2008 Yamaha WR250

Yamaha WR250 - www.supercoolbikes.com

Yamaha WR250 - www.supercoolbikes.com

It’s only a second or so, but a lot can come to mind while arcing through a sweeping corner on a supermoto track, listening to the asphalt scrape a few million more molecules off your footpeg. Real important stuff. Stuff like, why do motorcycle manufacturers manufacture the motorcycles they do?

For example, some segments of the U.S. motorcycle market are over-run with options. Think, sportbikes or big V-twins. Others, not so much. Think small-bore dual-sports and street-legal supermoto bikes.

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Fun. Flexible. Frugal commuters. All are words that describe the motorcycles serving these under-served markets. The OEMs should make more of these things, I think as I shift my weight from left to right, lining up for the next corner.

Luckily, Yamaha agrees with me. Unlike me, though, the Tuning Fork Co. is in a position to do something about it and is targeting both segments with two variations of the same basic platform, the WR250R (left) and the WR250X.

Yamaha WR250 - www.supercoolbikes.com

Yamaha WR250 - www.supercoolbikes.com

Inside the bikes
Each of the new WRs is powered by a single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-valve, dual-overhead-cam four-stroke engine. The wet-sump, 53.6mm-stroke motor boasts an 11.8-to-1 compression ratio, and the 77mm forged short-skirt aluminum piston revs inside a ceramic-composite-plated cylinder.

To increase durability, piston temps are kept down by a piston cooler, a nozzle machined into the cases just above the crankshaft that delivers a spray of oil to the bottom of the piston and cylinder walls. This is the same system used on Yamaha’s top-of-the-line, big-bore motocrosser, the YZ450F.

Neat stuff, but also big news is the goods bolted to that motor. With carburetors already virtually non-existent among new streetbikes, the WRs mark the next step in the advancement of fuel-injection into the dual-sport and off-road world.

A Mikuni 38mm throttle body and 12-hole injector, controlled by a 16-bit CPU, provides a direct, down-draft spray into the intake track. On the other end of the combustion chamber, the ultra-quiet exhaust is modulated by Yamaha’s EX-UP system, which increases backpressure at low rpm and increases flow at high rpm. The juice to power everything comes from a rare-earth ACM outputting 14V350W at 5,000 rpm.

It’s all kept cool by a single 900cc capacity radiator and a non-intrusive electric fan and is brought to life by electric start. There is no kickstarter. The 2-gallon tank, with a generous 0.55-gallon reserve, has an internal 36psi electronic fuel pump.

Power progresses to the rear wheel through a multi-plate (seven fiber, six steel) clutch and a wide-ratio, six-speed transmission. The final gearing is 13/43 on the WR-R and 13/42 on the WR-X. The slightly taller gearing on the WR-X is designed to make up for the difference caused by the smaller rear wheel. Both bikes come with an o-ring chain.

The 46mm inverted cartridge fork is built by Kayaba and offers both compression and rebound damping adjustment. While not quite up to par with what you’ll find on, say, the ’08 WR450F, the fork is much closer to it than what has come to be expected in this class. It’s a real off-road fork, offering 10.6 inches of travel.

The single rear shock is made by SOQI, a Yamaha-owned suspension company. Its 10.6 inches of travel are adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping. The rear shock also offers an inch of ride-height adjustment. Haven’t heard of SOQI? It’s been out there for awhile. Yamaha uses SOQI suspension front and rear in the R6 sportbike and a SOQI shock on the R1.

Everything is held together with an aluminum, twin-spar frame. A steel engine cradle and removable subframe are bolted to the main unit. The swingarm is tapered aluminum, and the triple clamps are forged aluminum, top and bottom, with an aluminum steering stem. The handlebar clamps offer 10mm of adjustment, front to back, and are swappable with the YZ and WR-F clamps, which fit the popular 1-1/4-inch bars vs. the 7/8-inch bars that come stock on the WR-R/F.

The brakes are solid, wave-style discs, front and rear. The WR-R features a 250mm full-floating disc up front, while the WR-X has a 298mm disc and 12.7mm pistons in the two-piston caliper vs. the 11mm pistons on the WR-R. Out back, both bikes are slowed down by the same 230mm disc, single piston unit. The rear master cylinder has an integrated reservoir.
The modern instrument panel includes a speedometer, odometer, two trip meters, clock, self diagnostics for the fuel injection and a fuel trip meter that automatically sets when the bike hits reserve. (Yamaha reps say the bike will go about 30 miles on reserve.) Warning lights include low fuel, coolant temp, engine warning, neutral, turn signals and high beam.

