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2009 Yamaha WR450F First Ride

Monday, February 2, 2009
2009 Yamaha WR450F
The Yamaha WR450F can take riders through plenty of tough terrain and successfully make it through the other side, even when it seems unlikely.
There were a few big changes for Dubyas in 2009, including George W’s last days in the White House, but we're glad Yamaha’s big-cheese off-roader, the WR450F, is back for another term. Yamaha's policy of producing rider-friendly off-road motorcycles is still popular with the voting public so engineers barely changed anything from the 2008 model. Those Bold New Graphics were enough reason for us to request a new '09 unit and enjoy the well-rounded enduro as we put it through its paces.

There should be more people riding bikes like the 2009 Yamaha WR450F. The more time we spend on production enduros like this, the more we realize that they suit a wide variety of different riders. Some market offerings are aimed at racing and others trail riding, and the Yamaha falls more towards the latter. Most people ride, not race, so that's a good thing. We've seen what can be done with the WR lineup as a race bike and the results can be impressive, but our months of testing in southern Oregon and Southern California reveal that the big WR is a machine capable of taking everyday riders almost anywhere.

We spent most of our time up north, and for the first few weeks the weather was spectacular. As the leaves changed, so did our opinion of the WR. Testing around our Medford, Oregon headquarters was a soggy, mud-slogging affair at times, and once the weather turned was when we started to really notice the Yamaha's extra weight. The bucket-style plastic engine and frame guard is one of our favorites in terms of protection, but it collects a ton of extra poundage once the mud starts packing in.

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2009 Yamaha WR450F
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Precise handling has become one of the WR450's greatest strengths as a big-bore enduro. Even though it has considerable girth, the front-end bite is solid and it allows the Yammie to carry better speed through tight sections with greater rider confidence. Some of our friends ride only motocross bikes in the woods, and we let them turn a few miles on the Yamaha just for grins, and that's exactly what they came away with, along with a new respect for the capabilities of Yamaha's flagship off-roader.

“I can't believe how much fun the 450 is,” says trail rider Travis Taylor. “I've ridden 2-strokes for so long and always thought that they are unbeatable, but the Yamaha is just so much fun to ride. It takes a little more effort because it's heavier, but the extra traction and unshakable confidence make it all worthwhile. When it comes to everyday riding, I'd put one of these between my legs anytime.”

Our photo model and pro-level tester, Tod Sciacqua, also considers the Yamaha one of his favorites, as does ISDE silver medalist, Chilly White. “It's a lot of fun,” admits White, “but it would take quite a bit of extra effort to make that into a race bike.”

2009 Yamaha WR450F
Riding the Yamaha is fun for pilots of all skill ranges. All of our testers were mostly pleased with the 450F.
The District 37 Hare & Hound Senior Champion drew his conclusion after pounding Big Blue through countless whoops in the Jawbone Canyon OHV area. Hammering the desert terrain proves that the aluminum chassis is forgiving, stable and easily maneuvered, but the Kayaba shock tends to wallow in the deep whoops, despite a foot of travel. Nobody ever complained of shock fade, but dialing spring rates and the importance of zeroing compression and rebound damping were emphasized by multiple testers. However, there wasn't a single rider who tried to ditch the WR for another bike, which proves our ultimate discovery true. The WR450F is a blast to ride, with and without its minor flaws.

The quiet exhaust note is another benefit for weekend warriors. With land closures reigning supreme, keeping the WR within spec is a high priority. Unfortunately, Yamaha has taken it to a bit of an extreme. Choking the bike to California green-sticker levels has brought the WR to a serious disadvantage in purely stock condition. The throttle stop is a complete joke. Obviously Yamaha knows this because our test bike was delivered without the offensive, childish restriction in place. Once the throttle was allowed wide open, we found that the WR runs best through the mid-range. It has a very usable low end, a very favorable rpm range in fact, but stock gearing left us wanting more. First was very short and second through fifth was dual-sportish. It actually works pretty well because the bottom end is clean with stock jetting, but get into the mid-range and the 449cc, liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke engine starts coming alive. The dry-sump lubrication system circulates oil and a 39mm Keihin carburetor monitors fuel. There is a noticeable bog way down low, a feature common to many 4-strokes. However, it is outside of the normal range of use for 95% of the time. We also noticed some surging at constant throttle in the high rpm range.

