First Test 2014 Sherco 250SE-R
It seems like we just got finished testing one Sherco and it is already time for the next one, the much awaited two stroke model. I am just back from spending a couple of great days riding around the trails of Tennessee on the new bike and I have lots to tell you about it.
As far as the chassis goes, the new two stroke model is nearly identical to the 2013 300i model that we just tested. Literally the only differences are the lower frame cradle and obviously the new 250 two stroke motor. The WP suspension components are even the same spec. So I will skip over some of the smaller details, if you missed the 300i test, catch up here: 2013 Sherco 300i First Ride.
Obviously the real news is all about the new two stroke motor that will be available in both 250 and 300 displacements. Sherco brings us two production firsts for this class; electric start only and electronically controlled powervalve actuation.
The motor has a very unique look. As casting techniques advance, we see the size of the engine cases decrease as they tend to shrink around the internal components more. The starter motor sits dead center in the bottom of the cases and that raises the clutch housing just a tad. With no kickstarter location, it makes everything on the right hand side take on a slightly new and odd looking proportion. The left side of the motor looks familiar only for the reason that it looks like a four stroke.
I understand that the development of this motor was with an eye towards the potential future use of fuel injection. That is one of the reasons for dropping the kickstarter. Apparently two stroke EFI needs a steady spin RPM to start properly, hence the E start. It also means that the 2t models come with a huge charging system, 220 watts of DC power.
The only components of the new powervalve that are visible are the control cables that run from the servo motor under the tank. Here is a bit of trivia; I once owned a motorcycle with a servo controlled powervalve, can you guess what it was?
Nearly everything else on the motor looks like current two stroke technology; Keihin 36mm carb, V Force reed block, clutch slave cylinder, etc. What the Sherco represents is not a radical change in technology, but a refinement of the existing standards.
I can tell you right now that I am going to be at somewhat of a loss to properly describe how the new two stroke works. This is not a bike of superlatives. Quite the opposite, it is all about subtlety, it is pleasantly understated.
My two days of riding eastern single track left me grinning from ear to ear. I could hardly imagine a bike that would be easier to ride, or more fun in such conditions. But that comes with a caveat. The Sherco seems to be always telling you that smoother is faster. For me, perfect, I am all about smooth even if the faster part eludes me at times. But the message is so pronounced that there may not be any other option for the rider. Start using the clutch and throttle with a heavy hand the 250 two stroke is simply not going to respond as well.
Why is this so? I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I have a few strong leads.
- First, with a 220w charging system, there is plenty of flywheel mass to work around. The ignition cover is metal instead of a composite like most two strokes. It is also very narrow. I suspect the stator may mount to the cover in a manner similar to many four strokes.
- The pipe seems to be purposefully tuned for smooth low end power, just as you might expect from a company with such strong trials roots. FMF is already prototyping a new exhaust system, I spoke with FMF about the process. They have the only other two stroke Sherco in the country right now. On the dyno, the 250 power is very linear. It produces a near a perfect straight line on the chart, right up to 7,800 rpm, sending 45hp to the rear wheel. From there it drops off quickly, effectively shutting down. FMF indicates they expect to match the stock power down low and get a few more ponies on top, making power to nearly 9,000. If they can continue to make gains where the stock pipe is losing power, it will be big net difference.
- Then there is the powervalve. I know it is doing some unique and good things, but I just don’t know exactly what.
On the bottom the 250 motor is amazingly good. It gave me the same kind of sensations as the first time I rode the modern fuel injected four strokes. The throttle response is crisp and smooth. It takes very little actual movement of the throttle.
Many times there is almost the sensation of traction control. Whether it comes from the ignition, powervalve or a combination of both, I am not sure. But the bike hooks up everywhere. This 250 produces power in a manner that feels like a typical 300 2t, just a little softer. It is nearly stall proof. The wheel does not spin, even over slick log crossings. There is a slight delay in the power delivery and it never hits hard. Like a four stroke you can get on the throttle a bit early to counter the delay.
I know this sounds a lot like the way I described the 300i four stroke Sherco. It is not to say they are the same, but they certainly share the same type of ride characteristics. We had the 300i along for testing, so I started the second day riding it. I was dying to see how my comparative impression would be.
I was somewhat surprised that I struggled a little on the 300i 4t riding the same trail as the previous day. Admittedly, the 300i was not completely stock, with the Rekluse clutch and the open FMF Powercore (no quiet core insert). I felt the bike lost some of its pleasant bottom end feel. I think both mods detract from the four stroke slightly. I needed to keep the revs up just a bit more than on the stock 300i and quite a bit more than on the 250 two stroke.
It wasn’t long before I was ready to have the two stroke back. For tight single track trail, it ruled the day. While both models are built with the same design principles, the two stroke certainly has a lighter and more agile feel, exactly as it should. As for power delivery, there are few bikes that can deliver the same buttery smooth feel.
Like the other Shercos, a stock mapping switch mounted on the right side by the throttle. I found I could use both positions, but overall felt that the mild position (left) was the best for the conditions. The 250 was happy to ride in one gear for long sections of trail.
