Yamaha WR250R Review

Welcome to the Adventure Motorcycle Traveller Reviews. Here’s a 28,000-mile review of the Yamaha WR250R by adventure rider Ace Carleton.  

Yamaha WR250R Review

Contents

Picture of By Ace Carleton

By Ace Carleton

Canadian adventure motorcycle traveller

Quick info

  • Bike: 2015 Yamaha WR250R
  • Miles covered: 28,000
  • Years owned: new since 2015 for £4,600 (7,800 CAD)

Yamaha WR250R

  • Year: 2008-2020
  • Engine: 250cc 4 stroke EFI
  • Power: 29.5bhp at the crank
  • Torque: 17.5 lbs-ft
  • Top speed: 87 mph/ 140kph
  • Kerb weight: 134kg
  • Seat height: 93cm 
  • Tank capacity: 2 US gallons/ 7.6L
  • Front suspension: 10.6 inches of travel fully adjustable front and rear with 46mm inverted front fork
  • Max load: 185kg/ 408lbs
  • UK price: approx £4,000

Prep

Why this bike?

I had an aging Suzuki DRZ400SE from 2004 that had 57,000km on it. It was beginning to use a fair amount of oil and had also started to leak coolant past the water pump seals. I was getting tired of the DRZ on the highway too. The close ratio gearbox of the DRZ made me feel like the bike was geared too low for fast highway travel (120kph) and too high for technical single track. 

I priced out parts, new piston and cylinder, gaskets, a ACT wide ratio gear box kit. The parts and install were going to run me around $3,500 at the time and I started looking at other bikes. 

It was a tough call, and having never ridden the Yamaha I tried to do lots of research. I found plenty of people saying the WR250R was better than the DRZ in the woods. It is lighter and has better suspension and guys were saying they could ride the Yamaha faster and harder on the same trail. I also found a couple of crazy guys adventure touring on the WR250R. Mark, aka Big Dog, inspired many of us to see how far we could take the Yamaha.

Yamaha WR250R Review

Modifications

Fuel

IMS makes two fuel tanks for the WR250R – a 3 gallon and a 4.7 gallon. Their 4.7 has gone through three different designs. I had version two and it leaked. IMS was fantastic to deal with sending me a replacement asap. I ran that for about 10,000kms and it leaked as well. Again, IMS was super great and offered me another tank, but I was frustrated by the leaks and picked a Safari tank instead.

Safari makes a 3.7 Gallon / 14 L tank. The bike is much better balanced with the Safari tank. It is fantastic and has lever leaked over the next 35,000kms… but I did miss that extra gallon.

Camel Adventure Products used to make a tank for the WR250R. I grabbed one and struggled to make it work with the safari tank cap. I just couldn’t seem to keep a vacuum seal at the safari tank cap. To solve this, I drilled a hole in the top of the Safari tank and adding a fuel tank vent fitting originally for plastic fuel cells for race cars. This has worked flawlessly for 30,000km and gave me 20L of fuel and a range of over 500kms.

I have been able to try out the IMS version 3 of the 4.7 gallon tank. It is awesome and does not leak. This would be my pick for a RTW fuel tank. 

My WR250R with my riding style will get 450-600km on 4.7 gallons or 18L of fuel.

Yamaha WR250R Review

Oxford heated Grips

These work and are amazing. I find they add a bit of vibration dampening and a bit more girth to the bars too, which helps stop my hands from fatiguing as much. One thing of note, they come in three models, but each one is a different length. I generally recommend the ‘Touring’ version as the model everyone should get because the ‘Adventure’ ones are way too long. I have 40,000km on mine and they still work like new.

READ MORE: Oxford Heated Grips Review

Seat Concepts Seat 

I come from mountain bikes, so I found the stock seat ok.  But everyone raves about the Seat Concepts Seat. I got a standard comfort… and it was ok. But I soon found that my knees hurt on long days so I sold it and tried out a tall version. The tall is definitely taller and it did help alleviate that pain.

I’m 6’4 and about 198cm with a 36 inch inseam. I have 35,000km on the seat and it has definitely softened and broken in. I tried a new Seat Concepts tall and its definitely firmer and more supportive. I would consider a Seat Concepts seat a wear item and would plan on replacing it every 50,000kms or 10 years for best results.

