Bike Tests 2 Mar 2012

Launch Report: 2012 Yamaha WR450F

MotoOnline.com.au rides and rates the brand new 2012 model Yamaha WR450F with Coffs Harbour Detour.

You could tell Yamaha Motor Australia was proud when launching the 2012 WR450F with ‘Boris’ Everson and the boys at Coffs Harbour Detour late in February, no doubt confident that the Japanese technicians had built something very special for this year.

We’d heard a lot about the 2012 Yamaha WR450F and were eager to test it in the real world enduro riding that we’re lucky enough to have in the Australian landscape. As you may have already seen in our extensive coverage to date, including the ‘First Ride’ test, Yamaha has certainly lived up to expectations.

Out on the trail the new WR is exceptionally forgiving. The engine makes light work of hills and time and time again, I personally benefited from the ease of selecting third gear and chugging up – regardless of the wet conditions after rain had lashed the Coffs region recently.

What this does is inspire confidence, so instead of nervously awaiting what obstacle or mountain is around the next corner, you begin to simply enjoy the ride. Knowing that the Yamaha engine is reluctant to stall, or at least very easy to start via the push of a button if you do conk out, is a great feeling to have while cruising along.

Yamaha launched the anticipated 2012 WR450F in Coffs Harbour recently.

The trails were spectacular too, with a mix of tight forest, open fire roads, down hills, up hills, clay, rock, sand, river crossings and more, the country’s leading moto-journos were treated to a diverse two days on the bike from near the Big Banana, out to Dorigo, and back the next day.

Throttle response from the new fuel injection system is everything that you’d expect, reacting with every millimeter of throttle that you feed it. Efficiency is impressive too, with the 7.2 litre tank gaining around 125km of travel (50km of those on the fuel light), which amounts to a nice few hours of seat time.

Speaking of the fuel light, the digital enduro computer offers the usual speedometer, clock, tripmeter, etc, in basic mode, or pace management functions such as timer, distance-compensating tripmeter, average speed etc, when switched to race mode. The options are all there and it’s a cinch to use too, once you play around for a little bit.

I mentioned the ease of riding in third gear, as well as the delightful throttle response above, but there’s a lot more to the engine than that. The five-speed gearbox is consistently great, with the ratios well suited to my requirements. Second and third gear were my usual options, however fourth and fifth remain torquey and usable when the speed increases.

Throttle response via the fuel injection is exactly what you'd expect - brilliant!

The project leader of the WR450F, Mr Kamimura-san, was on hand and riding with us during the launch (very impressively, too!). He asked if I thought it needed a sixth gear at one stage, to which I said I didn’t think so. And I wasn’t lying either, because really, the speed you’re travelling is more than enough off-road where most of us would be riding the bike.

Although two days at a launch certainly isn’t a torture test, we’re confident that this bike will retain Yamaha’s bulletproof status when it comes to motor reliability in the enduro ranks.

Handling is just as impressive too, because what sometimes seemed tough and tiring on the previous model, was ever so easy on this new bike. I was a fan of the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F, which this chassis is based from, and those positive feelings directly transfer to the WR.

To match the engine, Yamaha has created a chassis that climbs hills with great tractability and plenty of feel, even when the going gets tough. It was hard to measure the amount of grip on many occasions due to the slick surfaces we experienced, but when the dirt wasn’t too wet, you could feel the rear hooking up.

The steering is precise at speed or when negotiating through tighter tree-lined sections, with plenty of feel coming through the frame and suspension. Even in the slick conditions we were challenged with, the Yamaha was so user-friendly at all times, which is a real credit to it as a 450cc enduro machine.

Coffs Harbour Detour's trails over a two-day journey had it all.

Ergonomically it is a little wide around the hips in the tank region compared to some of its European competitors, but the connection between the seat, ProTaper handlebars and footpegs is vastly comfortable. I’d say it’s a little tall in stock trim if you ride real technical stuff, but ground clearance obviously benefits from that.

I had the sag set to 90mm and lowered the forks through 5mm during the launch at Kamimura-san’s request, but I’d even consider experimenting further in that direction with more time on the bike. Regardless though, a fun little grass track at the Detour headquarters (an enduro enthusiast’s dream!), really proved just how agile and well handling the 2012 Yamaha WR450F is.

Between the engine and chassis of the WR, you’re getting a combination that is hard to beat and well worth upgrading to. In fact, this year’s WR450F will be raced by the Ballard’s Yamaha factory Australian off-road race team, which proves its competitiveness in race trim as well. Previously, the team raced a YZ450F in the E2 class.