But there were a few times when I was right on the edge of wanting more power and it did not seem to come naturally. On a couple of the steeper technical climbs the 250 put the power down perfect, but seemed right near the limit too. I am not sure if it was truly the case, or more the Sherco simply forcing me to be smooth, as if I didn’t have a choice in the matter. It might be smarter than me. Regardless, it is a very fascinating bike to ride. Some of you may think I am describing a Gas Gas motor, they are very similar. Sherco just takes it a step further.
I have already described my admiration for it in the 300i test. It is all the same here, just with a lighter feel. The feel of the front wheel is the most obvious trait. I have yet to lose the front end on either of the bikes we have ridden. It is so solid feeling that it always fosters confidence.
I also sense that this chassis a relatively rigid. It seems nearly impossible to hit or land hard enough to get any obvious flex to show. The front never wanders and everything feels precise. At times this also means that the ride quality is a little rougher than I like, but that is the tradeoff.
One rider who tested the 300i referred to it as “stubby”. It does feel like a short wheel base. At times you feel like you are right over the front wheel, especially on steep down hills. The published wheelbase is 1,470mm. That compares to a 250xc-w at 1,482mm, but KTM gives that a plus or minus of 10mm also. Ground clearance it is 350mm compared to 355mm for the xc-w.
On the 300i I also talked about how the “planted” front wheel could also be slow to wheelie over obstacles. The two stoke is better at lifting the front, but still has a similar feel. So it is not just a matter of weight, but of the geometry design also. This brings up an interesting point about design philosophy. Nothing on the Sherco seems left to chance. Every aspect seems purposefully designed. For better or worse, everything reflects the Sherco design and ride philosophy.
These are the exact same WP components and specification as on the current four stroke models. This is common, as KTM two stroke and small bore four stokes were also the same until just this year. I was pretty happy with the set up on the four stroke.
For this test we rode the two stroke with heavier springs. It was set up with springs that were two rates stiffer than stock. This was not too bad for aggressive riding on open terrain, but I felt it was too stiff for most of the trails we rode.
That also brings up another part of the Sherco philosophy. In general they have chosen to use light springs with heavy valving. The valving is much stiffer than on similar WP suspended models. For me, riding in open western terrain, the stock set up is surprisingly good. But when I took the 300i to Idaho I had to back off on all the compression adjustments to get a smooth ride in the woods. I still need heavier springs, particularly in front, but one spring rate (.44nm) would be sufficient.
- The electric start performed perfect. Most times there was never any sensation of the motor turning over, simply push the button and motor starts instantly. The big charging system makes sure the battery charges quickly. The metal ignition cover will keep everything sealed to avoid possible debris and water infiltration problems.
- The stock fuel tank is the same as the four stroke model (9.5 litre), it even has the casting for the fuel pump. A new 12 litre accessory tank is in the works.
- Our bike was fitted with the Sherco electronic odometer, I believe this will come stock on all the 2014 models.
- Brakes are simply awesome.
- Foot pegs ride a little high but have great clearance.
- The clutch pull was just a little hard. It is really the same as most clutches were a few years ago, but feels heavy compared to the KTM DDS clutch or the Gasser. It is slightly stiffer than the four stroke model.
For where we rode and what we did, I could not image any bike I could have had more fun on. How do I describe the 250SE-R in relative terms? Take the motor philosophy of the Gas Gas and update it to the latest technology, add the build quality of the KTM chassis but with a completely unique geometry and handling – that is the Sherco.
For most, they will find themselves able to do more and go faster on the Sherco 250. It may be blue, but this certainly isn’t a YZ250 with a flywheel weight added. More aggressive riders may not fit the Sherco vision of how to get to the finish the quickest. But we also know that these bikes are already winning races in Europe too. I would be very interested to see what modifications are made to the race bikes.
How does it match up to the competition? That is a tough question. It falls somewhere in the mix between the KTM and Gas Gas. It shows build quality right on par with the best. I don’t think it quite has the peak power of the 250xc-w, but may be better in some types of technical terrain. As for handing it is completely different, not miles apart from the others, just a bit more confidence inspiring due to the feel for the front tire.
I have a number of technical questions that I have sent to the factory. I will follow up with any additional information that we might receive.
2014 Sherco 250SE-R MSRP $ 8,299
|overall length||2260 mm|
|overall width||820 mm|
|Seat height||970 mm|
|Ground clearance||350 mm|
|Type :||Single cylinder 2 stroke liquid cooled|
|Displacement :||249.32 cc / 293.14 cc|
|Bore / Stroke||66,4 x 72 mm / 72 x 72 mm|
|Fuel system||Carburator KEIHIN PWK 36|
|Starting System||Electric starter|
|Battery||12 V / 4 Ah|
|ignition system||DC-CDI no switch with digital advance|
|Spark plug NGK||BR8ES / DENSO W24ESRU|
|Engine oil||900 ml 10 W 40|
|Clutch||Multi disc clutch in oil bath, hydraulically operated|
|Primary drive||27 x 75|
|Secondary drive||14 x 49|
|Frame||Semi-perimeter CrMo steel with aluminum subframe|
|Forks||WP USD 48mm dia. (racing)|
|Shock||WP with linkage|
|Front brake||disc 270mm (standard), 256mm (racing)|
|Rear brake||disc 220mm|
|Fuel tank capacity||9,5l with 1l of reserve|
|Fuel||95 mixed with 2 stroke oil (2%)|