It is a rare occasion when we get to ride something absolutely new, not just something new to me, but new to everybody. It doesn’t get much newer than seeing a French built Sherco enduro bike in the USA.
It was nearly 10 years ago when the first Sherco 450 came to the states. As far as I know, there were only a handful of those bikes imported. Now, Gas Gas Importer Clay Stuckey has taken on the line up for the US. With the 4t bikes in stock and forthcoming two strokes, Sherco will soon have a complete line up of models to offer. For 2014, there will also be mx models available.
Where shall we start? First of all, this is a 300cc four stroke. While it seems like it should be so close to a 250 or 350, it is neither. This size has its own very distinct feel and manners. On paper it sounds almost like we are splitting hairs. I guess in a way that is true, but it has a nice balance of features. Husky has worked very hard to convince buyers of the benefits of this displacement. It is easy to see their point.
There is also something eerily familiar about everything on the Sherco. Visually it is very reminiscent of a Gas Gas. It is not so surprising, Sherco was founded by former GG engineers. That also means there is a trials like feel to much of the bike.
But the familiarity goes further. It is sort of like a Gas Gas mated to a KTM. Nearly all the chassis components are the same, either in make or a style. The overall build quality appears to be at the same level as the orange bikes. Not to call it a KTM replica, it is just my way of giving it a very large compliment.
In some ways, there are things I like even better. For example, the airbox is very thoughtfully laid out. The battery sits in the bottom, below the air filter. This puts the weight down low and leaves plenty of room to work. The filter itself is the old GG/Honda/Kawasaki style cage. But it uses six pins to hold the filter and align into the airbox. It is nearly fool proof to install.
The filter fits up against a nice little metal rim that keeps dirt from falling directly into the airbox when the filter is removed. The seat has a single twist fastener in the rear, no tools required.
The fuel tank is just as easy to work on. The fuel pump and connections sit on the top of the tank. The fuel line is simple to remove, just push down on the black ring and gently lift the connection out. The tank comes off easier than a two stroke.
As is my way, I have had much of the motorcycle apart already. I cannot find too much to gripe about from a service stand point. The shock comes out of the side. It requires removing the right side cover and muffler as well as top bolt, bottom bolt and one linkage bolt. Overall it is not bad for a linkage bike. Oil changes are easy and follow the KTM model of two screen filters, both under the motor and one oil filter. The magnetic drain bolt is on the left side below the countershaft.
I really like the fact that Sherco did not set out to reinvent the wheel. They took some of the best design ideas and either copied or improved upon them. Many of the parts look like they are sourced from the same suppliers as KTM.
What is a 300 like to Ride?
As I said, the 300i is very much its own bike. It is distinctly lighter feeling than the 350. It is most noticeable while braking and turning. On the track, I am still working to get the most out of the bike. I constantly feel like I am braking too soon and then going too slow through the corner. I have to reset my braking points deeper and get accustomed to carrying the extra speed into a corner. I am still not quite to the edge, as the 300i seems to have limitless traction and loves to lean deep into the corner.
On the trail the feel changes a bit. The front tire is still very planted to the ground. You can brake hard and not lose traction. By comparison, jumping on a KTM 250xcw, the same force easily breaks the tire loose and the front starts to slide away.
But there is always a flip side too. The front often stays planted when you want to lift it. This is not a big torque motor and it takes more than a throttle blip to get the wheel in the air. For such a light feeling bike, it tends to plow through things. But the forks are good enough to handle it.
I have to characterize the chassis feel as closer to the 250f than a bigger bike. It is very light and agile. It almost makes the 350 feel heavy. But the 350 feels like a torque monster too.
We did one full day of trail riding in Tecate. The Sherco felt amazing in the technical conditions. The 300 motor likes to rev. It has a nice sweet spot just at the top of the midrange too. So you don’t absolutely have to keep it pinned, but don’t let it fall too far or it will feel flat. To keep a fast pace, many times I would downshift twice coming into corners. One downshift and little clutch would often work just as well. There is very little engine braking, just one more encouragement to ride aggressively with both the throttle and brakes.
The fuel injection is super smooth. The 300i comes with a two position map switch integrated with the start switch. I did not care much for the mild position, but in high it felt race ready. Not once did I suffer from any type of stall. The motor will pull from down low without hesitation. The light clutch feel and six speed transmission make it easy to keep the motor in its happy place. Shifting is just a bit hard, particularly on aggressive downshifts.
You will notice in the photo gallery link that I have an FMF Powercore muffler for this bike. I also have a new fuel injection map from Bazazz. We will get to testing both shortly. For this report, we are just focusing on riding the Sherco in stock condition. But for the moment, I don’t really find much lacking in the stock specification.
