Yamaha WR250X Supermoto

All Rights Reserved 2011 Thomas W. Day

How the poor WR looked when I brought it home in January. Clipped front and rear fenders, stock seat and graphics, racerboy decals, and stuffed into the back of a frozen garage.

The Yamaha WR250X is one the very few motorcycles produced in last decade that I would classify as one of my dream bikes. I have loved the WR250X since I first saw it at the 2008 Cycle World International Motorcycle Show. I could barely get on and off of the show sample (the lowest seat height is 35.2"), but I loved the fuel-injected, water-cooled, super-compact multiple purpose bike. Someone called the WR "one-fourth of an R1" and that's a pretty good description. This is one tech'ed-out little bike.

I can't say I loved the $6600 price tag, but the Minnesota winter used market is always an answer to that problem. In the three years since the WR250X arrived, not much has changed (except the usual color parade from '08 blue to '09 black to '10-11 white) to change either my opinion of the supermoto or its performance. It's still a great bike, weighs 300 pounds wet, claims 71 EPA miles-per-gallon (55-60mpg real world), and rocks the twistiest roads. Our tanking economy promised to deliver a fair deal on a WR in the winter of 2010 and it did. Nothing loses value in a depression like recreational vehicles. Taking close to half off of the original price with 18 months of warranty left and only a grand on the odometer, one of the usual suspects came through for me that January.

Unfortunately, I broke my rule of avoiding motorcycles previously owned by Kids. Stupidly (on my part), that  Kid managed to hide much of the damage he'd done to the motorcycle in his 8 months and 1200 miles of ownership. It always amazes me how foolishly some people will hack away at superior engineering in search of lower power, more noise, reduced comfort, and degraded handling. Except for a butchered pipe, mangled tail light, hacked up fenders, some critical lost hardware, my WR survived the mishandling in reasonably good condition and I took the rest of the winter to return it to stock condition, plus some touring farkles. The sporty looking shortened fender spit sand and mud in my face, so I decided that all the way back to stock was the best starting point. Between January and April, I pulled messed up parts and replaced them with stock Yamaha bits.

Stock Yamaha photo of the WR250X.

After sorting out the obvious problems on my user-recycled bike, I took it for its first outing in mid-March. I used a simple troubleshooting service call as an excuse to ride my urban assault vehicle through the most messed up dirt roads I could find between here and Forest Lake and I have not had that much fun on a motorcycle since the 70's. While there is no comparison in technology, horsepower, or suspension, I was reminded of my 1973 Rickman ISDT 125 that took me to work on weekdays, to the motocross track and cross-country racing on Sunday, and to the backroads of Nebraska every free day for three years. Like the Rickman, The WR250X can do anything. Unlike the Rickman, the WR does everything I want to do way better than I can do it.

The three section cast-aluminum semi-double-cradle frame (based on the famous WR250F) is the heart of this motorcycle's abilities. The frame is so solid that the bike feels much larger than any 250 I've ridden. I think Yamaha's 450 power plant could drop into this frame with minimal changes and you'd just have a faster motorcycle. At speed, in tight corners, and off pavement, the WR does everything you ask of it and goes anywhere you aim it. The 250cc, four-valve (oversized titanium intake valves), liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC, pent-roof combustion chamber, high (11.8:1) compression, electronically-controlled Mikuni 38mm fuel-injected power plant makes a mockery of the "small bike" status. Top speed, GPS verified, in stock form is not much over 80mph. Cruising at 60 is effortless, but keeping up with 75mph freeway traffic feels like moderate abuse. The clutch is surprisingly stiff and has the feel of a toggle switch. The friction zone is tiny, which means this might not be the right bike for a beginner. The front and rear disk brakes are wonderful for the intended purpose. I've heard complaints of fading on the race track, but under the conditions I've used the WR I think they are more than satisfactory. 

Since my first weeks with my WRX were all about maintenance, I got a good look at what taking care of this little bike will entail. Getting to the most frequently maintained parts (air filter, oil filter, valves, fuel pump, radiator, electronics, lights, etc.) is dirt-bike-easy. Yamaha only used a few sizes of Allens, Phillips, and hex bolts and a minimum of tools will get maximum work done. Specialty tools required for clutch, engine, suspension, and transmission work, but for the usual field-repairable problems the tiny tool kit is sufficient.

The big deficiency, in my mind, of the WR bikes is the two gallon fuel capacity. At 55-60mpg the bike manages about 90 miles before the reserve mileage reserve warning trips, but running out of gas is sometimes the death of electric fuel pumps. I haven't had the guts to test the max distance of my WRX, but I once made it to 130 miles before I wimped out. The WR's miles-past-reserve odometer that gives you some indication of how far you've travelled since that fuel pressure point was past. Ideally, I'd like to get a couple hundred miles before desperately needing civilization. So, I added the IMS 3.1 gallon accessory tank and the Acerbis locking cap, which pushed the bike's range to around 150 conservative miles. There are at least two aftermarket greater-than-4.0 gallon tanks available, but I decided to limit myself to what I'm really likely to need between fuel stops. I can always carry accessory fuel bottles.

After living with me for 7 months, this is the WR in touring form (big gun, optional).

To the additional fuel capacity I added the ML2 YamLink rear suspension lowering link, Wheeling Cycle's step seat, the stock Yamaha luggage rack, Acerbis Rally Handguards, a Giant Loop Diablo tank bag, a small MotoFizz tail bag (for commuting), a Giant Loop Coyote saddlebag (for touring), a bike alarm, a RAM GPS mount, and a Flatland bashplate. A taller-than-me rider would need to do a lot less work on the WR to make it right. The stock Bridgestone Battleaxe BT090 rear tire had been completely chicken-stripped by the previous owner, so I went for Avon Gripster replacements to increase the bike's off-pavement capability and add some tire longevity for touring.

Near the end of my farkling, it appears that I have a tiny touring bike and the hippest commuter machine I've ever touched. Based on the wild variations of modifications I've seen from other WR owners, it's obvious that the WR250R/X is a farkle magnet. You could fill a good sized catalog with all of the exhaust systems, suspension parts, fuel tanks, custom seats, accessories and modification parts, and cosmetic crap being sold for this one motorcycle.

On technical roads, the WRX is nothing but fun. The first "short" ride I took was out to a friend's studio in Forest Lake; 20 miles out and 20 back. Somehow, the 20 back turned into 140 miles on a 38oF March afternoon. From then on, every time I took the WR out for a short ride, it turned into double the distance or more. I put on more unnecessary miles on this motorcycle than I have since I rode my V-Strom to Alaska a few years back. I brought the WR to one of the MSF instructor's events and played around on the police training course at Dakota County. The Gripsters stuck nicely to clean pavement and the bike/tire combination slides controllably when the road surface gives way. Top speed wasn't anywhere near the average on that course, but I found myself waiting for the bigger bikes to get out of the way on the straights so I could have room to play in the corners.

The WR is most everything I hoped it would be, except for the fuel efficiency issue. I took the little dude around Lake Superior last summer and the WR did fine, although the bike was overkill for those straight, oversized, boring roads. I may need to move to the mountains or to Wisconsin's letter roads. The bad news is Yamaha dropped the WR250X from the line in 2012. One dealer at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show told me, "Yamaha dropped the only 250 I can sell." That may mean that used prices on the WRX could take a jump when the general riding public realizes it is a rare bike.

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