2012 Yamaha WR250F Project Bike

May 4, 2012
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.

Our first task with Yamaha’s unchanged 2012 WR250F was to put it up against its Asian competition in the 2012 250 Japanese Enduro Comparison. Once we had a good understanding of the stock model, then we started looking at how the versatile Yamaha could be improved. Fortunately there’s not a lot that the WR is lacking in stock trim. Yamaha does a good job of equipping its off-road dirt bikes with high-quality components. The Tuning Fork enduro has most of the basics covered. Our 2012 Honda CRF250X Project Bike needed a slew of standard protection upgrades, but instead we could focus on a couple comfort items and performance increases with the Yammie.

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Take a look at the 2012 Yamaha WR250F Project Bike Video to see how it stacks up with a few upgrades.

Renthal 520 Off-Road Rear Sprocket – $64.95
To help compensate for that low-end bog and boost the ride-ability of third and fourth gears out on the trail we went one tooth larger than stock jumping up to a 51T. The aluminum gearing feels light out of the package (12.4 ounces), but we were blown away at how heavy the stock sprocket is. Bolting on the Renthal shaves exactly one pound of unsprung, rotating mass. Considering that weight is one of the biggest complaints from our testers regarding this small-bore enduro, any kind of diet is a good move. The sprocket is made from 7075-T6 aluminum and we ordered ours in black. It features self-cleaning grooves and the sprocket face is drilled with large and small holes to help shave weight and provide less surface area for clinging mud. 

Renthal Fatbar 1-1/8” Oversized Handlebars – $89.95
We had Renthal on the hook for the chainwheel so it was a good opportunity to snag a set of its oversize handlebars. The Fatbar handlebars are crafted from 7010-T6 aluminum with a 1-1/8” center clamping section. These bars have a reputation for durability and the tapered outer wall slims to the standard 7/8” at the ends to allow standard controls and grips. Utilizing a braceless design leaves extra space for attaching extra components to the bars such as handguards, roll-chart, GPS, etc. The bend feels similar to the standard ProTaper that comes from the dealership, but the black finish looks much better and I think it’s marginally better at hiding vibration and impacts from the rider’s hands. 

Renthal Kevlar-Reinforced Dual-Compound MX Grips – $19.95

Kevlar-reinforced grips and Renthal Moto
Handguards improved the controls and keep
debris and roost at bay.

Renthal’s dual-compound grips are some of our favorites. I like the half-waffle design, especially when it gets muddy where the extra raised ridges offer grip for wet gloves. The Kevlar-reinforced grips use the same pattern but the base material contains Kevlar-brand resin particles. These are extra durable and protect against wear. I don’t think the Kevlar-reinforced grips are as soft as Renthal claims, but they definitely last longer than standard dual-compound grips. They resist crash damage very well and they draw attention to the handlebars with a unique look. One thing we noticed about these grips is that they’re shorter than the stock grips. It’s not something that we notice while riding, but it does leave a sizeable gap on the throttle tube between the throttle housing and the grip flange. We have yet to experience any drawbacks from this. 

Renthal Moto Handguards – $39.95
Renthal Moto Handguards protect against trail brush and roost. They are rigid enough to keep the levers protected in tight sections but are not full wrap-around guards. It uses a dual-compound molded shield that has plastic in the center (white) and flexible synthetic rubber around the edges (black). The rubber seems to give the handguards a bit more resistance to small crash damage or when clipping a tree. A composite mounting bracket can be positioned over or under the handlebars. It comes with spacers to allow even more room as needed. We had to run them underneath because of hot-start lever and the spacers were necessary. The Moto guards come with spare graphics in red or blue, which we really appreciate. The only downside is that they forced the repositioning of the kill switch and starter button. These are great for light duty work, but we removed them before an endurocross race because we knew the bike would be hitting the dirt fairly regularly. 

Leo Vince X3 Enduro Slip-On Exhaust – $349.00
If there’s one thing we hear from everyone when discussing the WR it’s something about the dinky exhaust baffle that comes in the stock muffler. The stock exhaust on any modern 4-stroke is an area where improvements can be found in overall weight, engine performance and sound. Full-system exhausts are super-spendy, and I’m not convinced that they’re always worth the high-dollar investment. On big bikes, I’m not convinced most riders even need an aftermarket pipe, but the WR250F is definitely a good candidate for muffler upgrades.

In stock trim the WR is pretty bottled up. It has decent power from its DOHC Single with the best coming off the bottom and into the midrange. But, there’s a serious lag way down low where the restricted Yamaha has a bit of trouble. We installed a Leo Vince X3 Enduro Slip-On Exhaust to help free it up. As a slip-on unit, the installation was extremely easy. There’s no need to wrestle with the cranky flange bolts on the head pipe. On certain models, including our WR, the Leo Vince pipe is supposed to come with a graphite spacer to connect the muffler to the header. Ours did not come with the spacer. This is pretty disappointing when dropping 350 bucks, and the clamp will not provide a seal without it. We substituted several layers of heat tape in its place and were able to get a secure seal and prevent exhaust leaks.

The X3 Enduro slip-on end cap is carbon and the stainless muffler has a titanium finish for improved looks. It definitely brings some needed boost to the WR, but the pipe was missing the graphite spacer at the midpipe. We used heat tape instead.

The X3 Enduro is crafted using stainless steel mid-pipe and internal construction. The muffler sleeve is also stainless but features a titanium-look finish which makes it look much more expensive than it is. It’s not nearly as light as a Ti system, obviously, but the end cap and mounting bracket are carbon fiber. We opted for the spark arrestor instead of the silent insert; swapping the two requires only one bolt. Using the spark screen drops a bit of weight but it increases the sound output. The aftermarket slip-on weighs 6 lbs., 14.2 oz. compared to the stock unit at 7 lbs., 8.8 oz. Our Leo Vince-equipped WR blew 95 dB using the standard 20-inch stationary test. The stock pipe is good for 89 decibels.

We removed the headlight and kickstand to reduce weight and the handguards because they were likely going to break at the endurocross race. The Yamaha carried our rider to a victory.

We had one day of testing before heading to an endurocross race, and the pipe immediately proved to be a smart improvement. Both of our testers noted an increase in power across the rpm spread. The WR is much easier to ride in a higher gear with the Leo Vince system and the change in sprockets help boost the Yammie’s grunt as well. We are able to clutch the front-end over obstacles without as much effort and the bike picks up throttle without the clutch much better. The added decibels make for a nice, throaty sound but the bike will still pass our local tech inspections without the quiet insert installed. Having more bark was a big advantage when riding indoors at the EX race – we could actually hear our own bike on the starting line! Multiple low-speed crashes resulted in several large dents in the muffler, but the stainless construction held up well and we weren’t nearly as bummed as if it had been brand new titanium. MotoUSA test rider Brian Chamberlain won the Amateur class main event at the endurocross race and it was in a spot to finish well in the 30+ main also until a small tip-over resulted in becoming traction for another rider (also a former test rider – we’ll be talking to him about that).

Yamaha’s WR250F makes for a pretty easy project bike in the sense that it already comes from the factory with lots of nice components. It’s not decked out the way a KTM would be, but the Japanese enduro machine is definitely a step above its oriental competition when it comes to finer details. Our upgrades were enough to make this friendly trail bike into a race winner and more enjoyable weekend play bike.