YAMAHA enlisted Kiwi race team manager and legend Josh Coppins to develop the 2021 incarnation of the WR450F, utilising the YZ450F as a starting point. What they came up with is an enduro weapon that ticks boxes for professionals and weekend warriors alike.
But before we get into what it’s like to ride, we should tell you what they’ve done to make it a better bike, starting with an engine upgrade. The powertrain is now focused on providing stronger pulling power and more controllable delivery.
The WR450F shares its powerplant with its YZ sibling. In this case though, it’s been tuned for enduro competition, and is lighter and more compact than its predecessor. A new forged piston, lighter cylinder head and redesigned intake/exhaust valves all help too.
A new multifunction instrument display features odometer, two trip meters, clock, timer/stopwatch and a new fuel consumption indicator. The LCD screen is easy to read in all conditions, and also features low fuel and engine warning lights.
A handlebar mounted map switch allows the rider to switch between two power maps on the fly, so you can have one aggressive map for dry conditions and another map for wet conditions to help with traction on slippery tracks.
Yamaha’s power tuner app also provides the ability to connect your smart phone to the bike and adjust fuel injection and ignition timing very easily. The app also has other great features like race log, maintenance screen, monitor screen and a share function.
The 5-speed wide ratio gearbox has been built to withstand the tougher enduro conditions. The specially developed gears feature a larger surface area to spread the load, and third and fourth gear have received a surface treatment to increase durability.
In addition, the shift drum and selectors now give improved feel and shorter stroke, making for smooth and effortless gear changes. The gearing is very good, with first perfect for tight and technical tracks, and fifth tall enough to get some serious speed up.
The brakes have also had an upgrade and now run the YZ450F setup, which provides a more ridged calliper with bigger pistons and a massive 25 per cent brake pad surface area increase the old model.
Equipped with industry leading KYB twin chamber forks, featuring fully adjustable coil spring and speed sensitive damping, the WR450F also benefits from redesigned triple clamp, front wheel axle and bar mounts, which are now lighter and stronger.
The bars have moved 15mm forward and 5mm lower to help get over the front end too, improving grip and steering. The rear suspension gets a fully adjustable linkage, paired with a specially tuned KYB shock fir excellent traction and smooth suspension action.
The WR450F now also uses the same lightweight bilateral aluminium frame as the race bred YZ450F motocross bikes. The new frame features thinner main spars and thicker bottom tubes.
Paired with engine mount changes, the bike now features improved rigidity and flex.
Enough about the improvements though, we headed two hours west of Sydney to test out the 2021 Yamaha WR450F on some of the best enduro tracks in NSW, and boy did this bike instantly impress, with its precision handling and race like performance.
The engine is responsive down low, making lifting the front over logs effortless, and the pull all the way to the rev limiter will get your adrenaline pumping. The torque can easily lug you up messy hills and the traction made this average rider look like a pro.
We weren’t sure about the cable clutch either, but after some seat time we could not say it’s a disadvantage over a hydraulic clutch. It feels light and it’s easy to control the exhilarating engine power on those gnarly hills when traction is everything.
The brakes provide awesome stopping power and quickly bring you under control. The ergonomics are really good too, and we’re glad Yamaha kept the fuel cap cover integrated into the seat so you can really get your weight forward when sitting in corners.
The riding position is exceptionally good, but could benefit from a slight lift in the bars. The front end feels very precise and the grip provided seems endless. The high speed bump absorption is excellent and confidence inspiring.
Low speed is a touch too stiff for our liking, but we’re sure with more time we would be able to tune it to better suit us.
Pushed hard through tight single tracks, the stability and handling of the WR450F is excellent, and the overall package gives the feeling of a lightweight 250, not a 450. It’s a bike that’s genuinely hard to fault.
If we had to pick something though, the induction noise is annoying. An upgraded muffler would take care of that. We’d also like to see quick tool-less adjusters for the forks. We reckon the engine stop switch could be closer to the grips too.
On the plus side, we liked the fact thermo fans were standard, and there’s tool-less access to the air filter. The fuel meter on the instrument display is a bonus, and lets you keep track of the balance in the 7.9-litre tank.
We should also tell you that Yamaha Motor Australia have also released an Aussie edition of the 2021 WR450F, fitted with unique kangaroo motif plastics, bark busters, aluminium rad guards and bash plate, and an Akrapovic titanium muffler.
If you want one of those, there’s just 400 examples on offer (for $17,099 ride away). Alternatively, you can pick up a standard 2021 Yamaha WR450F dirt bike at your local dealership, from $15,949 ride away. The WR450F is also learner approved (LAMS).
Our 2021 Yamaha WR450F was supplied by Yamaha Motor Australia. To find out more, contact your local dealer.