The clutch isn’t as light as the hydraulic items we see on many of the Euros, but it’s easily adjustable and remains consistent, plus the brakes are both powerful and sturdy. Overheating wasn’t and issue at anytime throughout the test, which is a plus by my standards.

Gobert negotiates the tree-lined 'special test' course near camp Detour.

The new WRF is now on sale, fully equipped to ADR requirement. A free competition enduro kit valued at $650 will also be offerred, which is how we rode the bike during the launch. What this does is prepare the bike for off-road use, without many of the extras that are required for road use.

The kit includes a compact front brake master cylinder kit, braided steel front brake line cycra handguards, rear brake light switch, competition GYTR exhaust muffler tip, LED tail light and licence plate holder, brake snake, 13/50 sprocket set and wiring for the Power Tuner, which will have to be purchased separately.

As you can tell by our complete coverage from the launch, we’re big fans of the new WR450F and are true believers that you will be too. Expect Yamaha to enjoy a successful year ahead with this brand new 2012 model.

Technical Information:

Yamaha first released the WR400F in 1999, with few predicting that it would become the legendary and reliable ride that it is known as today. Japanese quality done right, it’s continued to be developed into the very model that we are enjoying in 2012.

Yamaha engineers are not supporters of change for the sake of change, with the model tweaked once for 2003 with a 450cc engine, once in 2005 with a new frame and again in 2007 with a new aluminium frame. Now, we’re seeing a host of very important upgrades for the first time in around five years.

The target customer is the fast trail rider and expert enduro rider. And the goal is to improve handling in the tight stuff while striving for even more linear and manageable power.

The handling goal has been achieved with the development of a new aluminium bilateral beam frame that is very similar to the much hailed 2012 YZ250F frame, which offers scalpel sharp steering and rail-like turns. The WRF version of this frame has enduro specific dimensions and rigidity balance, which includes different engine mounts and a new mounting position for the subframe.

The frame centralises mass and consists of forged, extruded and panel aluminum parts. This frame is more compact than the last generation and the rigidity balance of this Bilateral beam frame has been optimised for enduro type riding.

The head pipe (steering head), wheelbase, caster and trail dimensions are optimised to accentuate the engine and frame characteristics. The benefit is quick, direction changes with good stability.

The 2012 Yamaha WR450F.

A removable rear sub frame is constructed of square-section, lightweight aluminum pipe. Its detachable design allows easy access when servicing rear suspension components. Its lightweight, tapered, aluminum swingarm is produced using ‘hydro forming’, a special method that uses high pressure water to form shapes.

To complement the new frame, new YZ-inspired twin chamber suspension is fitted front and rear to soak up the harsh terrain that fast trail and competition enduro riders encounter. Once again, the suspension is specially enduro-tuned by combining the ability to absorb big hits with a softer initial travel to tackle tight turns.

The bike has fully-adjustable 48mm inverted Kayaba cartridge forks. These forks feature a twin-chamber design, which means the damper unit is in a separate structure that prevents aerated fork oil from entering the inner damper assembly and reducing its damping abilities. Since the inner damper is pressurised, it also eliminates bubbles forming in the oil.

This fork design also features a Transfer Control Valve (TCV). The TCV enhances the damping force from mid to full stroke and improves bottoming characteristics. The benefit of TCV is more precise control throughout the full suspension stroke. The TCV is located on the upside of the spring and its function is controlled by piston speed, not piston position, hence the term Speed Sensitive fork.

Front wheel travel is 300mm and front fork adjustments include 20-way compression damping and 20-way rebound damping. Optional fork springs are available through Genuine Yamaha parts. The Monocross rear suspension system features a fully adjustable, Kayaba piggyback style shock with separate adjusters for high- and low-speed compression damping. Rear wheel travel is 294mm.

Shock adjustments include spring preload, 20 clicks of low-speed compression damping, two turns of high-speed compression damping and 20 clicks of rebound damping. Link-type rear suspension provides a rising rate (progressive) suspension function.

Visually, the new WR450F is seriously attractive for 2012.

Adjustable forged handlebar mounts allow the ProTaper handlebars to be moved 10mm rearward if desired.

In the braking department you’ll find a 250mm fully floating front disc brake with wave style rotor is squeezed by a twin piston Nissin caliper fitted with lightweight, aluminum pistons. The rear has a 245mm disc brake with lightweight wave style rotor, that is squeezed by a compact single piston Nissin caliper.

