Musings on a street-legal WR450 in Michigan


19 replies to this topic
  • froej25

Posted October 04, 2008 - 07:00 PM

#1

Well, I completed my project to convert my '05 WR450 to street-legal status in Michigan. It has both supermoto (Continental Conti-Sports) and dual-sport (Pirelli MT21s); I have mainly ridden with the supermoto tires. I'm writing this mainly for the purpose of informing anyone that's curious about how the process of converting an off-road motorcycle to street-legal status works in Michigan, as well as my thoughts regarding the suitability of the WR450 for on-road use.

First, the legal issues... Conversion to street-legal status is remarkably easy in Michigan, at least for me. Go to Secretary of State to get the TR54 form (known as a "green sheet"). This tells you what you need to be street legal- pretty simple stuff. Blinkers aren't even required; I installed them, just to be safe, but it wasn't required. Headlights and brakelights were required; however, the WR was already setup for these, the headlight was dual-filament with brights, while the taillight had a brake light filament. I just had to connect the wires. Switch for the headlights, pressure switches for the brake light.

You also need DOT-approved tires- this would have been a lot easier if my brother hadn't ordered the largest tires that could conceivably fit. If anyone is curious, the Continental ContiSports run wide, with a broad shoulder; I had to use a grinder to clearance the tire's shoulder so it wouldn't interfere with the chain (not far enough to get close to the airspace, the tire has a huge solid rubber triangle on the side). If someone were just setting the bike up for dual-sport, this would be easy, just use a set of DOT tires in the stock tire size.

The stock brakes probably would have worked, but I upgraded to a 320 mm Braking front brake rotor and a wave rotor in the back (for the supermoto setup); stock brakes for the dual-sport tires. I also installed a TrailTech Vapor computer; I like this unit, has everything you need, and its pretty easy to setup for the different tire sizes. Its pretty easy to read too, nice large numbers.

Now, the WR's suitability for on-road use... I don't think its a particularly good road bike. Prior to having it street legal, I had written some musings regarding why the DRZ would be a good street bike while the WR450 would not be. Superficially there isn't much difference in rider position, while the way more advanced suspension of the WR should (I thought) make for a smoother ride. I was able to ride a DRZ 400 SM back to back with my WR; this was quite revealing. In my opinion, the WR is not a very good street bike.

Bore and stroke for the DRZ 400 is 90 mm x 62.6 mm; the WR is 95 mm x 63.4, so the bikes should have similar characteristics, right? Wrong. The WR shakes and vibrates way more than the DRZ; I don't know if the problem is from the motor mounts or some other origin; but the difference is quite substantial. Vibration creeps in everywhere; handlegrips, footpegs, seat- it is not comfortable for more than 15 miles or so. Some modifications may help; a broader seat, rubber inserts on the footpegs, isolation grips- but I don't know. Regardless, not a whole lot of wind protection; you're definitely not going to go touring on this bike.

Of course, the WR, with its 5-valve head is a way better performer; mine is derestricted, which supposedly is good for about 60 hp (at the crank), as opposed to the DRZ (35 hp at the wheel, maybe about 42 hp at the crank?). Seat of the pants it feels a lot more than that; not sure if that's because the of the WR's higher redline (I think it has a higher redline; can't find that info online). Regardless, when I rode the WR I took it over 80 mph and it still felt like there was some left; my brother rode it and took it over 100 (not confirmed by GPS, but the speedometer seems to be pretty accurate). This was, of course, on our private 2 mile long drag strip (cough cough). Perfectly legal. I wouldn't recommend going that fast; no wind protection and handling gets a little skitish in my opinion, but I'm not a terribly experienced rider; someone else may find it perfectly fine. The WR also has enough power to wheelie easily (not with me riding it); I didn't get the exact numbers from my brother (speed and gear of wheelies), but he said it was surprisingly well balanced.

Now, suspension has proven to be troublesome. Its way too soft for on-road use, with a lot of dive when grabbing the front brake (not helped by the 320 mm rotor). It also seems to want to lift the front tire easily; not sure if this is because of weight transfer to the soft rear suspension or something else. Cranking up the preload doesn't help, and fiddling with the rebound and compression doesn't help. This would definitely need to be remedied if I was going to keep the bike.

Next, service intervals. If you were to use the manufacturer's recommended service you'd be spending a lot of time in the garage. The WR just isn't designed for street use; admittedly, since the conditions it will be used in on road are much less harsh then normal, the interval can probably be increased. But there will always be a limtitation; with a shared oil supply for transmission and engine, its not the best setup for streetability.