READ MORE: Seat Concepts Review

Yamaha WR250R Review

Pegs

I rode the stock pegs for 43,000kms. I did modify the pegs and flip the mounts upside down to get the pegs lower on the bike. I ran them this way for 33,000kms. This definitely helped for seated comfort… but it moved the pegs forward on the bike as well. I didn’t mind the new forward position.  It was comfortable and I could work the controls ok. However…

Pivot Pegz, I recently tried out a set of pivot pegs in the low back position with the mounts in the OEM position. This is much, much better. The difference in position between the down and forward and the down and back is about three inches front to back. In this position, the bike is much easier to wheelie and the front tire comes up and over obstacles with ease. 

Pivot Pegz come in two versions: MK3 and MK4. The only difference is that the MK3 sticks off the bike 85mm and the MK4 sticks off 115mm. I prefer the MK3. It makes more room for you to touch the ground and paddle the bike when you need to. It is also less likely to collect sticks and trees when you’re riding.   

Yamaha WR250R Review

Bars and risers

I’ve always run the stock Yamaha bars. I have had probably over 2,000 crashes on the stock bars with no bends. I tried different risers and found 30mm okay. 40mm was better standing. It let me stand up in the wrong and incorrect riding position, fully upright. 

The fully upright position is great for those long endless straight gravel roads in Canada, but the 40mm felt too high seated and it actually put stress on my upper body when in a full tuck. The handling off-road on the trails also suffered with the 40mm risers. I’ve recently gone back to no risers and the handling is much better. The riding position is much more aggressive while standing but I do like it better. 

Levers

I ran the stock levers for 45,000kms. No issues. But the RSC clutch is perfect. It can be ordered in a variety of colours and lengths and it moves the engagement zone closer to the bar and makes the pull easier. It also broadens the engagement zone making slow speed riding a breeze. If I were riding a WR250R every day, I would most definitely get this clutch lever. It is worth it.  

Yamaha WR250R Review

Performance modifications

I added a fuel controller and chose the Dyno Jet power commander V with ignition. This reduces fuel economy but does smooth out the power delivery and adds a little bit of power everywhere.

I tried an aftermarket exhaust and it does add quite a bit of top end power.  And it sheds a lot of weight too. I just found it too loud for 10 hours days on the highway at 9,000rpm so I went back to stock.      

The most needed performance mod for a WR250R is to lower the gearing. The bike comes stock with 13/43 gearing and will do 140kph at 9200 rpm. It is much happier with 13/47 gearing and it will still just barely make it to 140kph at 10200rpm. 

The lower gearing improves the feeling of all the gears and makes the bike absolutely brilliant on the trails. The WR250R is the smoothest single cylinder bike I have ever ridden. Even at 10,000rpm the motor is smooth and just zips along.    

Travel

Luggage

I prefer racks. They distribute the luggage weight over the bike better and strengthen the frame in the event of a crash. I’m using modified Tusk racks from Rocky Mountain ATV. They had to be modified to fit around the Camel Adventure Tank. I started out using Wolman E12 saddle bags inside the rack and Wolfman Excursion Panniers on the rack and a big roll top torpedo top bag. But this set up had too many straps and took too long to get on and off the bike.  

The Wolfman E12 or the new Tusk Traverse is brilliant and is best used with the cross over straps Under the seat of the WR250R. And it will fit inside the metal tusk rack. These are great for tubes or tools too.

I have switched the Wolfman panniers out for Mosko Moto Backcountry 35s with 10L molly dry bags on the front. And a 4L molly pouch on the bottom for tools and tubes. I have 35,000kms on these bags and they have been flawless. Lots of crashes and drops. They have also proved fully waterproof. I am using a Mosko Moto top load Scout 60L duffel. 

The best part about the Mosko Backcountry 35s is the ease of use. They are super easy and fast to take on and off the bike – and with no straps! And they are super easy to pack and unpack. The worst part is that they weigh about 10lbs compared to any other throw over pannier.