The headlight is a 60/55W halogen, while the rear is an impressively wide LED unit.

The most obvious difference between the WR-R and WR-X are the wheels. The WR-R has an 80/100-21-inch front and a 120/80-18-inch rear. The Bridgestone TW-301/TW-302 dual-purpose tires are designed for 50/50 on-/off-road riding. The WR-X wears 110/70-17 front and 140/70-17 rear Bridgestone radial supermoto tires made specifically for this model. Both bikes have aluminum rims, with the WR-X’s anodized black.
The 2008 WR250R is an all-new 250cc four-stroke dual-sport motorcycle. It has fuel-injection, a six-speed transmission and 10.6 inches of suspension travel, front and rear. It’s designed to eat up backroad gravel all day long, allow you to commute to work for next to nothing in fuel costs and, most important, get your butt down your favorite trail — and back. It goes for $5,899.

The 2008 WR250X is an all-new 250cc four-stroke, street-legal supermoto bike. Compared to the WR-R, it has a beefier front brake, 17-inch wheels and slightly street-oriented suspension settings. Although it has the travel, handling, weight, riding position and ergonomics to work OK off-road, the tires definitely make it more suited for the pavement. It has a $5,999 price tag.

Now, before we get to the details, let’s clear up some potential confusion about the new WRs. Despite the similarity in the names, the WR250R and the WR250X do not share the same motor platform as the WR250F, Yamaha’s competition off-road bike. The WR-F motor, which itself is based on the five-valve YZ250F motocrosser powerplant, is tuned for optimum power and, as all bikes in that class, has the maintenance schedule to prove it.

However, most trail riders and recreational supermoto junkies, who also use their bikes for commuting, weekend canyon carving or gravel road exploring, prefer a less-rigorous maintenance program at the expense of some berm-exploding power. Yamaha designed this new motor for the new dual-purpose WRs with that slightly less-aggressive balance in mind.

But that doesn’t mean Yamaha held back the tech. The WR-R/X models are sprinkled with enough technological pixie dust to satisfy even the most discerning gearheads (see “Inside the bikes,” right). And partially thanks to that, the engineers didn’t have to compromise as much on the power side as you might think.

I got a chance to ride both the WR250R and the WR250X at Yamaha’s model introduction just outside of Apple Valley in Southern California. We rode the WR-X at the Grange Motor Circuit, a supermoto and kart track, and the WR-R in the rocky desert trails surrounding the course.

First up, though, was about 18 miles of pavement on the WR-R from the hotel out to the track. Assuming these bikes will double as commuters, which probably will be the case for most owners, this gave me a chance to experience the WR-R in the environment where many of these bikes will spend most of their miles.

In short, the WR-R was immensely confidence-inspiring on the asphalt. It had none of the twitchiness you’d expect from a small-bore dual sport and plenty of power to change lanes with authority in heavy traffic. On highway stretches, it easily cruised along at the 65mph speed limit, thanks in large part to the tall sixth gear. It felt safe and predictable, two qualities appreciated by all of us, and especially by new riders who may be looking at one of the WRs as a first bike.

Once we hit the trails, the WR-R maintained that feeling of confidence, thanks largely to one of its strongest attributes. The front fork performed exceptionally well off-road. For most of us on the dirt, particularly in more technical conditions, the motor is rarely the weakest link on any full-sized trail bike. It’s the suspension. The fork on this new Yamaha, though, soaked up desert whoops, jagged rocks and moderate airtime without a whimper.

I also was impressed by the shifting. Shod with new motocross boots that hadn’t had any break-in time prior to this ride, I was concerned my day would be plagued by missed shifts. It wasn’t at all. Both WRs changed gears confidently and never required heavy effort to move them through the cogs.

But while the shifting was excellent, the clutch was somewhat stiff for a 250cc trail bike. It wasn’t bad, but it required a bit more effort than I expected. It was more along the lines of a mid-1990s mid-sized four-stroke than a small dual-sport.

Powerwise, the bike made excellent power from the mid-range on up. Sure, it lacked the off-idle grunt of the larger dual-sports out there, but we’re only talking about 250cc here. For a smaller bike, it was solid, and once the motor came alive, it pulled strong all the way to the rev-limiter. It was a versatile power delivery that felt capable enough to explore any trail.