2009 Yamaha WR450F
None of our riders had problems fitting inside the WR cockpit.
From the cockpit, the WR450F is plenty comfortable and pleasant to use, and the 38.6-inch seat height is tall, though standard. The seat is flat and firm enough for aggressive riding yet soft enough to qualify as an “enduro” seat. The intricate computer activation sequence still remains a partial mystery to us, but we do appreciate the standard speedometer, clock and trip meters which are simple and straightforward to use. Combine those with ProTaper handlebars, quick-access airbox, tapered wheel spacers, USFS-approved spark arrestor and extra-wide titanium footpegs and there's plenty to admire the WR450F for in stock condition. Don't forget that it has one of the best standard electric starting systems available. The catch tank for engine coolant is nice as well, especially considering how quickly the WR tends to overheat. Compared to other Japanese 450 machines as well as 250F enduros, the big Yamaha is relatively quick to spew the fluid despite large-capacity radiators. Wave-style disc rotors are as effective as they are trick, and the stock Dunlop 756 rear tire is a good all-around match for the 18-inch wheel.

Even though Yamaha hasn't introduced fuel injection or some other radical upgrade for the 2009 WR450F, it's still one of our favorite trail bikes. Considering the changing political field and silly emission restrictors for the American market, the big Dubya remains very popular, and for good reason. For our inexperienced trail rider to title-holding racer, the WR450F remains an all-around contender in the 450 enduro market.
2009 Yamaha WR450F First Ride Gallery
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Technical Specifications
2009 Yamaha WR450F
2009 Yamaha WR450F
449cc, Single cylinder 4-stroke DOHC
Fuel System:
Keihin FCR-MX39
5-speed constant mesh
Weight (tank empty):
271 lbs.

