Ben O'Brien heads to the Australian launch to review the new 2019 WR450F, which arrives in dealerships in January for $13,299 RRP + ORC. Test by Ben O'Brien, Images by iKapture
Heading to the 2019 WR450F World launch in Stroud, NSW, I was wondering if manufacturers get nervous in the lead up to a World Launch of a new bike. Sure, they have had countless talented test riders, developers and professional riders all offer up valuable input. But what if the punters aren’t on board? What then?
Well the Yamaha boys were all very relaxed and as it turns out with good reason, the new WR450F is outstanding. Stroud is also the perfect place to ride a new bike offering hundreds of kilometres of trails at the back gate. It was a great place to ride and ride we did…
Day one was all about learning, testing and setting up the bike to suit individual preferences on a closed course, while day two involved a 100km trail loop that included every conceivable obstacle and type of terrain from fast flowing single track to an extreme enduro section. Yes, the Yamaha guys must have been confident letting us lose on that type of loop, as any issues with the WR would certainly have been obvious.
The 450 just got new stickers, right? Well, not exactly, how does a new from the ground up WR450F model based on the competition YZ450FX sound? Much more race orientated than the previous WR450, everything is smaller, lighter and a quick look over the bike shows everything on the bike needs to be there.
The new WR has scored the YZ based reverse-cylinder design with the airbox up near the steering head and the exhaust exiting the back. The frame is all-new with a straighter top section for more rigidity, which in turn makes for a more stable ride.
Fuel capacity has been increased officially to 7.9L. Seat height has also been reduced by 10mm from last year, which suits me perfectly.
Larger radiators have been fitted for better cooling along with a fan as standard, and if you like technology then you will love the Power Tuner App, this is easy to use and actually works a treat.
2019 YAMAHA WR450F – THE RIDE
Half a lap into my first outing on the special test loop told me that this is a lot of bike. Power is super strong from just off idle right up into the over-rev. There are no flat spots to be found anywhere, but initially I was concerned if I could ride with this much power all day on the trail, as generally my rides range between eight and 12-hours so the bike needs to be forgiving.
Enter the Power Tuner App. After the first lap I connected via my phone and the Power Tuner App to change the power curve to suit the way I ride. Generally I like a really torquey engine for trail riding and am not so concerned with outright power. Each lap I made a few changes and settled on an easy to ride map.
The power curve is still electric and more outright power than I could ever use but it became much better behaved. One thing that was not possible over the two days was to change the gearing.
I would immediately change to a 52-tooth rear sprocket; this is not to increase snap off the bottom, rather the opposite, to let it pull up steep hills in second gear making it more tractable. First gear would then be almost irrelevant in all but the tightest terrain.
I would also consider swapping out the standard muffler for the GYTR Akrapovic slip-on pipe, this would let me stay in second and third for the most part. This would also take a few kilos off the bike’s waistline, so not a bad investment.
Ironically I found riding the 450 more of a handful riding on the special test track, which included a grass track section and Enduro loop, than I did in the bush. Thinking some more on it I found the more open nature of the special test made me want to push harder, twisting the throttle further.
Once in the bush the power was completely manageable and more importantly, the bike much more enjoyable for me to ride. As I said, change the rear sprocket and change the muffler and you would not even have to rev the WR, unless you want to roost your mates of course…
The dual map switch comes standard on the ‘bars and is super easy to use on the fly, no stopping required. If the switch is white it’s on Map1 and if it’s bright blue it’s on Map2. Surprisingly I found myself switching to Map2 when things got slippery, this is one of the few map switches I’ve sampled that has a really noticeable difference.
There are, however, a few issues with the WR that need a mention…
Starting when hot was not as easy as I would expect, there is a bit of a knack to it with the throttle. The starter spins up perfectly but if it’s in gear it requires just the smallest throttle opening to fire it up easily. Now the bikes were brand new, I don’t mean nearly new, I mean brand new so everything would still be tight.
Flywheel weight – for all the excitement, a slightly heavier flywheel would have been a great addition to give extra tractability up nasty hills.
The other issue is not really an issue, but did take me somewhat by surprise, induction noise. I have only heard induction noise on a couple of bikes that come close to this and at first it is a little off-putting. After riding for a couple of hours I did not notice it again even the next day. The airfilter and intake tract is just behind the steering head so it is not really surprising. Small price to pay for a cleaner airfilter…
Gear changes are super slick with no missed shifts, false neutrals or binding over the two days. Gear ratios are pretty good for a five-speed ‘box but as mentioned I would like to make first a little shorter. Top speed is, well, actually I have no idea but it’s bloody quick.
