WR450 Dualsport Project Bike – Two Much Fun!

By Tom Niemela

            “This bike rocks!”  That was the goal I wanted to feel when setting up my next dualsport bike. 

            My idea of a dualsport bike is something that is a lean, mean fighting machine, yet street legal enough to cruise down the pavement to connect one trail to another.  With this end, I proceeded to sniff around for a bike that would have all the basic necessities to get this going.  Since dualsporting is primarily a four-stroke endeavor, a thumper scoot would be the basis.  Thanks to the recent insurgence of thumpers, there are many to choose from.

            After cruising the mags, quizzing friends, and surfing the internet, I decided that the stately Yamaha WR450 would be the chosen mount.  It had all the basics of a dirt-worthy dualsport bike.  It was reliable, competitive in the woods, comparatively lightweight, had ‘the button’, was quiet and had plenty of aftermarket parts if needed.

            A trip to my local dealer (Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, www.bhy.net) produced a well-prepared blue machine.  Due to initial production issues with the starter and flywheel, BHY made sure and double-torqued the flywheel to spec and used the red Loctite.  There are a few reports of people shearing the flywheel key, so preventative setup was appreciated. 

            The first item was to get the blue beast street legal.  Having used the excellent Baja Designs Kit many times over the years, that was the obvious choice.  As always the kit installs easily with detailed, sometimes humorous, instructions.  The BD Kit uses the existing WR battery and head/tail lights, which is advantageous to keep the weight down.  This also adds credence with the quality of the stock WR parts.  My only snivel about making a bike street legal though, is the rear winkies.  I always seem to keep whacking them with my boot when mounting/dismounting the bike, so I decided to replace the rear blinkers with small aftermarket roadbike units.  They are small, bright and replace the stockers nicely.  Other than that, the stock BD Kit parts were all used.  Once installed, I now had the standard on/off switch on the dash, plus now had the handlebar switch to make the high/low beams and blinkers work, plus another on/off switch.  Another nicety of the BD Kit is the license-plate holder doubles as a rear-fender extension, which is great on downhills, so the mud doesn’t come off the rear wheel and end up down the back of your neck. 

            Speaking of BD, I also got their quiet insert for the stock muffler.  Yamaha also offers something similar, but the BD insert has a pipe that points the exhaust downward a few degrees.  It also opens up the stock muffler for better breathing, yet still retains the needed quietness that all cycle riders should adopt to help keep our riding areas open.  I measured the decibels of the BD insert and it came to 92db – quiet, exactly what I wanted.

            Another addition was to install the new Panoram Enurance computer.  This is a great product due to it automagically starting when the bike starts rolling and shuts off after a few minutes when movement stops.  It also has a plethora of features such as settings for maintenance schedules, a momentary light, etc., but its main feature is a real-time speedometer.  The advantage for dualsporting is that it shows mileage in 1/100ths, plus you can add/subtract mileage tenths if needed on the fly.  Very cool.

            Now to make the bike more customized for my personal riding style and needs.  First was the addition of a one-inch taller BD Seat.  It is made by Guts Racing, marketed by BD and is quite honestly the best seat I have ever had my fanny saddle up to.  With the stock seat, you can almost feel each bump of the knobby on your cheek, but the BD seat is nothing short of a Lazy-Boy recliner and, in my humble opinion, a necessity! 

            Next was to add CR high-bend bars and hand guards.  After that it was time to add some bike protection from inadvertent lipskids.  DeVol has the best radiator guards around, since they are light, mount easily and offer the best impact protection due to their mount on the backside of the radiator.  While we were shopping DeVol, we also got their frame guards to keep the boots from scratching up the frame.  They also made the bike look better too.  Another addition was the Works Enduro Rider steering damper.  Those that have used dampers know that it is almost an unfair advantage using one, specifically in the rocks and roots of the Northwest.  The WER unit mounts low, out of the way and has the one key feature that is integral to a good, safe ride – it dampens when the bars move ‘away’ from center, but not when ‘returning’.  Don’t be fooled by some steering units that dampen both ways, you don’t want those, which will give you arm pump.

            The stock chain stretches like new Bazooka bubble gum, so replacing that was in order too.  An RK o-ring chain was an obvious choice for me – end of stretching chain problems.  After the initial adjustment, subsequent adjustments were not needed.

            Easy mods included removing the airbox baffle and rejetting.   A chisel easily splits the airbox baffle away to allow for more air into the engine.  That, combined with the new exhaust tip, made jetting a requirement, so I went up one size on both the pilot jet and the mainjet.  These mods really made the engine snap, while still retaining its stealth qualities.  The addition of heavy-duty tubes on both ends is always a requirement for me.  Of course I always go fore and aft to adjust and Loctite everything.  Greasing the rear linkage and steering head bearings is also another must do. 

            As most people know, suspension is probably the most important item to set up on your bike.  After the initial break in, I realized that my girth required a larger rear spring on Big Blue, so I went to a 5.6kg boinger in the back.  Now I had the proper ride height on both ends, but mild trailriding had the suspenders working the full travel, so some low-speed (i.e. whoops) dampening needed to be added.  A trip to my friends at BHY directed me to their suspension guru, Mike Cardenas.  Mike was very detailed and professional in his queries, discussions and definitions and then dove in to each end.  His specialized RaceTech suspension mods yielded considerably more low-speed dampening, but left the high-speed (rocks, roots) dampening as it was.  The net result was a hugely improved ride.  Now I could hammer the whoops without feeling both ends bottom out on each whoop, but yet retained the plushness over the rocks.  This of course also transmitted to a safer ride, due to the improved stability of the bike. 

            So how does the sum of all the mods work?  Nothing short of stellar!  Originally I had entered the WR in a local ISDE race that had endless whoops.  It was brutal just finishing the event, due to the eternity of whoops.  Now Big Blue hits the tops of the whoops as it should and rails over them, while still remaining compliant on the rocks and roots.  Taking it with my dirbike-only friends is starting to make them envious of having better lights, street legality and yet can still hang with them on the trails. 

            This is MY idea of a dualsport bike that rocks – just like I wanted.