Yamaha WR450F SuperMoto
Unmitigated selfishly motivated deeds by Mike Emery – Photos by Auntie Andrea
OK, so being a moto-journalist is not all bad – I get to ride some bitching motorcycles, brand new (of course) and I get to do more than my fair share of riding, street and track, usually at little or no expense to my good self. So when it comes to actually owning a bike, a bike to park up in my garage, and in particular, a bike that withstands all the distractions of coming and going ’04 and ’05 supermodels, what do I choose? This. The worlds most perfect (to me) bike, let me show you the how’s and why.
This Yamaha WR450F started life as a leftover 03′ – Pilfered (I kid you not) from Champions Yamaha in Florida. Champions CEO and former founder of 2Dub, Robert Mealey, was looking the other way when I wheeled away a perfectly sellable bike from his inventory. Me mumbling about an IOU on the back of a Wong Wednesday restaurant napkin probably didn’t help, but hey… shit happens when you hang with journo’s.
However, the thing is – it’s a friggin’ dirt bike!!. I mean look at it, it’s got horribly big (and skinny) wheels on it. The tires are all knobbly and they handle terribly on asphalt. I hate to harp on but is that chrome on the wheels? What’s that all about? It’s over 9ft tall too and the front brake looks way too small. All my friends are laughing at me and people on the street are pointing my way – it’s just not cool (or me).
Please somebody (MTV?) pimp my ride…
On the bikes arrival in CA, I proceeded to look up old friends for the appropriate Supermoto performance parts and made a few new ones in the process. First order of the day was suspension. I’d met Race Tech’s Paul Thebe a few years ago and he’d mentioned more than a couple of times that some suspension help was mine to have, as and when I needed it. Being a Supermoto junkie himself he raved about some mod’s that would help the Yamaha perform in this guise, so the forks and rear shock were delivered to his shop in Corona, CA. I think this is my biggest regret when building the original stock suspended XR650RR – because an equation quoted to me over the years is a $1000 worth of suspension is worth $3000 of engine tuning. True? I don’t know, so we’ll soon find out.
Next up was a search for wheels. I’d heard Aaron Holguins’ name a long time before I actually met him. He was one of the original builders of Supermoto wheels and I felt confident he could deliver, especially with a shortage of Excel rims due to the massive growth currently being enjoyed both here in the US and worldwide. In short order Aaron supplied me with some nice Excel 17-inchers replete with gold (for the bling factor, natch) Talon hubs all held together with Aaron’s very own choice of beefy spokes. The whole set-up came with spacers that spaced perfectly, and also replacement brake rotor and sprocket bolts, knowing full well that OEM bolts are sometimes casualties in the rules of Supermoto building wars. Pirelli mounted up some sticky Corsa rubbers fore and aft and all was good in the land of sun, silicon and traction.
Vortex stepped up to the proverbial plate with a couple or three sprockets. Knowing my penchant for road-racing perfectly good dirt-bikes they chipped in a 15/38-40 set-up for maximum forward velocity. Cyclemall.net managed to locate a Supermotard specific non O-ring race chain from AFAM that offered a little lighter weight and minimal rolling resistance. Sorted. By the way, while this bike was going through its metamorphic stage it lived quite happily on a Motorsport Supermoto stand. This stand is shorter than an MX stand, giving you an easier time bench pressing your 260lb bike onto it.
Performance-wise the stock WR comes with a couple of restrictions to satisfy the legal department at Yamaha. After a quick call to Yamaha’s press guru and fellow Supermoto rider, Brad Banister, a list of “to-do’s” was E-mailed to me. First off the snorkel was removed from the airbox, to let it breath a little better, the throttle stop was also adjusted to allow full throttle and a two-stage air filter was added to further enhance intake duties. A grey wire was also “snipped’ on the CDI to promote a more aggressive ignition curve, ala YZ450 – race use only, of course, of course.
Courtesy of Uncle Wendell at Lockhart Phillips a full Ti Akrapovic exhaust found its way into the 2Dub garage and onto the project. The system dropped several pounds off of the stock unit, including a weight reduction from the stock Ti header! This goy-geous thing is topped off with a nice little carbon fiber exhaust bracket, because nothing’s too good for my ride. This system is a little noisy, but to liberate ponies from little singles, sometimes there’s a trade off. I must admit that sure it looks good, but it also produces the power and over-rev that I need for a proper thrashing technique.
For stopping duties I enlisted Jeff Gehrs help from BrakeTech USA, Inc. Jeff supplies top-notch Brembo equipment and it seemed only fair to have Brembo’s finest added from top-to-bottom. I mean when was the last time you saw a serious race bike sans Brembo’s? To compliment a GP series 4-piston caliper Jeff also supplied one of his self designed full floating 320mmm AXIS brake rotors. I also liberated a Brembo radial master cylinder, remembering how well it worked on the XR-RR project. To tie all this together Adrian of Ride Engineering supplied a set of stainless braided lines. The total effect is absolutely mad braking power, combined with an exquisite feel. This is turning into the six-million-dollar MTV budget bike, but I can’t help myself.
