Yamaha’s all-new WR450F is finally here. Hey, sometimes getting things just right takes time, right? Perhaps that’s the case with the 2019 Yamaha WR450F which receives a significant overhaul for the, well, not so new year. Almost nothing has been left untouched.
When it comes to Yamaha’s meaty line of 450cc four-stroke dirt bikes, the YZ450F comes to mind first, and that’s because it’s the baseline for the company’s fleet of big-bore off-road motorcycles, the YZ450FX, and WR450F. You could include the YZ450F in the off-road fold if you want, but it’s tuned for motocross and is all but unrideable on the trail. The YZ450FX is the YZ450F for the hard-core off-road racer who is looking for a motocrosser with an 18-inch rear wheel, a wider-ratio tranny, and a kickstand to hit the trails on. These off-road riders are primarily concerned about getting to the finish line first; they aren’t interested in comfort, usability, or manageability. They want to go fast! And the YZ450FX certainly fits that bill. But what about the person who still wants performance and power on the trail but also wants all the comforts of home? This is where the WR450F raises its hand.
Photography by Kit Palmer
2019 Yamaha WR450F Review
Yes, the WR450F is modeled after the latest YZ450F motocrosser, which got a significant overall in 2018. The WR is even more closely related to the FX, which got a serious revamp in 2019. The 2019 YZ450FX got what the 2018 YZ450F got: a new frame, a new motor, Wi-Fi mapping connectivity, and a lot more. Now it’s time for the WR450F to get its fresher-upper.
The new WR shares many of the same off-road ingredients that set it and the 2019 YZ450FX apart from the YZ450F, like having an 18-inch rear wheel, wider gear ratios, larger fuel tank, tamer engine mapping, softer suspension, O-ring chain, skid plate, and a kickstand. But the WR takes things a little farther when it comes to trail friendliness compared to the FX; the WR’s suspension is setup even softer than the FX’s, has a spark arrestor, lighting, a radiator fan, odometer/multi-function enduro meter, steel rear sprocket, and more generator power.
Like the FX, the WR450F is California red-sticker certified, not green sticker as you would think, despite it having a tamper-proof black box and no Wi-Fi mapping connectivity (like the YZ and FX have), and it still comes off the showroom floor with a throttle stop and inner muffler! Weird. Yamaha tells us this bike was designed to meet EPA and CARB noise and emissions requirements for off-road use, but certification has not yet been issued.
Anyhow, compared to the outgoing WR450F, the 2019 is significantly changed. It has a stiffer frame that is narrower (by 18mm at the knee area) and yields a lower seat height—18mm lower at the dip (center) of the seat and 19mm lower at the rear fender.
The WR’s KYB suspension is identical to the YZ450F’s but has much lighter springs, 56 N/m versus the YZ’s 58 N/m spring in the back, and 4.6 N/m versus the YZ’s 5.0 N/m springs in the front. The front axle is also 2mm larger in diameter, 20mm to 22mm.
The WR’s 449cc, DOHC, fuel-injected engine is all new; it’s more compact and has a new starter motor that is positioned above the gearbox to drive the clutch basket. The WR’s old engine wasn’t originally designed to house a starter motor, this one, however, is designed for one. An acid, rather than lithium, battery powers the starter motor. Yes, acid is heavier than lithium but more durable, especially in cold weather. The head, camshafts, piston, and clutch have all been modified and tuned for better power and better engine manageability.
Fuel capacity is increased slightly. It holds .56 gallons more than the 2019 YZ450F and .18 gallons more than the 2018 WR450F.
Even the side stand has been redesigned. It’s lighter, more compact, and has additional ground clearance.
The WR we rode came fitted with Dunlop MX3X knobbies.
Our WR450F came sans throttle stop and inner muffler, but even without the internal muffler, the WR is ultra-quiet. Quiet or not, the WR is still a very powerful motorcycle—not scary powerful, just powerful. And once you start heading down the trail, you quickly discover that is bike far less intimidating and aggressive-feeling than the YZ450F and the YZ450FX. Still, it pumps out a ton of grunt that even kept our expert off-roader test rider quite happy. Of course, he would’ve enjoyed more power way up top (he always does), but he was still overall extremely pleased with the WR’s motor, as was our vet tester, who loved the way the WR pulled hard but smoothly off the bottom.
The only time the WR felt a little sketchy was on slippery hard-pack. The WR has so much torque and power that it doesn’t take much throttle to light up the back end and for the rear wheel to start spinning sideways; if you’re not careful, it can get away from you pretty quickly when traction is scarce. Traction plays a significant role in how much fun you’re going to have on the WR. The more traction, the more fun.
The WR is geared well to the engine. Compared to the FX, first gear is far more useable in the super technical stuff, like over loose rocks. When things open up, we found ourselves letting third and fourth gears to most of the work.
Helping you manage all the WR’s power is a strong and durable clutch that has an excellent feel.
If you want more power, however, you can, via Yamaha’s Parts and Accessories, purchase for $150 a tunable power-up kit that replaces the stock black box. For another $300, you can buy the Wi-Fi communications unit that can be altered via a smartphone, like the YZ450F and FX. This means you can re-tune the motor while out on the trail, it’s that easy to do (from past experience).
The WR is a little finicky when it comes to starting. Sometimes you have to find that just right amount of throttle to get ‘er lit. You want to find that just-right combo quickly because there is no kick-starter and you don’t want to abuse the battery.
Suspension is impressive. We found the WR’s SSS fork and shock to be dialed in for riders right around the 180-pound mark, but maybe a tad soft for a lighter and more aggressive rider. Out of the box, the WR KYB suspension is smooth, plush, and works well over a variety of terrain and at many speeds. Yamaha recommends 105mm of sag, but even with the updated frame, as with the previous model, 108mm struck the right chord with us. The WR is a tall motorcycle, and weight needs to be emphasized on the rear wheel as much as possible to aid in traction.
Once the rear end has traction you can virtually put this bike where you want, whether you’re on high-speed dirt roads, single track with tight corners, or whoops. We had high confidence on the WR when pounding sharp-edge whoops and riding through rocks—no problem. The bike stays straight and planted. It’s very stable.
Even though the fuel tank is larger now, the bike doesn’t feel any bulkier, but the bike still feels a bit on the large and tall side. Plus, the Yamaha is heavy, which isn’t a big deal most of the time, but for lengthy hard riding, it’ll wear you on sooner than if you were on a KTM 450 XC-F which is approximately 20 pounds lighter.
We came away very impressed with the all-new WR450F. It’s much easier to ride on the trail than before and can be ridden both aggressively and casually with great success. Suspension is top-notch; it handles exceptionally well and is easy to ride while still offering tons of power. Based on reputation, the WR450F is bulletproof and wears well.
Our main gripes? Unfortunately, it still feels a bit heavy, it’s tall, and comes without handguards or a green sticker—but still comes with a throttle stop and inner muffler! Oh, well. Nothing is perfect, but the WR isn’t far off.CN
2019 Yamaha WR450F Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-stroke, single
|Bore & stroke:
||97.0mm x 60.8mm
||44mm Keihin EFI
||KYB, Speed-Sensitive System (SSS) coil-spring fork, fully adjustable
||KYB, single-shock, piggyback, fully adjustable
||Dunlop MX3X 80/100-21 in.
||Dunlop MX3X 120/90-18 in.
||Single 270mm disc
||Single 245mm disc
|Weight (wet, claimed):