2024 Yamaha WR450F review | Yamaha’s new big-bore enduro is smaller, lighter and better

Highlights

  • All new chassis and engine
  • The classic Yamaha enduro, reimagined, repackaged
  • At last a 450 for the clubman racer

At a glance

Seat height: Tall (37.6 in / 955 mm)
Weight: Low (258 lbs / 117 kg)

Prices

New £9,000
Used £8,000 - £8,500

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
5 out of 5 (5/5)

This latest design revamp of Yamaha’s long-running WR450F off-road motorbike has been massive and is likely to be a game changer nearly as much as the original 1998 WR400F. Save for maybe a handful of components, everything is new compared to the 2023 bike. Yamaha have zeroed in on ease of riding, on fast, responsive handling, combined with accessible power.

Previous WR450Fs have been powerhouses, to the point of being brutish, but this WR changes the narrative. As with every WR-F ever made, it shares much of its DNA, its architecture and engineering, with its motocross stablemate, the YZ450F. If you just watch five minutes of the latest AMA Supercross season you’ll immediately see the what a difference the latest design revamp has made. Five wins and 14 podium finishes from 14 races has put Yamaha’s two works riders on a championship winning footing.

When Yamaha launched the four-stroke YZ/WR concept in 1998 – with the YZ/WR400F – they revolutionised off-road racing. The pair redirected dirt biking into a new four-stroke era after years of two-stroke domination. Four-strokes would never be the same again, with stratospheric rev ceilings replacing low-end torque, while lightweight agile chassis superseded the stable dependable workhorses of decades past.

Yamaha WR450F right side static

Since then Yamaha have refined the YZ/WR package again and again. Aluminium frames replaced the original steel in 2006/07 (that’s YZ/WR – typically the motocrosser gets the updates ahead of the enduro). Then the reverse cylinder engine took over from the by then conventional motor in 2010/16 (again YZ/WR).

The big difference coming in 2024 for the WR, is a whole new take on rider experience. There’s this sense that the R&D team first profiled the rider, his/her wants and needs, then designed the bike to suit that. Big horsepower might win on the stats sheets, but usually embarrasses the enduro rider ducking between the trees. So this new WR delivers a whole new experience, where the rider, even the average rider, can dominate the bike, not vice versa.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The frame, to the casual observer, looks just like the last. It isn’t, the headstock has been lowered 15mm, in fact it’s like everything has been lowered, especially the footpegs. It’s narrower too, the airbox has been redesigned and with no front-facing snorkels there’s no intake bellow, while the bodywork has been narrowed by 50mm. Add soft-edge bodywork, a rounded seat, and a sense of optimal mass centralisation and mass minimising and this is a smaller 450cc enduro than we’ve possibly ever known.

For years Yamaha have spec'd the best of Kayaba’s suspension technology. While the opposition has tried all manner of new tech (air forks an example), Yamaha have seemingly held firmly onto their ace card with the KYB SSS (speed sensitive) fork and lightweight KYB shock – both known for a mix of plush, supple action and outright superior performance.

For 2024 Yamaha have spec’d the WR with a suspension stroke 10mm shorter than the YZ, which lowers the seat height and centre of gravity, and thereby improves the handling. When tested, the settings felt to be on the firm end of the spectrum, but this could (and typically does) improve after the break-in period. For this year the forks also gain tool-less compression adjustment. In all it’s a premium offering.

Yamaha WR450F jumping off-road

Combining the new frame and the lowered suspension with the new engine (see below) we end up with a whole new riding dynamic. This is a 450 that thinks it’s a 250, it loves to dive into the tight stuff and hopping and bopping through the Welsh woods felt almost effortless. Given, say, just 10% more suppleness in the suspension (easily tuned) it's enduro nirvana.

The brake calipers are probably the only old school item here, being Nissins that are standard fitment on so many dirt bikes. But no complaints, combined with a 270mm front disc there’s no lack of power and both front and rear brakes gave good feel to allow for sensitive use in limited grip situations.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

Yamaha have reengineered the reverse cylinder motor this year. Working from the top to bottom, there’s new cylinder head porting, larger 39mm (Titanium) inlet vales, new piston, new cylinder, crankshaft and balancer and now a dry sump. Add to that all new engine mapping plus traction control.

The transmission has been completely revised too, with a vertically stacked gearbox and now a diaphragm style (aka disc spring) clutch – as found on most KTM dirt bikes. The new clutch brings a good weight saving too. We could knock half a star off the score for the WR still having a five-ratio gearbox (when most enduros feature a six-speed), but Yamaha have gifted the WR a nicely spaced wide-ratio setup.

The last WR450F engine was eye-poppingly powerful. Fantastically enjoyable – for about 10 minutes. Yamaha have in this iteration tamed the beast. The extra power was never needed and even with a few horses having been given the vet’s bullet, there’s still plenty left (around 45bhp). And enough torque to make third gear a trail favourite, from low rev to high. The new clutch caused no issues, even though it’s cable operated (just so last century…).

