When the WR250R came out in 2008, there was some advertising but not much hype. The model seemed in no mans land. Substantially less powerful and lower spec everything than the WR250F, no racer or ex racer would want that. It was water cooled with a high seat height so it didn’t appeal to the farmers buying the TTR250. Was it a commuter? A single cylinder 250cc trailbike with no windscreen as a commuter? No thanks.
The WR250R was a Japanese domestic model in design, that escaped out into other markets. It’s a wholly Japanese built motorcycle, unlike many trailbikes we now see from the Japanese big 4 that have a large content or are assembled in Thailand, so it was comparatively expensive when released.
I remember Darren Thompson, Yamaha Motor Australia head tech, discussing the new model with me. He mentioned the oil change intervals Japan designed the engine for were 25,000km(!). YMA ended up knocking it down a little to 10,000km oil changes, valve adjustment at 25,000km.
In 2012, RideAdv was using 660 Tenere’s as pre-run bikes. The nature of pre running is exploring trails, trying to join tracks on maps. The 660's were heavy when you get stuck on a hill when the track you thought was there, isn’t there. Greg saw the 250R and requested 2 as pre-run bikes from YMA. A chainsaw (originally out of my shed) was mounted on the back of one and Greg reported back that the bikes were actually very good, but the rear shock was so bad the chainsaw kept falling off.
I had worked on a few of them for customers from 2008, with mediocre results. The forks were a 46mm USD KYB that looked like the 1996-2003 YZ units but had cartridges that were the same size as the YZ85, that’s what the YZ range had in 1988. The shock wasn’t much better. It wasn’t a KYB shock, it’s a Soqi, a wholly Yamaha owned subsidiary company that makes suspension units for the more budget models. The shock has a rebound adjuster straight out of my 1983 YZ125K. That may sound dismal, but it’s not. There are very few Adventure bikes with stock suspension componentry I’d describe as anything other than rudimentary. The 250R has fairly old MX technology, but it's advanced from a Trail bike and Adventure bike standing. It doesn’t stop us from analysing the stock components on the dyno and making them perform for a different purpose than the factory ever intended.
Years on, and many suspension settings later, we now have a very well developed 250R. The forks didn’t turn out to be a problem with the “little” YZ85 internals, I just needed to mount the forks on the dyno and start working. The shock was harder, we tried 2 different main pistons and 30 setting changes in it over 4 years. The problem, in hindsight, was a lack of low speed damping control.
Why not just start with a 450 enduro bike? We did that, with three 2017 WR450F’s. Tried to tame them, big tanks, mild mapping, better seats. Were they fun for 3 hours? Yes. Were they fun for 8 hours and successive days? No. Can you compare a hard edged WR450F with a WR250R? Yes and no. They are both blue off road bikes with compliance. The 250R is easy to ride all day and doesn’t need the maintenance schedule a WR-F does.
Our changes make the WR250R suitable for all riders that use the WR as anything from a casual trail bike to commuter to a 2 day Adventure Sprint bike.