Can you really adventure ride on a 250cc thumper, and push the off-road end of the adventure scale while you’re at it? You can on Yamaha’s WR250R when it’s built up as a Tenere 250R.
Andrew Clubb reckons you can
Do ADV machines really need multi-cylinder engines that pump out 150 horsepower and are wrapped in all kinds of electro-trickery, while weighing in at a quarter of a tonne as they rumble down life’s adventure highway?
It’s an age-old question, and one that’s long been pondered in the bars of pubs everywhere, from Birdsville to Barrington Tops and back again.
Like Liberal versus Labor, Ford versus Holden, and ABS On versus ABS Off, the argument over which type of adventure bike is ‘right’ – big or small? – will go on forever.
Me? I like straddling the fence, with a wheel very much in each camp.
Brutish, big-banger ADV machines are just what the doctor prescribed when you want to pound out big miles with a big load over big days but in real comfort.
But then I’m also happy to ride by the ethos that light is right when circumstances suit. Show me an off-road oriented ADV route deep in the sticks and I’ll pack light, ride light and choose a bike that comes in at the lightweight end of the adventure bike scale.
Everything old is new again
As far as pint-size ADV hardware goes, Yamaha’s WR250R has carved itself an impressive reputation over the past dozen years as a truly mighty midget.
Launched in 2008, the WR-R trail bike was designed to meet the then forthcoming Euro 4 global emissions requirements. It didn’t quite have the high-performance engine and suspension specs of its WR250F enduro model cousin, but it wasn’t far from it.
It did however pack a rock solid reliable, liquid-cooled and EFI-fed engine with six-speed gearbox that offered 5,000 km oil change intervals and eye-popping 40,000 km major service intervals. Those kind of maintenance stats quickly made the WR-R a real darling of small-bore ADV riders that didn’t want to be dogged by constant time on the tools as they set forth chasing sunsets, be it across Australia or around the world.
With a feast of Yamaha and GYTR accessories soon becoming available, not to mention an absolute flotilla of accessory parts from aftermarket brands, the WR250R could readily be transformed from mild-mannered trail bike to fully farkled ADV machine.
Which is just what happened back in 2014, in my Trail Zone magazine publishing days, when contributing editor Lance Turnley from Off Road Explorer built up a Tenere 250R as a Project Bike we featured in the mag. As a pair of confirmed Tenere Tragics, we even had the audacity to label this one-off as a ‘Tenere 250R’, to hint to Yamaha just what a small capacity single-cylinder Tenere adventure bike might look like, as opposed to the doughy and spindly, air-cooled XTZ250 Tenere that was actually being produced in Brazil for South American markets at the time.
Fast-forward five years to 2019 and with Lance now working for Yamaha Motor Australia, he managed to convince the brass at YMA to produce a couple of Tenere 250R specials of their own, to continue to inspire WR250R owners as to how readily the unassuming trail bike can be made way more adventure ready.
When the chance came up for me to get ‘re-acquainted’ with one of the latest Tenere 250R specials, I couldn’t say ‘yes’ to the offer fast enough.
Clothing maketh the man
So what makes this WR250R a Tenere 250R?
The list of set-ups kicks off with a Safari Tanks 14 litre large capacity fuel tank, which almost doubles the fuel capacity offered by the stock 7.6 litre tank. Aussie brand Safari Tanks have also created a fibreglass fairing that mates to their plastic fuel tank, giving the WR-R a very rally inspired appearance. The tank is priced at $572 from Yamaha dealers, and the fairing costs $590 from Safari Tanks direct.
Out back a Scaggs alloy luggage plate offers convenient luggage carrying capacity and is an easy bolt-on while VPS Barkbusters offer protection of the bars and controls and are priced at $149 from bike shops everywhere. A GYTR branded alloy bash plate costing $199 from Yamaha dealers protects the engine cases, water pump, sump and lower frame cradle. Road legal Dunlop D606 knobbies at $249 per set replace the less aggressive standard tyres, while custom Ringmaster Images graphics ($300) complete the package.
It’s a good looking jigger, for sure, with the Safari Tanks tank and fairing fooling most observers into thinking it’s a Dakar-bred 450 rally bike at a fast first glance.
Gold in them thar hills
My first weekend aboard the Tenere 250R co-incided with the Dual-Sport Motorcycles Association Sydney branch’s annual mid-Winter trail ride to the historic Hill End gold mining region north of Bathurst, NSW.
Pre-ride preps included fitting a set of 20mm bar risers to give me a little more room in the cockpit, strapping on an Enduristan XS Base Pack to the rear rack that I filled with tools and tubes, and tethering a set of Bushwhacker hand guards over the Barkbusters to protect my namby-pamby keyboard pinkies from the predicted freezing temperatures and pouring rain.
Fronting for the start of the DSMRA run at Wallerwang amongst a 23-strong posse of pukka trail and enduro exotica from various rival Japanese and European factories, I felt like I’d bought a knife to a gun fight. At least this knife was razor sharp and easy to handle, even if I was way down on calibre compared to the rest of the pack.
From the very get-go it was clear the order of the weekend was to stretch the 250R’s throttle cable to the max and keep it there. Remarkably, the motor never, ever protests at the hammering it cops as you row through the gears and stir the clutch lever to keep it percolating. It’s the little engine that could, and it keeps coming back for more, even if you do start to wonder if the incessant revving would have to eventually punch the piston up through the Safari Tank.