Yamaha WR450F engine detail

The new mapping and the ease of adjustability through the latest tuning app equally simplifies the job. You can now have a soft map that is so easy to ride yet absolutely powerful enough for all occasions. The engine now rides like an ever-popular 350cc four-stroke enduro (think orange) only with nicer power and better-spaced gear ratios. In fact the whole bike now feels like the best-ever 350cc four-stroke enduro. And as any enduro aficionado will tell you, that’ a very good thing.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

Yamaha’s dirt bikes have a platinum-plated reputation for quality and reliability. At the very beginning of the WR story there was a problem with kick starting, but once the electric starter was fitted the WRs never looked back. The latest WR pays homage to all the past WRs, it still looks like a WR, yet it’s so forward looking in spec and design. It is jewel-like in the detail and the finishes are achingly exquisite. It’s one pretty ‘cycle.

Reliability has been a strong suit for the WR. This one is so far untested, but given their track record we’d be so surprised if Yamaha have dropped a clanger.

Yamaha WR450F left side static

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

We’re dropping a star straight away because the WR is not homologated for road use. Bearing in mind the intended purpose of enduro and trail riding, road licensing is a must-have. Having said that, the procedure to individually register an enduro bike is now very easy and affordable.

And you’ll want to register it so as to gain insurance. Getting insurance on dirt bikes is becoming easier as most brokers/insurers are seeing this as a growth market and with road registration they are better protected from theft and fraud. You do still need to be super-attentive to security though, the thieves’ love of a ‘hot’ dirt bike hasn’t diminished.

Good news for owners is the WR is a very robust machine. Component life is long for a competition model and WR owners typically get hundreds of hours use before needing a refresh. Most typically this means a new piston and cam chain, with a check over of the top end. It is a competition bike though, so hit the frequent oil change schedule to the minute and keep the air and oil filters scrupulously clean. Do that and it’ll last years and years.

Yamaha WR450F ridden off-road through puddle

Yamaha and their performance tuning house, GYTR, make tasty upgrades for their competition models. The GYTR radiator braces are a good first buy and at £149 will repay you in your first fall where you might have dinged a rad. The Brembo hydraulic clutch kit (£237.32) is a winner for easing the fatigue if you’re a constant clutch slipper, and auto adjusts when the clutch loses adjustment.

An Akrapovic titanium full race exhaust system will set you back a cool £1698.68, so is a luxury buy. It will improve the power delivery and the sound (let alone the look), but if you’re looking for improved race performance you’ll get better value for a lot less cost by having the Kayabas race-prepped.

At £9k the WR isn’t cheap. But this is the World post-Covid, everything costs more. And besides consider the massive amount of R&D that’s gone into this, and the performance it’s offering. It’s good value.

Equipment

5 out of 5 (5/5)

It’s a competition bike, so forget heated grips, rider modes etc. The equipment we’re assessing here are the essentials for race winning. In that sense it’s all good. As said, the new tuning map is a major win. The traction control meanwhile, in dirt biking on small bikes no one is convinced of its value.

Yamaha WR450F app

Specs

Engine size 450cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4v, single
Frame type Aluminium beam type with double cradle
Fuel capacity 7.4 litres
Seat height 955mm
Bike weight 117kg
Front suspension 48mm, KYB forks adjustable for rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension Single KYB rear shock, fully adjustable
Front brake 270mm disc with Nissin two-piston caliper
Rear brake 240mm single disc with Nissin single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 90/90 x 21
Rear tyre size 140/80 x 18

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £84
Annual service cost -
New price £9,000
Used price £8,000 - £8,500
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Competition model

Top speed & performance

Max power -
Max torque -
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

1998: Yamaha WR400F – together with the YZ400F motocrosser, broke new ground for four-stroke dirt biking. With five-valve heads – a tech boost coming off the YZF superbike programme – for the first time the four-strokes could punch like-for-like with the two-stroke racers. Not then, not now, is a WR super-light, nonetheless it’s always superbly packaged.

2001: Yamaha WR426F – more cubes (via bigger bore), more power.

2003: Yamaha WR450F –  More cubes again (this time via longer stroke), more power (circa 42hp). But very importantly now with an electric start. Fuel tank reduced from the desert racing friendly 12-litres, to a UK short course suitable 9.8-litres.

2007: Yamaha WR450F – the WR gains an aluminium frame (double cradle type).

2012: Yamaha WR450F – a change of aluminium frame, now to double beam type (with cradle under the engine). Now fuel injected.

2016: Yamaha WR450F – and now a change of engine, to the reverse cylinder type for better mass centralisation and serious power boost given the straight downdraft inlet design.

2019/2021: Yamaha WR450F – revisions made to the frame and engine each time.

2024: Yamaha WR450F – ostensibly still the aluminium beam type frame and reverse cylinder engine, but both vastly different from the predecessors (smaller, lighter).

Other versions

None

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