2014 Yamaha WR250R Test | Dual Sport Motorcycle Review
There are few motorcycles that resonate across generations like the quarter-liter dual-sport bike. Yamaha got the ball rolling in 1968 with the iconic DT-1 Enduro, and the 2014 Yamaha WR250R is the latest baton-carrier in the 46-year-long on- and off-road relay. Neither a dirt bike with lights nor a street bike capable of nothing more challenging than a dirt road, the Yamaha WR250R does many things well, but only one thing great – creating fun.
As a dirt bike, the 2014 Yamaha WR250R can handle the USFS’s Triple Black Diamond trails – places few adventure bikes trek, and you can tie together trail systems that are separated by paved roads requiring a license plate.
On the highway, the fuel-injected little thumper can run through its two-gallon tank while cruising non-stop at 85 mph on flat ground without a hitch.
In town, the WR250R is a wonderfully agile machine with a 36.6-inch seat height that gives you a bird’s eye view of your surroundings. Should you need to jump a curb or two, well that 21-inch front wheel and foot of ground clearance come in handy.
But, there is a flip side to all of those attributes. In the dirt, at 295 pounds wet, the WR250R is light for a modern 250cc dual sport bike, but heavy for a dirt bike (40 pounds heavier than the dirt-only Yamaha WR250F), plus the suspension is soft and the gearing high. Tapped out on the highway, fuel economy plummets and you don’t have much acceleration in reserve at 65 mph or higher, plus it’s a bit nervous and windy at speed. In town, that seat height can be intimidating to the uninitiated under 6-feet tall. So, as with any dual-sport bike, it’s about managing expectations and exploiting its strengths.
For urban riding, there’s practically nowhere you can’t go. Now, that’s a dual-edged sword, as the Yamaha WR250R tempts you to ride places that aren’t exactly by-the-book legal. If there’s that short walking trail between streets, especially in a hilly area, it’s difficult to resist the impulse to take it. Just shift down a gear or two and squirt the throttle.
The WR250R’s fuel-injected motor runs flawlessly and will take you down those pothole-infested alleys, on service road for railroad tracks, up or down a few steps, and between pesky K-rails that must only be there to keep cars out. Narrow, flickable, and responsive, plus the semi-knobby Bridgestone Trail Wing tires, means that urban off-roading is great fun – just watch for police and don’t mention our name if you get caught.
In town, the suspension is plush enough to keep you comfortable. If you set the sag right, which is about 100mm, the practical seat height drops nearly four inches to a more manageable altitude. The Bridgestone Trail Wings are no supermoto tires, yet they are predictable and comfortable. When they do slide, they do so predictably.
One of the tests was a 130-mile round trip at high speeds on congested-but-fast Los Angeles and Orange County freeways. Certainly, the WR250R can keep up with all but the fastest traffic. Above 85 mph, acceleration is slow, so you lose a bit of your ability to avoid sloppy drivers. This makes you feel vulnerable, as does the busy feel of the WR, and the lack of a substantial bike underneath you.
The seat and chassis are thin – a plus off-road – so you feel like you’re on a fast bicycle rather than a normal street bike. This is great for threading the needle when traffic gets thick and heavy. Brake and tires are decent, but you must keep in mind their limitations. This is the WR’s weakest point, but that’s to be expected – it’s a 250cc single!
Perhaps the strongest suit for the WR250R is its off-road capability. Sometimes we ride dual-sport bikes more on-road, but in the case of the 2014 Yamaha WR250R, we did quite a bit of trail riding. The chassis is cast and forged aluminum, with a cast and extruded aluminum asymmetrical swingarm. Front and rear, the suspension is fully adjustable for damping and spring preload.
All that sounds great, but the WR250R’s chassis is still only “inspired” (to use Yamaha’s word) by the off-road only YZ-F and WR-F bikes. So, it is not in the same class as the dual sport bikes from KTM and Beta – those are race bikes with lights, while this is decidedly a fun trail bike that is also street legal.
