Yamaha 2000 WR400F - Dual Sport

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What do you get when you combine Yamaha's overnight sensation 400 4-stroke with a Baja Designs dual sport kit? One heck of a competent dual sport machine!

* Please read test note below
The Bike (Yamaha WR400F)

Updates for the year 2000 model include a new 39mm Keihin carb with a throttle position sensor and a hot start knob to aid firing when the engine is hot. The frame is a bit lighter with a 5mm shorter wheelbase for lighter and quicker steering. Suspension updates have been made front and rear for smoother action, and the bike receives a "works-style" clutch perch. Retained features include an 18" rear wheel, 3.2 gallon fuel tank, wide-ratio transmission, and a 60-watt headlight as well as a tail light. 

Riders of organized dual sport events have always sought out the most off-road capable motorcycle they could find that can still be made street legal. Gone are the days of the street legal XT Yamaha's and Honda XLs. Today you'll find converted XR400s, 600s, and the new XR650. There are also quite a few KTMs, the new Suzuki 400, and scores of converted WR's.

The Kit
In the case of our 2000 WR400F, Baja Designs added their dual sport kit turning our WR into a serious dual sport contender. The kit includes a wiring harness, turn signals, horn, handlebar mounted control switch, brake light switch, drop down aluminum license plate hanger, voltage regulator/rectifier, a sealed ni-cad battery, and installation instructions. The kit is said to add less than 4 pounds and sells for $385. An optional kit, meeting all DOT requirements, includes a headlight and tail light and retails for $439.

Our testing of the WR pounded the bike as well as the kits components. Throughout, not a single element of the Baja Designs package gave us any trouble. In a previous bike test, with an older Baja Designs kit installed, we experienced a rubber tail light socket that repeatedly fell out until we siliconed it in. We were pleased to find that our new kit had an improved method of holding the socket in place.

The Ride
A premier dual sport event organizer, DualDogs.com, was just about to hold their 10th Annual Sequoia Scenic Challenge event, one we knew first hand would test a motorcycle to its limits. Got a new bike? Take it to this event and it may come back looking like you've been thrashing it for years. This is because the event, held high in California's Sequoia National Forest, can be one of the toughest rides of your life. There are endless fire roads and single track trails offering up rocks, ruts, boulders and trees everywhere. Take all the difficult options (yes, we did) and you'll be totally worn out.

A typical portion of the course consists of blasting down a tight winding trail only to suddenly drop into a creek. Crossing to the other side, where you'll go up a rock and rut strewn bank, you'll have to negotiate a sharp first gear turn while squeezing between two huge engine case scraping boulders followed by an uphill thrown in for kicks. This hill will usually be twisty and littered with various rocks and ruts to cross with your slippery wet tires. Of course the hill can simply by deep loam, deep enough to sink your real wheel to it's swingarm which eliminates any need for a kickstand (we saw this first hand). If any Dual Sport ride is going to test a bike's trail capabilities - this is it!

The WRs trail manners were an unexpected pleasure. Steering was light and very quick, especially for a 4-stroke. Add to this instant power delivery and a very responsive quick revving engine and you have lots of control - though at a price. This price is that the machine takes a very active riding style. If you like riding a motocrosser, you'll love the WR off-road. 

We never liked the WR on dry fire roads however, as the bike simply would not hook up in these conditions. Once laid down in a corner the bike would continue to slide, either pushing across the road or going full lock speedway style until you let off the throttle. An XR 600 we had along, with a good tire selection, would hug the road and leave us in the dust corner after slippery corner. With a better rubber selection the WR would no doubt improve, but to what degree we're not sure. On tacky fire roads, the bike handled well though not as fluidly as a few bikes we followed, and passed, while sliding corners at break-neck speeds.

Power delivery is immediate and strong from the 400F. Add to this the ability to clutch it and gain even more response and you've got a bike that's ready to rock. What surprised us most about the WR is this same instant power worked excellent in some of the nastiest and tightest conditions you'll ever experience on an motorcycle. Given the engines power delivery we feared the bike might not be very rideable in the upcoming tight trail sections - but nothing could have been further from the truth. 

After a long hard day most riders were off the gas cruising down to the town of Kernville. We were still on the gas on our WR400F. 
(Photo by Peter Wolf - www.photocrazy.com)

The WR was exceptional in terms its chassis, suspension and power delivery. The quick revving engine was completely controllable and provided more than useable power in terrible riding conditions. Second gear was a dream come true for tight conditions, like climbing the twisting banks of streams strewn with rocks and ruts. You could simply pick your way through with the WR400. There was never a complaint from the 5-valve engine, it would just keep chugging away. Late in the day when we were winded and cramping we chose to take the last difficult section. Here we traversed an endless and ridiculously tight section. At times it was hard just to ride let alone go fast. This is where we found how useable even first gear is, as we plodded along at a slow pace around fallen trees, ruts, boulders and drop offs.