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Ron -wrong weight  November 29, 2010 08:12 PM
The WR weighs 271 with the tank full ready to ride, not with the tank empty. Oops.
Magnus -dirt rider  March 3, 2010 10:33 AM
I was looking for info on dirt bikes, and I found all of this political misinformation. What is it doing here? I am tired of being attacked for being a Dem that owns a gun, and wants to ride bikes. Most Americans are in the middle somewhere. I didn't and don't like the Republican party because they are union busters. I will always need a good paying job. I wish you guys would stay out of politics. I will not apologize for being a Dem so don't bother with flames. Get your facts right at least, the whole lead bike issue was really about protecting market share, but it backfired. Now lets blame "liberals" and Obama who was elected after this passed.
Botz Levente -The motocross  February 18, 2010 04:11 AM
i would give my life for a yamaha wr 400 seriosly!
Charlie -Dual Sport  June 2, 2009 02:57 PM
I have been in the market to buy a dual sport lately and have been looking at all the manafacturers and by far the Ktm 450 exc looks most impressive but is a little more than i want to spend for a bike and I have heard that the exhaust melts the turn signal off. I then turned to the DRZ400 and was not too impressed with it for its off road capability. My only other option was the 250s like the yamaha and kawasaki. After thinking about it I decided they wouldnt have enough nuts for me I need a 450 so I am thinking about converting a wr 450 myself. My first bike was an old yz 125 when i was a kid and I loved it so I am leaning towards the big blue. The only problem is there is no key on the bike i would have to rig some sort of system on it. Does anyone do this are my just crazy, by the time i do the mods its only going to be about a grand cheaper than the KTM so should i just go ahead and dump the cash the the sinal melting monster. Does anyone convert the WRs, if they make a 250 street legal then why doesnt yamaha convert the big blue badass. We need a good dualsport out there you can do so much with them
Bike Man -BNG only !!!  February 6, 2009 09:46 PM
Wow Bold new graphics is the only update for 2009 ! Comon yamaha you can do better.I hope they do some serious updates on the 2010 model
your neighbour to the north -WR add on..snow bike  February 5, 2009 09:06 PM
http://2moto.com/ and when the liberal maniacs take your riding freedom away then just come up to Canada and enjoy our cooler summer temps, or come up during winter and throw this snow bike kit on. damn shame about riding areas being limited. maybe the next president will ride into Washington on a supermoto preaching about good fun, country get a ways that only require a clean emission, state of the art, snot rippin' bike like a WR. and when they run out of red tape what colour will it be? some days i'm bluer than the bike, but i'm a WR fan all the way! i believe a more perfect WR is always in the works.
Gary Scott -Dangerous Times For Our Sport  February 4, 2009 10:58 AM
Within weeks of taking control, our new administration is attacking our sport on both ends. Taking away places and right to ride on one hand and denying vehicles for our children to learn the sport on the other with the absolutely bogus reason that there is lead in the batteries! I am actively involved and belong to the SAGE Advice Group that is trying to stop the extremists in our party and fight these issues, but unfortunately, we are being ignored. This is just the beginning. I hope they bring out my 350 while I still have a place to ride or before they declare riding dirt bikes too dangerous for old farts.
Sam -Do something!!!!  February 4, 2009 09:09 AM
Click on the DIRT BIKE tab at the top of the page, go to the LEAD BAN story. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is prohibiting the sales of motorcycles for little ones. JC provides great coverage of the issue. If you notice in the right hand column he provides an easy 2 step digital process for YOU to send a letter to the CPSA encouraging them to exempt motorcycles from this new ruling. The banter on this page is mooted considering that politically we all want the same thing for the sport.
Gary Scott -Attack on our rights.  February 4, 2009 07:46 AM
For those of you following the political comments that oddly ended up in this test, please go to the Motorcycle USA home page and check out "House bans motorcycles from 2 million acres". This is just the start. The liberal extremist democrats really want us to go away.
Kent -WR Progress?  February 4, 2009 07:13 AM
JC. Enjoyed your write-up on the WR, but my dad Gary is right on the questionable progress on the new WR. He's 67, but he's no girly man as he benches 250, takes his mountain bike for 50 mile rides when the weather permits, and still gets down the trail quicker than all but the best young riders. His '98 WR will go about 100 miles on its stock 3.2 gallon tank, hasn't ever overheated and is faster than any 450 enduro or 250 two stroke we've encountered. So other than electric start, where's the progress? We're both engineers and know of a couple of ways to have automatic starting without the weight of electric start. We both like the light weight of my trail modified CRF450 and can both go faster with less effort in the tight stuff even though dad's WR has better trail suspension. Less weight is always better. Regarding 4 stroke weight, a YZ250F weighs less than a YZ250. If the factory made a 350 version, it would be light weight and have similar peak power to a 250 two stroke, but with a broader power band.
