STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY DAMIEN ASHENHURST
Life with the WR450F has been pretty damn easy. Over the last year not a single thing has gone wrong and while I have busted a few plastic bits due to my own predilection for riding into trees, nothing has failed through use or wear. I like how the bike loosened up over time which was interesting to track. It felt a little stiff for me at first but both the frame and suspension eventually beds in. The frame in particular gets more flex and the ride becomes less rigid so if you’re new to the WR-F and you’re finding it a bit rough, the more you ride the better it gets. I’ve thrown a couple of different maps into the engine via the Power Tuner but I keep going back to the Traction (or Hollis) map. The stock map is too fiery to ride single trail well but the Traction map nails the balance.
The addition of the Akrapovic is something that I’d go with again on a WR-F. The way the power comes on around the mid-range is so much fun and the bike rolls-on right through to a healthy top-end that I rarely hit on the average trail. I’m a massive fan of the Pirelli Scorpion XC tyres that have performed well on a variety of terrains from sand to hard pack. I didn’t get a serious mud ride in because it just hasn’t really rained for months where I live but I’ll be more than happy to throw the XCs on any bike from now on. I ended up running the suspension with no mods and with the compression sped up by three clicks at the rear and two at the front. I kind of like a softer feel but I reckon the WR450F is easier to keep in check under power if the back can squat a little at the rear. Otherwise it tends to fishtail a heap which is mad fun but not super practical.
The engine is brilliant. Again, I don’t like the standard map but once that’s altered the engine is so much fun but also manageable in single trail. The bike is happy to lug and just push its way through a trail in a pretty relaxed fashion or you can wick-it-up and watch the scenery go by at light speed. Thankfully the brakes are also up to the job of pulling it all up. I did swap out the stock front disc for a Braking disc which offered a little for feel but there is no lack of power at either end. They’re not grabby or aggressive like Brembos but it’s hard for me to pick fault with them at all. The MSC steering damper has been something of a revelation.
I wasn’t sure what difference it would make or if it would bother me with the change of feel. It’s actually something I’d consider putting on any bike I have from here on. It gave me confidence in places I really don’t have like soft sand but also the pace I could ride loose rocks and tracks with crazy tree roots as was well above what I could without the MSC on-board. The reputation that the WR450F has as a dependable workhorse that’s no dramas and can race as easily as it trail rides is undiminished. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would want much more from a bike than the WR450F offers. As the model approaches its 20th year its satisfying to know that while some iterations have been better than others, what we have right now is another cracker that leaves you to just ride and have fun.