2011 Yamaha WR450F Project Bike

September 9, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

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Take a look at this true-blue enduro in our 2011 Yamaha WR450F Project Bike Video.

It can be easy to forget about a bike like the Yamaha WR450F because it hasn’t seen significant updates in several years. These days fuel injection is the norm and the latest technology is now making the jump into the off-road world. Like other manufacturers, Yamaha has been focusing on the motocross lineup, but the WR is still one of our favorite trail bikes. We decided to revisit the big WR and put a few components on it for a change of pace.

First we updated the controls with a set of ASV unbreakable levers for the clutch and front brake. These are one of our favorite bolt-on accessories for any bike. A small crash, low-speed get-off or even a tip-over in the staging area can break or bend a lever and ruin an entire day. Since the bike was initially headed for the desert we included a set of Cycra Stealth handguards to keep our hands safe from rocks and cacti at a desert race in Wickenburg, Arizona. Read about that dusty foray in the 2011 Yamaha WR450F Race Test. The Cycras are great for keeping brush from snagging the levers and stop roost from welting the rider’s hands, but they are only flag-style guards. One of the beautiful things about a flag-style is that they take very little room on the handlebars to mount. Unfortunately they are also much less durable then full wrap-around hand guards. We broke the right-side Stealth by losing the front end on Washougal Motocross Park’s bumpy WORCS grasstrack section. Hand guards and mounting hardware are all available in the Cycra Primal Racer Packs.

The Yamaha WR40F is one of our favorite trail bikes, but it is due for some updates. We took it out of its comfort zone at times and the versatile Yamaha pulls through.

In an effort to unplug the engine and shave a few pounds, we installed a full system Leo Vince Titanium/carbon fiber X3 exhaust. The pipe dropped nearly three pounds from the heavyweight enduro. Almost all of that gain came from the long canister. The muffler and mounting hardware weigh in at 4 pounds, 15.4 ounces (7 lbs, 2.6 oz stock). The header pipe is only a few ounces lighter at 1 pound, 4.2 ounces. Considering that the WR is known for its heft, this is a welcome feature. Someone looking to lose the weight for less cost might consider a slip-on instead of the full system. We also like that the LV system retains a spark arrestor for safe summer riding and keeps the exhaust note at a very moderate level. It registered at 102 decibels in the stationary test and only 93 dB while idling.

The Leo Vince X3 Titanium Race exhaust system is built from 1mm-thick Grade 4 titanium. The end cap and header heat shield are both carbon fiber along with the muffler mounting bracket. Installation was simple and the titanium immediately gave of a beautiful blue color once it heated up. The included spring puller is a nice bonus – no fooling around with needle-nose pliers. All of the springs have a rubber sleeve which helps keep them protected and minimizes any chance of rattling around.

Desert racing and WORCS are both high-speed, rough formats which the WR is capable of handling, but it does have some drawbacks in these scenarios. The Yamaha’s stability was a blessing in the wide-open country and the friendly powerband makes the WR easy to control in all types of terrain. However, the soft suspension hurts it on big g-outs or jump landings. The motocross portion of the WORCS layout was definitely the Yamaha’s least favorite. Regardless of the tough conditions at Washougal, the WR again proved that it can hold its own despite a riding style that is out of the Yamaha’s normal element. We stiffened the front fork several clicks in an effort to keep it up in the stroke with all of ‘Shougal’s elevation change. The soft suspension was great at handling the roots and rocks hidden under a layer of silt, but they dove and knifed on downhill turns. In the tighter off-road sections we were happy to have a few less pounds to muscle around and the pipe also earned its keep with improved performance. The extra top-end allowed the torquey WR to carry its gears a bit longer and we could do most of the trail sections in a single gear. Minimal shifting lets the rider focus more on line selection and other competitors.

With years of established aftermarket support, there’s no limit to the amount of modifications and money that could be spent on this bike. Our little project proved that until Yamaha completely revamps its WR450F, there are still plenty of reasons that the current model can provide everything a blue-blooded trail rider could need.

The Leo Vince X3 Race Titanium full system exhaust shaved considerable weight and added performance to the WR450F.

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