I'm not a racer or an expert rider, but I've got some time on these big Yamaha 4 strokes and I've learned a few things along the way.
1) Suspension matters a lot. Yamahas have some of the best suspension around. Better than most European bikes after they have had a suspension tuner work on their suspensions.
2) Suspension and how it turns matters more than small differences in weight between bikes.
2b) Where the weight is on the bike makes a big difference. Don't believe me ? Put a chainsaw or a small pack in front of the number plate and go ride. Higher = worse. Anywhere on the fork = bad.
3) You ride a big 4t totally differently than you ride a 2t or even a smaller 4t, especially in tight woods. With a 2 stroke a lot of riders are constantly blipping the throttle and doing clutchwork. Lots of shifting gears. With a 4t the power is instantaneous and there is lots of it. And 4ts have engine braking. If you aren't smooth on the throttle when riding a 4t, you'll quickly tire yourself out accelerating and decelerating. Not to mention that a big 4t will slip the rear tire accelleratiing and decelerating much easier in slippery conditions. But it also hooks up better when you learn to use the right amount of power. The secret is all in your right wrist and sometimes the clutch.
4) It takes a while to get the feel of how to ride a big 4t. At first they feel tiring and heavy. But then you learn to point them very precisely and use precise amounts of throttle and they become easier and less tiring to ride than a smaller bike. The engine does all the work. Light 4ts and especially 2ts are twitchy and require constant steering input on rough trails. Big 4ts are point and shoot and take big(ger) effort to make big or fast steering corrections. Which do you do more of ?
4b) Gearing matters a lot on a big 4t. Big 4ts need to have a LOWER 1st gear than a 2t because 4ts will flame out and die if idled along the trail slowly. Not only that, but throttle response for lifting the front wheel isn't good at low RPMs. Luckily the YZ250FX and the YZ450FX have very low 1st gears. Yamaha got this right. A low first gear doesn't matter much for racers because they are never in 1st gear. But it sure matters in really tight situations.
5) Most riders, especially 2t riders and even riders of smaller 4ts don't know how to ride a big 4t.
6) Big riders need big powerful bikes. I found my WR a handful when I first started riding it. Literally hadn't ridden in over 25 years. And people criticized me saying nobody needs 40+ Hp in the woods. They were wrong. You don't need 40+ HP, but when you weigh over 200 pounds and you know how to ride a big 4t, it is the right bike for the application. The 160lb guys won't like it, but then the 200lb guys don't like the 125s they ride either.
I've got a friend that loves light 2ts. He has a custom built woods 125. He has also had 250 4ts and currently has a Sherco 300. 4t. On the weekend we rode 25 miles of singletrack with icy sections on studded tires. Our group does a lot of bike switching. He and I switched bikes, I rode the Sherco, he rode my WR450. The Sherco weighs more than the manufacturer says it does, but it is still 25 pounds lighter than my WR. And of course my WR has more flywheel effect. I call it the gyro(scope) bike for how stable it is.
I had a heck of a time riding the Sherco. Yeah, its light and flickable. But in those conditions it was twitchy and almost unstable. And the suspension wasn't nearly as good as on my WR. I was constantly doing steering corrections. I was fighting it the entire time. Back on my WR I was at least a gear faster and it was like someone smoothed out the trail and yet we were riding the same conditions.
My friend liked my WR but complained about the power lunge big 4ts have at the bottom end. Well, he is used to riding a 2t which doesn't have much bottom end power and has virtually no engine braking. If my friend had better throttle control, he would appreciate the WR more.
I previously rode the Sherco in perfect, dry conditions and really liked it. Last weekend, on studs and in marginal conditions I didn't care for it at all. It will be interesting to ride it back to back with my 250FX and see how they compare.
I am pretty sure that there is some sort of optimal bike weight for woods riding and that it isn't as light as the current 125 2ts. After all, what can you downhill faster on, a dirt bike or a full suspension mountain bike ? I'll take the dirt bike. Much more stable. I can go way faster on it, in spite of it weighing more.
I'm jealous of your upcoming 80 mile ride !
Edited by MidlifeCrisisGuy, March 02, 2016 - 12:26 AM.