As the off-road and enduro bike markets are heating up, motorcycle manufacturers are continually looking to get their fair share of the sales pie. Most do this efficiently by taking their best, most popular motocross bike and adding the features needed to make them competitive in several other categories.

Yamaha introduced its all-new 2019 WR450F hoping to attract customers looking for a highly competitive enduro bike. The YZ450F was all-new in 2018, and the YZ450FX was completely updated with the new engine and chassis for 2019. Yamaha kept the 2019 WR450F under wraps for some time before its introduction to the world.

Engine

2019 Yamaha WR450F in desert.
The all-new 2019 Yamaha WR450F comes with the latest-generation YZ450F engine and has the same wide-ratio, five-speed transmission as the YZ450FX cross-country model.Jeff Allen

By now you are probably familiar with the latest-generation YZ450F engine, and it's the same one that's being used in the WR450F. Naturally, the "WR" comes with a wide-ratio, five-speed transmission that is actually the same as the one used in the YZ450FX. In comparison to the motocross model, it is as you would expect. First gear is very low for single-track conditions such as tight woods. Second gear is between the YZ450F's first and second gear. Third gear is just a touch lower than the YZ450F. Fourth is almost the same and fifth is much taller.

With Yamaha having such a good 450 engine, the wider gaps in the transmission are not all that noticeable. First gear was perfect for low speeds while riding through extra tight sections and playing in some bigger rocks, but not so low that you had to immediately shift up as soon as you got past half throttle. Second was very useful in slower sections, but tall enough that you could let it rev out a fair bit. Third gear was just about perfect. Once you got rolling, you could click into third and ride from about 5 mph to 30 mph without any need to shift or use the clutch. Fourth could carry you up into some higher speeds—what would be about as fast as you would need to go for enduro riding. Fifth is the afterburner gear. If you needed to get somewhere in a hurry, it would get you there quickly.

The final drive gearing of 13/50 seemed to fit the transmission and power quite well. You would only consider possibly going to taller gearing if most of the riding you did was at higher speeds, point-to-point, or on two-track roads.

Riding the 2019 Yamaha WR450F.
Yamaha tuned the intake and exhaust system, along with fuel and ignition maps, to provide usable, race enduro power down low with a good amount of high-rpm power and over-rev.Jeff Allen

We would say the “WR” could also be used in the description of the engine’s powerband. The bike comes with several EPA requirements that reduce the engine’s overall and peak horsepower. However, there is still plenty of power to get anywhere you want to go. It could be said this slight reduction in power makes the bike easier and more fun to ride over longer distances. Yamaha achieved this by tuning the intake and exhaust system, along with fuel and ignition maps, to provide usable, race enduro power down low with a good amount of high-rpm power and over-rev.

The clutch lever is easy to pull and does not have any fade. Even in slow rocks and repeated tight turns with significant clutch abuse, the clutch remained consistent. Yamaha accomplished this with a slightly different combination of regular and highly heat-resistant friction plates that eliminate the judder spring.

Suspension

Riding the 2019 Yamaha WR450F between two boulders.
The KYB suspension is a bit soft for the faster, more wide open trails found on the West Coast. It excels in lower-speed, more technical terrain.Jeff Allen

The previous WR450F chassis was good, but it didn’t have the exact same features of the YZ450F. For 2019, Yamaha gave the WR all of the same latest and greatest features of the YZ450F. In addition to the all-new chassis, the WR450F has the most current KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) coil spring fork and KYB shock that come on the YZ450F. The only difference is the enduro-specific valving and spring rates.

The suspension is a very good starting point and, with some adjustments, could possibly work very well for a wide range of skill levels and rider sizes. While I did feel like it was a tad soft for some of our more open trails on the West Coast, I didn’t experience any extreme bottoming. In the lower-speed and rocky sections, the fork worked well, offering enough feedback that I could feel the ground and rocks but did not want to deflect off things.