When you're rested, you'll find the WR offers more than just good responsive power. Experienced riders can use the clutch, much as you would on a motocross track, to position the bike on the trail. You can quickly change lines to miss rocks or ruts, or weight the chassis for upcoming obstacles. 

Our WR carbureted extremely well, only showing signs of running rich at elevations above 6,000 feet. There the bike only felt rich at idle or when letting off the throttle. On the gas, the bike still ran crisp with good throttle response. At higher elevations, however, the Yamaha was at times hard to start, especially when stopped on the trail where it was hard to get a strong kick in. The "hot start" knob didn't provide us any relief.

On the street, gears run out very quickly. This simply isn't the bike you should choose if you plan on riding lots of street sections. The WR's brakes had a good feel and worked very well, though it felt as if the front forks were flexing under hard breaking. Controls are excellent, but we would like to see the capability to adjust the rear brake pedal farther down for tall riders. The footpegs are positioned high and there's plenty of ground clearance, which on this ride, was a blessing as we could keep our feet on the pegs through many nasty obstacles.

If you're looking for a relaxed comfy ride with an all day seat, look elsewhere as the very capable WR is certainly not for everyone. It lends itself to more experienced riders who like to ride a trail a bit like a motocross track. Riding the WR fast means you'll be very active in your riding. You'll be shifting a bunch and actively providing steering and throttle control. If you do this however, you'll be rewarded indeed.

The bike's narrowness was a blessing. On most other 4-strokes we would have scraped trees and the like as we passed by them on the trail. We cringed a few time on our ride, but the bike got through unscathed which we feel is pretty remarkable considering our speeds and the riding conditions.

We were very impressed with the WR as a dual sport machine, oh heck, as an off-road motorcycle. The seat nearly killed us by the end of the day and our clutch hand was worn to a frazzle - but we were going fast and pushing it even when tired. The bike rewarded us with extreme composure, rock crawling torque and steering, corner blasting acceleration and extremely capable suspension. It's hard to ask for more than this from one motorcycle.

For model year 2001 the WR400F changes to a WR426F. Not only does the model get a bigger engine, it gets all the same changes and updates as the 2001 YZ400F, which hasn't been the case in previous model years. We spoke with test riders who told us there is a healthy performance increase with the new larger displacement model. To us, this just means a very good thing just got even better.

Yamaha: 2000 WR400F
Quick Specs: Ratings:  Poor Fair Good V/Good Excellent
Average Range: N/A Acceleration                 9  
Displacement: 399cc, Liquid-cooled, 5-valve, 4-stroke single Carburetion               8    
Drive: Chain Comfort (overall)       4            
Fuel Capacity:  2.3 Gal. Comfort (off-rd)             7      
Ground Clearance: 14.7 " Finish (quality)                 9  
Suspension Front: 46mm telescopic fork, 11.8" travel Handling (overall)                 9  
Suspension Back: Swingarm, New Monocross, 12.4" travel Stability (handling)                 9  
Tire Front: 80/100-21, Dunlop 739FA Suspension (dual-sport)                 9  
Tire Back: 110/90-19, Dunlop 739

Suspension (overall)

Weight: 240 lbs. (claimed dry weight)

Fun Factor

Retail (US): $5,899 Overall Rating                 9  
Baja Designs DS Kit: $385 - $439 Kit Rating                 9  


Ups Downs
Responsive power One terrible off-road seat
Excellent steering Short gearing for street sections
Top notch suspension Poor traction on dry fire roads
Excellent ergos, other than the seat Must ride like a motocrosser
Easy to ride fast Tall for shorter riders

Testing Note
* Our WR400 arrived just in time to attend the Dual Dogs dual sport event. Unfortunately, the baffle was left out of the exhaust which meant we would test with it removed. Removing the baffle increases the power delivery, much as an aftermarket exhaust system does. All text above refers to the bike in this mode. Don't try this at home, as the bike becomes louder than acceptable. We suggest adding an aftermarket exhaust for the enhanced performance it will add to this machine. Later testing, with the baffle installed, showed a substantial power decrease, particularly at low end. If this were our bike, we would change the seat and then add an aftermarket exhaust system. MN

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