)
Colours: Team Yamaha Blue and White (Special 60th Anniversary Edition – Yellow)
Dry weight: 117kg
Fuel capacity: 7.5L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, four-stroke, single-cylinder 449cc, 97 x 60.8mm bore x stroke, 12.5:1 compression, EFI
Gearbox: Five-speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Chassis: Aluminium bilateral beam frame, Rake: 26.2°, Trail: 114mm
Suspension: KYB Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) forks, fully adjustable, KYB single shock, full adjustable
Brakes: Hydraulic single 270mm front disc, hydraulic single rear 245mm disc
Wheels & Tyres: 90/90 – 21, 130/90 – 18, Metzeler Six Days Extreme
Wheelbase: 1465mm
Seat height: 965mm
Overall height: 1280mm
Overall width: 825mm
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