Ok, so the whole package- not a good bike for me. This isn't to say that someone who is more experienced wouldn't enjoy it; my brother loves it, but he's a much more aggressive rider. Everything that he likes about it- easy to wheelier, easy to stoppie, really quick steering, agile and responsive- these are characteristics that make it an interesting bike for a newbie. I'm much more comfortable on a bike that has a lower center of gravity, with a less-steep steering angle. Ridiculous lean angles though- my brother had to really struggle to scrape the footpeg. It just grips and goes. Fuel economy is also disappointing; around 37 mpg, regardless of how I ride it. However, it was rich in places; my brother changed the jetting, so that may improve.

In conclusion- I'm going to sell the bike. Its fun, but not what I thought it would be. I need something a little more adventure-touring oriented, probably a DL650 or something of that ilk. The fact that two of my brothers just moved to North Carolina means I need a bike that is more capable of long distance travel (800 miles each way). The WR would be a good second or third bike; if you want something that would be fun to take to the track for a weekend (any track, dirt or paved), go drive secondary roads in the mountains, or ride in the woods- it'll do it all. If your commute is 60% dirt jumps and 40% paved hairpins, it would be great. But if you can only have one bike, this probably shouldn't be it.

  • roushxteam199

Posted October 04, 2008 - 07:45 PM

#2

I love my wr sumo what gearig are you running cause im getting right around 50mpg. i run 15-42. With 17in excels with pilot power tires.the redline also is 10860 without differnt throttle stop screw of grey mod done.
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  • flyer05

Posted October 05, 2008 - 02:42 PM

#3

I thought with the way the roads are in Michigan it would be ideal.

  • jhmotard

Posted October 18, 2008 - 09:29 PM

#4

where in michigan are you??? i'm 30minutes from detroit

and absolutely love my sumo wr450!

  • flyer05

Posted October 19, 2008 - 10:01 AM

#5

Ypsilaniti area

  • djv5

Posted October 19, 2008 - 03:21 PM

#6

Street legal 2007 here in west Michigan, running 15/45 gearing with 17" rims and Conti tires. Getting about 90 miles per tank of gas, 105 mph top speed, power wheelies in 4th:

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  • froej25

Posted November 09, 2008 - 11:15 AM

#7

Glad you guys are happy with your WRs; I know when I dumped the money into it I thought it would be the perfect bike for me. My brother loves it; but he's been riding for about 12 years now, and can borrow whatever bike he wants from the shop he works at if he needs something for a different purpose. I imagine that those of you with WRs have other bikes that you use for longer distance riding? If not, you must have much higher tolerances for discomfort than I do. For me, its miserable; its just not fun to ride. And I'm a bit old to start learning to wheelie or stoppie...

Not sure how you are getting such mileage out of yours. I don't ride particularly aggressively; it must be tuning, carburetion must be wrong. I'm not a huge fan of this archaic technology; my next bike will be FI. In response to the poster that postulated that it would be a good bike for Michigan; well, I thought it would be too. Our roads suck, bumpy, and we have lots of gravel; sounds like a supermoto course to me. My problem was that the bike vibrates at a level I am not willing to tolerate and has horrible range (well, at least for me). Plus, I ride regardless of how cold it is (right up until it drops below freezing), and there is zero wind protection on the bike.

Anyway, moral of the story is that a WR450 SM is, in my opinion, not a particularly good choice if you are a new rider and can only have one bike. I can see why some people like them, but for me, it wasn't a good decision. I write off the mistake as being a result of my inexperience in riding, resulting in picking a bike poorly matched for my desires and interests.

  • SJMC_DON

Posted November 09, 2008 - 12:49 PM

#8

WR's are intended for and sold as, a "competition bike" at least that's what they tell you when they say "no warranty"... The bike and motor were built for slamming single track at hi rev's. and I suppose sumo racing... The DRZ SM will have refinements that the WR does not to make it a friendlier road bike... I'd say on the road the WR is better suited for backin' into turns and jumping curbs... of course I have no idea because in WA state you have better chance of winning the lottery than making your WR street legal :worthy:

  • froej25

Posted November 13, 2008 - 12:18 AM

#9

Yep, WR is definitely more competition oriented; my impression is that they may be tremendously fun on twisty, tight roads or a track- and definitely are fun in faster off-road stuff- but many of the same characteristics that lend themselves to greatness in these environments causes headaches if you're using them as a daily rider (well, backaches and numb hands mainly, ringing ears if you're really getting on it). When I rode the DRZ-SM and my WR back to back, it was really astounding; the WR absolutely blew away the DRZ in power, but was comparatively atrocious in NVH (noise, vibrations, harshness). Great fun in the right hands- but not mine.

