2006 Yamaha WR450
An awesome motor and excellent gearing allow the WR450F to forgive wobbly hillclimb attempts like this one. Normal riders will crest more hills on this bike than any of the others.
King of the Hill
The battle for hillclimbing supremacy was a close one between the Yamaha and Honda. It all boiled down to a couple of variables that separated the two Japanese bikes, and the WR ended up on top, literally and figuratively.
First and foremost is the WR's gearing. While the Honda felt like a toned-down motocross bike, the Yamaha was more like a mid-'60s Ford pickup in the sense that it makes tons of power and has a granny gear perfect for those burly situations. First gear is so low that it covers up rider error and overcomes clutch abuse with a tractor-like pull. When you get halfway up that steep-assed hill and your arms are pumped solid, refusing to reach for the clutch even one more time, just pound that wide-ratio 5-speed into first and let 'er rip. A Dunlop 756 rear tire adds tractability.
The Honda was actually the weapon of choice for our best climber, but his situation is misleading for two reasons. First off, BC is ungodly talented at climbing, and secondly, he's accustomed to riding his own CRF450R so he felt right at home on the X model. For the majority of regular off-roaders, the WR is easier to be successful with on inclines. Just make sure that you use the bike properly and make it over the top because, at 262 pounds, getting that hog turned around mid-hill is a goggle-fogging nightmare.
It should be noted that our WR was tested without the inclusion of the 11mm throttle stop that is included on any new California model. The throttle restrictor had already been removed when we took delivery of the bike, but before you start complaining of any unfair advantage, let me explain our reasons for testing the Yamaha in its condition.
Ripping through the woods is just as easy on the Yamaha as putting around the back yard, or blasting sand washes, or hopping logs, or railing rutsâ€¦ The WR does it all.
First, the stop is nothing more than a way to meet strict California regulations, and even residents of the Golden State are going to yank this thing out before ever hitting the trails. All of the other bikes that are green-sticker legal, including the Honda, Husaberg and KTM, are designed to run in those conditions without necessitating any modification, but the Yamaha is intentionally choked up. Secondly, the mod requires no monetary investment and is likely to be a selling point at any Yamaha dealership. Our test bike would have been green-sticker legal with the stop in place, but the reality of the situation is that virtually every WR owner will willingly dismiss legality in favor of the added performance.
Churning out 43 horsepower, the Dubya-R makes the most peak horsepower and can get away with being either short-shifted or wound to the nuts. The motor's tractability and power provide the perfect combination for hillclimbing and one-wheeled acrobatics. Even the least wheelie-prone among us was able to loft the front end without hesitation.
"The Yamaha prevailed over anything in its path," says madman Darin Hecker, "and with little effort."
Spot-on suspension is surely one of the highlights of this bike. The spectrum of our riders in both size and skill was covered satisfactorily by the stock settings. Once in the sharp, rocky terrain of Corral Canyon, a simple softening of compression by two clicks on both the Kayaba fork and shock proved perfect for handling the altered terrain.
Fox V3 Octane
"The Yamaha provides a good combination of quick steering, high-speed stability and tractability," says Chamberlain.
One area where the Yamaha didn't particularly excel was during braking. Though adequate, the brakes didn't match the performance of the engine or suspension, leaving riders squeezing tight in hairy situations.
- Only bike with aluminum engine guards.
- Dual rim locks on rear tire.
- Rubber gasket seals steering stem.
- MSRP: $6,799