New Model Feature
It has been a while since I have hit the trails for a ride, in fact, I have not hit the bush since the end of 2017, when I had the opportunity to race Beau Ralston's YZ300X at a round of the AORC series in Kyogle, NSW for an article I wrote for Dirt Action.
I usually will hit up a couple of rounds of the SAORC, and at least one interstate round of the AORC each hear, but in 2018 with so much racing going on it just never eventuated, so when I got an email from the good people at Yamaha Australia to head to Stroud in N.S.W for the Global launch of the all-new 2019 WR450F, I was pretty excited.
Not just because I was keen to get back out and do some trail riding, something I rather enjoy, but there is just not much of an option too much of in South Australia, but I was keen to see just how much the new WR had in common with the 2018 YZ450F I spent last year aboard.
WHY A GLOBAL LAUNCH IN AUSTRALIA YOU ASK?
The WR450F is quite a unique bike that really only exists due to its popularity in the Australian market.
We are one of the few Nations where full ADR requirements are needed to ride a trail bike on remote land in the middle of nowhere and luckily Yamaha move enough units of their road legal 450 dirt bike to have continued to have a race oriented dirt bike that can hit the streets if needed produced.
In fact, us Aussies purchase five times more WR450F’s than the U.S and around 500 more than all of Europe each year, so it is safe to say it is a bike that is very much designed for the Australian market.
Over the years the WR450F has been getting closer and closer to its Motocross brother, the YZ450F in both performance out of the box and also in styling.
For 2019 the WRF takes another huge step closer to being a “Motocross bike with a headlight” but with enough features like the Phone Power Tuner App that will keep this bike trail friendly for those who still want to ride it in a more casual setting.
But with that said there is no doubt Yamaha have aimed squarely at the Enduro competition market with this bike and with the inclusion with a full race kit with every bike sold this bike is ready to hit the start line from the moment it leaves the showroom floor.
And speaking to Yamaha’s Peter Payne at this year's launch, pretty much every question I threw at him regarding the difference between the YZ and WR when it came to the entire frame, the motor, the way the engine was and even the radiator, he came back with the same answer…. It is the same as the YZ!
WHAT's NEW FOR THE 2019 YAMAHA WR450F:
So what exactly should you expect from the 2019 Yamaha WR450F when rolling it out of the showroom in mid to late later this month?
It is a question that has a couple of answers that are dependant on how you plan on riding and or racing this bike; however, the beast that lies within is the same at heart.
In full ADR compliant mode, the bike will roll off the showroom floor loaded with everything you need to have you riding straight from your local dealer back to your place, and will include everything from rearview mirrors, extended rear guard for lights and indicators, front indicators, throttle restrictions, muffler restrictor, full chain guard. Pretty much a commuter bike that is all set up and legal for an L plate rider, a commuter bike that is just begging to be unleashed that is!
However, every 19 WR450F comes with a full race kit included in the RRP price of $13,299 that will transform the bike from a road going trail bike, to a fully-fledged race weapon, and was how the bikes were set up for us when we arrived at Josh Green’s Off-Road Advantage compound in Stroud for the first of two full days of riding.
In race trim, the 19 WRF looks precisely like its YZ450F brother, with the addition of a headlight, a sleek digital odometer on the handlebars, a smartly encased electronic speed sensor that tucks inside side the front wheel up nicely, a slightly different rear guard, a set of hand guards, a bash plate and of course a side kickstand.
The chassis is identical, to the YZ450F, meaning the new WR is much slimmer, especially across the shrouds and is a full 18mm narrower at the front of the seat and the rider sits closer to the ground, with the seat height reduced by 20mm at the rear of the seat.
The bike has the same KYB front forks and rear shock as the YZ but with settings directed for off-road and fast trail riding, while a larger 7.9L fuel tank slides deeper into the frame underneath the seat, giving increased fuel range, and can be increased to well over 8.5L with the removal of an insert that sits inside the tank.
Along with all the updates the WR450F received to slim it down, it also received all the weight reducing updates, the YZ450 received to have the latest version of the WR450F weighing in at 110kg dry.
The new WR450 comes with a five-speed wide ratio gearbox, which is one of the few differences between the YZ and WR models along with the base ECU settings.
One of the great things the WR450F now shares with its YZ siblings is the use of the Yamaha Power Tuner App that is available on both iPhone and Android phones, giving riders great control over how the way the bike produces its power delivery.
