Imagine a place where terrains and biomes blend. Ocean meets desert, interlaced with bits of pine forest and rainforest. Lakes, rivers, and streams abound, but the whole place is all white sand beach. No rocks, no dirt, just white, fluffy sand under your feet, impossibly holding together a forest ecosystem that is open for exploration. This utopian place exists, and it is located halfway up the Oregon coastline in Winchester Bay. It’s also where I had the chance to test Yamaha’s new sport ATVs—the YFZ450R and Raptor 700R.
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A Unique ATV Riding Experience
Formed by thousands of years of wind and rain erosion, the Oregon Dunes rest in the Siuslaw National Forest. Created by erosion of the Coast Mountain Range, heavy rain and wind patterns pack the sand into this approximately 40,000-acre expanse. It measures almost 54 miles long, providing ample space for hiking, camping, wildlife refuge, and off-highway recreation. Three separate OHV recreation areas exist along this dune ridge: Winchester Bay, Coos Bay, and Florence.
The unique sand riding areas presented here are unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. Sprawling two-track trails through thick forest with seemingly no floor boggles the mind. Huge canyons carved in the sand with logs, branches, and roots sticking out abound, making this place feel half-real; almost as if it was built as a theme park for off-road machines. The main sand dune expanse has dead tree forests poking through it in some areas, making for an almost infinitely variable slalom course. The main dunes and fingers can be explored with a buggy or UTV, but the best riding in the whole place is found on an ATV or motorcycle. Each day, the sand reforms to smooth, natural terrain with the passing coastal winds.
All of this self-resetting sand makes for an incredible playground for off-highway vehicles, and access to the dunes is easy, so long as you play by the rules. To get in, you’ll need the proper safety equipment, a $10 ATV Permit (valid for two years), and you must be a card-carrying member of the Oregon All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Education School, which is an online course. Permit, safety equipment information, and a link to the ATV Safety Card registration are all available on OregonOHV.org. This doesn’t include lodging.
The Setup at Winchester Bay
My trip was organized by Yamaha, the reigning king of the Sport ATV, or Sport Quad. Our flight into Eugene was complemented by a two-hour car ride through the beautiful Oregon forest to our destination, the Pointe Condominiums in Winchester Bay. These multi-story condominiums sit at the dune’s edge, allowing you to hop right on your ATV, motorcycle, dune buggy, or UTV and head straight to the sand without trailering. Large garages make up the bottom floor of each condo, with plenty of room for storing all your toys. On-site RV paved spots and remote camping are also available here, so you can bring your rig if you have one.
If you lack the ATV to provide transportation across this sand playground, don’t fret- there are more than 10 local ATV rental businesses that provide top-class service, hosting a variety of machines to fit your style. There is an RV park and campground called Half Moon Bay directly across from the condos we stayed in during our trip if you choose to pitch a tent.
The town of Winchester Bay and nearby Reedsport have all the shopping amenities you may need, including a grocery store, hospital, multiple hotels, and quite a few restaurants. ATV repair and parts houses are also locally available should you need to pick up any gear or spare parts. You can package together an entire arrive-and-ride vacation ahead of time, making it an accessible spot for those in driving or flying distance.
Yamaha Introduces a Pair of Sport ATVs
Yamaha invited a group of writers to sample their latest sport ATVs, the YFZ450R and Raptor 700R. Alike in styling but miles apart in feel, these two represent the top-level sport ATVs on sale right now. Back in the late 2000s, the sport ATV market was flourishing. Top ATV manufacturers at the time included Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Can-Am, KTM, and a handful of others. Today, Yamaha is the only manufacturer still carrying the torch in the 450cc and Big Bore sport ATV classes. Luckily, Yamaha’s YFZ and Raptor were both best in class when competition was heated, and they have only gotten better over time with revisions to things like suspension tuning, clutches, and bodywork.
The 2022 Yamaha YFZ450R
- Engine: Dual Overhead Cam 449cc 5-valve, 5-speed manual with slipper clutch
- Weight: 405 pounds
- Seat Height: 31.9 inches
- Suspension Travel: 9.8 inches (front), 11.0 inches (rear), fully adjustable suspension
- MSRP: $9,799-$10,199
Yamaha’s YFZ450R represents the penultimate performance Sport ATV. It features a motocross-inspired five-valve dual overhead cam single cylinder four stroke engine, which loves high-RPM operation. In the sand, the YFZ loves to be wrung out and is a more involved, exhilarating experience than the Raptor. High-RPM, gear-rowing action is made easy on the YFZ thanks in part to its unique semi-slipper clutch. The pull at the clutch lever is easy and buttery smooth, offering single-finger operation.
The YFZ’s suspension is much more suited to hard riding, jumping, and railing corners than the Raptor. Tuned for a mix of track, off-road, and dune use, the YFZ’s trick fully adjustable shocks offer enough tuning capability to fit most riders’ styles. It shines more the harder you ride and was the easier ATV to ride fast in Oregon’s tight two-track dune trails. It does lack low-end grunt in its stock configuration, however, which means you can’t lug it around. Miscalculations on which gear you attack a hill in could force you into a second attempt.
Yamaha’s Sport ATVs all feature excellent ergonomics. Comfortable bar bends, smooth controls, and great placement makes controlling the YFZ second nature. Yamaha took the time to install their accessory GYTR (Genuine Yamaha Team Racing) nerf bars, which are extended foot platforms that essentially allow you a large netted base to keep your foot out from under the peg and rear tire. They have the added benefit of providing a great platform to push on for leverage when cornering and are an accessory we would highly recommend adding to any ATV.
Read Next: 5 of the Best Aftermarket Tires for Your ATV
The 2022 Yamaha Raptor 700R
- Engine: Single Overhead Cam 686cc 4 valve, 5-speed manual
- Weight: 422 pounds
- Seat Height: 32.7 inches
- Suspension Travel: 9.1 inches (front), 10.1 inches (rear), fully adjustable suspension
- MSRP: $8,799-$9,999
Yamaha’s Raptor 700R has long been hailed as the king of sport quads, mainly for its versatility. Its massive 686cc single-cylinder engine favors low and mid-range power versus the YFZ450R’s high-RPM punch, making it much easier to ride in most circumstances. While it is taller than the YFZ, it is also narrower, so it lacks the insane cornering confidence that only the low-slung YFZ can manage.
That said, the Raptor is no slouch in the handling department. Confident, balanced, and easy to manage, the Raptor 700R is everything a big-bore Sport ATV should be. The controls are butter-smooth, which means taming this beast is a task easily managed by most riders of average talent. Its suspension is softer than the YFZ’s, filtering out chop and chatter much better while also providing enough bottoming resistance to jump, pound rolling whoops, or dive hard into corners. The smooth, grunty nature of the 700’s engine makes hill climbs easy, and you can roll around the Oregon Dunes almost entirely in 3rd gear, only shifting in a handful of places.
If your style is more casual, or you prefer a more comfortable ride, the Raptor 700R is the clear choice. For long days in the saddle, the Raptor will tire you out less, but you won’t be passing any YFZs in the tight, twisty stuff. Thank you to Yamaha for having us out for an epic riding adventure, one we will be sure to replicate again on our own, and we can’t think of a better unit to do it on.