Yamaha Big Bear 400 4×4 Review: An Owner’s Honest Experience

Since its introduction in 2000, the Yamaha Big Bear has gathered quite a following… myself included!

In 2002, I decided to upgrade to a new 4X4 ATV. I wanted a bike comparable in performance and reliability to my Japanese built Honda 300 FourTrax 4X4.

The Honda Rancher seemed an ideal upgrade until I took a closer look at Honda’s successor to my FourTrax. The fit and finish was no-where near that of my 1988 bike, metal components had been replaced with plastic and the engine looked like a Briggs & Stratten copy. I felt that the Rancher was poorly built in comparison and just plain ugly!

After extensive research, I decided to purchase a new 2002 Yamaha Big Bear 400 4WD. It seemed to have everything I wanted and a little more.

It came with part time 4WD, independent front suspension, speedometer/odometer and a few more engine cc’s to boot. Well… after four years and 2,300 hard miles, I can safely say that I absolutely made the right decision.

The Yamaha Big Bear has done everything asked of it, with never a breakdown or failure to start. I ride it from 5,000 up to 10,000 ft. elevations, in temperatures ranging from over 100 degrees to below zero. I regularly ride in snow, sand, dirt, rocks and some occasional mud. I never got badly stuck either.

The Yamaha Big Bear is tough as nails and has withstood many bone crunching rides on rugged mountain trails. It instills the feeling of reliability and durability in you and the confidence that you will safely complete your ride.

Yamaha Big Bear 400 4×4 Review

1. Comfort

The ride isn’t really that bad, lower tire pressure makes a big difference and the adjustable shocks help control the harshness on the medium settings. The turning radius is very tight which makes for great maneuverability.

2. Ground Clearance

The ground clearance at 9.7 inches is adequate for mild 4-wheeling, but not for the heavy stuff. I eventually installed full belly steel skid plates and A-arm protectors which handle a lot of rock abuse. I also had to install steel foot baskets to save my feet.

3. Fuel Economy

My fuel economy averages about 25 MPG under average conditions, less in rugged 4X4 conditions.

4. Maintenance

I only had to perform scheduled and preventative maintenance. I bought the repair manual and even do my own valve adjustments. The Yamaha Big Bear is very easy for the owner to maintain.

5. 4X4 Performance

4WD performance is great; I can normally keep up with more modern bikes that have 4-wheel independent suspension and twice the horsepower. Ground clearance seems to be the main limiting factor. The push-button 4WD selector is really convenient too.

6. Transmission/Shifting

The 5-speed manual transmission with automatic clutch always works great and shifts smoothly. The reverse knob is a nice touch, just turn the knob while in neutral and shift down to reverse. The ultra low 1st and reverse really come in handy too.

…UPDATE…

I sold the Big bear after 2,600 miles of hard use and it was still running strong. I was extremely hard on the little bike and the only wear I noticed was a slight looseness in the steering which was easily fixed.

Yamaha Big Bear 400 4x4 Specifications

Manufacturer: Yamaha

Model Year: 2002

Model: YFM400FWN Big Bear 4WD

M.S.R.P.: $5,199.00

Engine: 4-stroke, Air/Oil-cooled w/fan

Displacement: 386cc

Bore X Stroke: 83 X 71.5mm

Compression Ratio: 8.6:1

Carburetion: 33mm BSR Mikuni

Starter: Electric and Auxiliary Pull

Transmission: 5-speed, rev., auto clutch w/super-low 1st gear

Final Drive Shaft: Push-button, On-Command 2WD/4WD

Ignition: DC-CDI

Suspension:

  • Front: Double wishbone w/5-way preload-adjustable shocks and 5.9″ of travel 
  • Rear: Swingarm/single rear shock w/5-way adjustable preload and 5.9″ of travel

Brakes:

  • Front: Ventilated Hydraulic Disc 
  • Rear: Fully sealed Drum

Tires:

  • Front: 25 x 8-12 
  • Rear: 25 x 10-10

Length: 79.0″

Width: 43.7″

Height: 46.1″

Wheelbase: 48.4″

Seat Height: 33.7″

Ground Clearance: 9.7″

Dry Weight: 556 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gal.

Load Capacity:

  • Rider: 300 lbs. 
  • Front Rack: 88 lbs.
  • Rear Rack: 176 lbs.

Towing Capacity: 904 lbs.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an inexpensive, reliable, excellent performing, 4×4 ATV… It will be hard to beat the Yamaha.

Also read: Yamaha Grizzly 450 Review

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