Alright…single track…let's get to it.
I'm going to go from worst to best.
Let's start off with the 950. I've never taken it on single track, but I can't imagine it would be a whole lot of fun. Too heavy, too wide, and well…just too much.
Next in line would be the KLR. Now, I've done plenty of single track on my beast and while I haven't found much it won't make it through, the sheer weight of it makes it rough going. Doing fast, tight single track also requires liberal use of the rear brake to slide the back end around trees from time to time and the rear brake just sucks on the KLR. Well, both brakes suck on the KLR.
Just in front of the KLR comes the DR350. I had high hopes for this bike because the motor is just wonderful and the suspension isn't too bad either, but I just don't fit the ergos of this bike. I'm all cramped up, and the seat is some sort of torture device. I can honestly get beat up just about as fast on the DR as I can on the KLR.
Next in line would be the KLX250. I really do like this bike. It's comfortable and the suspension seems well sorted out for trail riding. It does lug well at low rpm's, but it's down on power just about everywhere vs. the R². The weak motor is the only reason I would rank this bike so low. I haven't ridden one with it installed, but I'd bet the big bore cylinder kit would really make this bike come alive.
That brings us to the 1 and 2 spots in our little shootout. The purpose-built, fire-breathing trail monster that is the WR450 and it's all new baby brother, the WR250R.
This took place last weekend at the Red River riding area in Muenster, Texas. 2,500 acres of some of the best single track trails anywhere. This is where they hold the Red Bull Last Man Standing enduro race every year.
I started out on the WR450. Man, I love this bike. Power just oozes out of every nut and bolt. Maybe even too much of it, but man that much power can really be addicting once you start dipping into it. It's endless. I hate to talk about a downside of too much power, but unfortunately, there is one. You have to reign it in. And wrestle it to make it do what you want. That can be tiring. Real tiring. Fun as hell, but it's a workout for sure. It also comes with the price of some motor vibrations. You can feel it in the bars, on the pegs, and through the vinyl covered 2x4 they try to pass off as a seat. I don’t want to talk this bike down too much, because I really do love it. Point it where you want to go and pull the trigger…she'll go.
After about a half an hour on the 450, HF and I swapped bikes so we could get a good back-to-back comparison. After about 50 yards, I knew without a doubt there wasn't one. The WR250R is, by the longest margin I've ever experienced, the best trail bike I've ever ridden. I don't want to throw an odd-ball bike into the mix here, but I'm going to anyway. I put a little seat time on a KTM 250XCF on these same trails a while ago, and while I think that was about the best "real" trail dirt bike I've ever thrown a leg over, I'd still take the R² over it given the choice for two reasons. 1) The smoothness of the R² motor. There are almost zero perceptible vibrations coming out of that thing. The KTM was really smooth, but you could still feel it and after a few hours on the trial, those little things start to add up to fatigue. 2) The seat. I could sit on the R² for hours without giving it a second thought. The KTM has a "proper" dirt bike seat…you know…the vinyl covered 2x4 thing again. Okay, let's make it 3) When you're done trail riding, you can ride the R² home on the highway.
The smooth motor and all around comfort of the R² make it the runaway winner, in my opinion. It's an "all-day" kind of bike. It won't wear you out, and the motor is just excellent. It won't tear your arms off like the 450 will, but if you get it right in the meat of the power (not lugging down low, and not screaming up top) it is just a blast. I didn't find anywhere on the trail was I looking for more power. Just give 'er a little more with the right hand and it'll rev to the moon.Next Up: Single Track