The phone app is quite handy, not only allowing riders to select from pre-programmed maps and allowing them to create their own unique maps. It also allows riders to share maps between themselves, meaning your mate no longer has to let you know his power delivery is better or not working for some reason, he can simply send it to you and let you try it yourself!.
Along with the power tuner app is the addition of a convenient little blue button that can be found on the handlebars.
It is the same blue button that is also found on the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F and allows riders to jump between two different maps on the fly, which is an excellent addition to a bike that is designed to be ridden in all conditions and a vast array of racing situations.
For 2019 the WR comes with slightly larger radiators and continues to use a rear mounted fan on the right-hand radiator to help things stay cool in the tight slow-going conditions where natural air flow is reduced.
The air filter access has been revised making access even more accessible, moving from a three fastener system to keep in place to just a single fastener, covering a new thinner filter element makes for quick and easy air filter changes.
LETS RIDE – DAY ONE:
Our first day of riding was spent at Josh Green’s property, with a technical little grass track, filled with off-camber flat turns, with a short rocky trail section included.
There was a full natural terrain track out the back, along with a short trail loop across the road, giving us a great platform to get the bikes sorted for our individual preferences before the following day’s trail ride.
As I always do, the plan was to ride the bike exactly how I found it under the Yamaha pit tent when I arrived to start with and go from there.
One thing I did do however before swinging a leg over was to tap into the Power Tuner App and have it ready to play around with later in the day and checked out the little blue button which would allow me to swap between maps on the fly.
The Blue button on the WR acts in the same way as the same button the 19 YZ250F (The YZ450, does not have the multimap option, instead continuing to have a holeshot assist button in place) but with a slight difference.
On the YZ250F when switching between Map 1 and Map 2 if you have the exact same maps programmed, the bike will produce power in precisely the same way, but that is not the case with the 19 WR450F.
With the WR450F, no matter what map you have in Map 2, the ECU will automatically reduce power by 35% in the first quarter of the throttle. So even if you have the same map in both maps, you will notice a change in the way the power comes on, which I did play around with later in the day.
It means if you are looking to program your full main map, it should always be uploaded into map one, and leave map two as the one you will need when things get a little slippery or traction is not as great.
Hitting the grass track and into the small trail loop to kick things off, I naturally felt right at home with the WR450F layout, it felt the same as the YZ450 I have been riding all year, the power came on in a pretty similar way that I have my own bike set up, with good roll-on power, though a little more mellow, which turned out to be quite nice.
Though only having 10kms on the odometer, the front fork felt plush compared to what I was used to, not soft, but compared to my YZ front fork that is still in stock form, the WRF did not have the harsh feeling in the first part of the stroke that my YZ had and instantly had me thinking I'll have to get this setting into my bike when I get home.
While most things were feeling good, I was struggling in one very major area; I was struggling to get the front end to hold its line through a turn.
At first, I thought it was just myself struggling with the off camber flat turns, but I was struggling on both the off camber turns as well as a couple of level turns that had started to create some small ruts, the type of turn I usually love.
I persisted for a little longer, focusing on my technique, but knew in the back of my mind that was not this issue but was sure if I headed over Darren, Yamaha’s go to set up master, and checked the ride sag, It would be well out of whack.
And out of whack, it was, my 104kg frame had the rear end sitting well down, with the sag sitting at 120. With more than just a couple of turns of the rear spring, we were at 104 and right on the money of where the bike is designed to be at.
Rolling back out onto the grass track and into the first turn, it is evident that the correct sag height was all that I needed to have this bike turning and handling the way I expected it to.
I went from struggling in every turn to hitting any line I wanted to in any corner, so it was time to spend some time cutting laps and getting a good feel for this bike.
The motor in this bike again was very much what I was expecting and hoping for. My YZ450F has a little to much get up and go for me most of the time, when you are not riding week in week out which has been the case for me this year, jumping back on a 450 after a few weeks off certainly gets the heart rate up quickly. Even with taming the beast with the power tuner the YZ has more than enough for me.
With the WRF having the same motor, though, with a different ECU and an exhaust that also helps tame the power, I found the motor with the stock map in place to have a tremendous roll-on power delivery, that would still let you light up the rear wheel if I needed to steer with the back end, but not enough to have myself feeling out of control.
Curious to see how much of a difference the Blue Button would make to the way the power would roll on with the second, less aggressive standard map in play, I picked out a couple of corners and spent a good 30 minutes hitting the same turns changing between map one and two. The two maps were the identical stock map, but with the blue button lit, the bike in the second map had the natural power reduction tuned into the ECU.