Clutch, well it works well and is no doubt reliable but really it is time to move on from the cable to a hydraulic set-up moving forward. For normal trail riding or racing there is probably not much in it but riding slow technical sections for extended periods of time sees the clutch finger get a work out. I just prefer a hydraulic clutch.
Overall the WR450F engine is a powerhouse, with a few small changes it can be ridden in different ways, whether on the pipe if you have the talent and fitness or off the pipe for a more trail friendly ride.
Chassis-wise, Yamaha have a winner. Riding over a huge range of terrain is always going to show up shortcomings of any suspension but luckily both front and rear are taken care of by KYB and I would have to say this is the most race ready suspension that I have ever ridden on out of the box.
Weighing in at 73kg I am on the lighter side of the development range and springs are set up for an average rider weight of 82 – 86kg, rider sag was set at 110mm. I would consider dropping a spring weight front and rear or running more sag for trail riding duties but in all honesty the WR is pretty close to the mark.
The shock was seamless, I only made some compression changes to gain a little more traction up snotty hills and the rear of the bike was very settled on the trail with no complaints under acceleration or braking. Entering corners the 450 tips in nicely and holds a line well with no surprises.
The KYB Dual Chamber SSS forks never bottomed or jarred me and there were some big hits that to be honest I thought were going to hurt, however the forks just soaked it all up. The only area they would need a little work was in the initial stroke at mid pace where hey tended to deflect over rocks.
I think that dropping the spring rate would sort this out. Before making any real changes though you would want to run them in for at least 20 hours as dual chamber forks usually need some extra time to free up. This could also free up the initial stiction.
Overall the 2019 WR450F is well balanced and between the front SSS forks, chassis geometry and the rear shock the Yamaha engineers have done a fantastic job. Braking as per normal for Yamaha is taken care of by Nissin front and rear. Brakes offer great feel but I would like a little more power in the front.
Sometimes a little detail grabs your eye; take the front fork guard for example. The electronic speed sensor is tucked away nicely underneath as is the wiring, and it is all completely protected from snagging rocks, etc, and I should know as I have been through a few cables in my normal riding.
Finally a well thought out heavy duty plastic bashplate covers all the important bits both underneath and off to the sides, including the water-pump and even the radiator hose.
Overall this is a great package out of the box, in fact one of the best I have ridden. You can truly buy this bike and not touch anything or if you’re a little fussier like me make a few changes to get exactly what you want depending on preferences or type of riding.
2019 YAMAHA WR450F – TECH TALK
2019 saw a weight reduction of 4kg with the possibility to reduce that by a further 3.5kg with a lithium battery and a slip on muffler. The WRF’s motor is based on the competition YZF with a reverse-cylinder. Intake / airfilter is located up near the steering head for a more direct intake tract.
Internally the 450cc motor has had the compression ratio bumped up to 12.8:1, which can be felt in the power delivery. A new airfilter design has been implemented along with a quick release airfilter cover and injection has been switched from Keihin to Mikuni, which incorporates a different cold start set-up.
New larger radiators are used for increase cooling with a fan as standard and the CCU (control module) has been added for WiFi smart phone access, which is very easy to use to customise the power curve to suit each rider’s preferences.
The chassis has had a major redesign to produce a more rigid top rail and a stronger swingarm mount area for more stability. KYB SSS forks have completely revised settings including an upgraded spring rate to 4.6 and 495ml of oil in each leg, an increase of 151ml.
The KYB shock is completely new for the WR and has seen a weight reduction of 350g with a slight increase in oil quantity. Spring rate on the shock remains the same at 56. Seat height has been reduced by 7.7mm and the rear sub-frame / seat height has been reduced by some 20mm making getting over the back easier. Seat width is reduced by 9mm on each side around the knee area.
2019 Yamaha WR450F Specifications
Price: $13,299 RRP + ORC
Colours: Team Yamaha Blue and White
Wet weight: 119kg
Fuel capacity: 7.9L (expandable to 9L)
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, 450cc, 97 x 60.9 bore x stroke, 12.8:1 compression ratio, EFI
Gearbox: Five-speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Chassis: YZ450F-based lightweight bilateral beam frame, Rake: 27.1°, Trail: 116mm
Suspension: YZ450F-derived KYB SSS dual chamber forks, 310mm travel, fully adjustable, YZ450F-derived KYB rear shock, full adjustable, 317mm travel
Brakes: Hydraulic single 270mm front disc, hydraulic single rear 245mm disc
Wheels & Tyres: 90/90-21 54M (tube type) / 130/90-18 65M (tube type) Metzeler Six Days Extreme
Seat height: 955mm
Overall height: 1270mm
Overall width: 825mm
Overall length: 2175mm
Instruments: LCD multifunction display