Indeed, this is an exceptional dual-sport and just might be a small-bore alternative to that adventure-class model you’ve been eyeing. The WR250R will get you down the highway comfortably at 65 mph (and then some), and it offers up far more off-road capability than you’ll get from a 400-pound-plus big adventure-class bike.

And when we moved the party to the supermoto track after lunch, I got to see just how versatile this platform could be.

Although I consider myself a supermoto newbie, after a few hot laps on the WR-X, I was scraping pegs at will and becoming a true believer in the sport. So much so, if my body agreed with my mind, I would still be turning laps on the twisty Grange Motor Circuit. No question, if you can’t have fun on the WR250X on a supermoto track, it’s amazing you’ve read this far because you’re dead.

A lot of that fun was down to the Bridgestone supermoto tires. After about two laps of warm up, they stuck like glue through the tight S-turns, allowing lean angles steep enough to push the footpegs all the way back to their stops, pretty impressive on a bike with 11.8 inches of ground clearance.

I also found the power to be plenty, even on the track. It churned out enough pull for the digital speedo to indicate 70mph at the end of the front straight on the tight course. No, we’re not breaking any speed records here, but remember, this is a 250cc four-stroke dual-sport — and a short kart track. Given those constraints, the WR-X easily exceeded my expectations.

Almost as important, though, the power is far from over-the-top. Unlike, say, the 450cc (and larger) race-ready supermoto bikes available today, the WR250X won’t get you into trouble in a nano-second if you get a little sloppy with your right wrist.

As delivered, the shock felt soft relative to the fork on both dirt and asphalt, but the clickers did their job. On the supermoto track, there was one relatively fast left-hander with a small dip just before the apex. Depending on my line over the dip and the subsequent down force transmitted to that rear shock, I would either just kiss the track with the left footpeg or take out a chunk of asphalt. Three clicks of extra compression damping out back, though, was all that was needed to give me extra confidence through that corner.

Ergonomically, both bikes are easy to move around on with a nice, slim feel. The seat offers a decent contact patch and doesn’t punish you like those on some of the more competition-oriented dual-sports. The new WRs are light and flickable, change lines easily off-road and offer effortless side-to-side transitions on the track.

As far as styling goes, personally, I’m a fan of a more understated design, more akin to what’s found on Yamaha’s competition models vs. the sharper lines and busier look of the new WRs. Of course, when it comes to style, the photos tell everything, and everyone has his own opinion regarding what looks good.

Bottom line, the WR250R is a surprisingly capable trailbike that also will let you explore all the backcountry dirt roads you can stand. The WR250X will inspire your inner hooligan without the arm-jerking power that might taunt you into riding like one. Either bike will save you boatloads of cash as a daily commuter, and, even if you find it hard to admit, probably has all the motor you need.

These are good bikes that serve two under-served market segments incredibly well. If either of these segments appeals to you, the WR-R and WR-X deserve a serious look.

WR250R WR250X
Specification
Engine Liquid-cooled, four-valve single
Displacement 250cc
Bore x stroke 77mm x 53.6mm
Carburetion Mikuni electronic fuel injection
Compression ratio 11.8:1
Transmission Six-speed, chain final drive
Wheels 1.60 x 21 inch front
2.15 x 18 inch rear
aluminum rims, spoked
3.00 x 17 inch front
4.00 x 17 inch rear
aluminum rims, spoked
Tires Bridgestone TW-301/TW-302
80/100-21 front
120/80-18 rear
Bridgestone BT090R
110/70-17 front
140/70-17 rear
Front brake Single 250mm disc
Nissin two-piston caliper
Single 298mm disc
Nissin two-piston caliper
Rear brake Single 230mm disc, Nissin one-piston caliper
Front suspension 46mm KYB inverted cartridge fork
Adjustable rebound damping (24 clicks)
Adjustable compression damping (20 clicks)
10.6 inches of travel
Rear suspension SOQI single shock
Adjustable rebound damping (25 clicks)
Adjustable compression damping (12 clicks)
10.6 inches of travel
Seat height 35.7 inches to 36.6 inches 34.3 inches to 35.2 inches
Wheelbase 55.9 inches
Fuel capacity 2.0 gallons
Dry weight 276 pounds 280 pounds
MSRP $5,899 $5,999
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