Also, a thought occurred to me regarding the observed fuel economy inconsistencies. Those of you reporting mileage in the upper 40s / 50 mpg range, what are you using for speedometers (roush, I think I see a magnetic pickup going by your brake, but can't tell)? By my calculations, the stock setup has about 1.156 times the rolling distance of the SM setup, so my ~37 mpg would read ~43 mpg with a non-corrected speedometer. Combined with an inaccurate odometer (motorcycle speedos are notoriously inaccurate, and I doubt Yamaha would try particularly hard on a dirt bike), this could explain the discrepancy. A speedo reading +20% (not unrealistic), would result in mileage around 50 mpg. I am quite confident my setup is accurate- I have a TrailTech computer that I calibrated and verified by GPS. Just curious...

  • jhmotard

Posted November 13, 2008 - 05:38 AM

#10

Yep, WR is definitely more competition oriented; my impression is that they may be tremendously fun on twisty, tight roads or a track- and definitely are fun in faster off-road stuff- but many of the same characteristics that lend themselves to greatness in these environments causes headaches if you're using them as a daily rider (well, backaches and numb hands mainly, ringing ears if you're really getting on it). When I rode the DRZ-SM and my WR back to back, it was really astounding; the WR absolutely blew away the DRZ in power, but was comparatively atrocious in NVH (noise, vibrations, harshness). Great fun in the right hands- but not mine.

Also, a thought occurred to me regarding the observed fuel economy inconsistencies. Those of you reporting mileage in the upper 40s / 50 mpg range, what are you using for speedometers (roush, I think I see a magnetic pickup going by your brake, but can't tell)? By my calculations, the stock setup has about 1.156 times the rolling distance of the SM setup, so my ~37 mpg would read ~43 mpg with a non-corrected speedometer. Combined with an inaccurate odometer (motorcycle speedos are notoriously inaccurate, and I doubt Yamaha would try particularly hard on a dirt bike), this could explain the discrepancy. A speedo reading +20% (not unrealistic), would result in mileage around 50 mpg. I am quite confident my setup is accurate- I have a TrailTech computer that I calibrated and verified by GPS. Just curious...



with that said....the only thing the WR is lacking, is suspension. it can get squirrely in turns, depending how fast your going. and on the track i bottom out on nearly every jump! a more stiff suspension is whats needed....either a respring/revalve or forks from a YZ.

i run a trailtech vapor speedometer, which reads from a magnet off the rear wheel. this speedometer can be calibrated by inputting different wheel sizes...i forget the equation. i tested it with a gps and it was very close.

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  • froej25

Posted November 14, 2008 - 09:48 PM

#11

I run the TrailTech Vapor as well- it's a good system. Although, I run mine off the front tire, not that it makes much of a difference, unless you're wheelying a lot, or spinning the rear tire a lot. What kind of mileage do you get? Regarding the suspension, I've heard that Japanese bikes are calibrated for 185 pounds; a bit less than my 220 lbs. As such, I agree the suspension is quite a bit too soft. Even on-road, there's more front dive than I like- but with such long suspension, I guess that's to be expected. I suspect higher spring rates would largely fix that little problem.

  • phoo

Posted November 17, 2008 - 01:09 AM

#12

> I had to use a grinder to clearance the tire's shoulder so it wouldn't interfere with the chain

How did you do this? My chain used to rub my rear tire, but my dad and I just readjusted the spokes to move my rear wheel a bit to the right. He's done it a lot on Harleys; I figure I probably won't notice much of a difference on a bike that's a bit more *cough* performance-oriented. If it still rubs, I'm going to switch to non-O-ring for an extra 1-1.5mm of clearance.

> with a shared oil supply for transmission and engine, its not the best setup for streetability.

You mean like most every modern motorcycle out there? :thumbsup:

> my brother had to really struggle to scrape the footpeg.

I'm impressed. I couldn't imagine scraping the peg on mine. I don't know if you have a different suspension setup than mine or if I'm an even bigger sissy than I already know.

Sorry to hear the streetable WR isn't for you. I love mine, but it's one of five bikes so I can see how it would not be a great only bike if you had to do long rides on highway.


~Patrick

  • froej25

Posted November 20, 2008 - 03:03 PM

#13

The grinder was an- um- interesting solution. For some reason, Continental decided to add some giant triangular, solid rubber growths off the side of the tire. These make the tire significantly wider than an equivalent tire with nominally the same size; in order to get the tire to clear I used a rotary grinder (I don't remember the disc type I used) to remove the outer portion of the tire. I wouldn't recommend this; it made a bit of a mess and smelled like burning rubber (which, I guess, it was). If I was going to keep the bike, I would definitely be getting a new tire; I'm selling the wheel / tire set now, and have offered to replace the tire for the purchaser. Seems too dangerous to me. We also used a temporary spacer between the rear sprocket and wheel to move the sprocket further outboard, this helped free up a little space. There is also a company- Sprocket Specialists, maybe?- that can custom make a sprocket with offset. If I had kept the bike, I may have figured out the best gears and bought those sprockets; this would have allowed keeping the wider rear tire. Also, the new CRF chain is slightly narrower than the WR unit, so that would shave a little from the width; probably not enough to be really useful though. If you're riding off-road, I don't know if it's advisible to go with the non-O ring chain; the wear and tear will take its toll. I don't think manipulating the spokes to give offset is a problem, but I've heard both ways; it would be one of my last resorts, but I am not concerned about extracting every bit of performance, so your priorities may differ.

