Comparison test of sports enduro bikes KTM 450 EXC and Yamaha WR 450 F

Sports enduro bikes KTM 450 EXC and Yamaha WR 450 F in the test

Climb or hard landing?

Regardless of the category, the KTM machines have been the high-flyers in the sport enduro segment for years. With the WR 450 F, Yamaha is now attacking the top dog, the KTM 450 EXC.

Off-road fans can give the Yamaha product planners a strong pat on the back. While the other Japanese manufacturers only serve the sports enduro segment half-heartedly, the men in blue are clearly committed to enduro sports. Just one year after the fundamentally revised quarter-liter model, the new one is pressing for the 2016 season Yamaha WR 450 F into the undergrowth. While the 450 had to get by with the five-valve single built into the motocross model until 2009, the current Crosser now provides the technical basis. With the cylinder tilted back, the tank reaching far below the seat, the airbox positioned behind the steering head and the cylinder head turned upside down (inlet at the front, outlet at the rear), the technicians are primarily pursuing one goal: centralizing the masses and thus agile handling.

Sports enduro bikes KTM 450 EXC and Yamaha WR 450 F in the test

Climb or hard landing?

WR 450 F the 18-inch rear wheel, a fan, the longer geared gears two to four, lighting system, a quieter silencer and electric starter. The pressure on the button immediately intones the new era. As with the Husaberg off-roaders years ago, the rattle from the intake duct in front of the seat bench nose dominates the acoustics.

Yamaha WR 450 F with 7.5 liter tank

The KTM 450 EXC is comparatively conservative. But the simple concept – ohc-single, single-loop steel frame and directly hinged strut – obviously stands out. Like all KTM enduros, the 450 EXC is the clear market leader in its category and, after countless test victories, sets the benchmark for the new Yamaha WR 450 F..

In terms of ergonomics right from the start. Because the transparent KTM tank hugs the frame backbone, the EXC has a slim waist despite the impressive nine-liter tank volume. With which the Austrian immediately hit a sore point of her Japanese competitor. The sweeping air filter box gives the Yamaha WR 450 F a considerably wider knee grip in tight bends in which the pilot has to slide forward. If it still takes some getting used to, the 7.5-liter tank taken over from the motocrosser may present enduro fans with greater challenges. The highly popular two-hour enduro events can hardly be tackled with this fuel supply without refueling. A major disadvantage in these competitions.

54 HP must first be tamed

Engines and pilots are warm. Turn into the Enduro area. Slabs of rock washed clean by the rain, deeply washed out gullies, soft sand, loose scree – no place for full-throttle junkies. Instead, finesse and traction count. The KTM 450 EXC rolls easily over the ailments, ironing sharp rock edges or holes surprisingly well, despite the fork, which is a bit wobbly, and the shock absorber, which is not very sensitive on small waves. The combination of a lively engine, a smooth and easy-to-dose clutch and a light front section let the EXC play with the terrain. A quick push of the gas lifts the front wheel effortlessly over washouts, a knowledgeable finger on the hydraulically operated clutch ensures smooth use of force. That we don’t get it wrong: 54 HP must first be tamed on difficult terrain, demands discipline on the throttle from the pilot. But the Austrian does everything to make it easy for the pilot.

One could almost say: in contrast to the Yamaha WR 450 F. Already on the first descent, the Single surprises with a pronounced engine brake, stresses the front end when pushing. Especially in demanding, trial-like passages, this phenomenon gives the WR a permanently noticeable heaviness. Whereby the blame for the slowness is probably not only due to the drag torque. Lifting the front wheel over roots or edges on singletrack with controlled thrusts of the throttle also requires a lot of concentration from the driver and makes the WR virtually an alternative to the KTM.

Like transformed on the motocross slope

It can only partly be due to the technical key data. Although the 119 kilogram Yamaha WR 450 F carries six kilograms more fat with it than the KTM 450 EXC, the lion’s share of this mass is concentrated on the rear. In comparison on the scales, the WR has only one kilo more ballast on the front than the KTM. Attempts with mappings changed by the power tuner did not change anything in terms of the high drag torque and the rather rough single running in the speed range. Too bad. Because especially with the very sensitive Kayaba spring elements, the WR could have staged itself. Not least thanks to this combo, the Yamaha plows like a tractor through impassable terrain – if you keep it on the move – offers good traction even on slippery ground and at least reconciles itself with the pilot in these situations. Still, it cannot hide its motocross genes – probably also because of the 12.5: 1 high compression (KTM: 11.8) and the 60.8 millimeter short stroke (KTM: 63.4 mm).

In fact, the tide is completely turning on the motocross track, the training ground for most enduro riders in this country. At the higher speed level, the drag torque, which is so annoying in the thicket, suddenly disappears, and especially with its pronounced revving ability, the single mutates into a universal weapon. And the front section is also rehabilitating on the cross track. The powerful front end, which is so typical of Yamaha off-roaders, literally digs into the ground and allows the Yamaha WR 450 F to circle smoothly through smooth curves or precisely hit the inside lane in bends. But not only with this the WR shows how transformed. The coordination of the spring elements is among the best that is currently offered in the off-road sector. The fork and shock absorber absorb small waves just as excellently as they put away hard loads with a creamy cushioning effect.

EXC’s performance is put into perspective

The Yamaha WR 450 F never has to fear the KTM 450 EXC under these conditions. Said noticeably appealing spring elements lag far behind the comfort of the Yamaha chassis, the nervous front requires the pilot to skilfully choose the lane. Against this background, the superior performance and nimble handling of the EXC are put into perspective. One thing is clear: For fast lap times on the high-speed slope, the Austrian needs a committed pilot.

And a decisive one. Because with clearly defined strengths, the unequal duo shines in completely different terrain. The Yamaha WR 450 F on motocross and cross-country tracks, the KTM 450 EXC in the demanding hard-enduro terrain. Advantage KTM: The respectable appearance on the motocross track and thus the wider range of uses ultimately gives the EXC the victory.

MOTORCYCLE off-road rating


maximum number of points KTM 450 EXC Yamaha WR 450 F. Start behavior 10 8th 10 Draft 20th 18th 16 Maneuverability 20th 16 18th Top performance 20th 20th 18th Controllability 20th 17th 14th coupling 10 9 7th transmission 10 8th 8th Smoothness 10 8th 6th total 120 104 97

landing gear:

maximum number of points KTM 450 EXC
Yamaha WR 450 F.
Handiness 20th 19th 14th stability 10 7th 8th Vote fork 20th 14th 18th Tuning strut 20th 17th 18th Front brake 10 9 9 rear brake 10 8th 8th ergonomics 10 9 8th total 100 83


maximum number of points KTM 450 EXC
Yamaha WR 450 F.
Weight 10 8th 5 Processing / equipment 10 8th 8th price 10 6th 6th total 30th 22nd 19th
maximum number of points KTM 450 EXC
Yamaha WR 450 F.
Overall rating 250 209 199 placement 1.

MOTORCYCLE test result

1. KTM 450 EXC

Finesse in demanding terrain and a solid appearance on cross-country slopes give the KTM 450 EXC a universal character compared to the Yamaha. The EXC skilfully combines simple technology with a lot of experience.

2. Yamaha WR 450 F

Excellent suspension, high-revving engine – on the cross-country track, the Yamaha WR 450 F benefits from the technical basis of the motocrosser. However, high engine drag torque and sluggish handling slow you down enormously on hard-enduro terrain.

You can download our performance diagram with the article as a PDF.

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