Youngy is a bit of a freak. Point him at a hill, no matter how steep (to me it looks like a sheer vertical, but in reality it must be all of 30º), and up he goes. What’s more, he flies up it like he’s riding a proper 450 enduro, even though he’s on the donkey DR650. Bugger. And don’t get me started on what he can do on the road and a set of corners. Lucky for me in the straw drawing contest I got both tall straws, and bagged the Yamaha WR250R and Youngy as my teammate. For our adventure we chose the path less travelled.
The Yamaha made perfect sense as we departed on our cold ride out of Warburton, past the last bakery (and decent coffee, and what we call civilisation) and fuel stop – not that I was going to need any with 13.8 litres on board. Teams ‘Softo’ and ‘Softish’ headed off in their respective directions as Youngy pointed us up the four hundredth, almost impossible hill climb straight out of On Any Sunday. Luckily the WR serves up plenty of suspension travel and great throttle connection. You’d think it would be as easy as pulling the pin and following Youngmeister up in third gear at maximum revs. But a couple of things happen when you ‘only’ have a 250. The revs drop quicker than the DR650, which is just plonking up (well actually flying), and I have to drop down two gears and lose a lot of momentum. It’s at about this time I realised I haven’t seriously ridden on the dirt for a year. Two Adventure Riding Schools (Yamaha and BMW – don’t leave home without them) chime in and I adjust my riding stance and get my weight forward and take a lot of weight off the ‘bar. It took the WR to teach me that works.
The rest of the day was spent pretending to be a dirt rider, being a pretty good facsimile of a learner rider, and also proving small is best. But more importantly we were just enjoying the scenery. My pace may have been akin to bushwalking with a motor, but the Yamaha is made for that. It is civilised, quiet and as competent as any learner rider would need. If you ramp up the speed and increase the fun then the 250cc is a bit of a high-revving blast. The brakes will pull you down to a safe speed with finesse and power. The handling, steering and ergonomics are also really top rate.
‘Only a 250’ is an obvious concern but that feeling only lasts a few minutes. I made sure I rode all the other units on test and I can tell you the smallest bike there had the biggest heart. It will rev along at any speed, eat a freeway at the legal limit and be unbothered by any terrain. You can go into a Yamaha dealer and point with confidence at a new WR-R, ideally ticking the tank, screen, rack, handguards and handlebar warmer options. I would also source some neat soft pannier mounts. Even with all that you’d still get change from $10K.
If you can live with a revvy engine and the tall seat, the WR is one of the best ‘mini-me’ adventure bikes out there, handling all you want or expect to do during your first forays into some of the best elements of our sport. Load it up with all the camping gear and spare accoutrements like grungys and soap, some spares and maybe an inner tube, plug in a map device and head for the hills. Maybe your guardian will be 1200cc mounted, but you will still be smiling. The ‘R’ has enough suspension travel and strength to carry plenty of gear without compromising its abundant fun factor.
If you are jumping into serious adventure riding as a newbie, then the Yamaha WR250R is a great way to start. There are few better excuses to hit the road and take the earliest detour to go searching for quiet byways and speccy scenery. You’ll be perched up high and in control with a bike that is working with you rather than against you. Use the little thing to get at the monster of all things: adventure.
Why this bike?
IT’S ALL ABOUT the connection, and I wouldn’t need anything bigger or more powerful than the WR250R to have this much fun. Its like spending twenty cents at the lolly shop and getting a dollar’s worth of enjoyment.
Some people dream of getting on a big adventure bike and ploughing along the trails. But I was happy not having to struggle to get a 1200cc behemoth up some impossible hill. The breath I saved getting to some of the best vistas imaginable meant I had more lung capacity to breath in deeply and feel the serenity. As I said, I love bushwalking with
This little LAMS Yammie will put most people’s ability to shame and teach them more in a weekend of bush-bashing than they would pick up in a year of commuting.
Why do this?
FROM THE TIME I started riding I was going off road – not on a trail bike but around the paddocks on any little road dunger that someone offered up. The taste of jumping little mounds, kissing the dirt and losing the skinny front tyre was fun and at a deeper level taught me many things I would later call upon.
I have never competed off road, however, that doesn’t mean I’m averse to a good fang. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a day than racing around a made-up circuit or trying to overcome my fear of heights over a metre off the ground.
The essence of pure riding for me is touring or adventure riding – going and seeing places that I’d be reluctant to visit on a full-house sportsbike. This trip was a chance to get off the beaten track again, bed down the skills I’ve picked up over the years, and remember what a blast it is.