Riding the 2019 Yamaha WR450F past flowers.
The WR450F has a slightly low seat. If you’re 5-foot-11 or taller, you might want a tall foam to help when transitioning from sitting to standing.Jeff Allen

Chassis/Handling

Another benefit of the updated fork is the new fork lugs. They offer a more precise steering feel and allow the WR to use the 22mm front axle that has been used on the YZ450F since 2014. Continuing with the front wheel, the new speedo drive uses an inductive-type speed sensor, eliminating the old cable drive-type. The new, more compact headlight cowl is slightly lower and closer to the fork resulting in a little lighter steering feel. The WR450F also has updated brake line routing. Tucked neatly under the rear fender is an LED taillight. This is a taillight only; it does not have a brake light feature.

The unique Yamaha chassis design with the reverse cylinder head configuration moves the airbox to the front, which allows the fuel tank to be under the seat. This has several benefits to an enduro bike that normally comes with a larger gas tank. The 2.2-gallon tank is completely concealed under the seat, which does not create any changes to the rider cockpit area. Additionally, with its relatively low location, there is less of a change in handling when going from a full tank to empty.

Ducking under a rock with the 2019 Yamaha WR450F.
The 2019 WR450F is more stable and planted-feeling than the 2018 model.Jeff Allen

The skid plate/engine guard has been updated to offer better protection around the water pump and radiator hoses. The new shape of the guard also fits closer to the frame helping to reduce the accumulation of mud and debris between the engine and guard. Naturally, it comes with several other features you would expect to come on an enduro bike such as an 18-inch rear wheel, O-ring chain, steel rear sprocket, kickstand, and a mechanical muffler with a spark arrestor.

The cockpit and ergos are trademark Yamaha. The brakes are strong yet progressive, and the clutch seems bulletproof. The Dunlop MX3S tires are high on performance but low on durability. As for this test rider, I will take the performance over the durability all the time.

Conclusion

Biker surrounded by rocks while riding 2019 Yamaha WR450F.
The 2019 WR450F is a remarkable improvement over the prior generation model.Jeff Allen

Riding this bike is a lot of fun. It has good power for its intended use and is really only limited by the rider’s ability to control the bike. With the wide-ratio gearbox, I thought there would have been more of a gap between gears, but if you are shifting somewhere in the normal rpm range, the engine just keeps on pulling.

In comparison to the 2018 WR450F, the 2019 model is a more stable and planted-feeling bike. It is very comfortable moving along in medium, third gear, or higher trails. Turning it requires a little more rider input, and focusing to stay far forward over the bike certainly helps. With more time and some additional testing, a taller seat, or possibly moving the bar forward would be some of the suggestions that might help for tight, single-track riding.

If I were in the market for one of Yamaha’s off-road models and had to choose between the YZ450FX and WR450F, I would have to really decide what features I wanted most. The headlight, taillight, radiator fan, EPA spark arrestor-equipped muffler, and enduro computer are nice add-ons that don’t come on the FX. However, the FX has a more powerful engine package and slightly better stock suspension settings. I would say with a few performance upgrades, like an aftermarket muffler paired with the available GYTR ECU that is programmable through the CCU Bluetooth adaptor via Yamaha’s Power Tuner app, the engine could almost equal the YZ450FX. With some personalization to the suspension, I may have the best of both worlds.

2019 Yamaha WR450F left profile in desert.
The WR450F is spec’d with the most current KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) coil spring fork and KYB shock that come on the YZ450F. The only difference is the enduro-specific valving and spring rates.Jeff Allen
2019 Yamaha WR450F odometer.
The WR450F’s compact odometer has multi-function, enduro race features built into it. It also comes with a lead-acid battery, which is more durable for colder temperatures.Jeff Allen
Riding the 2019 Yamaha WR450F towards flowers.
With Yamaha having such a good 450 engine, the wider gaps in the transmission are not all that noticeable. We’d also prefer a six-speed gearbox if we had the choice.Jeff Allen

TECH SPEC

 
PRICE $9,599
ENGINE 450cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Aluminum bilateral beam
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) coil-spring fork adjustable for compression and rebound damping; 12.2-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.5-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 270mm disc
REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 245mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 27.2°/4.6 in.
WHEELBASE 58.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 37.6 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.2 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 262 lb. wet
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT yamahamotorsports.com