Jesse -Marketing or not Marketing? That is the question...  February 3, 2009 07:54 PM
Great job Motorcycle USA! You guys struck a nerve, gettin people riled up, talkin about the most popular thing in the country right now "politics" ==== coincidence?? No matter, it's entertaining.
Sum12 -Birdeye, Birdeye, Birdeye  February 3, 2009 07:28 PM
You are funny. I didn't mean to get your goat. No need to explain your views or angle for your original posting, you were clear in the first place "typical liberal, knee-jerk, personal and without merit" that's a good one. Were you looking in the mirror when you came up with it?
BirdeyeDrew -Sum12, typical liberal knee-jerk reaction....  February 3, 2009 02:54 PM
Sum12, I am sorry I offended your sensibilities, but nothing about the article was related to the political aspects of motorcycling, some of which are significant as you rightly point out. However, JC was simply using his forum to go off on Bush and I thought it was entirely inappropriate in a on-line article that was supposed to be about a fine motorcycle. I appreciate JC's apology and correction to the article. As to you your comments, they are typical liberal, knee-jerk, personal and without merit. I said nothing about JC's commentary counting less than mine, I simply offered my opinion of his political comments and suggested they were inappropriate for the venue. It is a good article about the bike though. :-)
Hall -WR Video  February 3, 2009 02:17 PM
Not to change the subject, but I have to comment on the WR video. You can visibly see the heaviness of the bike, but with that said, DAMN THAT LOOKS LIKE FUN!!! Makes me feel sorry for all those guys stuck on street bikes! Hills, ruts, dust, mud, trees, rocks, it doesn't get any better than that. You put that WR to work guys, nice job!
Ken -fuel milage, etc  February 3, 2009 01:16 PM
Ihave an 08 WR450 and I get about 60 miles before I hit the res. onroad (Mine is converted to street legal) and about half that on the trail... Depends on how much clutch you use! Funny how some think its to heavy. This thing is light! Its a four stroke people... If you are comparing it to a MX bike, its apples and oranges. They are different for a reason. You want light, go and get the Zero electric MX bike and use that for a woods machine. Only 150 lbs! If the 450 is to much, get a smaller bike or put in the time to get your body in condition for it. Lasty, I actually got my bike for $200 less than the Honda and a grand less than the KTM. So the price isn't holding back sales, at least not where I live...
Gary Scott -Bikes & Politics - Connected whether we like it or not  February 3, 2009 10:05 AM
Like I said before, I've been a registered Democrat for 30 years. I wish I could say my party supports off roading, but they currently do not. I'm a long time off-roader with several toys of all types - they are my only hobby outside of riding mountain bikes. If we don't convince the Dems to change their position on off-road use or vote in someone who supports us not matter what their affiliation, our off-roading days are numbered. A couple of the Democratic party's current major supporters are Tort Lawyers and Extremist Environmental Groups. Look it up - unless you just want to keep your head buried in the sand (or somewhere else). The Tort Lawyers are going to sue until our "murdercycles", ATVs and UTVs are so encumbered with legal defense costs that they will be too costly to keep on the market. Please note the current attack on the Yamaha Rhino. They are even running TV ads! I've got one, and like everything else it's safe unless you get stupid. All off-roaders that have any sense at all are environmentalists that work to preserve our land, but the extremists just want us to go away. Their tactic is to take riding areas away a little at a time until eventually there will be none at all. Regarding GW, instead of believing the left stream media and Hollyweird, check out the facts yourself. The core cause of the recent economic collapse was low interest unsecured housing loans to people who couldn't afford them and Wall Street greed. The Democrats instituted the risky loans, forced banks to make them and President Clinton required Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae to make at least half their loans high risk. President Clinton also deregulated Wall Street at the end of his last term. GW tried 17 times to halt the high risk loans from Fannie & Fred but was blocked by the Dems. Did GW do everything right? Of course not, but he never instituted or supported a single law that harmed off-roaders. He also had the guts to go after the bad guys and kept us safe for two terms. If your position is to kiss up to terrorists and environmental extremists, you might as well save you kisses to kiss your ass and our sport goodbye. We either have to stand up for our rights or give up our sport. What are you going to do? I still want that lightweight 350 four stroke.
