While in Morocco last year and not riding around on my WR250R, I left it with a list and a bunch of stuff with Karim, a desert bikey mate with a lavishly equipped garage and some spare time on his hands. Over the weeks he tinkered away, finishing the job I’d started in the summer, converting the WR into a lightweight desert bike.
The list included a TrailTech engine temperature gauge (left). IMO it’s vital to be able to know an engine’s temperature – air or water-cooled; I don’t want to hope some warning light might chip in just as steam starts wafting up from under the tank (as happened to a 450 KTM in the desert once, below left: engine fried, end of his ride). The gauge’s pick up sensor can be mounted anywhere very hot including splicing into the radiator hose to read water temps – all you’re really looking for is a representative value from which to evaluate a normal reading. If it starts straying into unusually high figures you can choose to back off, or even stop and turn into the wind at tickover. On the ride back to London in a backwind gale the temperature varied from 85°C up to 115°C flat out or at the lights, but usually around 100. Another handy thing is it reads even when the engine’s off – a handy air temp reading when camping.
At the same time one fan blade got tippexed white to make it easier to see at a glance if it was spinning when it should be.
A RAM mount and wire for my Montana got hardwired in (left) to guarantee a reliable, clip-on connection, and some 12-volt and USB plugs got added to the cross-bar (right). Got no actual use for them but handy to have. There’s also a DIN plug tucked in by the seat base to power a heated jacket and the tyre pump.
I’m going to be trying out some new Kriega Overlander-S panniers – OS32 – which mount and strap on quite cleverly to an HDPE platform that’s clamped to the rack. I’ll do a fuller review of the system once on a road a couple of weeks, but as you can see, the volume means to large tailpack is needed, even with basic camping gear. I find that makes swinging a leg over the high saddle easier and a less cluttered look.
My trusty old Barkbuster Storms are getting what must be their fifth fitting on the WR. Whatever came with the bike was all plastic and not really up to the job. And before I’d even loaded the bike to head back to London, the Barks saved the day when a gust from Storm Doris (right) blew the WR over.
The headlight bulb has been uprated to a Cyclops H4 LED (find them on ebay) which emits a bluey light, and they promise will cut through the night sky like a meteor shower as well as consumed less juice?
And down by the front sprocket I added a Sandman case saver kit from Basher in Missouri. I’m starting on a 14T (on 46), and swapping to a 13T (about 10% lower gearing if the speedo error is any judge), should the need arise.
Tyres, you ask: I try never to use the same type twice and this time round I’m on Mitas (formerly Sava) MC23 Rockriders. I was hoping to go tubeless until I saw the back DID rim doesn’t have the lip (in which case this would work, were it in my size). I’m confident the Mitaii will easily last the trip of about 5000km, helped with a splash of Slime and a few Hail Marys. I’ve also added a dinky Motion Pro rim lock on the back which weighs next to nothing, but will hopefully bite when the need arises. I can’t see me running pressures low enough where the scant torque of a WR250 will be able to turn the tyre on the rim. The whole point of running knobblies like the MC23s is – away from deep sand plains and dunes – you will get great grip on the dirt without the need to run them at 1 bar and risk flats.
And that is that. The rest of the adaptions are here.) The bike is on its way to Malaga in a Fly and Ride artic which, at £595 return, actually works out quicker and cheaper than a ferry-and-Spain crossing.
I readily admit the WR is no FJ12 on the open road and makes you feel a bit vulnerable dicing with fast European highway traffic – but then again it won’t be an FJ12 on rough backroads or the pistes either. So far I have a good feeling about the untried WR-R: I love the lightness and the better than average poke for a 250, along with great mpg and desert-ready suspension and tyres. But of course I’ll miss the comfort of last year’s La Mancha-munching CB500X. What we have here is a specialised, lightweight desert touring bike.
Stick around to see how the WR performs in Morocco and, if it behaves, in Western Sahara too.