The news that I’d be steering a Yamaha WR450F upon my triumphant return to the magazine had me pumped, but also a little nervous.
I’ll be the first to admit that, with the physical build of a praying mantis, I was a little worried how’d I go swinging off the back of a ball-tearing 450.
The WR450F is a big bike, no getting around that, and although I’ve got the height, weight is more of a factor when you’re trying to thread a 123kg missile through the trees. My first ride was a bit of a wake-up call. It wasn’t the ideal location to pop my WR450F cherry as it was rock ledge after rock ledge with no open, flowing trails in sight.
I battled with the thing the entire time. I stalled it at every climb, couldn’t steer it and I was wasted in half the time I usually would be. It dented my confidence but I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t 450F territory, these things like going fast!
ADB’s Tech Editor Mat Boyd assured me that a few hours with the Yamaha Power Tuner would fix all my problems. The next time I rode the WR450F was closer to what I’d call 450F territory – fast, flowing trails with sweeping corners.
Here I started to enjoy riding the WR-F. It’s an incredibly stable bike and offers a smooth ride over rough trails. Where I’d usually be getting knocked around on a two-stroke, the Yammi ploughed through, unphased by trail junk.
By this stage the bike was starting to look more like an ADB Garage resident. TeeNCee Graphics had decked out the bike with a great looking graphics kit and I’d replaced the stock headlight with an LED unit from Baja Designs.
In my quest to reduce weight I replaced the stock muffler an Akrapovic titanium slip-on. Besides looking good it knocked a few hundred grams off and released more beast from the WR450F engine, not that I needed more.
The stock levers were the next to go and were replaced with GYTR’s pivoting levers. I also prefer open-ended handshields to handguards so I removed the stock Barkbusters and fitted a set of Cycra Recoil handshields.
A blue anodised front brake-line clamp and axle blocks were also installed, for a 10kW power increase, although some owners say its more.
I decided on ProTaper Contour Stock KTM bend handlebar and matching ProTaper Pillow Top Grips. The bend is low with minimal rake. I’ve found less rake opens up the cockpit and allows you to get more weight over the front wheel.
Yamaha’s mechanical guru, Darren Thompson, was on hand to show me the ins and outs of the Power Tuner. I handed over the WR450F and asked Thommo for his opinion. He immediately noticed the pipe had given the bike more crack off the bottom but there was a bit of backfiring, which he fixed in 10 seconds with the Power Tuner.
Thommo also broke the news to me that I’d been riding the WR-F on the most aggressive setting. It seems Editor Mitch Lees had commandeered the WR-F for a weekend before it was handed over to me and played with the mapping.
He assured me the “Hollis” map was the last one selected.
However, it was all a set-up and Mitch had left the WR450F with the aggressive motorcross map! Thommo dialled in a variation of the Hollis map to allow for the Akro pipe and the difference was instantly noticeable. It was smoother across the board and easier to ride slow.
However, the stalling issue still lurked. If you approached a rock ledge slowly in first gear, revved the engine and used the clutch to pop the front wheel the engine would flame out at the second crack of the throttle. Feathering the clutch didn’t help either.
Enter the Rekluse Core EXP. I had always wanted to try a Rekluse clutch and now I had a good excuse. Auto clutches divide dirtriders. You’ve got those who love them and those who hate them. After hearing the opinion of half of Australia I ended up taking the advice of a couple of trailriding mates who run Rekluse.
The boys at Suttos Motorcycles installed the EXP and I was sold. I got less arm pump, I was riding faster and, most importantly, I was having more fun. I was no longer fighting with the WR-F’s engine.
Suspension was next on the agenda and Thommo had some settings he wanted to try. I was finding the WR-F harsh on the front and difficult to turn in. It’s a very stable bike at high-speed but that has its drawbacks when the speed decreases and the trail becomes tighter.
Thommo dialled in the clickers and we raised the fork in the triple-clamps to 15mm above the top clamp to encourage the WR450F to turn more easily. The turn-in was much better but even with the clickers set and rider sag at 105mm the front still felt harsh.
Thommo said the stock fork springs were too light for the WR450F even without a rider. If you’re 75 to 85kg the WR-F has a tendency to ride too low in the stroke, resulting in the harsh front-end. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to install stiffer springs but I’ve been told it eliminates the harsh feel.
The final piece of the WR450F puzzle was new tyres. The stock tyres were shredded so a pair of Kenda Washougal IIs was fitted. They are a dual-compound tyre and deliver good grip on all the terrain we ride around Sydney. Sand, rock, hardpack and loamy dirt, I couldn’t fault them.
The combination of the Kenda tyres and the WR’s torquey engine made it even more of a hillclimb machine. On trails I’ve ridden for years on small-bore two-strokes, destroying clutches as I went, the WR450F just ate them. No matter how out of shape you find yourself on a hill, the WR450F always has power in reserve to get you out of trouble.
I had my reservations when Mitch first told me I’d be looking after one of the quickest 450F on the market but in the end I had a lot of fun on the big Yammi. In the eight or so months looking after it we had our differences but we worked everything out.
Akrapovic titanium slip-on muffler
GYTR anodised axle blocks
GYTR anodised brake-line clamp
Kenda Washougal II tyres
ProTaper KTM bend handlebar
ProTaper Pillow Top Grips
Published ADB ISsue #453 – June 2017