STORY ADAM SPENCE PHOTOGRAPHY IKAPTURE
SETTING THE SCENE
If being the first media group in the world to ride the all-new WR450F wasn’t already cool enough, the location in which we did so really did top it off. It was the incredible property of Yamaha-backed off-road specialist Josh Green and his family located just outside of Stroud in New South Wales. With a selection of terrain ranging from flowing grass tracks to tight and technical trail sections, it was the perfect testing ground for Yamaha’s latest and greatest 450cc off-road offering. As always, the guys from Yamaha Motor Australia, along with Green, were top level hosts and our stay couldn’t have been any more enjoyable both on and off the bike.
TIME TO RIDE
The first thing you notice when taking off on the 2019 WR450F is the responsive engine and slim ergonomics. The engine package has always been strong on this model, but it definitely feels more motocross-like and packs a solid punch right from the get-go. In terms of ergonomics though, this model did suffer from a wide feeling, especially in the tank/shroud region. This has been changed substantially though for 2019 and it was pleasantly surprising just how slim the bike felt. Yamaha clearly put in the work in this department and they managed to slim down the forward area of the seat by a huge 9mm on each side. You may be thinking that’s not a whole lot, but when it comes to off-road motorcycle design, it’s huge!
Another change to the ergonomics is the seat is now lower and flatter. Now 7.7mm lower in the centre and a huge 19.4mm lower at the rear, the 2019 WR450F seat height and profile will certainly be a popular update. As a taller rider myself, this change didn’t cause me to feel cramped on the bike in the seat to foot peg department either, which is important to note. So, it’s basically a great update all round where the shorter riders and taller riders both benefit. My only gripe with this change is the fact that the standard handlebars now feel too tall for me, which is something I was anticipating having ridden the new generation YZ450F previously and experiencing the same issue. But this is a personal preference thing as I enjoy a lower bend of bar than most. It’s a simple fix for me as I would just throw my preferred handlebar on the bike and I’m good to go. In saying that though, I believe Yamaha hit the nail on the head in terms of the bend of handlebar used, it’s super comfortable and will suit a broad range of riders without a doubt.
Overall the updated bodywork and ergonomics of the bike are a huge positive on this model and it’s going to be popular amongst the general public. The plastics look great and there are no points on the bike that gets caught up on your boots, which is a huge thing for me personally on any bike. Yamaha also thought about ease of maintenance on the new model as the air-box adopts a new single-fastener design. In comparison to the previous three-fastener layout, this new design not only looks cleaner, but it makes accessing your air-filter a lot easier. Nobody enjoys anything to do with air-filters, so if that process can be made simpler in any way, we’re all for it.
HANDLING THE TRAILS
Featuring an all-new frame and overall chassis design, I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of handling and performance. I mean, yes the bike does adopt the YZ450F’s KYB SSS dual chamber fork and KYB rear shock, but the settings are not the same and this isn’t the exact same bike. As a guy who struggles to crack the 80kg mark on my heaviest days, I felt that the standard setting was slightly on the stiff side for me out of the box. Was this something that surprised me? Not really, as I expected this model to be more of a ‘performance’ style bike, which usually equates to stiffer settings to allow the bike to be pushed even harder. But for me, even on a motocross bike, I like to have my settings slightly softer than normal for added feel in the turns and the choppy bumps.
Checking in with Yamaha Motor Australia’s Darren Thompson, we went ahead and played with the compression both front and rear along with the sag. The beauty of these days is that we can go ahead and experiment, that’s what we’re there for, so we did that. At one stage we went as far as 10 clicks softer on the fork, but that was clearly pushing the fork too far and causing steering angle changes as the fork rode in the wrong section of the stroke through the turns. In the end we ended up five clicks softer on the front, six on the rear and from 98 to 104mm on the sag. This combination felt most comfortable for me throughout the day, but I do think I would like to soften the bike up a bit more. Once again though, this all comes down to personal preference and I do tend to look for the plush ‘lounge chair’ feel when it comes to enduro bikes.
