Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget – Part 3
We put our completed WR250R project bike to the test on its maiden journey.
Over the past few months we have been looking at both useful and cost effective ways to bridge the gap between small-displacement dual sport motorcycles and the “Big Bikes.” Our bike of choice for the build was a used Yamaha WR250R we purchased for $4,500. We would attempt to transform the WR into a competent long-range adventure traveler while ensuring the total investment in the project remained significantly less than the cost of buying a “Big Bike.”
With an upgrade budget of just $2,000, we were able to add a plethora of WR250R accessories and upgrades to enhance performance, handling, and comfort (check out Part 1 and Part 2 for build details). There were many selections we made that we felt would improve the versatility of the machine, but we’d only know if we made the right choices after thoroughly testing the completed bike.
So it was time to put our “adventurized” WR250R through the paces on its first journey. Our choice in destination was Eastern Ohio. This sparsely populated region, near the Pennsylvania border, provides a wonderful set of dirt and gravel roads that one can spend days traveling. There are miles and miles of empty dirt roads and trails to explore, and the many lakes found in the area offer wonderful views. Additionally, we tested the bike on the highways and city streets of Western Pennsylvania to see how our spunky little ADV Bike would handle higher speeds and urban traffic.
Altogether, we put approximately 2,500 miles on our little friend, which included single track, dirt roads and pavement of all types (even cobblestone). Here’s what we found, both good and bad, during our evaluation.
Balancing On Road With Off-Road Performance
As stated before, the goal was to shorten the gap between smaller dual sport motorcycles and the big adventure touring bikes. Since the stock WR250R is already an impressive off-road performer, our primary focus was on developing the WR’s long-range touring capability. But we also tried to keep as much of the WR’s dirt performance intact.
The 1-1/8″ diameter handlebars we installed noticeably decreased vibration on the highway and their greater width gave more leverage for improved handling both on and off-road. The bar risers also helped provide a more comfortable stand up riding position in the dirt and made things much more pleasant on the back.
The Seat Concepts Complete Seat was an indispensable WR250R upgrade, which was no surprise. The stock seat was like trying to sit on a baseball bat. The Seat Concepts seat improved comfort in a few ways. First it’s wider than the stock seat, so the support is much better and there is more room to move around, which helps reduce fatigue on longer rides. Second, it’s softer, which makes it much kinder on the tailbone. And third, the seat cover offers more grip to help prevent sliding forward unintentionally under hard braking. The Seat Concepts seat comes in a couple of different configurations, so a rider would be able to choose a seat that fits their riding style and inseam. And for the cost, it’s a smart upgrade.
Wind protection was another key area where highway comfort could be improved on the WR. In our build, we went with the Cee Bailey windscreen. Based on cost and quality, we felt it was a good start. And it was. It successfully decreased wind pressure on the chest and did not affect power while pushing through the atmosphere. That said, we did notice a bit more instability in the front end at higher speeds. The windscreen seemed to make the steering more susceptible to gusts of wind. When the screen was removed, the instability disappeared. The WR250R is very lightweight, so the front end is less planted than larger motorcycles. This issue could most likely be resolved with a steering damper. But without this, we found that adding the windscreen may just be exchanging one problem for another.
Our changes to the ergonomics of the WR250R greatly improved comfort for longer rides and items like the larger handlebars and upgraded seat proved to be inexpensive and worthwhile upgrades. The larger fuel tank was another indispensable upgrade. By replacing the stock 2-gallon tank with a 4.7-gallon IMS Tank, we were able to remove the ever-present fear of running out of fuel and increase the fuel range to over 300 miles.
The proper luggage choice is individual and personal, and dependent on the journey one is taking. We selected the Large TUSK Aluminum panniers primarily for the secure, lockable, weather-resistant solution they offer for longer journeys. With 74 liters of carrying capacity, there is also plenty of space for all of your gear as well.
However, the bulk and weight of the aluminum panniers caused some limitations in technical terrain. But for rugged off-road riding, the hard cases can easily be removed and the Tusk Pannier Racks provide a great mounting point for soft bags like the Wolfman Expedition Dry Saddlebags.
The hard panniers did cause the WR to work a little harder at holding higher speeds on the highway, not necessarily because of the weight of the packed panniers, but merely due to their girth and the added wind resistance they created. The panniers seemed to make wind gusts more noticeable and the WR needed a little more throttle with them attached. But as an affordable adventure touring upgrade, they offer many advantages and are worth consideration.
For our build, we chose the DoubleTake Adventure Mirrors and we immediately appreciated the functionality they provided. We liked our ability to find that perfect placement of the mirrors. With the RAM Mount setup, we had almost unlimited adjustment to give the rider an excellent view of the world behind them. The quality mirrors made everything clear and the strong RAM Mount arms vibrated much less than the stock mirrors, as well. This helped make objects more visible and decreased the time we spent deciphering what was behind us.
The DoubleTake mirrors were also an asset off-road, especially in tighter wooded situations. The adjustable RAM Mount configuration allowed us to move the mirrors out of the way to avoid them hitting you in the face. And they didn’t break when they smacked on the ground in a fall (yep, we found this out a few times). So, even though the price of these mirrors are more than the stock units, they proved their worth over and over as a useful WR250R upgrade.