By trail riding standards the majority of the Hill End ride is open and fast, dominated by fire-trail twin-tracks and single-lane gravel back roads that the 250R just lapped up. With plush suspension my big-boned 95kg frame-plus gear-plus tools/tubes was testing the limits of the shock action in particular on bigger hits and water bars, while the rock farm known as the Pinnacle Fire Trail from the Turon River to Sunny Corner demanded careful line selection to avoid copping a pinch flat, or dinging a rim, or worse, nailing a nugget and spitting myself sideways off into the sticks.
The ride’s not as fast a larger capacity bike, of course, but what I liked most about the 250R was the fact the bike was so forgiving and just doesn’t beat you up. And even then, when things do eventually get out of shape, you’ve got a way better chance of getting away with it unscathed than you would on a larger capacity bike. On the 250R, you’re always in control, not the other way round, as is often the case when things get squirrelly on a big-bore.
With more than 350km on the odo over the two days, the DSMRA ride showed the Tenere 250R is still plenty capable as a trail bike, the only trade-off being the added bulk of the larger capacity tank and fairing when the trail turns really tight and technical. But that said, I was digging the protection offered by the fairing on day two, which was spent predominantly riding in pissing rain. And yeah, my Bushwhacker elephant’s ears paid for themselves well and truly.
Rumble to Nundle
Three days later it was time to explore the true adventure riding capabilities of the Tenere 250R with an overnight jaunt from the NSW central coast all the way to Nundle at the very top end of the Hunter Valley and back again. It’s another historic gold fossicking area and the route I had planned was loaded with stacks of Tenere Goodness that included Bowmans Creek, Moonan Flat, Ellerston, Hanging Rock, Barrington Tops and Monkerai. It’s cracking ADV riding country and after plenty of rain through the week, the creeks promised to be up and the pastures turning green after way too long in drought.
The first day’s ride from Morriset to Nundle started at sunrise and finished at sunset, with Motorcycle Adventure Dirt Bike TV’s Dave Darcy nipping at my back wheel every step of the way on a Husqvarna 701 Long Range.
Preps to the Tenere 250R for this ride included fitting my ever-faithful Zumo 660 GPS to the bars for navigation, tank and saddlebags for my clothes, tools, tubes, spares and KFC Frequent Eater card. Along with a small dry bag for my camera.
Once again the order of business revolved around keeping the throttle pinned on the 250R and dancing between sixth and fifth gear on the open sections any time you hit a hill or a headwind. With the stock gearing, sixth is virtually an overdrive and consequently the 250R will oftentimes go faster in fifth than sixth.
Blazing through the open farm land of the Upper Hunter once again proved the worth of the fairing for tucking low and getting out of the wind, while the Safari Tanks fuel cell offers a range of around 350km given the bike was sucking fuel at the rate of around 26km per litre.
When we finally hit the more technical sections of the ride further north near Nundle, and then the next morning up high in Barrington Tops, the 250R’s light weight and nimble handling once again shone through. The little single never beats you up, plus you know that if you ever find yourself stuck on a dead-end trail and have to bulldog your way back out, it will be a whole lot easier on a bike like the 250R than blowing a foo foo valve on a big bike that’s twice the size.
Riding in close company with the Husky, it was definitely a case of the tortoise and the hare, with Dave famously quoting at one stop, “Don’t ever worry about getting too far ahead, Clubby, it will only take me four-seconds to get on the gas and catch you again!” Alas, this was true, for while I kept working the clutch and gearshift on the 250 like a tap dancer, Dave spent much of the ride loping along in third gear everywhere on the potent dual-tanked Austrian big-bore thumper.
The final hour of the ride coincided with darkness after we emerged out of the bush near Dungog and made a bee-line back to the central coast. I can tell you the 250R’s headlight needs careful adjustment inside the fairing to get maximum value from the limited candlepower it offers, while that little motor will sit on an indicated 122kmh (111kmh actual on GPS) down the freeway. And yes, that tiny teeny piston stayed precisely within that combustion chamber where it’s meant to be, despite sitting on around 10,000 rpm for the whole way non-stop!
This time the two-day ride punched out almost 800 km and I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
That’s a wrap
Okay, so the WR250R dressed up as Tenere 250R proves you can adventure ride on a small-bore machine. It won’t be the fastest ride you’ll ever have, but it might just be the most fun and stress-free time you’ll get to enjoy, especially when the going gets tough.
Rival small-bore ADV offerings include BMW’s G310GS ($7,150), Honda’s CRF250 Rally ($7,749), Kawasaki’s X-300 Versys ($8,199), Suzuki’s V-Strom 250 ($6,190) and KTM’s new 390 Adventure ($7,795).
At $9,599 ride-away plus the cost of the bolt-ons to make it a Tenere 250R, the WR250R is the highest priced machine in the class, but it’s also fair to say the WR-R is far and away the most off-road ready of all these machines if your adventure riding is going to take you deeper into the dirt.
The good stuff
+ At 134kg wet on the brochure, the WR250R plus Tenere 250R accessories is still light and fun to ride
+ Despite the constant high revs required, the Tenere 250R sucks fuel at a misery 26 to 28km per litre
+ So many parts available to make this bike into precisely the adventure mount you desire
+ Safari Tanks fairing offers a big boost in protection from the elements
+ Seat is soft but oh-so comfortable
The not so good stuff
– Yes, the WR-R’s price is high, but shop smart and hunt around for a deal on remaining stock
– Standard bars are low and cramped; fit taller bars and/or bar risers
– Standard steel muffler is heavy and restrictive; an aftermarket muffler will boost breathing
– Rear guard and rear of seat are tall, so shorter riders will appreciate a lowering link
– You can’t just walk into a Yamaha dealer and buy this Tenere 250R: you need to buy a WR250R and all the parts and make it yourself
– If only Yamaha had made a 450cc version of the WR-R that we could use to create a Tenere 450R …
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