Yamaha’s XT660Z Tenere is an excellent overlander – and even better when the suspension is upgraded and the engine opened up with a better silencer and airbox. It is an uncomplicated bike, very robust and a good compromise for both on- and off-road use. But if you want to ride it a lot off-road, it has one key fault – it is heavy.
Enter the WR250R. Whilst looking like an endure bike, it isn’t. Its engine is de-tuned with long service intervals, and the gearing allows the bike to ride comfortably at highway speeds for hours. At only 125kg (276lbs) dry, it offers an excellent baseline from which to develop a lightweight overlander – a ‘Mini Tenere’ if you will.
Since its launch in 2008, the WR250R has been built into an overlander by many a proponent of lightweight travel, and has gained a reputation as being bombproof and highly-reliable. And after more than eight years, there is a wealth of after-market parts for it. Already a fan of Yamahas and with no other credible competitors in this class of bike, I have opted for a WR250R as my next overland machine.
Prior to buying one, I spent many hours researching what modifications I would do to it, based on my experience with my Tenere. Some are essential: greater fuel capacity is the most obvious; I also want a fairing; the stock seat, akin to that of an enduro, would need changing; lighting would need upgrading; and some decent protection such as a bash plate and hand-guards are a must. Recognising the limitations a 250cc motor would bring after becoming accustomed to a big single, I want to open the engine up with a better pipe / header and modify the airbox. And inevitably I have a long list of non-essential mods such as better footpegs, LED indicators, heated grips and the like.
When I came to finally purchase one, I struck gold. I found a 2008 WR250R which already had nearly all the mods I had planned, and many more besides. Most significantly, it had recently been fitted with a 280cc big bore kit, with the engine custom-mapped with a FI controller. Many WR250R riders report that the bike’s motor does not feel like a 250, with plenty more power than you would expect from such a diminutive engine. It does, however, need to be revved to access that power and will object to being ‘chugged along’ at 3000rpm. The extra 30cc seems to go a long way to rectifying that; it still isn’t a 660, but there is plenty of torque at the lower end.
With a Safari 14L Tank paired with Safari’s Rally Fairing, and a decent seat from Seat Concepts, the bike looks and feels more substantial than a 250; in fact, when aboard it feels very much like a Tenere – only 50kg lighter. In stock from, the WRR’s suspension trumps the Tenere, as does the wind protection provided by the Rally Fairing; whereas the bigger bike will try to rip the peak off your helmet, there is virtually no buffeting at highway speeds. And the bike is more than happy sitting at 65-70mph for long stretches of asphalt.
In its current form, the WRR is ready for overlanding; but I plan to improve and refine it further. The only outstanding major modification is the suspension – one part of the bike which regularly elicits criticism. I think a steering damper will help – most obviously in sand, but also at highway speeds when the front end can be quite twitchy. I’ll also look at options for increasing fuel capacity.
To capitalise on the bike’s low weight and to maximise the engine performance, I will also be looking to refine my luggage and packing list to keep the gross weight down. I’ll be using soft ‘rackless’ luggage such as that made by Giant Loop.
You can view all the modifications done to the bike so far HERE. As the project evolves, I’ll keep the list updated, with links to all the respective manufacturers’ websites.