And in order to offer stable engine performance irrespective of fluctuations in air temperature or altitude, a Keihin throttle body fuel injection system has been adopted. This is an open loop system and features a throttle position sensor (TPS). The 10-hole fuel injector maximises fuel atomisation for more complete combustion and great power output.

This can easily be adjusted with a hand held, portable Power Tuner device, the same unit that has proven so popular with YZ450F owners. This pocket-sized Power Tuner is easy to carry around and operation is simple when connected to the new WR450F via an easily located coupler.

Setting changes can be made without the need to cart around a laptop. The Power Tuner offers riders a huge benefit by allowing customised fuel injection settings to fit their personal preferences.

The 450cc engine has been specifically designed to meet the requirements of the new FI system and chassis changes. It retains its liquid cooled, five titanium valve, single cylinder layout. A special cam profile has been developed to suit enduro RPM use while the five-speed gearbox has ratios suitable to cover a wide range of riding environments.

The five valve engine that Yamaha uses in its off-road contender has proven to be bulletproof.

Use of a magnesium cylinder head cover helps reduce weight, while it also features an optimised cylinder inclination angle (4.5 degrees) to centralise mass and bring the centre of gravity closer to the rider for mass centralisation and light handling.

Optimised intake port shape increases the velocity of the incoming charge for more complete cylinder filling and more power. Titanium valves and load-reduced springs decrease weight by more than 40 percent over a conventional steel valve train and reduces reciprocating mass for faster-revving and smoother-hitting power delivery across the rev range.

The lightweight aluminum cylinder features a ceramic composite coating which is applied directly to the aluminum, eliminating the need for a heavy iron sleeve. The ceramic coating insures faster, more uniform heat dissipation, reduced friction and a longer service life.

Its cylinder design features cutaways that allow the air trapped under the piston to enter a side chamber (or cutaway) to reduce horsepower-robbing pumping losses. The crankcase also utilises cutaways to reduce pumping losses. The crankcase cutaways match the cutaways in the cylinder.

The crankcase design features an integrated dry sump oil tank inside the front area of the engine cases. This design centralizes mass and reduces the centre of gravity for improved handing and a lighter feel. They feature a tri-axis design layout for the crankshaft, main and drive axles.

This tri-axis design keeps the crankcases more compact while also centralising mass for better handling. All of the shafts are positioned as low as possible in the cases to maintain a low centre of gravity.

It is based off the 2012 YZ250F chassis, however Yamaha has developed the WR specifically for enduro use.

Special camshaft profiles provide outstanding low to mid range power well suited to enduro style riding. The WR450F offers a wide spread of linear torque from low to peak rpms. Revised ball bearing style lightweight crankshaft provides fast throttle response.

A new connecting rod design features a wider big end bearing. Also, a revised balancer shaft optimises vibration. The lightweight, short-skirt, forged piston offers great durability and reduced weight for fast engine response.

The piston oil cooler utilises a pinpoint nozzle that directs oil to the desired portion of the cylinder and piston, to reduce piston, cylinder and rod temperatures for excellent durability.

Oil volume in the engine has been optimized to reduce weight and oil drag related power losses. And, a compact automatic cam chain tensioner reduces maintenance and mechanical engine noise.

New lightweight dual radiators feature wider cores than the previous generation. Cooling efficiency is increased by 5 percent. Special design louvers direct cooling air into the rads for maximum cooling.

The engine is fitted with an exhaust pipe with a built-in resonator, which is designed to improve power output in the low to mid-speed range. In addition, the radiator is all-new with a wider core, increased reliability and more shock resistance than previously.

Available now, Yamaha is set to make a big splash once again in the off-road market this year.

There are a host of more minor changes that while small are still important. These include and enduro specific seat with new cover, aslim new plastic resin 7.2 litre fuel tank, a fuel level warning light for peace of mind. And not forgetting a hot new look with black Excel rims, a new headlight cover, side covers and graphics.

For complete specifications, be sure to click this link.

Rider Wear:

Jersey/Pants: 2012 Answer James Stewart Collection (Seven Blue)
Gloves: Deft Family Catalyst 2 Brush (R/W)
Helmet: SixSixOne Fenix Shards (black/white)
Goggles: Oakley Mayhem
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Neck brace: Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support
Knee brace: PodMX K700

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