Aug 19 2009 Harriet Ridley
Yamaha dirt bike is fun on or off road
WANT to carve your way through town while having the best fun ever and looking incredibly cool? Then get a Yamaha WR125R.
This brand new machine is designed as a dirt bike, but works a treat on the roads and is more than capable off them. It's a dirt machine built for novice and young riders to enjoy mainly on the roads. And it looks the business.
Machines like this usually come with a relatively low seat to boost confidence. But the WR doesn't follow convention. Yamaha knows that new or young riders want to impress their mates with the real thing, L-plates notwithstanding. So like all serious dirt bikes, the WR has tall suspension to soak up bad surfaces with a tall seat height for best ground clearance.
I love how tall Yamaha has made its WR125. At 5ft 6ins I'm on tiptoes, and the ground needs to be level for me to successfully swing a leg over. But it isn't a problem because the bike is so light it's easy to manage at a standstill.
Get going and you feel on top of the world, with a bird's eye view of the traffic ahead. Yamaha is working on a lowering kit for the bike, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're much shorter than me.
The modern 125cc four-stroke engine is punchy and because the bike is geared low for extra punch low down the rev range as all dirt bikes should be, you end up giving your left boot a serious workout going up and down the smooth six-speed gearbox. It's fantastic fun to thrash this little engine and throw the agile chassis around through the twists.
The low gearing means it only just manages a 70mph top speed on the modern LCD display. But it's all you need for short motorway stints on a bike that doesn't offer much in terms of windblast protection. The clutch is so light you barely notice it, and if you do get bored of using it, then don't. The gearbox is as slick as a trials bike's gearbox, which is designed for stamping up and down the gears without using the clutch. You can easily dispense with it on the WR too.
And so you find yourself bolt upright, high above the traffic, with this super-lightweight machine underneath you that's incredibly agile. You can take speed bumps at full pelt if you fancy - the tall dirt-focused suspension is so plush it soaks up anything you throw at it.
And as for traffic, I'm not saying you can ride over the lines of cars, although I'm sure multiple trials champion Dougie Lampkin would enjoy this. But you can slice through the most tightly packed traffic jam like the proverbial knife through butter.
However, the WR is designed to ride the dirt, so I venture cross-country to see how it copes. The only limitation is the original equipment tyres that, despite the deep tread, are more suitable for the road. So things do get slippery. Still, the punchy power is just enough to find decent traction without ever overwhelming the rear tyre, so I enjoy sliding around the shop, controlling front and rear movements with the throttle and clutch.
Learn to ride a machine like this off-road and you'll master road riding in the wet or on poor surface, especially where braking's concerned. You'll never need bother with ABS as you'll know exactly how much pressure to apply to the front and rear without locking the wheels. Then there's the seat and tank perfectly designed to make easy work of sliding your body around to help control traction.
But if you do take the WR off-road then remove the mirrors or you'll crack them like I did when I toppled over. Apart from that however there wasn't a scatch on the bike, testament the top-quality of the fairings and components. The WR even gets a folding-peg gear change pedal just like the bigger off-road machines so it doesn't snap.
Of course, all this top-notch quality comes at a price, and £3,499 is hardly cheap for a starter bike. But you get what you pay for and the build quality is worth every penny. And if you shun the countryside, then you might want to consider the WR125X Supermoto version that's more street-focused and costs £3,599.
Yamaha's WR125R Enduro may be designed for new riders, but I had the time of my life living with it for several weeks.
Yamaha WR125R Enduro
Engine: 124.77cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder, four-valve
Max speed: 70mph
Transmission: 6-speed gearbox
Brakes: (F) single 240mm disc (R) single 220mm disc
Wet weight: 133kg
Fuel capacity: 8.5 litres
Seat height: 930mm