Here’s the thing about Los Angeles. Sure, you’ve got good roads in the canyons. Sure you can lane split. Sure you can haul ass on public roads while the cops wave hi. But, those aren’t what creates the city’s motorcycling Nirvana. No, what makes LA special is the access to dirt riding just minutes from the city limits. It’s the largest city in the country, but once you’re on any of the huge number of trails or in one of the designated OHV areas, it’s as if you’re a million miles from nowhere. This is why the Yamaha WR250R is the perfect motorcycle to own if you live here.
Photos: Grant Ray
At $6,490 the WR250R isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s $291 more than the Suzuki DR-Z400S. But, that DR-Z doesn’t get 71mpg. That’ll save you money day-to-day, but it helps on the trails too. You’ll see 100-120 miles out of the 1.9 gallon tank.
The WR is pricey because you get a lot for your money. Fuel injection, wavy brake discs front and rear, fully adjustable suspension, nice components everywhere you look. This is not a budget motorcycle.
It’s also a Yamaha. Which means it’s going to start on the first push of the button every single time and won’t need its engine ripped apart every 40 hours.
We took two WR250R’s up to some trails off San Francisquito Canyon Road, about a 45 minutes on the highway from the house we’re staying at in Hollywood. Unlike larger single-cylinder engines, the WR’s doesn’t make your hands numb with vibration, even while cruising at 85mph. The skinny dirt bike seat looks uncomfortable, but it’s got just the right amount of support for hours of comfort. After a full day of riding, neither Grant nor I had any complaints.
It’s great on the road.
Yes, you did read correctly that we were cruising at 85mph. We didn’t try, but others report seeing top speeds of 90mph +. That from a little 28bhp, 18lb/ft four-stroke 250 single. It gets there quickly too. There’s not much bottom end, but it likes to rev. Max power arrives at 10,000rpm. Make sure you give it plenty of gas when you’re pulling away, just casually letting out the clutch with a pinch of throttle will stall it.
And it’s not just the engine that’s impressive. Handling is stable and even on the knobby tires the WR is capable of some surprising lean angles. The brakes are strong, the suspension is compliant and controlled, vision from the 36.6-inch seat and upright riding position is superb.
One day last week, we picked up the WRs at Yamaha’s HQ in Cypress, swung by Torrance, then took the 110 to the 101 back to Hollywood. All in horrible afternoon rush hour traffic. I couldn’t think of a better bike to split lanes on. The width, the height, the confidence it inspires make this a real traffic buster.
We didn’t test them back to back and didn’t measure top speeds independently. But to us, the WR250R feels like it has a higher top speed than the DR-Z and is certainly way more comfortable at highway speeds.
But it’s also great off-road.
Those fancy 46mm, fully adjustable KYB forks and fully adjustable (with ride height) Soqi shock deliver 10.6 inches of travel front and rear. That’s only slightly less than the dirt-only WR250F. Because it’s revy and because the clutch is so linear and predicable, the engine is exceptionally easy to use off-road. Instead of surging ahead with the faintest twist of the throttle, you instead need to work the clutch to negotiate low-speed obstacles and work the gears when things get faster.
The greatest compliment we can pay it is that the WR worked for both Grant and I. He’s an experienced dirt rider, I kind of suck. Despite our huge variance in pace, we both enjoyed riding it. He got speed and capablity, I got predictability and accessible performance. The WR boosted my confidence even while Grant was sliding past me in corners.
The Bridgestone TW301/302 tires that are so good on road (even in the pouring rain) are a little limited off compared to dedicated dirt tires, but we were able to blast down sandy fire roads, through mud and over slick, wet rocks in and around water crossings without even stopping to air them down.
It feels incredibly light.
One of the main gripes about the WR250R is that the dual sport weighs 278lbs, 44lbs more than the dirt-only WR250F. The thing is, you don’t feel it. Everything about the R feels welter weight from pushing it around, lifting it up, balancing at very low speeds or whatever. Seriously, if you didn’t know and someone told you the weight, you’d assume they were lying.
Watch this video, I didn’t realize the bike was in gear.
It looks cool.
Going back to the “this is not a budget bike” thing. It looks like the real deal because it is. The engine looks modern, the suspension is flashy, the tapered aluminum swingarm looks like it belongs on a race bike. Get it muddy and pull this up in front a bar and people will think you just rode in from Baja.
At 36.6 inches, the seat is still dirt bike high, yet it’s two inches lower than the WR250R, so you’ll be able to touch the ground as you sit on it. By twiddling the ride height adjuster and dropping the forks, you can lower that even further. New riders won’t be intimidated on the highway either. Saying it easily keeps up with traffic is an understatement. It’s faster than most traffic. This would be a great first motorcycle that’d allow you to develop your dirt skills, but it would also work for an experienced dirt rider looking for a dual sport to ride on the street too.
It’s perfect for LA.
Screw riding around cars. Screw riding around cops. Screw riding around other people. Screw getting stuck in traffic carting your dirt bike to trails in your pickup. Instead, commute on the WR250R through high speed freeways and endless traffic jams, then hit some trails after work. By the time you’re exhausted and ride back home, your car-driving colleagues will just be finishing rush hour.
Screw riding sportsbikes, dirt offers an environment pretty much free of the consequences a huge engine and slick tires bring. You’re not going to get a speeding ticket where there are no cops and you’re not going to die in a crash when you’re only going 30mph.
Screw riding the same road every weekend. Instead of competing for space on public roads with cars and squids, you can explore new trails out in the wild.
Screw riding big, heavy bikes. Nice and light is the way to go. It makes bikes easier to ride and therefore more fun. It makes picking them up after you drop them way easier, but it’s less likely you’ll drop them in the first place. It means you can go more and more difficult places.
You can screw all of that if you live in LA. Just buy a WR250R.