Of course the headline is hyperbolic; we should all have vast fleets of wheels for every possible activity. But that’s not always realistic, and a bike that can do a little bit of everything has a lot of appeal. That’s what I’m trying to build with my latest project: this single-cylinder dirt bike.
I moved to Los Angeles a couple weeks ago with nothing more than the clothes on my back, a whole bunch more clothes in the trunk of my sedan, and my massive die-cast car collection. (Also an entire shipping container full of all the other of dumb junk I own on the way, but that is neither here nor there.)
But of course, my heart and garage still had a big holes that could only be filled by a motorcycle.
You might have heard LA has some of the worst traffic in America. You have heard correctly. Unlike New York, which pretty much keeps its congestion contained on an island, LA traffic permeates all over Southern California like a big brown cloud of flatulence spewed from the anus of a spiteful sky god. There’s no avoiding it, you can only hope to hold your nose and cut through it.
Legal lanesplitting and free bike parking all over the place had me convinced I needed a new moto sooner than later. But California Craigslist is overwhelmingly awesome, actually picking a bike was actually a pretty fun problem to have.
I knew I didn’t want another sportbike. I left my GSXR on the east coast mounted on my grandfather’s garage wall sipping fuel stabilizer, and that’s probably where it will live until the end of days. Love looking at that bike, too attached to sell it, not particularly interested in riding it.
Proximity to the vast network of explorable open country in California and the four-corners states had me looking at dual sports.
Dual-sports or “enduros” are machines designed to ride on and off-road. You can usually find one with waterproof bags sagging the subframe on big adventure rides. It sounds sexy, and it is, and it’s also a pain in the ass. Literally.
My scrawny butt has soaked up thousands of miles of pain in the slim saddles of Kawasaki KLRs, Suzuki DR-Zs, single-cylinder BMWs and many of the machines considered benchmarks in this segment. The plush-and-powerful machines in this category, big Bimmers and KTMs soon to be rivaled by the Honda Africa Twin, are out of my price range.
I know you can get a gel seat cover for an old-school enduro, and men twice my age cross continents on these things. But I’m tired of picking two-wheeled RVs up off the ground. I wanted something I can ride off curbs and over dunes and into trees without the momentum of an ocean liner behind me.
So I moved down to dirt bikes. You know, like the buzzy little shitcan your neighbor had until he broke his wrist jumping over milk crates. Well, not really; because technologically speaking, the small-displacement dirt bike market has come a lot further than today’s enduro bikes. Especially on the Yamaha WR250R.
The WRR squirts 28 horsepower and 18 pound feet of torque from a single-cylinder engine that wails to 10,000 RPM. Which is plenty for a machine that weighs less than 400 pounds with me riding it, but not what makes this bike so spectacular.
Around since 2008, the WRR has been universally lauded by enthusiasts as smooth, reliable, extremely capable and street-legal. All my boxes ticked.
It’s got heavy duty shocks with more than 10 inches of travel plus ground clearance for days. It’s height-adjustable. It can carry one person to over 80 MPH, has a rear seat, a radiator and it is fuel injected.
If you know dirt bikes, you know that’s pretty damn fancy. If you don’t, let me tell you, it feels about a decade more advanced than the those DR-Zs, KLRs and XRs that are still sloshing fuel and gas together in a shaky shot glass you’ve heard called “a carburetor.”
So I’ve bought myself this 2008 Yamaha WR250, the oldest and cheapest of the current body style. I bought it off a motorcycle shop in Silverlake that gave me some sketchy story about the owner passing away, or skipping town, or something along with a huge stack of paperwork regarding back fees owed to the DMV.
I thought for sure I was setting myself up for a story about why you should never hand over cash unless you’re positive everything’s on the level. But the shop made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and after sweating bullets for an hour in the DMV line, I had a legit title and license plates without raising a single eyebrow.
The WRR comes out of the box as an off-road biased road-usable motorcycle. Since that’s exactly what I want, the basic setup will remain close to stock.
But there are always improvements to be made, here’s the work order so far.
Since nobody could tell me when the air filter, oil, spark plug or coolant was last changed that will get done before any real mileage. Also, the brake and clutch levers are broken.
Square headlights are ghastly looking, and the one on the front of this bike must go. Same goes for the tiny LED brake light the previous owner idiotically replaced a perfectly good stock unit with.
Some bling-y off-road lights and blinkers that actually work are a top priority.
A little skid plate will look cool, give me an easy point to quickly jack the bike on, and oh yeah... protect the belly from errant rocks. Besides that, covers over the hand grips should cut down on wind annoyance and protect the new levers I need.
Whatever ten-year-old owned this bike before me had pretty much the opposite taste in aesthetics as I do. My bike is covered in stickers-on-stickers, including some that say “YZF” which is a different motorcycle model entirely. I wouldn’t leave a “Tacoma” badge on my Tundra, so I’ll be attacking my machine with a razor and Goo-Gone.
It’s hard to make a dirt bike look gentlemanly. But I’m hoping a monochromatic color scheme, maybe a classy seat cover, and round headlight will make my WR look halfway presentable to my sexy Scrambler-riding friends. We’ll see what the budget allows for there.
Let’s ride already!
So there’s the little dirt bike bike, now the plan is to make it ultimate multipurpose machine for getting around and out of Los Angeles.
Stay tuned for updates, and hit me up if you want to go for a ride!
Images via the author, Yamaha
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.