READ MORE:

Yamaha WR250R Review

Reliability and maintenance

I change the oil a lot because I use my bike as a dirt bike. I was changing the oil every 2,000kms and the oil filter every 4,000kms. Much more than Yamaha recommends. On longer trips I have stretched the oil out to 6,000kms.

I have always used a synthetic oil and have found the bike works well with 10w40. I generally have the bike between 7000-10000rpm. At 39,000kms I developed a bit of a top end rattle at start up. I had one tight exhaust valve. I measured all components and all were in spec. However, as I was in there I replaced the cams, the buckets and the timing chain and tensioner out of an abundance of caution.

I would recommend to anyone keeping the revs up as high as I do to check the valves early, maybe 36,000km and to replace the timing chain at the same time. It’s not much work and they do stretch. Yamaha suggests doing a valve inspection every 42,000kms. Other than that, the bike has been flawless. No issues and it’s never left me stranded. 

The rear suspension is tired. I have the preload maxed out and with luggage I’m no longer hitting proper rider sag settings. I probably should have fitted a stiffer spring long ago but I didn’t and this one lasted 40,000kms with 40lbs of fuel and 70lbs of luggage and 200lbs of me.  

Yamaha WR250R Review

Good and Bad

What's good?

  • The chassis and frame geometry is the most dirt bike like. It is the most flickable bike off-road and yet still very stable on the highway.
  • The suspension is very good and definitely much better than the CRF250L / 300L, KLX250 / 300 and DRZ 400.
  • It is super tough and way overbuilt. The load capacity of 408lbs is 50-100lbs more than its competitors.
  • The high wattage stator easily powers heated grips and gear as well as your GPS and accessories. 
  • The valve check interval of 42,000kms means more riding and less wrenching.
  • The motor is spirited and rev happy, it likes to be revved up and ridden hard high in the rpm range. I find this a lot of fun.
  • The motor is smooth, I have done a 1,000kms in a day on the WR250R and the motor does not wear you out with vibrations. 
  • The WR250R is spec’d for premium fuel, 91 octane here in Canada. However, plenty of riders have travelled all over the world and used regular fuel without issue. I have run a few tanks of regular without issue as well. 

What's not?

  • The chain needs to be kept at the loose end of speck or it will eat the chain slider and the swing arm.  
  • The rear suspension needs to be set right for the amount of weight on the bike. If it’s set too soft the chain will wear out the chain slider faster than normal.
  • The WR250R suspension is very good. However, when pushed hard off-road the rear shock can abruptly unload when going over whoops at speed. The fix is to send the shock out to Race Tech or Travis at Go Race Suspension and have the rebound valving adjusted.  
  • The WR250R makes all of its bhp and torque high in the rpm range, if you don’t like to rev the piss out of a motor, you will hate the WR250R. The bottom end is comparable to other Japanese dual sports, but the mid-range of the WR250R can feel soft. Power starts to appear around 7000rpm.
  • The WR250R is amazing on the highway for a dirt focused dual sport, but compared to a proper twin cylinder motorcycle designed for longer highway miles it’s painfully slow.             
Yamaha WR250R Review

Verdict

After riding the WR250R 45,000kms all over British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest territories, I believe the WR250R is the best, fastest, most fun, slow bike you can get. It is just better than the DRZ400, CRF300, KLX300, XT250 etc.

The suspension and chassis geometry are brilliant. It is more expensive than the others because it is better. However, it is still a slow underpowered heavy trail bike. It takes a certain type of crazy to crush highway miles at speed on any trail bike. The WR250R just barely has the power to do so, but it’s not as relaxing as doing those same miles on a proper touring bike. It’s also a heavy trail bike, proper enduros like the Beta 390 or KTM 350 are way, way nicer in the dirt and only cost a little bit more.

Yamaha WR250R Review

About the author

Ace Carleton

Ace is an adventure motorcycle rider from British Colombia, Canada and an awesome guy. We met Ace on our ride through Canada and he was one of the coolest and most helpful dudes we’ve come across on our round the world trip. 

Ace has a passion for all things mechanical and has experience building race cars for rally, drift, autocross and drag racing applications. Always willing to lend a hand or a bit of advice to help a fellow traveller.

Get in touch with him via email or Facebook here. 

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