In saying that though, the standard setup worked an absolute treat when it came to general use and hopping over log sections. My search for a softer setting was specifically coming down to technical off-camber corners and very rough and rocky trail sections. As an all-round setup, the standard suspension combination with slight tweaks to suit your style will be great. That’s the good thing about Yamaha’s KYB system, it’s very predictable and has a feel that suits everyone. You’ll never jump on a Yamaha and feel uncomfortable with the feedback the KYB spring forks and shock provide, which I believe is essential in terms of off-road riding. We don’t want to be chasing settings and messing around for hours on end, it’s all about getting out there with your mates and logging endless hours, right?
SWAP THE POWER
Specifically designed for the WR450F, the blue button is located on the left side of the handlebars in finger’s reach. It’s a super cool feature that really impressed me and I believe it will be a very popular update amongst new 2019 WR450F owners once released. In short, the blue button allows you to turn on a ‘traction map’ of sorts as you ride. Once the button has been pressed, it turns blue and lets you know that you have essentially changed the engine’s characteristics to a more mellow and forgiving nature. This doesn’t re-map your ignition, that’s all done in the impressive Power Tuner App, what this does is curves your current map to suit areas of less traction or even a tighter section of the trail. With one press of a button you can feel a significant change in the way the power is delivered and it’s a huge bonus when it comes to riding in a range of conditions. If you’re going from absolutely pristine tacky clay into slick creek beds, you’ll be able to move from your full power option to a more useable option to ensure you’re putting the power to the ground – it’s great!
Now let’s look at how you can completely change the characteristics of each map with Yamaha’s exclusive Power Tuner App. This app and technology is absolutely incredible, there’s no denying that Yamaha have nailed it when it comes to this WiFi tuning system. Using your iOS or Android device, you can now tune your 2019 WR450F via WiFi to suit your riding style and the options are endless. With the ability to change fuel-injection and ignition timing on your phone, you can completely change the way this engine delivers its power and you can even use maps developed by friends! With the ability to tune your own settings, load in your friend’s maps to your own bike and even use the app as a log for all of your data, the Yamaha Power Tuner App really has it all. Having initially used this technology in the current YZ450F on release, it was exciting to see it move across to the off-road market where I believe it could even be more of a hit.
For me personally I stuck with the standard mapping in the end and used the blue button to knock the edge off the initial low-end hit when necessary. This option proved itself to be very handy as the surfaces dried out and traction went away. With the ability to switch modes as you ride, it just makes life a whole lot easier and safer for you. Even in your ‘traction’ mode, the power delivery is very strong and actually returns to the standard mapping as you continue to roll the throttle on according to Yamaha technicians. Basically, if you’re looking for power, this bike has it. If you’re looking for a bike that can be tailored to your needs, you can do it with this bike.
We’ve spoken about the ergonomics, the suspension and the engine, but how does it all come together as a package? It comes together very well! Coming in at a weight of 119kg with oil and a full 7.9L tank of fuel, the bike also feels very light and nimble. This is due to the way Yamaha designed this model with a huge focus on centralising the mass. Not once did the 2019 WR450F feel heavy or awkward in tight trails and that’s a huge point that has to be made. It’s impressive just how small and light the bike feels, which is going to be something that wins the hearts of new and existing WR450F fans in 2019.
Whether you’re hopping logs and just going very fast in a straight line, the 2019 WR450F feels balanced and stable so you can feel confident in any conditions that the trails may throw at you.
All said and done, the 2019 Yamaha WR450F is one solid package and it’s a package that we will continue working on throughout the year. Yes, that’s right, we’ll be taking delivery of our very own 2019 Yamaha WR450F as a long-term bike here at Dirt Action! With a strong base setting already achieved at the global launch, we’re looking forward to spending a whole lot more time on the bike in a vast range of conditions and locations. It’s an exciting time to be an off-road rider right now and the 2019 Yamaha WR450F is sure to shake things up in 2019. Once again, a huge thanks goes out to Yamaha Motor Australia and the Green family for their hospitality and we can’t wait to get back out there on our very own 2019 WR450F in the coming months – stay tuned!
For the full feature, check out issue #227 of Dirt Action Magazine.
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