The good news is that you can take it on some seriously gnarly, technical trails. If the routes you prefer have traction issues, swap out the Trail Wing tires for real knobbies, and that will be that extra boost you need. There might be times when the WR250R’s EPA-restricted motor isn’t quite as much as you’d like on long, tough hillclimb, but those situations will likely be very few and far between for the typical WR250R owner. For sane trail riders not interested in training for a Hard Enduro, the WR250R is perfectly capable of hanging on in inhospitable circumstances.
Now, for casual trail riding on those lesser difficulty trails, the 2014 Yamaha WR250R is a pleasure to ride. The weight is there and it never goes away, but the narrow chassis feels good and the suspension has better damping and action than you’d expect. This means the WR is exacting on technical trails, and you can point it into a turn with confidence.
As trails open up, the WR’s suspension will swallow up anything but whoops – no skipping allowed. On fast, rocky trails, again, it is much more capable than any sort of adventure bike or low-end trail bike. Those 10+ inches of travel come in handy, and you can adjust the damping to taste. Harder charging riders will firm it up a bit – casual riders should resist the temptation to soften things up, as it will take away some of the exactness of the handling.
Dirt roads can be tricky unless you slide up on the tank. Try to ride a bit fast without body English and you’ll lose the front end quickly. However, with your weight moved up, the front end holds decently well, even on hard-packed dirt with a loose layer on top.
Braking is good on the street, and completely controllable and linear on the dirt. On loose downhills, the Trail Wing tires have their limitations. Again, if you are serious about the WR250R in the dirt, real knobs are mandatory. Engine protection is marginal, so consider a heavy-duty skidplate if rocks and hard riding are on the agenda.
Ergonomics are excellent on the WR250R. You get an aggressive seating position, with the narrow seat and frame that you want. The pegs are decent, and the foot controls are flawless. We’d replace the steel bars with an aluminum pair – any change in the bend would be strictly to taste.
If you don’t need them for the riding you’re doing, the mirrors come off in seconds. The LCD taillight is more durable and tucked in than most, and the turn signals will survive most low-speed falls. Also, a guard for the front wave rotor would be a good idea for dirt guy. The long muffler is quite and not in the way, but it is heavy and that’s a tiny exhaust outlet. Two Brothers, Yoshimura, LeoVince, and FMF all make nice looking and sounding slip-on replacements. Yosh also makes a rear fender eliminator kit.
The magic of dual sport motorcycles is there ability to do a wide range of things well, even if they always fall short of a purpose-built bike. In the case of the 2014 Yamaha WR250R, it does a number of things a bit better than the average 250cc dual sport bike. It’s a bit more expensive than the competition, but that gets you fully adjustable suspension, an aluminum frame and a fuel-injected motor – three features you only see on the WR250R. If that’s the kind of dual sport bike you’re looking for, Yamaha has built it.
Photography by Kelly Callan
Helmet: HJC RPHA-X Matte Black
Communications: UClear HBC100 Plus
Pants, jersey, and gloves: Shift Strike
Fanny pack: Motion Pro T6 Tool Pack
Knee braces: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon Knee Brace
Socks: Axo MX Keith Haring Flag
Boots: Sidi Crossfire
2014 Yamaha WR250R Specifications
Engine…Liquid cooled, 4-valve, DOHC 4-stroke;
Bore x stroke…77.0 x 53.6mm
Ignition…TCI with direct ignition coil
Transmission…Constant-mesh 6-speed w/ multiplate wet clutch
Front suspension…Inverted fork; fully adjustable, 10.6” travel
Rear suspension…Linkage single shock; fully adjustable, 10.6” travel
Front brake…Hydraulic single 250mm disc
Rear brake…Hydraulic single 230mm disc
Front tire…Bridgestone Trail Wing TW301, 80/100-21
Rear tire…Bridgestone Trail Wing TW302, 120/80-18
Length x width x height…85.6 x 31.9 x 48.4 inches
Seat height…36.6 inches
Ground clearance…11.8 inches
Fuel capacity…2.0 gallons (CA model – 1.9 gallons)
Estimated fuel economy…71 mpg
Wet weight…295 pounds
Color…Team Yamaha Blue/White
2014 Yamaha WR250R MSRP…$6690.