sum12 -Let the dead horse lie  February 3, 2009 09:06 AM
PAUL!!! Can you beat this thing to death any more? No one thinks anything about YOU. Well, I think you're selfish, but that's besides the point. I doubt the authors words had any irreversible effect on your life, but judging by the republican's temper tantrums (that copy those thrown by the damn liberals themselves)which have been posted,the fact that the original paragraph was changed along with an apology post by the author himself, leads me to believe that corporate probably came down on the poor guy. And for what? Because Paul and a couple others threw a hissy fit?! Let it go, the author is obviously dealing with more than you are in regards to the now "censored" text. Good goin guys, you've helped create more corporate conformists, and stifle freedom. Hope you're happy. For what it's worth I'm a head strong conservative who cringes at the thought of any democrat leading the way. But even I am pretty ticked at Bush! He helped create irreversible damage to our sport and the "Off Road Editor" is probably more aware of this than the rest of you who have your noses stuck in "Politico" & "WSJ". JC, thanks for your work out there. Don't let these guys beat you down. Be free man, that's what riding represents the most! Keep up the good work!
Paul -GW comments  February 3, 2009 07:44 AM
Not to keep this going, but I came back a day later to finish reading the motorcycle portion of this blog. I quickly realized the "original content" is no longer here. Thanks JC. Unfortunately, now readers will think I am some kind of bitter W lover. I am a level headed informed citizen. (for the record) The original content directly accused "GW" of screwing up the country. It wasn't as JC puts it: "The message was supposed to draw attention toward Yamaha’s decision not to meddle with the WR using a common denominator in American culture as a backdrop" That is all and I apologize for continuing the non motorcycle issue. NUFF SAID.
Philamar -WR450  February 3, 2009 07:01 AM
Cool out everyone, this site is supposed to be about motorcycles..I want to know if there is a SM version (like the sm250) in the works for this bike..big guys need to know!
the Prez -2010 wr450f  February 2, 2009 10:00 PM
any rumours about the 2010 WR450?
John Burns -wow  February 2, 2009 08:02 PM
you Republicans are even more bitter than i suspected. What did the man even say? that Bush is leaving office and is unppopular. those are both facts. as the wise man said, everybody's entittled to his own opinion. But everybody's not entitled to his own facts.
JC -Unhappy Politics  February 2, 2009 04:28 PM
Gang – The previous political comment was not intended to insult anyone’s viewpoint. The message was supposed to draw attention toward Yamaha’s decision not to meddle with the WR using a common denominator in American culture as a backdrop – a subject that has headlined all of our lives in recent times, had impact on the off-road community and, as many pointed out, has been well covered in other media forums. We all moan, gripe and celebrate politics in our own way, as is everyone’s individual right, and for me, the unintended effect has been regrettable.
sum12 -Birdeye, full of crap!  February 2, 2009 12:57 PM
Are you kidding me? Birdeye, Whether you like it or not motorcycles ARE political, especially off road! Wake UP! You're the pot calling the kettle black by going off on the author like that. You sound ignorant and pompous. It's not like he told you your mom is fat or something. The motorcycle industry is in the middle of constant political battles and legislative CRAP. Who are you to say that his opinion counts any less than yours?
Ralph -if America was in better shape then maybe the BUSH comments wouldn't hurt the whiners so much!  February 2, 2009 12:23 PM
i'm still not liking the wr's poundage. dropping the battery and riding with half a tank of gas is not going to save much weight. i'd also love to see a 350 wr in a 250 frame. i'm hoping the 2010 wr450 is fuel injected, lighter in weight, and half an inch lower. i had the 2003 wr and it ripped, so maybe i should quit, complaining and waiting for the perfect WR, and just buy another one.
Birdeye-Drew -You may know motorcycles, but....  February 2, 2009 12:23 PM
I read Politico, WSJ, and several others for political views and commentary. etc... I don't read them to find out about motorcycles. So, please keep your infantile, simplistic and uninformed political commentary out of articles about motorcycles. I guess you are trying to suck up to your girlfriend - maybe it's your boyfriend. If you have to make political comments, then start a different website. I come hear to read about motorcycles. If political commentary continues, I WILL go elsewhere.
CR2T -I knew it!  February 2, 2009 12:21 PM
I could tell by the staunchness of the comments that this entire article was being invaded by conformist KTM riders!! Wah wah wah--sensitive sallies.
Tuningfork -Stick to Motorcycle Reviews  February 2, 2009 12:01 PM
