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ADV BikesAdventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget – Part 2

Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget – Part 2

We turn a small-displacement dual sport into a capable Adventure Tourer.

Published on 09.13.2016

For those just tuning into this article series, we have been looking at affordable ways to close the gap between smaller-displacement, dual sport motorcycles and the adventure class “big bikes.” Our goal is to transform our stock Yamaha WR250R project bike into a comfortable and capable Adventure Tourer, while still retaining a reasonable weight and good off-road capability. We’ve also set ourselves a budget of $2,000 for WR250R upgrades, to ensure the cost of the build remains relatively affordable.

In Part One of this series, we addressed, seating, fuel range, and wind protection. Now we will be looking at the following WR250R upgrades:

  • Cargo
  • Tires
  • Protection
  • Ergonomics
  • Convenience and Safety


Suggesting that a single luggage system can solve the needs of every adventure rider would be like skiing down a mountain with no snow. You could do it, and possibly successfully. But some people are still going to think you’re rather stupid.


So rather than suggesting this choice is the ‘best’ for everyone, we chose a solution that would meet the specific requirements of this build in terms of payload, cost, durability and security.

For this build, we wanted a luggage system that would give us enough capacity to pack all our gear for longer duration trips. A secure, lockable solution was also a requirement. It’s important to have a place to safely stash your stuff when you are carrying everything you need to live on. While even the sturdiest boxes won’t stop determined thieves, locked panniers are an effective deterrent for the opportunistic criminal. Staying true to the “Adventure on a Budget” theme of this article series and keeping the cost of our WR250R upgrades down to a minimum was also a concern, but in saving money we didn’t want to sacrifice quality.

With these needs in mind, we chose the Tusk Aluminum Panniers ($399.99) as our primary luggage solution. Tusk Panniers come in two sizes and we chose the larger version (37 liters per pannier) to ensure adequate storage capacity for longer trips.

Yamaha WR250R Upgrades: Tusk Panniers

Although these aluminum panniers are somewhat typical in their appearance, they are unique in how they mount. The quick release system, incorporated into the pannier racks makes removal of the panniers quick and easy. Four lockable latches allow for the security one may want when traveling in an urban setting or in less trustworthy areas.

The Tusk Panniers are also built tough with a durable black powder-coated finish that resists streaking and scratches. Pannier racks are made of ¾” powder-coated steel tubing and utilize a 4-point mounting system and crossbar to increase strength. But what’s most appealing about these panniers is the price. The set includes two panniers, side racks and locks all for less than $400, which is not bad at all for a quality set of aluminum panniers.

Hard boxes may not be the best choice for every ride, but the Tusk Pannier Racks can also be used as a secure mount for soft panniers. Tusk Pannier Racks ($169.99) can be purchased separately for those looking for a soft panniers solution, and they can also provide a little extra crash protection for the rear of the bike when riding without luggage.

Yamaha WR250R Upgrades - soft luggage
It’s nice to have options and for those rides when soft luggage is preferrable, the Tusk Pannier Racks can provide a secure mount for soft panniers.
Yamaha WR250R Upgrades Tusk Top Rack
A powder-coated aluminum Tusk Top Rack helps increase carrying capacity and provides a secure location to tie-down extra gear on the back of the WR250R.

Whether you choose hard or soft, the TUSK Pannier Racks are a strong, cost effective solution for the WR250R (and other motorcycles for that matter). You can also add a top rack to further increase luggage carrying capacity. We added a Tusk Top Rack ($59.99) — a machine-cut, powder-coated ¼” aluminum plate that provides a nice flat surface for strapping down top bags, fuel tanks and other items. Several tie-down holes of various shapes and sizes provide multiple mounting options for irregular shaped objects like firewood or tripods.


We now enter an area that will be very personal for the rider. Some of you may choose to go with a tire that will provide more grip and mileage on the road, while others may choose a tire that is better in the mud and dirt. We chose the latter for this build, mainly because we didn’t want to take away from what makes the WR250R so desirable to many riders; specifically, its competence in the mud and dirt of the world. So we spooned on a pair of Michelin T63 Dual Sport Tires ($144.98) for this build. 