At first, I was not sure how much of a difference it was making, but the more I kept hitting the same turn, trying to find a perfect line through the corner with a deep sandy exit, the more I could feel the difference between the two settings.
The first setting would allow the bike to rev harder from the moment you hit the throttle; I could get the rear wheel to spin up just enough and come around in the sand with the bike squaring itself up just nicely.
In the second setting, opening the throttle at the same point, the bike will still accelerate, but the rear wheel would tract a lot better.
Now in this instance in this particular corner having the bike track better actually did not feel as good or put the bike where I wanted it, but that was not really the point of what I was trying to look for, what it showed was there was a definite difference between the two maps, and while this situation was not one where the reduction in power of the first quarter of a turn on the throttle was particularly useful, in a situation where you were riding in loamy or tacky conditions and then hit some slick clay or the weather turned to crap, and things got slippery, with the simple click of a button while on the move, you could adjust the way the power was delivered to suit the conditions and it would make a noticeable difference.
It actually got me thinking more about the Power Tuner App in general.
I have said it before when reviewing the YZ450F, that while it was great to have a power tuner app on a motocross bike especially for riders who like to tinker around more, for someone like myself I am more likely to find a setting I am happy with and just stick with it, so while it is a good option, it’s something that is not super important to myself on a MX bike. The tracks I ride don’t change all that much from week to week, and once I have the bike producing the power the way I like, I am happy to stick with it.
However, on a trail / Enduro bike, the Power Tuner App actually makes a lot more sense and you had to look at the massive array of riding terrain we rode on during day two’s trail ride at this launch to realise that having a bike where you can change the mapping on the go with the simple click of a few buttons on your phone can really come in handy.
When trail riding or racing Off-Road, the difference in terrain from ride to ride can be massive. Even racing some two-day SA Off-Road rounds in the past we have raced on a track made up mainly of a rocky, slippery quarry one day, followed by deep sand the next.
riding where I live in S.A, but I could easily imagine the terrain differences for a trail rider could vary a lot more extremely, especially between summer to winter rides.
So for my mind, Yamaha bringing their latest Power Tuner App technology over to their new WR450F is a no brainer and with now only needing to carry your phone to make the changes you need when you roll up for your ride, instead of the older sperate tuner unit, things just got a lot easier.
With day one over and 50km added to the odometer, I was feeling comfortable on the WR450F, the bike was turning just how I wanted it to, with only a very minor change to the stock map I was more than happy with the way the power came on and the suspension was feeling better than my bike in stock trim at home.
The only other issue I had during day one was the bike flaming out on me a couple of times when riding the very tight single trail loop just across the road from Josh Green’s property.
But with a little increase in the bikes idle speed, I headed back for a couple more laps without issue and was happy with where the bike was at heading into the following day’s trail ride.
With another great feed at the local Glouster pub and some of the usual interesting banter you only hear at a dirt bike launch, we got a good night sleep, before waking up, sliding into another fresh set of SCOTT gear and met up with the large contingent of Australian media for a big day of trail riding.
I was a little nervous heading out for the trail ride, as I said at the top my last time on a trail was a round of the AORC well over 12 months prior, my last actual trail ride was well before that!
I was riding a little tight as we first set off, I knew with the calibre of riders I had around me that this ride was not going to be simple, sure they trail boss could have taken us on some gnarlier trails, and while the likes of Josh Green, Geoff Braico and a few others would eat up what laid ahead of us, I knew I would be hitting sections that would put me well out of my comfort zone and what I am used to, but hey I was on a dirt bike, I love a challenge and I love to ride, so all was good.
I was riding a little tense to start with; we were riding some pretty fast open rocky trail early in the day, more 4WD like tracks than trail. I got caught out on a couple of occasions on the rocky surface. While the front fork felt plush while riding the grass track and loamy small tight trail the day prior, it felt a little hard on the hard rocky surface, and on a couple of occasions I felt the front end deflect beneath me unexpectedly.
It was a tough start to the ride for myself, and the heart rate was up early, but it was not long before we moved away from the rocky stuff and started to hit some flowing trails, with plenty of erosion mounds to keep me on my toes, with some nice deep puddles on the back side.
From flowing trails to some super narrow freshly cut single track, some sweet flowing uphill and downhill runs, some slick greasy sections, a few logs that I managed to get over; we really did hit just about every type of trail you could think off in only 50km of riding, and I was genuinely pumped with how confident I was getting the longer the ride went on. The going was getting tougher, but I was finding It easier.