Regarding the oil discussion- ack, I don't know how many times my brother has told me they share oil now, but I grew up with cages, and rare is the car that shares fluids between engine and transmission. It still seems alien to me. But it is still relevant that the WR450F uses 1.2 liters of oil, while the WR250X/R have a 1.5 liter capacity. Considering the engineering differences, as well as the performance / power gap, I would be nervous about running a WR450F as long between oil changes as a WR250X/R, which should have oil changes every 3,000 miles (I believe, can't find that for sure). Kinda annoying, but then again I discovered you're not exactly gonna spend an 8 hour day with any hope of escaping nerve damage to your hands (or any hope of ever having children).

Regarding my brother's peg dragging excursion- I asked him, he said he dragged his heel, which he uses as a "feeler" to let him know he's getting close to the peg. So, technically he did not drag the peg, but he came quite close. It was on a particularly tight freeway off-ramp. He's a scary rider- I have no intention of ever going as far as he does. Then again, he has been riding for over a decade, and gets to borrow whatever bike he wants off the showroom floor for their trackdays, so I suppose that helps...

I think you hit the nail on the head regarding having 5 other bikes. I wouldn't mind having the WR, but probably as a secondary (or even tertiary) bike; as my only bike, it makes no sense. Down the road I may get another one, but my priorities are elsewhere right now. Like finishing school, and finding a bike that I can ride down to North Carolina to visit my other brothers. The WR just doesn't fit into those plans.

  • froej25

Posted November 20, 2008 - 03:07 PM

#14

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Still learning motorcycle photography- kinda hard, usually going so fast, and even with a good camera (Digital Rebel XT), you never can catch all the action; 3 fps burst mode isn't enough, really. I would have liked to have caught him when he was a little higher, but I'm not that good yet...

  • jhmotard

Posted November 21, 2008 - 02:29 PM

#15

dont look down!!!!! keep your head up!!!!!

  • phoo

Posted November 24, 2008 - 09:37 AM

#16

froej25, what engine guard is that?


Thanks,

~Patrick

  • mimafia17

Posted November 30, 2008 - 01:12 PM

#17

Interesting thread. I'm an old motocrosser, but the injuries seem to be more frequent and the healing process much longer these past few years. So I've been searching for something to take the place of motocross, and thought that the sumo and/or dual sport route may be the ticket.

As some additional feedback to your original post, I picked up a v-twin cruiser road bike to ride early this year, and have put quite a few miles on it with trips around Michigan, and down to North Carolina and Daytona. But, it's boring to ride. No offense to the cruiser guys, but I'm having a hard time adapting to just riding around on a big v-twin. There is just no excitement in it for me. What works for one person doesn't always work for the next.

I converted my 250F for street use this past summer, but it didn't do it for me either. But in my case, I think the little 250F just wasn't up to the task. I'm currently contemplating picking up a 450 and converting it or perhaps picking up a KTM 530EXC or Husky 510 and throwing some sumo wheels on it. That way I can ride the roads and the trails, depending on my mood.

So, for you guys that have converted a 450, do you recommend the "R" motocross model or the WR enduro model? I understand this is the Yamaha forum, but would one of the other brands make a better all-round street tarder/trail bike? Thanks.

  • MaxPower

Posted November 30, 2008 - 05:44 PM

#18

[COLOR="Green"]definatly a WR if you plan on road riding.You need the coil for lights and a taller 5th. On the road my WR still runs out of gears.I wish it had a 6th like a KTM. Yes, it can be geared up, but you feel it.Cant have everything[/COLOR]

  • Dav810

Posted December 01, 2008 - 10:05 PM

#19

So what else can be done to stiffen the suspension, other than YZ forks/springs? Doesnt someone make stiffer aftermarket springs or something?

  • jhmotard

Posted December 02, 2008 - 01:00 PM

#20

So what else can be done to stiffen the suspension, other than YZ forks/springs? Doesnt someone make stiffer aftermarket springs or something?


all the major companies have stiffer springs....factory connection, mxtech, racetech, mcr, etc. it also comes down to valving. it would be cheaper just to get a set of yz forks/springs and go from there




 
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