2009 Yamaha WR250X Review
The most fun you can have at 54 mpg!
Rarely has a quarter-liter streetbike been this much fun. The Ninja 250 has its sportbike appeal, but it’s lacking the bad-ass gene that is so apparent in the WR250X supermoto. Hayabusa pilots might not think much of its 28 horses at the back wheel, but it’ll lap the Busa within four circuits of your local go-kart track!
And therein lays the charm of the WR; It makes sub-60-mph speeds a riot, whether it’s at the kart track or while running down to King Soopers for a loaf of bread. Even a casual jaunt through the neighborhood can turn into a grin fest, tempting a dirt-bred hooligan into mono-wheeling past the local skateboarder park or bunny-hopping over curb edges just for the fun of it.
The 250X’s single-lung engine fires up easily enough – just push the magic button and the fuel-injection takes care of the rest; there is no kickstarter. However, it is a bit cold-blooded and requires a minute of warming before it responds cleanly to the throttle. Early impressions are good and not so good.
The WR gets kudos for its light weight (299 lbs ready to ride with a tank of fuel) and for its nimbleness, but short people will wish for a seat height lower than the WR’s 35.2 inches. Steering effort (if you can call it that) is incredibly light thanks to a wide motocross-style handlebar, and its super-tight turning radius makes it easy to maneuver in the garage and when filtering through traffic. However, clutch engagement a bit lurchy and inconsistent, while the gearbox is occasionally notchy.
No worries about this little ripper of a motor. The 250cc liquid-cooled, DOHC engine with two titanium intake valves and two steel exhausts features a fuel-injection system that takes input from a crank sensor, intake air pressure sensor and throttle position sensor. The compact ECU also controls an EXUP exhaust valve to broaden the powerband. Valve-adjustment intervals are a lengthy 26,000 miles.
It all adds up to about 28 horses (measured on the Area P dyno) at the rear wheel. Interestingly, the peak torque of 16.9 ft-lbs at 8,200 rpm arrives just 700 revs prior to the horsepower crest - I can’t recall another bike that has its torque and horsepower peaks so closely spaced. Anyway, there’s enough power on tap to easily scamper away from traffic at stoplights, and it continues accelerating at a moderately brisk pace past every speed limit in the land.
While power is adequately sprightly at urban speeds, I was initially worried the mini motor would run out of breath at a California speedway… er, freeway pace. However, it runs just fine at 70-75 mph, using its sixth gear to bring down revs and vibration to levels that aren’t objectionable. It’s also able to cruise at 80 miles per and above, but engine vibration becomes more pronounced and its darty steering becomes unnerving. The narrow seat is surprisingly supportive, giving a butt almost an hour before squirming.
But, for the WR, riding on the freeway is like the movie preview prior to the featured film. Find the squiggliest lines on the map and you’ll find the perfect playground for the 250X. A wide handlebar and a 25.3-degree rake provide exceptionally quick steering, allowing a rider to pick precise lines in the twistiest sections. Grip from the 17-inch Bridgestone BT090 radials (110/70; 140/70) is greater than a sane rider would require
Keep the revs up by doing some clever toe-tapping on the shift lever, and the WR supplies enough thrust to keep things interesting. Although horsepower peaks around 9,000 rpm, there is a useful overrev zone until the 11,500-rpm rev limiter engages, which you’ll hit a few times while chasing more powerful bikes. You’ll have to do the rev selection by ear and feel, as there is no tachometer. A picky rider will notice a bit of throttle abruptness, both applying throttle and rolling off, but it’s easy enough to cope with.
The WR’s 10.6-inches of travel at both ends sucks up big bumps ably. Nice to see the bike’s suspension adjustable for spring preload and compression and rebound damping, front and rear - making firmness and control a rider’s choice. The 250X shares its platform with the dirt-capable WR250R, but it has stiffer springs and revised damping.
Another of the WR’s nice touches are wave-style brake rotors front and rear, including a substantial 298mm front disc. The front brake lever is adjustable, and the rear pedal is made from stout forged aluminum. Feel from the front lever is firm, while the rear cooperates by not being too grabby.
Try as we might, we couldn’t get fuel mileage to dip below 50 mpg, even when sending its engine on frequent trips to the rev limiter. It averaged 54 mpg under our merciless hands, giving it a range of about 100 miles from its 2.0-gallon tank. Yamaha fitted the compact instrument pod with several elements, such as a countdown tripmeter which clocks the miles from when the low-fuel lamp is lit, as well as a clock and stopwatch. Other thoughtful features include a tool kit mounted externally to the left-side subframe rail, where a little further back is a handy helmet lock, a gripper-type non-slip seat that keeps its rider in place even with one wheel in the air and passenger pegs and grab strap ensure your ride doesn’t get too lonely.
The 250X is especially stunning in its new-for-‘09 bad-in-black paint scheme. It appears more menacing than a 250cc bike has a right to look. Magnesium-colored triple clamps and exhaust heat shield are nice design touches, as are the black-anodized wheel rims and the clean aluminum frame. While the black bodywork looks great, scuffs show readily, especially the top of the tailsection where a rider’s boot needs to be thrown high to clear it.
Now, before you wince at the thought of a 250cc single-cylinder bike with an MSRP of $6,190, you should note a few things this midi-moto has that other similar bikes don’t; fuel-injection, titanium intake valves, aluminum frame and swingarm, forged aluminum lower triple clamp, aluminum steering stem, plug-top ignition coils and an exhaust valve. Elements that end in “anium” and “uminum” are much costlier than plain ol’ steel.
This quality hardware puts it in a loftier price zone than its newly minted Japanese competitors (Honda CRF230M, $4,749; Kawasaki KLX250SF, $5,299), but the Yamaha will easily out-motor those lower-spec rivals. However, the WR’s high-spec componentry causes its MSRP to crowd the price of Suzuki’s larger-displacement DR-Z400SM, being just $109 cheaper. The DR-Z is noticeably torquier, but it has only about seven more peak ponies and weighs 23 extra lbs.
Overall, we came away from our time with the WR more impressed that we thought we might. This slightly-less-than-super supermoto bike gave us more grins than we’d anticipated. As expected, it excels on lower-speed twisty roads, and it does a fine job in a commuter role around town. And, while it’s not an ideal touring mount, it surprised us most by being adequate at highway speeds. It is more than suitable for an hour’s worth of freeway travel while heading for serpentine canyons on which to humiliate larger-displacement sportbikes, piloted by lesser riders.
While the WR250X isn’t an ideal choice for a bargain hunter who is shopping for an inexpensive commuter bike, it has plenty of high-end details and useful features baked into it that add up to a unique sporting machine a gearhead can be proud of.
We liked it so much that we’re not yet ready to give it back. So we’re fitting some Yamaha accessories to it while we wait for a Kawi KLX250SF test mule. Is the more powerful WR $900 better than the new KLX-SF? And, if we’re lucky, we might toss in the DR-Z400SM to see which Japanese manufacturer has the best overall supermoto package for the dollar. This is gonna be fun!
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