Yamaha WR250R Dual Sport Tires

While the T63 looks like an aggressive off-road knobby tire, they are rated as 50/50 (street/dirt) by Michelin. They provide good stability and grip on the road as well and you can get a reasonable amount of miles out of a set. But the T63 dual sport tires really shine off-road where they provide impressive front-end grip that makes turning much easier in the soft dirt and mud. We also like that they are relatively inexpensive to replace when it’s time to buy a new set.


Of all the choices you may make when upgrading the WR250R, body and engine protection should be a high priority. This bike doesn’t come with much protection from the factory, so you should leave room in your budget for a few key items. First is the skid plate. The WR250R does not come with one, so this is a great first step. We went with the Flatland Racing Skid Plate ($99.95). 

WR250R skid plate

The rugged 3/16″ tig welded aluminum skid plate provides excellent protection, and reverberates less engine noise than other options. There currently isn’t an engine guard solution for the WR, and this skid plate offers some protection for the engine. Its shape provides additional protection both under the bike and on the sides. 

Next is the handguards. Again, the stock WR250R does not come with these. There are many aftermarket options available and some will provide more strength than others. We chose the Acerbis Dual Road handguards ($111.99). Although these are not a full wraparound design, we chose them in order to save room on the handlebars for other gadgets. 

WR250R Upgrades Hand Guards

Typically, “enduro style” handguards include metal braces that clamp to the handlebars in two locations. This provides more strength but also uses up more room on the handlebars. The Acerbis Dual Road handguards connect to the handlebar ends, and provide ample strength against falls and the random tree branch (yes, we know this from experience).

Another important protection item we found is for the headlight. The WR250R has a single glass headlight lens. One rock from the rider in front of you, or a hard smack from a tree branch, and you can find yourself with no headlight. So we searched for a strong solution that would protect well, preserve the intensity of the light, and be long lasting. Options are limited, but we found a good solution from Pro Cycle ($57.95). 

Yamaha WR250R Headlight Protector

This powder-coated metal headlight guard effectively protects the headlight from damage. Because it is not directly attached to the headlight (like many plastic guards), this guard can take a hit and keep the headlight intact. Also, it won’t become cloudy over time or reflect the light into the rider’s vision. Headlights are not cheap to replace and being stranded at night without one is no fun. So we highly recommend this inexpensive solution for headlight protection.

The WR250R does come with a rear brake caliper guard but it’s made of plastic and doesn’t offer much protection on rocky tight trails. We recommend replacing the plastic caliper guard with a metal one. We went with the Works Connection Rear Brake Caliper Guard ($29.95). It’s a low cost solution that gives us that little extra peace of mind.

Yamaha WR250R Rear Brake Caliper

The stock mirrors are also a weak point on nearly any dual sport that travels off-road. One small tip over or clipped branch can lead to a broken mirror, and the high cost of replacing the OEM units can get expensive. To avoid ever having to deal with this problem, we installed a set of DoubleTake Adventure Mirrors ($121.98).

WR250R Upgrades: DoubleTake Adventure Mirrors

The design of the DoubleTake Adventure Mirrors allows them to fold out of the way on impact. They are extremely resilient and nearly unbreakable. The new “Adventure” design also clamps down tighter to help prevent them from moving out of adjustment during sustained high-speed cruising.


In the first segment of the article series, we discussed the need for a replacement seat on the WR. And this is the first step in improving the ergonomics of the bike. But in our opinion, there are some other quick changes that can make the ride more comfortable over long distances. 

One change is the handlebars. The stock handlebars worked well, but they seemed to be a bit narrow, and we experienced a good bit of vibration through them on the highway. Replacing these with the larger diameter TUSK Chub 1-1/8” Handlebars ($39.99), coupled with the TUSK Universal Big Bar Clamp ($29.99) gave us a wider grip and helped decrease vibration as well. 