With most of the performance issues catered, it was time to go shopping for bling. Why settle for Gordons jewelry when you can have Harry Winston? I pestered the living daylights out of GYT-R (Yamaha’s performance parts division) and presented them with a dream shopping list. Bless ‘em, ‘because they came through with some trick bit and pieces. Like any sportbike you can’t have too much carbon fiber. Whilst eating into Yamaha’s profit margin for 04′ I also opted for the front YZ number plate and a stock TTR125 fender. The former replacing the WR lighting and the latter offering a smaller replacement for the kite size stock front fender. The TTR piece needs no modification to fit too – Cake.
The natty crash protectors were supplied by Supermoto Engineering because with no hefty fairing to absorb those minor get-offs these protectors protect the fork, frame and swing arm. Also supplied in the same kit was a couple of smaller “mushrooms” that fit on the end of the Acerbis hand guards. These will help keep the bike rash free and help stop the bike looking ratty. Hammerhead Designs also provided us with a slightly offset gear shift lever which helps dial the bike in for a perfect fit – a comfortable rider is a safe and faster rider… it’s all in the details.
I fabricated a catch bottle out of a small bicyclist water bottle. The bottle bracket is bolted on and safety wired in place. It’s easily removable so emptying is a breeze. To further satisfy the safety tech inspectors, Taylor motorsports again supplied me with one of their nifty Kevlar/nylon ballistic diapers. The beautiful thing about this piece of equipment is that it’ll hold a few quarts of oil, should anything go pear shaped and help in keeping that oil off of your tire and your favorite track. These types of restraints are starting to become a rule in some organizations, so prevention is better than cure.
Cameron Brewer of BRP supplied us with one of their superb billet triple clamps to firm up the front, and donated some further bling in the form of a billet gas cap and some grippier and tougher IMS foot pegs.
The forks soon returned from their So-Cal holiday were reinstalled and a track day booked. Being a diehard roadracer, first up was a shakedown at Buttonwillow, courtesy of Dustin Coyner and TrackDaz. The bikes breezed through tech as I opted for the sportbike group with an option to move up to the race group, if I ran riot through the street guys – Which I did. I’d like to point at something shiny and bling to say that it had the most impact on the bike, the truth is that the Racetech Reactive Suspension along with Gold Valves that Race Tech fit, absolutely rocked. They lowered the bike one inch front and rear and I’m running with no steering damper, I’m not getting an ounce of instability with my pound of fun either.
To further prove my demented ways I also did a track day at the big track at Willow Springs. FasTrack’s David Pyles gave me the nod to try the bike at one of their excellent track days and I had to beg the tech guy to let me in anything other than the beginners group. However, again I romped through the sport group, passing at will almost any where. To further prove the stability of the bike, I was railing turn eight, flat out, one handed with no hint of instability or soiled undies. Sure, I’m tapped out at probably just over 110 or so, but I’m still passing open class riding street guys at will – I’m a cherry picking fool.
To quell the grumbling from certain friends, I decided prove my Supermoto manhood at a practice day at Grange. The Victorville go-cart track has seen more than its fair share of Supermoto action with its practice days offered at only $25 a pop.
The new (to me) sideways sliding was picked up quite rapidly and I’m glad to say I got out in one piece with just one minor tip-over – Gobless those Acerbis hand guards. No real damage, just some minor aches and scrapes (the bike not me).
The bike handled great, needs a slipper-clutch (part deux?) and some gearing changes to be perfect.
So that’s it, I wanted to prove that this really is the do-it-all vehicle. I can roadrace this, supermoto it and with a quick wheel change, motocross and trail ride it too – I truly wish I could get this bike street legal, it would top off the perfect bike night/Sunday morning ride. If I get a chance to swap it out for a street legal version, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The bike gives me all the elements I look for in my motorcycle wish list and some- I have been officially pimped.
Now, locating these parts and getting them to your door in one ready-to-go package is pretty tough. As a service to you, I’ve negotiated a killer deal with Champions Online to provide in one lovely big box, all the parts you have read about here. The fact is Champions the company (and their employee’s) all ride motorcycles in a big way, they know this stuff because they’re using it. They’ve made a big effort to locate and stock these products mentioned and using their size as buying leverage, have negotiated the best discounts available, on or off line. They want to be the premier providers of Supermoto parts. Go check them out by following the links on this page and let them tailor a package to suit your budget – they won’t be undersold.
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