2008 Yamaha WR250X/R - Pocket Rockets

By Chris Denison, Photography by Mark Kariya

As gas prices increase and trail access decreases, dual-sports are more popular than ever. So what better time for Yamaha to release a street-legal, small-bore four-stroke capable of taking on the tarmac and trails? We're actually talking about two new Yamahas: the dual-sport WR250R and supermoto-style WR250X.

When both bikes retain the same bore and stroke as the off-road-only WR250F, you might think they're fundamentally similar. Au contraire. The street-legal versions are fuel-injected, which means smoother delivery. Their casual acceleration may have you wishing for more bottom end, but these aren't racebikes and they are 250s. We'd estimate they're about 20-30 percent down on power from the F.

It's much easier to keep the revs up in the fun zone when on blacktop. Most of the power lives in the mid- to upper-rpm range and there's an incredible amount of over-rev above that. Given its 10,000-rpm power peak, the WR loves being wound out. The top two gears are essentially overdrive, making for effortless 70-mph cruising and a top speed in the low 90s. Going downhill. With the wind at your back. The 2.0-gallon tank permits a range of around 110 miles.

The most obvious difference between the R and X is wheel size: 21-inch front/18-inch rear on the dual-sport; 17s front and rear on the supermoto. The latter also gets a larger front brake rotor (298 x 4.0mm compared to the R's 250 x 3.5mm), black fork stanchions, one less tooth on the rear sprocket to compensate for the smaller-diameter rear wheel and stiffer springs front and rear to reduce chassis pitch.

Yamaha claims the X isn't so much a supermoto as a dirtbike with street tires. If that isn't the definition of a supermoto bike, it sure looks like one to us. Works like one, too. Its soft-compound Bridgestone street tires stick well enough to make grinding footpegs the limiting factor in corners. The powerful brakes, comfortable rider cockpit and smooth power delivery make this bike super-easy and a genuine hoot to ride.

You won't win any Endurocross races on the R, but it's quick enough on- and off-road. The suspension is plush but a little unbalanced-the shock is over-sprung compared to the soft fork. Fortunately the frame is aluminum, complete with removable steel engine cradle, which flexes to absorb bigger hits. Stock Bridgestone dual-sport tires are a good compromise.

This feisty little pair brings plenty of attitude to a receptive mid-sized market. At a price that isn't on the moon, the little thumpers are good candidates for a second bike or an easy-to-operate ride for your significant other.

If you're oppressed by bloated gas prices or bored on your current commute, either of these two 250s is a hot option.

By Chris Denison
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