Yamaha WR250R Oversized Handlebars

Also, these bars taper to 7/8” at the ends, so there was no need to change the stock switch housings, throttle or grips. In addition, the risers place the bars in a nice spot for taller riders and improves your feeling of control when up on the pegs.

Convenience and Safety

We now enter an area where just a few add-ons can help make a minimalist dual sport a lot more convenient and safer for longer trips. Smaller Dual sport motorcycles don’t typically come with power outlets. Being able to power and recharge electronics like mobile phones, GPS units, heated gear, laptops, Bluetooth headsets and cameras is a big convenience.

We installed a handlebar-mounted 12-volt power outlet ($11.99). You can wire the outlet to either an auxiliary power lead or directly to the battery. Running the power outlet directly off the battery means that devices can be charged even if the motorcycle is not running. 

WR250R upgrades 12v power outlet

Although running a power outlet off the battery does offer a little bit of convenience, one should be aware of the risk of draining the battery. If you choose this wiring option, remember to be mindful of how long you charge devices while the motorcycle is turned off.

Lighting on smaller dual sport motorcycles is often fairly limited. Getting sufficient light out in front of you requires an aftermarket solution. Instead of looking at auxiliary lighting solutions, which can be costly, we focused on improving the headlight bulb itself.

Yamaha WR250R upgrades - LED Headlight Bulb

We found a powerful LED headlight replacement bulb ($58.99) from Cyclops Adventure Sports that made a dramatic improvement in lighting of the WR250R. This light is universal, coming packaged with the adapters needed for most Japanese and European dual sports. The light projects a stronger, whiter beam of light, improving visibility both for the rider and others on the road.

The stock engine on the WR250R is robust enough to handle the extra weight from the additional equipment we installed, but it does require it to work a little harder. And that can lead to more frequent radiator boil overs on hotter days or in situations where the radiator gets covered in dirt or mud. Losing a significant amount of coolant can lead to overheating and engine damage. A simple and safe way to help reduce the likelihood of boil overs is to install a TUSK High Pressure Radiator Cap ($15.99). By raising the pressure release point from 15.7 psi to 22.8 psi, the boiling point of the coolant is increased by 25° F.

Yamaha WR250R Upgrades: High Pressure Radiator Cap

Aftermarket Parts List

Aftermarket Product Price USD
 IMS 4.7-gallon fuel tank $359.99
 Seat Concepts Complete Seat $279.99
 Cee Bailey Tinted Windscreen $109.95
 Tusk Aluminum Panniers $399.99
 Tusk Top Rack $59.99
 Michelin T63 Dual Sport Tires $144.98
 Flatland Racing Skid Plate $99.95
 Acerbis Dual Road handguards $111.99
 Pro Cycle Headlight Protector $57.95
 Works Connection Rear Brake Caliper Guard $29.95
 DoubleTake Adventure Mirrors $121.98
 TUSK Chub 1-1/8” ‘CR Bend’ Handlebars $39.99
 TUSK Universal Big Bar Clamp $29.99
 12-volt power outlet $11.99
 Cyclops H4 LED headlight replacement bulb $58.99
 TUSK High Pressure Radiator Cap $15.99
 TOTAL: $1,933.66

With the preceding upgrades, we have completed the transformation of our WR250R Project Bike into a competent, longer-distance traveler and we managed to do it for less than our $2,000 budget. In the next part of our “Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget” series, we will look at some optional upgrades to consider and provide our assessment of the finished product — putting it through the paces to find its pros and cons. So stay tuned for more to come!

Photos by Jim Vota

Author: Jim Vota

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Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget - Part 1 - ADV Pulse
September 13, 2016 10:37 am

[…] more money to spend. So far we’ve gone through $750 of our $2,000 budget for WR250R mods. In Part Two of our “Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget” series, we will be addressing […]

September 13, 2016 1:48 pm

Nice article! I do have a few comments (of course). 🙂

First.. the panniers. I have a set. They’re nice for the money, but being cheap, you do get what you pay for. I tried them on my DR650 and found them too big and heavy.. the bike fell over to the right, and when it did, the impact crushed the pannier like a soda can. They aren’t exactly tough. I did manage to un-accordion-ify it and still use it (on my V-Strom) but I stick to the smaller plastic Givi E21 boxes for my DR650. Those things are indestructible.