For myself, this new WR450F was turning and responding exactly how I was hoping it would, apart from the early riding on the rocky surface, the suspension was handling everything we were hitting sweetly and the bike was stable and predictable.
I could push the front end into a turn, or slide the back end around as the situation needed; sure I was going a lot slower than the majority of the guys there, but I was pushing as hard as I could just to not drop a mile off the back of the trail and was smiling from ear to ear.
There were a few moments that stuck out for me, during the morning ride.
Getting near the later stages of the ride, we hit a decent tight uphill section. I was tired, and by the time I got to the top, and things got really tight, I was able to cruise in 1st or second gear and just coast up to the top, there were corners where I was standing on the pegs coming to a virtual standstill, and it was not an issue with this bike, I could crawl along at pretty much as slow as I could go and the bike would still just track up any hill, and with the blip of the throttle I could quickly gather the momentum I needed to get myself up and going again.
Not long after as things really started to hit my limits as a trail rider, I closed into the back of our trail group. I watched on as some riders who are handier than myself on a bike dive down into a single line drop into a small water crossing followed by what looked like a near vertical climb up a slippery emabankment, around a turn with a couple of deep ruts mid turn just to top things off.
With pretty much everyone else through the section, I stopped took a breath, clicking into second and dropped in, as I hit the water I got my weight forward rolled on the power slowly and cruised up the other side without fuss, I was pumped with how the bike both handled and the ease of being able to control the power underneath me. Still happy with my achievement I looked further up and noticed a log crossing the trail.
It was big, way bigger than anything I wanted to hit, I quickly looked around but there was no escape, I pulled the clutch in, gave the throttle another blip and was able to lift the front wheel over the top of it. Now I did not clear it smoothly. It was easily the biggest log I have even attempted, but I had the front wheel over, was able to jump off the side of the bike and quickly push the back end over and keep going.
Before this ride, any log that was even close to being taller than my front wheel was a no go, after this ride I had made it over a number that were bigger than anything I had even looked sideways at before. It was a good feeling.
The ride ended for myself with a long downhill section, full of a combination of large and small rocks, probably my least favourite type of riding. But again the bike handled the section with ease.
Unlike the fast-rocky section where the fork felt a little harsh, at the slower speed on these bigger, but endless rocks the WR450F would hold its line was predictable and never once gave me an uneasy feeling.
At the bottom of the hill was our stop for lunch and with an early flight out, it meant the conclusion of two days of riding for myself aboard the 2019 Yamaha WR450F.
The bike had proven to be very much what I expected after we got the rundown on it at the start of day one, in a lot of ways it proved to be a better bike than I thought it was going to be for someone like myself who does not do a lot of trail riding.
On the type of riding we did on day one, on a flowing grass track that is not far off the kind of MX tracks I usual ride minus the jump, I felt just as comfortable on the 2019 WR450F as my YZ450F, to be honest probably a little more comfortable mainly due to the way the front fork handled.
The stock suspension felt plusher, and I would happily slide that fork setting straight into my YZ and hit an MX track, the power delivery was super smooth and predictable, and while I say super smooth, it's certainly not mellow, there is a tonne of power there if you want to really open it up or simply make things more aggressive with the Power Tuner App.
On the trail on day two, again the bike proved to be easy to ride, even once I was tired.
For myself, it is the type of bike that would easily suit my brief of a bike that would tackle the list of races I do year in year out. I could easily run this bike at local pony express races, or rounds of the SA Off-Road Championship, line up for Hattah, then pop on a 19-inch rear wheel, or even rock the 18-inch and line up behind the gates at my local club days or the Vet Class in the State MX titles.
At the end of the day there is very little that separate’s the new WR450F from the YZ450F, it’s clear that this bike has been aimed at the enduro racer, but in the same breath due to the versatility the power tuner app allows with power delivery, the same WR450F can be turned into a very handy casual trail weapon, even for a rookie trail rider like myself.
It is a bike that really will suit someone looking to race a mixture of Off-road, endure, desert racing and mixing in some motocross.
In addition to the race kit that comes stock with the bike, there is also a host of GYTR parts that will also be available for the 2019 WR450F, including an Akrapovic exhaust to liven things up even more. Check out the Yamaha Australia website for a full list of GYTR parts for the 2019 WR450F.
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