One touring advantage a “Big Bike” has over the dual sport category is lighting. Lighting on Dual Sport bikes usually seems to be an afterthought to manufacturers and they typically come from the factory with a single low-powered headlight. So if you want a better view, and to avoid the feeling of “going faster than your headlights” in the evenings, then a headlight upgrade is important.
We went with the Cyclops Adventure Sports LED headlight bulb in the hopes of improving visibility. And we can say that the LED technology gave us a much brighter beam than the stock light while being a relatively inexpensive upgrade. The bright white color of the light also helped us see obstacles better, especially in the woods. But you can never have too much light off-road and a set of auxiliary lights are on our list of future WR250R accessories to help give us even more side lighting and distance.
Dual Sport Tire Choices
Again, we enter an area of personal preference. In order to retain as much of the off-road capabilities of the WR, we went with a knobby-style tire, specifically, the Michelin T63. Without question, these tires performed impeccably on both dirt, gravel and mud. But as is the case with most knobby tires, they come with some drawbacks on asphalt. At highway speeds, sometimes we noticed a bit of a wobble, common with many 50/50 and 60/40 dual sport tires. These tires did, however, provide good grip on asphalt in the turns, especially considering their aggressive off-road tread.
Mileage is about what you’d expect from the 50/50 dual sport range but the T63s are relatively inexpensive to replace, so we still feel they are a good, all-around choice. If your journeys include more asphalt, you may want to explore some of the 70/30 adventure touring tires out there. Although there are many to choose from, you may find your choices limited to those that offer a 21-inch front tire.
Powering Gadgets On The Road
We added a power outlet to the WR250R for this build in order to give the rider some ability to charge gadgets on long rides like many of the big adventure touring bikes are capable of doing. We used a single 12-volt power outlet to charge two devices through a USB adapter with two ports. We had no problem running a GPS device and smartphone on the WR’s 350 watt alternator. We ran the wiring for the power outlet directly to the battery for always-on power, which hasn’t caused any problems with parasitic draw on the battery when the bike is in storage. We also tested giving an iPhone 6s a full recharge with the bike turned off. The next morning, it fired up without any indication of battery drain.
We should mention that the WR250R had a recall on the rectifier that was related to low battery voltage. And our bike did have that recall update performed. Some WR owners have reported fuel pump issues with a low battery, so we wanted to make sure the system could handle the new electronics load. During our testing, we did not experienced any issues but a more powerful (and lighter) Lithium battery would provide more confidence in charging our electronics overnight when traveling in remote areas.
The WR250R comes stock with a 13-tooth front sprocket and a 43-tooth rear sprocket. Gearing choice will depend on your primary usage of the bike and personal preference. Gear it up for a smoother highway ride, but less “get up and go”? Or gear it down for more low-end grunt on technical trails in which the WR250R shines?
We felt the stock gearing was a good setup for all types of riding, and didn’t initially want to change it. However after the build, we learned of a potential weak point in the stock WR’s drivetrain. Some WR250R riders have reported excessive chain wear on the swingarm chain guard, and it can sometimes eat all the way through to the metal. One way to help prevent this is to raise the chain off the swingarm with a larger 14-tooth front sprocket.
We ordered a set of steel sprockets in a 14-tooth front/47-tooth rear combo to keep the gearing close to stock, and added a durable Gold X-Ring chain as well. However once we made the change, we experienced rubbing on the stock front sprocket cover. As a result, the front sprocket cover had to be replaced to make room for the larger 14-tooth front sprocket.
The OEM front sprocket cover didn’t provide much protection anyway, it’s made of rubber and plastic and will do little to guard against a broken chain or a trapped rock that could lead to a cracked case. We found a replacement case saver that provides more room for the 14-T front sprocket from Sandman Parts. It’s made from TIG welded Steel and 6061 Aluminum, and has large openings that give dirt and debris a place to exit from the sprocket area. While these drivetrain upgrades do add expense to the build, we felt them prudent to prevent problems down the road.
Future WR250R Accessories & Upgrades
The upgrade options we chose proved to be beneficial to “adventurizing” our little dual sport. Yes, we lost a small bit of performance off-road. But in exchange, we improved the on-road comfort and capability of the WR250R. And this was one of our primary goals; to make a smaller displacement dual sport more adventure touring capable. That said, to keep this a budget-conscious build, there were some items that we didn’t include that could improve all around versatility and comfort further. Here are some of the items we are considering adding in the future:
There were WR250R accessories we added that clearly worked well and some offered benefits that will depend on the needs of the individual rider. All of the products selected did the job expected of them and one thing became certain in our tests — the Yamaha WR250R is an excellent starting point for building your own ideal adventure touring bike. The bike’s flexibility, performance and the wide selection of aftermarket products, allows it to be customized in many different ways to match the unique needs of its owner.
Clearly, the WR250R will never have the power that the “Big Bikes” provide. In reality, if one needs more power, then he/she would be best served by purchasing a motorcycle with a larger engine. But if you are considering a lighter, less-expensive, more manageable Adventure Motorcycle and you find yourself asking how much power do you really need, this competent off-road traveler may be the answer.