ADVENTURE LITE: Yamaha WR250R Project ADV Bike

Our little 250 fights back against the notion that you need a huge motorcycle to travel the world.

Yamaha WR250R studio view

A 250 is not everyone's idea of an adventure bike, but the simplicity, lightness, and agility of a small bike will get you to more places with less work than any of the big guns. You must commit to the 60–65-mph cruise and "lack" of luxury. What you get back is going places no GS dares to tread. The $6,690 Yamaha WR250R is a great platform, with a capa­ble chassis and lots of snap from its revvy motor. But it needs mods for high-performance distance travel. Our goal was to build a bike that could, for example, be ridden from LA to Moab and then stripped and re-geared at a campsite for real enduro-style exploring. Total cost for all mods is high, but this is meant as a guide to show benefits of each change so readers can make their own decision on what's important to them.


Stock wheels are typically pretty soft, and the ones on our testbike were dinged in short order after some aggressive testing. For this build, we chose ultra-strong, enduro-race-ready D.I.D ST-X rims ($200 front, $230 rear; black only) with Bulldog spokes and spline-drive nipples ($100 per wheel) all from Dubya USA (, $60 labor per wheel). To control costs, we laced the new parts to the stock hubs. Pirelli Scorpion Rally front tire ($117) works great with an MT-43 Trials rear ($121). Both have been long- wearing and are a good compromise for dual use. If you ride in a lot of mud, a true knobby at the rear is a better choice. A combination of SBS racing brake pads (RSI 694 front, $42; SI 790 rear, $34) working on good-quality stock discs provided a major performance upgrade for very low cost.


The best hard-core saddlebag and tank bag solution we've found is from Giant Loop. Coyote 39-liter saddlebags (, $360) attach securely without using heavy metal racks and come with a heat shield to protect from exhaust heat (we added a second). Capacity is huge and three waterproof liner bags are included. Diablo Pro tank bag adds 4 liters up front ($210) and has a clear map pocket with a power cord inlet for devices. Zippered base has a fuel-cap cutout, meaning the bag can flip out of the way for easy refueling.

Yamaha WR250R studio view


The WR250R has good core components that are, most importantly, rebuildable. But stock damping and springing are inadequate for larger riders or to carry any extra load. Go Race Suspension ( is a Christiansburg, Virginia, full-service tuning shop that has built a worldwide reputation for WR250R expertise. Owner Travis Jones increased the fork spring rate to 0.48kg/mm and revalves using new components. At the rear, a 500-pound-inch spring replaced the 440-pound-inch stocker with compression and rebound also heavily massaged. We spec'd a tune that would be adequate when the bike was loaded with gear and full fuel but were aiming for best performance when stripped. Handling and ride quality are phenomenally improved; it rides like a completely different motorcycle. Cost is $1,140 if springs are needed, $900 without. If you make one change to your WR250R, make it this one.


The stock fuel tank is 2 gallons, which isn't enough range for real adventure (even at an easy 65 mpg). A 4.7-gallon IMS fuel tank (, $400) can deliver about 300 miles. Because fuel is carried low in the shrouds, the full-tank weight increase doesn't have a big ill effect on handling or give a top-heavy feeling. Uni Filter air filter ( $35) works in a modified airbox (opened-up inlet), which boosts overall power and engine response (with other mods, as listed below).


EXHAUST: The stock exhaust system weighs 11 pounds, the FMF Q4 silencer ($360) and PowerBomb header ($200) just 6.5. The FMF setup also boosts bottom-end power substantially and provides about a 1.5-hp increase at its 26-hp peak. To ensure proper fuel delivery, a Dynojet Power Commander V EFI/ignition tuner (, $400) and an Exhaust Servo Removal Module ($65, needed to prevent an error code in the absence of the stock EXUP valve) are used. Engine response is fantastic.

aluminum skid plate

PROTECTION: The flimsy plastic stock skid plate is pretty much only good for keeping some of the dust off the engine. Any big hit could spell the end for vulnerable parts. This aluminum skid plate by Flatland Racing (, $95) is nicely made and has a very clean and quick installation using four screws in stock frame tabs. A drain-plug cutout makes oil changes easy.

gearing close-up

GEARING: Stock is 13/43, too tall for technical off-road work. A 120-link D.I.D 520 VX2 chain was cut to 112 links (, $134) and combined with a 48-tooth Renthal Ultralight rear sprocket (, $70). It's great off-road and gives a 60-mph cruise. For highway use, an Ultralight 14-tooth front sprocket ($33) is easily packed and swapped on the road; 14/48 is barely shorter than stock and gives 70-mph cruise.

cockpit view

ERGONOMICS/COCKPIT: Job one was replacing the stock steel handlebar. It bent easily and was too low and narrow. A Renthal RC High (, $80) was much wider, higher, and stronger, for better comfort and steering feel. Cycra Probend hand guards (, $134) block wind, rocks, and tree branches, as well as protect levers in a crash. Garmin zumo 390LM GPS (, $600) has great flexibility for mapping roads and trails, is Bluetooth compatible, and highly weather-resistant. Best adventure mirrors ever are made by Doubletake ( $48 per side).

Studio right-side view.

Studio left-side view.

Front wheel/suspension.

Rim close-up.

Cockpit view.

Hand guards.

Engine (right-side view).

Aluminum skid plate.


Gearing close-up.