I was excited to head to Bathurst, not only to check out the street race track which is a public road when no racing is on, but also to ride the new 2018 WR250F at one of Yamaha’s excellent bike launches.
Friday morning we headed to the Sunny corner trail ride, just over the Blue Mountains from Sydney. As we arrived I could see an ISDE grass-style track marked out with a mixture of up- and down-hills, flat corners and a few trees to navigate around. Definitely the kind of thing the WR should excel at.
The ride briefing was called and we learnt about the new changes made to the bike for 2018. The biggest change that stuck with me was the motor, it has had a decent overhaul and is now very close to its motocross counterpart, the YZ250F.
It has a new cylinder head, piston, camshafts, transmission internals and ECU settings, all of which apparently add up to 15 per cent more power. This power increase was definitely noticeable on one of the uphill straights on the track, each gear could be revved out without it signing off early, which is something that gives it more of a racy feeling and is a decent improvement on the old model.
The WR model comes with a different muffler which is road compliant but compared to the muffler on the FX model, I think it noticeably restricts the bike.
The WR250F now has the same frame as that of its motocross brother, the YZ. This frame is 12mm wider at the swing arm and gives the bike a more stable and rigid feel. New motor mounts have been used for the WR too. Stability through off-camber corners was good, I did have a few moments where the back stepped out on me when under full throttle but not really what I’d call out of the ordinary on a grass-based track.
The front brake is a decent 20mm bigger and definitely makes a difference when it comes to stopping the bike. A Metzeler FIM tyre fitted to the front also played a big part and seemed to get great traction no matter where we rode over the course of the two days riding.
Another change is that there’s no kick-start on the new model, which helps make the bike a little lighter – and it makes life a lot easier in many stall situations. I didn’t have any problems at all with the Yamaha electric start during the two-day test, so you should be able to rest assured that the technology is there for a reliable starter.
On the suspension side of things, the KYB hardware has stiffer settings at both the front and back, which steps things up a notch for what the bike can do. A problem I had with the previous WR models was that I would often bottom the forks out, and it also felt like the suspension sat too low in the stroke.
On the new bike I felt the initial to mid of the stroke was just about right – it can now soak up roots and rocks really well, but the one single jump to flat with some holes in the landing sometimes caught me out, resulting in using 100 per cent of the travel and some of the impact coming up through my hands.
If I was racing this bike, I’d put heavier springs in. I weigh in at 74kg, so a bigger guy who’s racing will definitely find the stock suspension spring rates too soft and be looking to upgrade.
I think the blue rims which are standard across the 2018 range look sharp, and make for something a bit different from the rest of the bike brands in the paddock. The fresh graphics and colour scheme on the plastics look cool too.
A new offroad kit featuring a Polisport head light and Barkbuster flap-style hand guards also look great. The Barkbuster hand guards are really robust, there were 11 test bikes and even after two days of hard riding they all came back with their hand guards attached, which is pretty impressive.
I think the 2018 WR-F has pumped some new energy into Yamaha’s off-road racing range. The new machine is going to make a great race bike. The suspension is really good (if a little soft for hardcore racers), it has excellent power and there are great looks to top it all off.
This would make a great choice for anyone wanting to race enduro and XC, and covers all ranges of ability from clubman through to expert. Being able to road-register the WR250F opens a world of doors for adventure riders and anyone who wants to get out there on a capable dirt bike and explore the less easy to access parts of the country.
2018 Yamaha WR250F Strengths and Weaknesses
Plus – More power; better chassis; decent brakes.
Minus – Suspension a little soft for the fast boys, but still great for the average rider
2018 Yamaha WR250F Specifications
Engine – 249.6cc, liquid-cooled, four valve, wet sump, four-stroke single
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