Next.. seat. I had a Seat Concepts seat on my TW200 and HATED IT. But I’m spoiled — I have a Bill Mayer Saddles seat on my DR650 (it came with it) and that’s an amazing seat. I can go all day on it.

Other than that, it sounds like a nice build. It’s too tall for me though, even with the lower seat.

Allison Bruner
Allison Bruner
September 13, 2016 4:36 pm
Reply to  RobG

This bike is so light the height really isn’t a problem. I have a 27″ inseam and with the low seat, adjusting the fork clamps about 3/4″ and using the sag to lower another 3/4″ I can’t quite get both feet on the ground but it’s close and I’m perfectly comfortable on it. I can’t say I’ve never tipped over while stopped due to the height but it’s not a regular occurrence. (Watching me climb on and off is pretty funny though)

Jim V.
Jim V.
September 15, 2016 2:17 pm
Reply to  Allison Bruner


Yes, this bike is particularly tall…taller than other bikes in its class, and even the larger 650’s. That can be of great benefit, at least for those that are not too vertically challenged. 🙂

Jim V.
Jim V.
September 15, 2016 2:14 pm
Reply to  RobG


Good points here. There may have some accessories that, if budget had no limit, we would have used. The goal was to keep the overall cost as low as possible. We wanted to do this with resell value in mind. And to keep the price gap between the “big bikes” and this bike as wide as possible. There are a thousand ways to go about this, and hopefully this will help give some a good starting point.

September 23, 2016 6:11 am
Reply to  RobG

Agreed on the Seat Concepts////I hated that seat and went Sargent. Great seat with Yamaha blue trip/ I have the Boll M seat on my 1200 RT and it is great. Got rid of my 1200 GS – getting too heavy on the trails. WR is great. Still not sure if I like the RT as much as the GS for the road


Cameron Pattison
Cameron Pattison
September 13, 2016 7:00 pm

Great instalment, thanks. I have been waiting on the luggage part. The soft panniers look the go for me

Jim V.
Jim V.
September 16, 2016 9:22 am


The soft panniers will decrease the weight on the bike. Weight distribution is always a concern on the smaller displacement dual sports. One can easily make the front end quite “squirelly”, for lack of a better term. It’s important to decide what is most important to you. Hard panniers are convenient, weather resistant, and can provide a bit more security. But soft panniers are lighter and are less likely to cause an injury in a fall. The Wolfman bags are as waterproof as you can get in a set of soft luggage. And I’ve got thousands of miles on that set to prove it. Ride on and ride safe, Cameron!!

Cameron Pattison
Cameron Pattison
September 25, 2016 6:09 pm
Reply to  Jim V.

Hi Jim, again, great information and advice. I ordered the Enduristan Blizzards on the weekend. I’m more an overnighter / weekender, having a young family and time constraints, so just ordered the small ones. I think they will be sufficient for my needs.

December 10, 2016 8:05 pm
Reply to  Jim V.

Whow, you guys have discovered antigravitation: by ADDING bags the bike gets LIGHTER?

Well, just joking, of course I am understanding that there is a weight advantage of many kilos between metal paniers and soft luggage! 🙂

September 16, 2016 2:50 pm

I did a ADV conversion of my 2009 WR250x here is my thoughts on the bike and then the changes I made.
First off I lived in the foothills outside of Sacramento CA with a ton of small paved back roads that have bad paving so this bike was perfect for that. I am a Yamaha fan but chose the Yamaha over the 400 Suzuki based on the Suzuki was carbureted and a dated look and with my riding going from 700 to over 8000 FT elevation I chose the fuel injected Yam and again I was biased to Yam anyway. And the 250X has a lower seat height so if you have a wife or girlfriend that wants to adventure ride and had riding experience this is a good platform if going to do harder terrain.

