As my love for riding off road grows, my search for the best bike for trail riding continues—this time with Yamaha's WR450F.

Yamaha's WR line of bikes represents their more offroad, less racing segment of dirtbikes. The WR450F was introduced in 2003 as an update to the WR426F (itself an update to the 1998 WR400F). The gist of it is that it takes the YZ450F and detunes it slightly for emissions regulations in public land use areas while adding more plush suspension and a few other creature comforts to make the bike more appropriate for off-road enthusiasts rather than racers.

WR450F
The 2017 Yamaha WR450FScott Sorenson

Yamaha updated the WR450F most recently for 2016 when it got the rearward slanted cylinder, straight intake from the front, and 44mm throttle body from its YZ racebike brother.

The WR's bilateral beam aluminum frame is also derived from that of the YZ. The castings, forgings, and extrusions are the same; while the engine mounts are tuned with a bit of compliance to make for a more supple ride.

From there, the WR gets an electric start, headlight, larger radiator and an additional fan, plastic skid plate, side stand, wide-gear five-speed transmission, and enduro specific exhaust. There's also a larger front brake (270mm), wider footpegs, and the bar clamps are rubber mounted for added comfort.

WR450F Sean MacDonald
Gearing up for the inevitable get off.Zach Cohen

The suspension has also been reworked for added comfort and to handle anything you might come across on the trails. The KYB front is a fully adjustable spring-type fork with speed-sensitive damping, while the rear is fit with a piggyback-reservoir shock with adjusters for high and low-speed compression damping, as well as adjustable rebound and spring preload.

Wet weight comes in at 271 pounds, and the WR450F has an MSRP of $8,990.

WR450F
Sundays were made for riding.Zach Cohen

I got to spend a little over a month with the bike, taking it to all of the usual spots plus a few new finds. The first of those was the weekend after I got it when my buddy Justin asked if I wanted to head to his hidden single track training ground. I'm always down for a challenge (and I'm really dumb), so naturally, I was in.

Out of the gate, the Yamaha's motor is really impressive. Fueling is spot on and the power comes hard and quick. After riding the KTM, the Yamaha felt more like a race bike (though the supple suspension comes as a nice relief after riding the YZ250FX).

WR450F
Sometimes you jump, and sometimes the earth just falls away beneath you.Luke Takahashi

A racebike, however, is not the right bike for a day of tight single track, and I quickly found myself struggling in the tight windy course Justin laid out. Between the lightweight flywheel and peaky power delivery, the WR450F makes for an easy bike to stall and I worked up a good sweat within minutes. Once the trail opened up a bit, I was able to use more of the power, but the whole day had me wishing for the 250FX or KTM 350 EXC.

The following weekend, we head up the 5 to Hungry Valley up on the Grapevine where the more open landscape would be more fitting for the bike. Here, amidst the long wide sweepers, hill climbs, and sand, the WR felt far more at home. The power feels so close to that of its YZ racebike brother that drifting around corners and putting power down quickly becomes its own addiction, and the suspension is well tuned for this sort of abuse.

WR450F
The closest thing we have to woods riding.Scott Sorenson

The WR did feel a tad awkward through many of the tighter, one-way sections carved into the hillside. The power comes on so quickly in first gear that it's difficult to remain smooth, and the gearing feels all wrong for the tight stuff. Unfortunately, bike issues with a buddy's bike cut our day short and I didn't get to explore nearly as much as we'd hoped.

For my final weekend, we head out to ride the back side of Big Bear. The grasslands and rolling hills here are covered with rocky single track and I was impressed with how the Yamaha's suspension was able to provide for a comfortable ride while still steering well. I'd ridden the YZ250FX out here recently and the stiffer competition suspension beat me up, so it was interesting to see how Yamaha had tuned the WR to be more appropriate for these situations.

WR450F
Leading the charge.Luke Takahashi

At the end of the day though, I still found myself wishing for the KTM. While the Yamaha's massive power delivery on the bottom is truly impressive and all sorts of exhilarating when you get on the gas, but that and the lighter flywheel def make for a more difficult bike to ride. While the Yamaha WR450F rides nicer than the Honda CRF450X it competes with, the KTM and its broader powerband and more supple suspension is still the apple of my eye.

WR450F
Exploring.Scott Sorenson

Sean's Gear

WR450F
Nothing is more motivating than a little game of chase.Scott Sorenson

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