JC, You may be a good rider and can whip around this 450 like it's your business, but you have absolutely no background or right to even to comment on our latest president's politics. I enjoy this website for the latest news and reports about cool new bikes and gear, but I don't come here to get wise-cracks from clueless liberals. While you talk about President Bush like that, I'd like to say that, Bush, IMHO, did a good job fulfilling his role in office; despite a few shortfalls with the economy which he couldn't have prevented, and a few crazy terrorists that decided to start a jihad- he did his best. About the bike however, Yamaha did it again, and I'm glad they're keeping this segment alive, it's the trail machine I'd like to own a bit down the road. Maybe if they could cut the premium they have over brands like suzuki and honda in this market, they'd sell way more. Possibly, the reason why Yamaha's cost a bit more, is because they put that extra time into their designing and fine-tuning. For that reason, I'll bleed blue and white for the unforeseeable.
Gary Scott -2009 WR450F Test & GW Comments  February 2, 2009 11:00 AM
JC Your GW comments were not only ill informed, they were inappropriate. Keep this crap out of your reports. I'm a registered Democrat, but I haven't been stupid enough to buy the 8 year long smear campaign run by the left stream media. You apparently were. Regarding motorcycles - which is what we should be talking about, I still have an original '98 WR400 and it has been absolutely bullet proof. Once the suspension was set up right and the terrible stock muffler replaced, it became a fast, plush and stable ride. I bought a KTM 200 'cause as I get older the WR gets heavier, so I thought the featherweight 200 would be the answer. The KTM was really a neat bike for tight trails, but it wasn't the all-around machine that the old WR was so I sold it. I recently tried a WR250 and it was O.K. but its lack of low end and all-out power turned me off. After a dozen years of development the new WR450's only advantage over my old bike is electric start as the weight and power is about the same. Regarding the power for you doubters, I put several lengths on a 2008 WR450 with an aftermarket exhaust at a 1/8 mile dragstrip. (I have witnesses). The bottom line is that all the new 450 enduros are still too heavy so you're probably better off buying an MX'r and modifying it for trail use, but in most cases you'd have to give up electric start. What I really want and I think the market needs is a 350 fuel injected electric start street legal enduro in a 250 chassis. It would be a snap for manufacturers to build as the aftermarket has shown that they can make a 250 into a 350 if you send them enough money. If the manufacturers made a 350 they would beef up a few areas for the added torque so reliability wouldn't be compromised. I think riders would buy boat loads of them.
Levi -Odometer  February 2, 2009 10:31 AM
JC already kind of answered this question, but I'll go out on the limb here and sound stupid. The WR, does it come equipped with an odometer? Probably not, and how much can you trust the electronic aftermarket ones? I have buddies who use the aftermarket ones, but they never seem accurate. It would be nice if these bigger trail bikes like the WR just came with it.
Ed -Come off already  February 2, 2009 09:55 AM
If only Yamaha could figure out a way to start shaving off some of that weight. It seems to be the universal complaint when it comes to these comfortable trail bikes. Cushiony comfort can only take you so far in the dirt when you're dealing with a bike that's pushin' 300lbs. Atleast that's what it feels like... As for the rest of the posters...if you want to talk about motorcycles than quit complaining and DO IT!!
JC -RE: Dusty roads  February 2, 2009 09:04 AM
Mileage will depend on the type of riding. We did almost a 60-mile loop in Jawbone and came back with a tad sloshing around. At home in Oregon, we don't even take fuel cans, just fill up on the way and ride all day. Those are usually 20-40 miles, but we're tired and ready to go home before the 2.1-gallon tank runs dry. As for the rest of you whine-bags, thanks for proving my point about the sore subject.
BDS -Where's the safe zone?  February 2, 2009 08:52 AM
You do realize that a good part of your audience will be turned off by your opener, right? I know you can't resist expressing your dislike for the former president, but I would think a motorcycle blog would be a safe zone. Why bring politics into it? It's not interesting. It's not good writing. It's not why I came to your blog. I like the bulk of your content. If you need a place to express your hatred for Bush (however knee-jerk the sentiment may be) I'd suggest a different forum.
Phil -Paul GW comments  February 2, 2009 08:27 AM
Well put sir!
Paul -GW comments  February 2, 2009 06:46 AM
Your uneducated and ignorant remarks about "GW" screwing up the country are not wanted here, not needed here and shouldn’t be here! Stick to motorcycles. If you want to make comments about politics start a new website. I don't come to this site for your half assed assessment of the former President. You may think I am a die hard "W" fan, you would be wrong. But to use this site to disrespect the former President is inappropriate to say the least.
Dusty Roads -Fuel milage  February 2, 2009 04:37 AM
What's up?Did I just miss it? Where's the fuel ,milage report? Ridin places like Hatfield-McCoy,I really need a tank for the distance. How many miles will it go on a full tank?