The X model comes with oversize rotor in the front and stiffer springs front and rear for aggressive street riding along with 17″ front and rear wheels.

Not wanting to pay the extra $250 ish to lace up a 19″ front rim my tire choices were limited, I opted for Heidenau K60 tires the one I used on the front is a front or rear tire the profile is a bit wide from what a dirt bike would use. These are a 50/50 dirt street combo and I can still rail the corners in the street and so far off road they have been decent if anything the wide front tire wanders some. I had to drop one tooth off the front to make up for the bigger profile tires and the next chain and sprocket change I will still gear it a bit lower (was near new chain and sprockets or I would have just gone 3 or 4 bigger in the rear)

Even with the bigger profile front tire the huge front disk needed protection so I put on a GYTR front disk guard (not many options for the X model the R disk guard wont fit)

to fix the steep steering angle I put a drop link in the rear suspension THIS IS A MUST FOR THE X MODEL

IMS 4.7 gallon tank skip the graphics mine came off in less than a year unless you find graphic that are perforated

I already had a pro moto billet rear rack along with promote billet bark busters with stabilizer bracket.

I added a 12v and USB charger outlet and a electric vest outlet

LED turn signals not the tiny ones these are as big as stock and can be seen.

I made my own rear racks that hold pelican cases 1500 on the sides and a IM2450 on top. I made the left rack stick out as much as the right rack did going around the muffler and on the inside of the left rack I mounted a 1 gallon water rotopack for some of my water storage.

two 18w cree spotlights mounted to custom turn signal stocks

A Flatland skid plate painted to match the blue disk guard protects the engine cases.

Stock seat works great for me but will try after market when mine wears out.

My friends and I do trips to Death Valley and around Nevada with a mix of dirt roads and harder rock sections, I cannot imagine taking a big GS on some of the stuff that we do. I get about 60 MPG loaded (300 miles ish) mixed riding between 80 mph dirt roads down to chugging through deep sand. I pack about 80 to 90 lbs of gear and water onto the bike and it rides good near stock settings on suspension maybe 3 firmer than stock in the back two in the front still room to stiffen it up. So far I am very happy with the bike, the pelican cases have been great I have bounced them off a few boulders and only scratched them. I have crashed hard enough to bend my racks but the bike was still rideable and the cases worked still (get folding mirrors I ruined mine)


Jim V.
Jim V.
September 18, 2016 6:08 am
Reply to  Brian


Thanks so much for you input, especially with the WR250X considerations. That bike is different from the “R” in important ways. So it’s great to hear some options and considerations for it. Sounds like you have one heck of a setup! Thanks, again!

Joel B.
Joel B.
October 26, 2016 8:43 pm
Reply to  Brian


Thanks for your write-up! I just bought a 2009 WR250X today from a friend of mine. I also live in the Sac area, but I live more North near Beale AFB.Your post gave me some good starting points for modifications. I want to gear mine up for rides and camping trips off of Hwy 20 and 49. Thanks for your recommendations!


September 17, 2016 9:07 pm

Great follow up article and a nice build – might carry a spare headlight bulb instead of the headlight guard and spend the $ on a good set of radiator guards … just a thought – should still be in your budget with both the bulb and rad guards … now you have to ride it head to head with your DL650 build on a true 50/50 ride! Thanks again for the ideas! Keep it up!

Jim Vota
Jim Vota
September 18, 2016 6:04 am
Reply to  Michael


That would certainly be an option. And a valid one. The thing about doing a build is that there are a thousand ways to do it, and there aren’t many wrong answers to it. Converting your bike is a very personal thing to you, and the result has to fit your individual needs. Hopefully this article can help give others a starting point in considering what might be best for them. The hope is that we can provide people with at least some knowledge of what options are out there for a reasonable price.

Thanks so much for your comments and your contribution to the discussion!! We appreciate it very much. Ride on!!

