With the entrance of the Yamaha FX and X series of off-road racing motorcycles, Yamaha’s WRs can comfortably take a position as high-end trail bikes.Fortunately, Yamaha still sees the WR250F as an upgradable platform, and the 2018 Yamaha WR250F gets some serious updates from the YZ250F. As a trail rider, not a racer, I wanted to find out if the WR250F has retained its rideability that has made it my favorite off-road bike.
1. Although the 2018 Yamaha WR250F is Green Sticker legal out of the box, we personalized it a bit. To let the updated motor run the way it should, we yanked the throttle stop, airbox restrictor, and exhaust restrictor. These are common-sense mods, but don’t tell the desk-bound bureaucrats, and check your local laws. With these mods, the WR250F retains a USFS-approved spark arrestor, along with staying nicely quiet. So, keep in mind this is a review of an uncorked WR250F.2. The internals of the WR250F’s motor are almost all new, but the difference in power isn’t huge. Yamaha put in new cams, cylinder head, piston and transmission parts, along with a recalibrated ECU. What I liked about the previous WR250F, I like about the 2018. The motor is soft off the bottom—not great for racing, but ideal for the technical single-track I like to ride. It gains some grunt in the lower midrange, and has a healthy midrange before nicely winding up to a shrieking redline. This is just perfect for trail riding, as you can ride casually when you want, take on challenging terrain without worry, and then get on the gas when the opportunity arises.3. The updated transmission works great, just as it did last year. Shifting is flawless, and the six-speed gearbox makes sure I always have the right gear for the job. Still, if I rode exclusively on single track, I might consider going down a tooth or two on the rear sprocket, as first gear is a bit tall for me. The motor is low-speed friendly, as the radiator has a fan for those technical summer rides.4. The suspension is what makes the 2018 Yamaha WR250F a great trail bike. Rather than the low-spec suspension found on TTs, the WR250F gets a high-end KYB fork with speed sensitive damping and the perfectly set-up KYB shock. This dovetails nicely with the motor, as the WR250F’s suspension is great for casual riders, yet still able to handle speed. Although the suspension is firmer this year, it’s not race-spec firmness—that’s what the YZ250FX and YZ250X are for. Fortunately, it hasn’t lost the plush feel that I prefer when trail riding. Oh, and there’s a new fork seal wiper—previous WRs we’ve tested have had weepy sliders.5. The WR250F’s frame is from the YZ250F motocrosser, with new engine mounts for 2018, so it is fairly aggressive in its geometry. Still, the softer suspension makes it easier to handle, and I don’t have to get up on the tank to get it to turn. Things can get a little sketchy at high speeds on loose terrain, and especially in sand washes, so those who like to tap the bike out in sixth gear (who doesn’t?) will want to consider a steering damper.6. The 2018 Yamaha WR250F gets new soft-to-intermediate Dunlop rubber this year. Last year’s Dunlop Geomax MX51 tires were absolutely fine, but they date back to 2009 and Dunlop has replaced them with the intermediate-to-hard Geomax MX52. Yamaha went with the new soft-to-intermediate Geomax MX3S tires with the new block-in-block tread technology that is designed to improve cornering. Without riding them back-to-back, I can’t say definitively that the MX3S corners better than the MX51, but it corners great, and that’s all that matters. Plus, the MX3S works great in the mixed terrain I ride. If you ride the hardest pack terrain, you’ll want to consider the MX52.7. Yamaha dropped the kickstarter for 2018. That doesn’t bother me, as the e-start button has worked without fail for me. However, if you plan to stall it frequently, consider shifting to neutral for starting. The clutch can drag a bit when warm, but it’s especially noticeable when the motor is cold.8. Although a trail bike, it still has full race ergonomics. I have zero complaint about the peg/grip/seat triangle—it feels completely natural and I can move to wherever on the bike I want. Without question, the 38-inch seat challenges my 30.5-inch inseam, but it’s just something I have to work with. Taller riders on the staff aren’t bothered by it. Of course, I’m jealous.9. Basic maintenance is easy. The air filter, which sits behind the steering head, stays remarkably clean. Accessing the air filter requires no tools—just twist three Dzus fasteners. Changing the oil and oil filter is simple, as is chain adjustment.10. A skidplate is stock, but hand guards are not. The plastic skidplate is full coverage and should satisfy most riders, save those who ride hard in the rockiest conditions. Everyone has their own ideas about hand protection so I can see why Yamaha leaves them off, though it would be nice to have some stock guards until the final replacement decision is made.11. All of the changes are price-neutral. Like last year, the MSRP on the 2018 Yamaha WR250F is $8099.12. I love riding the 2018 Yamaha YZ250F. The combination of the soft low-end for technical trails and a strong midrange and top end, along with a superb chassis, makes the YZ250F almost ideal for me.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!