Yamaha WR 450 F in the driving report

Yamaha WR 450 F in the driving report

Wrong world

In 2016, the sports enduro Yamaha WR 450 F adopted the unconventional engine concept with inverted cylinder head from the company’s Cross models. To do this, it had to be redesigned from scratch. We tested the new one.

You can twist and turn it however you want: In the end, what matters is what comes out at the end. Whether something makes sense, whether the user is of any use. Ace Yamaha launched the first crosser with inverted cylinder head, the YZ 450 F, on the market in 2010, some people wondered: Why complicated when it can be easy? In the meantime, however, the design has established itself, even BMW comes with the new 300 single-cylinder with a similar engine concept.

Yamaha WR 450 F in the driving report

Wrong world

Nine parameters for injection and ignition

With a little delay, the enduros were on their way. At the beginning of 2015 the WR 250 F came with the wrong cylinder head, now the Yamaha WR 450 F follows. Traditionally, crossers and enduros are technically very similar to the blue ones. The WR is by no means a crosser with lights, as there are many small differences in the engine and chassis. For example the electric starter, which the WR predecessor model already had, but the Crosser did not yet. In an emergency, however, the kickstarter stays on. 

What the new one can do, Yamaha wanted to show journalists in southern Spain near Almeria on a varied 160-kilometer lap. The test machines were equipped with mousse rubber rings in the tires instead of tubes, and they were also prepared with a special mapping for these conditions. The mapping of the Yamaha WR 450 F can be quickly adapted to the track conditions using a power tuner. The driver can choose between nine parameters for injection and ignition. The device is simply connected to the inverter wiring harness and can be used directly without a computer or downloads. 

Sit on it and feel good

The chassis largely corresponds to that of the Crosser, so the ergonomics are the same. Sit on it and feel good, everything fits, even if the tank is a bit wide due to the air filter in front of it. The engine starts reliably at the push of a button and runs without noticeable vibrations. Typical of all off-road Yamahas with upturned cylinder heads is the clearly audible intake noise, which in the case of the new Yamaha WR 450 F is also superimposed on the subtle exhaust noise. The gearshift works a bit stiff, and the idling of the test machines was difficult to feel. 

As already mentioned, the engine of the Yamaha WR 450 F is derived from the latest generation of the cross drive. However, it surprises with a relatively high drag torque, at least with the tested mapping. This means that it brakes relatively hard when pushing, which requires concentration when cycling through root passages. The engine also initially hung aggressively on the gas, which made load changes less smooth. During the lunch break, the Yamaha technicians reprogrammed the mapping so that the drive ran much more smoothly and more easily. 

Yamaha WR 450 F with five-speed gearbox

Incidentally, this mapping did not correspond to the series status either. Therefore, unfortunately, no statement can be made about how a WR motor works in the delivery state. On the other hand, the differences also show how strongly the characteristics can be influenced by programming. The power tuner seems to be a useful extra for drivers of the Yamaha WR 450 F, and even a necessary extra for committed sports pilots.

Unlike the enduro competition from Austria, the Yamaha WR 450 F has a five-speed gearbox like the Crosser, of course with an extended gear ratio. One corridor less inevitably means that the corridors are not so close together. You can feel that, the speed jumps, especially in the lower three gears, are relatively large in difficult ground. The clutch was also designed for the greater loads in enduro sports. It can handle that well, but it also requires a higher operating strength. 

The front wheel seems to be stuck to the ground

A Yamaha WR 450 F with an Akrapovic exhaust system was also available for testing. It sounds a bit duller, but also not significantly louder than the standard system. With the accessory damper and matching mapping, the engine runs noticeably smoother, revs up more freely and lively. The reduced drag torque makes it easier to handle and smoother.

In the past, Yamaha also always went its own way with the chassis. The YZ and WR models always looked a bit more top-heavy than those of other manufacturers, which brings traction to the front wheel. This is no different with the Yamaha WR 450 F. The front wheel seems to stick to the ground, which is an advantage in slippery corners. The disadvantage is the cumbersome-looking handling. Lifting the front wheel quickly over a rock edge requires a lot of concentration and physical effort. After the compression of the fork was turned five clicks, the balance shifted a little towards the rear.  

The Yamaha suspension elements are currently the measure of all things in the cross sector. That should actually be transferable to the Enduro Yamaha WR 450 F. Unfortunately, this is not the case, at least with the fork. This gives little suspension comfort and cannot always keep the front wheel on the ground over roots and stones. It is possible that the mousse rings in the tires are also involved, which certainly prevent flat feet, but allow the tires to hobble roughly over rough terrain.

The basis is definitely right, as the YZ-F-Crosser with the inverted cylinder head prove. But it also took a few years before they could reach the high level of the current generation. It could be similar with the enduro bikes: The Yamaha WR 450 F has excellent systems, but the engine and chassis could still use a little fine-tuning. 

Technical specifications


Everything the other way around: exhaust manifold to the rear and then wrapped once around the cylinder, inlet facing forward

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