Yamaha's 2009 WR250F isn't the industry-shaking dirt bike of the season, but we were more than willing to spend a couple months with it.
Riders of all skill levels, riding disciplines and personal interests have found that small-bore enduro bikes are some of the best ways to have fun on a motorcycle. They're simple, useful and inexpensive considering the range of use. The 2009 Yamaha WR250F
is a bike we've found to fit that bill.
The 2007 model year was a huge one for Yamaha off-road dirt bikes, and 2008 saw the engineers throw a few upgrades at the WR machines as well. But for 2009, the design crew must have had other things to work on. Whatever the reason, the only thing different are the VIN numbers and some fresh graphics. It's still a 249cc, liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke tucked inside an aluminum chassis based on previous YZ-F motocross frames. The motor puts out mild power, but we found that it is actually really effective on the tight trails. We spent some time with the little WR before the rains came and then ripped around once the wet season was in full force, and having extremely manageable power was a big benefit for going fast. Of course, at some point it takes extra effort and awareness to find speed since the 37mm Keihin carb-fed motor doesn't rear up and accelerate with much authority. It's even worse if the emissions-controlling throttle stop is in place, but we tested ours without.
What the WR-F lacks in power it makes up for with traction.
Several testers spent time on the 250F, and every one of them wound up having a good time. The same goes for some of our buddies who begged for a few miles. Everything on the Yamaha works well, which makes it easy to ride and focus on where you're at and what you're doing rather than trying not to crash. We all noted right away that the five-valve mill isn't as strong as motocross bikes of similar size, but nobody levied a complaint. Instead, it's easy to use the bike's solid stance, forgiving suspension and functional engine to your benefit. There were plenty of big hills where second gear wouldn't pull it and shifting to the ultra-low first killed the run, but when it came to tackling technical obstacles, we almost always had better success on the WR250F than we did with our 2009 WR450F test bike.
Low amounts of wheelspin makes the 250 a perfect match for a trials tire and we spent much of our testing with a Pirelli MT 43 Pro Trials tire spooned on the rear (see sidebar). One thing about the Yamaha that didn't agree with the stickier, less-aggressive knobbies was the 258-lb curb weight. It's not a light machine, but that's what you get with electric start, lighting, an enduro computer, USFS-approved spark arrestor, green-sticker emission controls and a skidplate. It wasn't a big deal for us since all of those things are necessary to make a good trail bike these days. But don't think that just because the Yamaha is a play bike it can't be raced.
Woods riding is a blast and we expect this bike will see a lot of it. It would be great if the WR250 came with handguards.
Since the WR is the same for 2009, our new test unit was just like the one we rode last year during Bike Week wherer we raced the stock machine in the GNCC and Alligator Enduro. The only modifications were Dunlop sand tires, GYTR handguards, a removed throttle stop and a larger exhaust baffle. The bike held up better than our rider did when it was all said and done. 2:03’50 was the amount of time it took to bring an all-time low of physical exhaustion. Credited with 28th in class and 159th overall out of 421 competitors, we were pretty happy with the first outing at a national-caliber cross-country race considering the lack of preparation and the fact that we were on equipment that nobody would really consider a race bike.
As much as our faith in personal conditioning waned over 123 minutes of pounding palmetto roots in the GNCC, trust in the WR grew equally. There were certainly times when the power of the WR450 or at least the zip of a YZ250F would have been nice, but managing to hold onto those machines would have been much more difficult over the span of the race. Not only did the little WR survive the brutish GNCC course and come out ticking, but Yamaha wanted to drive home the durability aspect even more so we didn’t even bother washing the black Florida mud from its aluminum spars. Anyone who has ridden or raced in the Sunshine State knows how obnoxious that mud is.
Racing the WR is possible, but it is a great trail bike in stock form.
The WR sat in the rental van for a couple days, hot, sweaty and covered in filth. During our time off, we did some maintenance to the blue Thumpers. We removed the GYTR aluminum handguards
and whacked down each side of the ProTaper handlebars to make it a bit easier in the notoriously tight enduro. This is something that would have helped at home in Oregon as well. In fact, we wish the WR would come with some form of stock handguards, even if they're just flag-style. After reinstalling the guards and giving the bikes a once-over for obvious signs of mechanical neglect it was back in the van they went.
Unlike the GNCC, which featured separate races for the pros and amateurs, the Alligator Enduro in Daytona Beach combined all 498 entries into groups of five or six. The computer on the Yamaha is one of the best you’ll find on stock equipment, and with more time to learn the intricacies of working it along with some better understanding of actual race strategy, the WR’s usefulness as an enduro weapon would be even greater.
During the first half of the day we managed to inflict some damage to the WR250F. The rubber button and spring in the electric starter vibrated out, likely due to a pair of minor crashes early on. Fortunately, unlike the GNCC, the last half of the Alligator would be smooth sailing rather than a crash-filled affair. However, a stump leapt out and grabbed the shift lever, bending it parallel with the footpeg. We were able to bend it into a semi-useful position and finish the ride. It did highlight one of the flaws on the latest version. There's a lot of space between gears in the five-speed tranny so it takes a decisive left foot to make solid connections every time. We missed a few shifts, especially trying to quickly get down into first.
We're excited to see what the future has in store for Yamaha's 250F enduro. This year's model was plenty of fun but there's room for some minor improvements that will make it even better.
Yamaha is known for having soft suspension and the WR line embraces the supple mentality with its set of Kayabas. At a trail pace they're great, but catching air or just an extra gear can get the fully-adjustable sticks into the extreme reaches of their travel. The WR has good ground clearance (14.4 in.) but the soft components and overall weight work against each other. It doesn't drag its belly, but we did hit some things with our footpegs and the aforementioned shift lever. Overall it's a comfortable ride, even when it does bottom, and the handling is what you'd expect from a bike with these components and girth.
For something that's generally considered underpowered and overweight, the WR250F (MSRP $6699) sure received a lot of compliments from the people who actually rode it. The bike is put-together well, comfortable, reliable and surprisingly effective. There are plenty of things to offset the few negatives, and we were generally reduced to half-hearted whining about the easily scratched plastic and engine cases. This isn't a bike that people will run to as the solution to their every two-wheeled need, but it's definitely a popular secondary machine or way to return to the sport. Anyone can ride it and have fun, which counts for a lot in the 250F enduro market … and with us for that matter.