by Ryan Gauld, Jim Scott and Frankie Bellissimo
Yesterday, all of the motocross media in Canada (it’s a small group, but a passionate one) were invited to Motopark just south of Owen Sound, Ontario to ride, get fresh info on the Yamaha brand, race teams and the direction the company is headed.
Today’s market is tough for any manufacturer. Places to ride are hard to find and noise regulations are shutting tracks down left and right. No matter what we all do as enthusiasts we are sometimes up against a wall. Yamaha has been on top of the race game for the past four years with the ever powerful Blackfoot squad. That relationship has come to an end and Yamaha has moved on in a new direction.
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Bryan Hudgin of Yamaha Motor Canada, a former racer himself, has gone back to the old-school way of thinking. “Grassroots is how we drive sales to Yamaha. Making the local costumers happy in each province by having programs across the country helps us as a national brand,” shared Bryan. Yamaha has gone out and gathered dealers across Canada and thrown support for local Pros or amateurs so they get as many bikes on the track nationwide. They have done so in a great way right.
Their presentation helped us learn about the racing side of Yamaha, but also to introduce the brand new WR450. The bike has made several changes including the Bi-Lateral Frame like the YZ250F’s, electronic fuel injection, and a sleeker design to keep up with the trends of style and fashion. I for one have never been a fan of the woods. I raced the CECs last year and gained a whole new respect for the guys that choose woods competition over motocross racing. After riding the new WR 450, I realized that you should always have to be jumping, railing berms or trying to impress some chick. Riding is all about fun and that’s exactly what this new machine offers. Usually you find these bikes to be heavy and down on power, but the WR450 was the opposite of most woods bikes I’ve ridden. It had loads of power and the new frame design makes it feel lighter and more nimble offering complete comfort for any type of trail. I said when I was finished riding this bike that it would be a ton of fun if you had three or four buddies with these types of machines and just went on a joy ride for the day. These bikes are not made for big jumps or racing; they’re made to enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride in the woods. That’s exactly how I felt when pounding off rocks and roots through the Motopark trails. As most of us know, the trails at Motopark are full of rocks which could scare the average rider. There was no hesitation on these machines. Both the WR250 and 450 worked well and made it easy to feel confident in the tough terrain. Mind you, the 250F is a bit of a stove when it comes to power but just like the 450 you can purchase upgrades from GYT at Yamaha and easily improve the performance. That was another cool thing that Yamaha Canada offers – they make a wide range of oils, aftermarket parts such as GYT Products, and house the AXO brand of motocross clothing and apparel for all your needs as a rider.
We also got a chance to ride the motocross track on the championship winning YZF450F and 250F, as well as a YZ125 and a YZ144 with upgraded aftermarket parts from GYT. I know how well the four-strokes work already, and if you own a Yamaha you know too. But these two-strokes just brought back the fun. They’re just so enjoyable to ride, however I would need a little more power and stiffer suspension. To pound 5-6 of the fastest laps you can and enjoy every minute, these bikes were made just for that.
It was an awesome day yesterday testing Yamaha’s all new line up at Motopark. The first set of bikes were the woods and trail related WRs. We rode some open trail, track and some tight, rocky single track. We loved these bikes in typical Yamaha fashion; they just felt right. My personal favourite was the WR250F. It just handled really well, had good power, tracked nice, and I felt the most comfortable on this bike.
I also rode the WR450F. It seemed a bit tall for me but I could adapt quickly to the bike. I loved the EFI system because the throttle response was lightning fast. Yamaha added their full line up of pros to the mix yesterday, which made the riding experience fun, plus it was interesting to see these guys ride their blue machines.
Our next test was the motocross bikes. I rode the YZ450F first, and once again was surprised how well a box stock bike handled. With a few clicks of rebound and compression, this bike is race to ready.
Next up was the YZ125. It was fun but I couldn’t seem to keep the revs up on top enough, but handling and braking were awesome. You realize how engine braking works when you go wide open into a corner the first time on a two-stroke. When you let off it feels like it is gaining speed.
My final choice for the day was the YZ250F. I had heard good and bad things about this machine, but after I warmed the bike up I never even noticed it didn’t have EFI. Once again, a box stock bike that amazed me. The guys at Yamaha had left the levers a touch loose so we could just tap them to our preferred settings. I absolutely loved this bike because it pulled hard, went wherever you pointed it in the corner, and the handling was awesome.
I was on 450s all last year and have to say my two favourite Yamahas were both 250Fs and the YZ450F. It felt very comparable in a faster package.
Intermediate/Pro level rider
The Yamaha Canada media test day went down at Moto Park without a problem. The conditions were moist in the morning but cleared up to a blue bird day for the afternoon of testing. First we were able to meet the Pro Motocross team riders and the Yamaha specialist to give an overview of the technical aspects of the Yamaha models we were to test. With an up to date slide presentation, Brian and John showed the media and riders where Yamaha has come from and where they are presently with motorcycles that will take you over vast terrain, across country, or over water. Yamaha offers many quality machines for you and your family’s needs that will last a lifetime.
The main focus was to educate us on the features of the WR450 and the new changes for 2012. A few key notes to recall is that this vehicle is a closed course, competition vehicle only in North America, has a new fuel injection carburetor and uses the same frame as the YZF250.
Also discussed and new for this year is the way that Yamaha spread their rider sponsorship across the country to many grassroot shops and dealer teams, which gives Yamaha a chance to elevate their regional presence and increase their Amateur contingency with Yamabucks plus three factory rides for 2013.
When heading out for the test portion of the day, it was apparent that Yamaha is a professional company with a friendly atmosphere. With all bike set up under blue Yamaha tents, it was time to test the WR series bikes. I tested the WR450 first as we were led into Moto Park’s vigorous trails. Immediately, the bike felt smooth in power and handling. It seemed to cut through the trails with ease because you just had to slightly shift your body to steer. I would best describe it as riding a Cadillac as the suspension offered a smooth ride over plenty of rocks, roots and ruts with the ability to keep both tires continuously grabbing traction. The power was softer than the Motocross YZF450 but was able to get up any tight hill with ease to propel you through the woods. The electric start was a dream because when I stalled the bike a couple of times in tight sections, I was able to restart quickly. All in all, this bike seemed like a dream to ride in the woods. I would recommend it to any motorcycle enthusiast.
A big thanks to Yamaha Motor Canada for giving the media a fun filled day of riding, bench racing and showing how Yamaha is giving back to the sport. Also thanks to Bryan, John, Dave, Rick, Matt, and the rest of the Yamaha crew that made it all possible. Cheers boys!!
MXPFilms to follow tomorrow.