In the small enduro market, Yamaha’s WR250F is a well-regarded option for riders seeking Japanese performance. They’re great little bikes, no doubt, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re built like Nokia bricks.
Last updated in 2015, the 250F is getting a little stale in a space that’s increasingly competitive, so Yamaha’s giving the bike a big refresh for 2020. (This is not an update of the WR250R. More on that later.)
WR stands for “wide ratio," a reference to its versatile gearbox that tries to cover everything from hill climbs to long straightaways. This is pretty different from a motocross bike, which has much closer gear ratios that are specialized for use on MX tracks. With the new updates, Yamaha’s pulling whatever they can from their YZ250F motocrosser and adapting it for use on the WR. The result is a pretty long list of updates and tweaks, all at the same price as the old model.
The WR occupies a pretty unique spot in the off-road world. If you want a high-strung 250 four-stroke for the woods, this is going to be on your short list of must-rides. Yamaha's WR-F models have historically taken power and weight pretty seriously, but these days, the focus on those two attributes seems stronger than ever. And all across the dirt world, the humble woods bikes of yore are taking a back seat to more aggressive offerings. We've seen this in a few other segments, notably the new CRF450L. I don't see this trend slowing anytime soon, either.
Yamaha turns the WR on its head
Or, more accurately, Yamaha’s turned the head completely around. The cylinder has been rotated 180 degrees, with the airbox now at the front of the motorcycle, and the exhaust exiting from the back side of the engine. It then wraps around the front of the engine. That's some pretty interesting exhaust routing!
Since 2015, the WR’s utilized a rear-canted cylinder, and this arrangement is retained for 2020. All this flipping and slantling is intended to optimize mass centralization without sacrificing performance. Updates to the piston and valvetrain result in more power up top. They’ve also revised the air filter, intake tract, and clutch.
The starter’s been moved out front, and the kick lever is gone. Electric leg only. Most enduro bikes seem to be going this direction today.
For the frame, the WR uses the same bilateral beam frame as the YZ250F. In fact, much of the new bike is repackaged YZ250F, with tweaks for the trails over the MX track. The WR’s KYB SSS coil spring fork, for example, is adapted from the motocrosser, as well as its rear shock.
Other changes include an improved skid plate (still plastic), a half-gallon bump in fuel capacity (up to 2.2 gallons), and a lower, slimmer seat.
What about the WR250R?
Could Yamaha’s recent investment in the 250F mean updates are coming for the road-legal WR250R? Possibly, but probably not. Despite their similar names, the WR250F and the far tamer WR250R share very little, which is too bad. Out here near RevZilla, a good number of dirt riding spots and events require plates, and that’s one thing the 250F doesn’t have from the factory. Sure, there are ways of getting a plate on this bike, though not as easily as similar offerings from KTM, at least in some states. I’d love to see Yamaha turn their attention to the decade-old 250R next. Believe me, you’ll read about it here if they head that direction. But for now, trail and enduro riders have the new 250F to consider. Good on Yamaha for making thoughtful updates without raising the price.
Available only in Team Yamaha Blue, the WR250F will retail for $8,599. Look for the new WR250F in showrooms next month.