September 22, 2016 4:18 am

Really enjoying these articles on the WR250R. I purchased a 2016 in June and
have lowered it with a Yamalnk and shaved seat, reduced the gearing and added a bash plate and bark busters. I would like to go with the 4.7 IMS tank, but am concerned about how wide
And bulky it looks. I also wonder how well the extra required vacuum pump works. Are you still happy with this choice over the smaller 3.1 gallon tank?
Thanks again for this series!

Jim V.
Jim V.
September 23, 2016 9:59 am
Reply to  Eric


I can understand your concerns about the tank. Don’t forget that it replaces a metal tank, so the weight difference is not really noticeable. And the tank doesn’t widen until in gets to the front, so it is not in the way. I would say that it depends on your riding style. We wanted to give the WR an equivalent fuel range of a BMW GSA, so the 4.7 gallon tank was the best solution for that. Some WR owners have voiced concerns about the extra weight. But so far, I haven’t noticed anything significant. The fuel pump works great so far, as well. The one issue (and it’s a small issue) is the the fuel warning light comes on a bit early. When it came on in the testing, there was still enough fuel to go another 200 miles (322 Km). So you won’t want to panic when the light comes on, but it will be difficult at first to judge how much fuel you may have left. I carried a liter bottle of fuel with me in the beginning, just in case I misjudged my fuel range. That said, one great thing about having a tank like this is not having to worry about where the next fuel station is. 🙂

September 30, 2016 2:52 pm
Reply to  Eric

Hi Eric, how much lower was the seating height compared to stock after your lowering mods?

September 30, 2016 5:47 pm
Reply to  Dave

Hey There, enjoyed the article. I have a 2008 that I have owned for 3 years and have almost set up perfectly for my needs. I am a pretty short guy with a 29″ inch in seem so I used a yamalink and dropped the forks 14 mm, probably as much as you want to go. I have the flatland skidplate and while it is the best of all available options I have seen it doesn’t quite cover the water pump enough for my liking, I’m going to try and have an extension welded for more protection. I also have a seat concepts low seat I am really happy with, especially for the price. I have never been able to flatfoot both feet on any motorcycle I’ve owned, and there are a few times it’s an issue but by and large if you can shift and get one foot down you are good to go:) As far as gas tanks, I have a Safari 3.7 gl., I noticed someone had a concern about the bulk of a large after market tank. The beauty of the large tanks is twofold, well maybe three if I include the obvious. 1. More gas=more range, I get about 200 out of mine. 2. The wings help protect the radiator and actually lower the center of gravity by carrying the weight lower. 3. If you ride in the street a lot the wings also provide some wind and rain protection.
I just finished a 500+ mile ride through WA on parts of the WABDR and I
never wished for a different bike-Oh yeah grip heaters are a must!

March 18, 2017 8:33 am
Reply to  Cameron

The stock tank is not metal, it is plastic as well.

October 8, 2016 8:05 am

Was waiting for Part 2 and was not disappointed. Excellent stuff Jim. The comments and response to this article says a lot about the ‘new-ish’ emerging concept of lighter is better ADV bikes 🙂 thank you!

October 14, 2016 8:12 pm

Going RTW on a WR. #terradrifting

Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget – Part 3 - ADV Pulse
December 15, 2016 12:26 pm

[…] 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 […]

WR250R – Biscotte Adventures
April 21, 2017 6:14 am

[…] ADV Pulse- ‘Adventurizing the Yamaha WR250R on a Budget‘ […]

October 4, 2020 10:48 pm

howdy. im looking into buying a bigger gas tank for my 2019 wr250r and i really like the way your bike is blacked out . i was going to try to go with the blue and black scheme onmy bike . i was thinking about getting the black 4.7 ims tank . how durable has that tank been for you ? i mainly ride enduro and am alwayse wanting to do harder stuff so i will probably be taking some really hard falls in time. as much as i putt around and try not to fall i still have some bad crashes and dont really want to spend that kinda money if i dont think it will hold up in time. if you was me would you go with the 3.1 or 4.7 size tank? also im not sure if your bike came black or you swapped them out for the wrx panels. did you swap your panels out for the wrx panels ? if you did , did you have to do anything to them or did they just fit on perfectly ?


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