by JC Hilderbrand

Yamaha Gives the Small-Bore Dual-Sport Segment a Kick in the Pants

Yamaha just released two new dual-purpose models for 2008, both of which stir up the current market offerings. The tuning-fork company has developed a new quarter-liter thumper that adds a much-needed boost to the small-bore dual-sport segment of motorcycling.

Yamaha has offered the XT225 and big-wheeled TW200 for years, but they hardly offer sporty performance or serious dual-sport capabilities. Now, the XT is bumped up to a 250cc and while it may still be lacking in sportiness, the all-new WR250R and WR250X look to bring some poo-eatin’ grins to the table. Though they share the WR moniker with Yamaha’s popular enduro models, these new machines are not as hard-core as the lovable WR250F and WR450F.

WR250X (MSRP $5,999)

This street-legal machine uses a completely new 4-valve, DOHC liquid-cooled motor with a 77 x 53.6mm bore/stroke and a compression ratio of 11.8:1 to pump life through the versatile steed. Fuel injection, 17-inch black wheels, heavy fork springs and road-inspired damping characteristics, oversized 298mm front wave rotor and 35.2-inch seat height indicate this little thumper is a supermoto machine, but Yamaha press material pegs it differently.

“Not exactly an enduro, a supermoto or a sportbike, the WR250X is for riders who ride mostly paved surfaces. Its sibling, the off-road inspired WR250R, is for riders who spend more time in the dirt.”

Starting duties are handled by an electric system and the bike does not have a leg-operated option. Once underway, power is laid down through a 6-speed tranny and a 13/42 final gearing ratio on the chain-driven system.

The chassis is YZ/WR-F inspired, but the X model comes with the main aluminum spars blacked out and steel down tubes in the double-cradle design rather than aluminum as is found on the YZ/WR-F line. Another steel component is the 2-gallon fuel tank, which obviously gives a better seal on the fuel injection system. The aluminum swingarm is blacked out as are the upper fork tubes of the inverted, fully adjustable 46mm fork. With 10.6 inches of travel available up front and 10.4 out back, the 250X has considerably less travel than the Kayaba-shod 250F model.

Wave rotors give the bike a racier look with the massive 298mm unit up front and 230mm rear. The discs are bound by a twin-piston caliper and single-pot, respectively. Bridgestone 110/70 front meat and 140/70 rear connect a 56.1-inch wheelbase, over two inches shorter than the full-blown enduro WR-F.

Styling cues lean towards the SuMo influence as well with a stubbier front fender to cut wind and a headlight assembly gracing the front end. Out back are another minimalist fender and an upturned exhaust can with heat shield.

WR250R (MSRP $5,899)

It’s all-new but essentially the same machine as the X mode with more of an off-road bias. Bodywork, exhaust, motor, chassis, suspension and controls are all the same, but a set of off-road wheels give the bike a slightly different stature. A 80/100-21 front and 120/80-18 rear provide over an inch of seat height (36.6) and 1.6 inches of additional ground clearance. Wheelbase is only slightly longer and the claimed dry weight is four pounds less than the X (276 vs. 280). California models have an additional claimed two pounds.

XT250 (MSRP $4,399)

The XT model offers on/off-road performance that is geared at the less experienced or smaller riders. The new 249cc machine isn’t a bored version of the old bike, but rather a new creation altogether. Designed with a 9.5:1 compression ratio, the 74 x 58mm bore/stroke doesn’t get the fuel-injection treatment of the new WR models, much of the reason for its significantly reduced pricetag.

Suspension components are less aggressive as well with a 36mm fork offering 8.9 inches of travel and the rear end handles 7.1 inches. A 245mm front disc and 203mm rear handle the braking responsibilities for this light-duty ride. A 31.9-inch seat height gives the XT a newbie-friendly stance while straddling the semi-double-cradle steel chassis. A new gas tank accepts 2.6 gallons of fuel.

This trio of new quarter-liters doesn’t set the motorcycling world on fire per se, but the introduction of features like fuel injection and aluminum chassis to this dual-purpose market are definitely exciting. These machines look to offer plenty of playtime across town and onto the local trails for riders of a wide skill range.