I have to confess that I am going to gush over the suspension. I am sure that the WP components on this bike add a few dollars to the price tag. It is money very well spent. The open chamber fork and linkage shock are a great combination. The valving is significantly stiffer than the similar KTM pieces. WP continues to make progress with this fork. Even with very light .42 springs, it rides very well for my 200lb weight. With just a couple of clicks it goes from trail plush to track ready. It also exhibits smooth bottoming characteristics that feel similar to the new 4cs fork.
The shock is very nice too. It seems have better feedback than the KTM version. I needed to add some preload to get in the correct range. The 5.1 spring is still a little light, but not bad. Unfortunately, it requires removing the shock to change the preload setting. Overall this suspension package is equal to, or better, than any stock enduro suspension I have tried.
The fork clamps are machined, not cast. They use two bolts, top and bottom. They are different in design than KTM, but have similar markings, leading me to believe they are the same manufacturer. They have similar offset bar mounts and two position mounting holes.
The clutch is Brembo, as are the brakes. Clutch pull is very light. Wheels are DID with Japanese style spacers. The tires are Michelin FIM, typical for most European bikes. The skid plate is the nice French AXP design. On the oversize bars there is both a kill switch and an on/off switch. It is important to remember to flip the switch off, or the battery will run down. I removed the kill switch as it is redundant and to remind myself to use of the off switch.
The Sherco is small. I find myself sitting right near the rear fender much of the time. The seat is not bad, but the padding drops significantly right at the rear. The overall smallness of the chassis means that some things are a tight fit. To reach the top shock bolt, it requires navigating the socket through a mass of wiring. Likewise, the airbox wraps tight to the shock and it is necessary to remove the shock to adjust the spring. The wiring harness looks particularly well thought out. All of the connections are water tight and labeled.
The complaint list is small. The sidestand is very light looking, but the foot is small and it is hard to flip down with a boot. There are no gauges or warning lights to let you know the fuel is low. The black tank makes it difficult to see the fuel level. With no kickstarter, the concern about draining the battery from leaving the switch on is very real.
We are really just getting to know the Sherco. So far there is plenty to like and plenty of reason to expect more good things to come to light with time and miles. The handling is very nice at both slow and high speeds. We hit some nasty stuff going fast and it tracked dead straight. In the tightest corners it will pivot on a dime. It feels ready to race. Give me a set of decent handguards and I would be ready to line up for the Tecate Hare Scrambles.
The biggest question is just deciding where this bike will fit in the food chain. Like the 310 Husky, it is not quite in the same group as the 350exc when it comes to torque. But it is almost as fast in pure speed. If we refer to the 350 as a “small 450”, then the 300i would have to be called a “big 250”. They are not worlds from each other, but it has the distinct 250 kind of feel. That is a good thing, because it packs a little extra punch to boot.
2013 Sherco 300i Race MSRP – $9,199
|– TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS|
|Engine||4 stroke DOHC, 4 valve Sherco technology|
|Engine Size||303.7 cm³|
|Bore x Stroke||84 x 54.8 mm|
|Fuel System||Magnetti Marelli digital electronic fuel injection|
|Cooling system||Liquid system with forced circulation|
|Starting||Unique electric started system|
|Battery||12 V / 4 Ah|
|Exhaust||Stainless steel header pipe and aluminium muffler with catalytic converter meets Euro 3 standards.|
|Transmission||6 speed sequential gearbox. Gears in primary drive secondary drive with chain|
|Clutch||Hydraulic, multidisc in oil bath|
|Alternator||Ducati Energia alternator 220 watt|
|Chassis||Half perimeter frame Chrome-Molybdenum|
|Fuel Tank||8.5 Liter fuel tank|
|Brakes||Hydraulically activated Brembo Ø 270 mm front and Ø 220 mm rear|
|Front Suspension||WP 48mm open cartridge forks, with valving unique to Sherco|
|Rear Suspension||WP progressive, multiadjustable rear shock utilizing a linkage and rod system,|
|320 mm of travel and valving unique to Sheco|
|Front Wheel||DID 1.60 x 21″ aluminum rim, steel spokes and Michelin Enduro Competition tube type|
|Rear Wheel||DID 2.15 x 18″ aluminum rim, steel spokes and Michelin Enduro Competition tube type|
|Weight||102 kg (225 lbs.)|
|Wheelbase||1.480 mm (58.5 in)|
|Ground Clearance||350 mm (13.8 in)|
|Seat Height||950 mm (37.4 in)|