The 2014 Sherco 300 two stroke and four strokes have arrived. I got a chance to ride each in the mountains of Tennessee. The two stroke is very similar to the 250 version we tested last fall. The four stroke is the same bike that David Knight rode at the final round of the AMA Endurocross series in November.
Knighter struggled a little at the final round in Las Vegas, but since then he has had some impressive rides. He finished second in the World SuperEnduro Championship and just wrapped up the British Extreme title over Jonny Walker. It seems reasonable to say the Sherco has revitalized David’s career.
If you have read some of my past ride reports, you know that I am a fan of the Shercos. Both the design and execution are very inspiring. Everywhere you look the bikes show signs of quality parts and well thought out concepts. For example, the swingarm has a steel plate mounted around the inside of the axle hole. The wheel spacers ride against this harder surface, instead of directly on the aluminum.
All of the US models come as “R” (race) models with WP suspension components. The 48mm open chamber fork on the front and a linkage shock on the rear. The shock is slightly smaller than the KTM version, with a smaller diameter spring. The fork knuckles are also different from KTM models; different axle size and spacers. None of the parts are interchangeable with the orange bikes.
The Neken fork clamps also have a familiar look, but with unique pinch bolt locations. They are also slightly narrower than most bikes. That keeps the forks tucked in close and may also contribute to some of the distinctive Sherco front end feel.
In general, all Sherco’s feel “stubby”, with a sharp steering head angle. This contributes to a very distinct feel, like riding right on the front wheel. Sometimes it is good, at other times it is a struggle. I have asked for information on fork offset, but I don’t think Sherco wants to divulge that.
The front end feel is one of the most distinctive qualities of the bikes. It reminds me of the 2003 KTM SX models with the 14mm offset clamps. It was a big departure from the 20mm offset of the enduro models. KTM has played with that offset number on various frames, clear up to 22mm on some later models.
On good terrain, the short offset encourages aggressive turning because there is so much bias on the front wheel. It also reduces leverage from the wheel to the bars. There is very little head shake, the bike tends to always feel stable. On the other hand, a little more effort is required on the bars to turn.
In bad terrain some less desirable qualities start to arise. When the front wheel looses traction, it tends to happen quickly, with little warning. As you might expect, rider confidence in the front starts to erode also. In the ruts the front end tends to hunt around for a line. The bars heavier feel can be fatiguing.
This was the real challenge to riding in the nasty Tennessee conditions. Being out of my natural dry land element, I had difficulty relaxing in the mud and ruts that developed. I found myself tiring quicker. I was holding onto the bars too tight because so much action was happening up front.
It was the exact opposite from the Gas Gas that I also rode. Its raked out front felt light and would track straight with ease. I consider the two bikes to have a number of similar chassis qualities, but with radically different geometry. The Sherco feels like the 14mm offset clamps and the Gas Gas the 22mm offset. I don’t know how much of the differences are the fork clamps, or in frame geometry. Regardless, being at near opposite ends of the spectrum, places where one excels, the other will probably suffer.
Unfortunately I found myself on the struggling end of things during this test. As I talked about before, I was riding terrain that was challenging for me, so I was probably super sensitive to differences in the bikes, the Gas Gas and Sherco. Yet in all of our previous riding I had a blast on the Sherco. It really demonstrates just how much a change in terrain affects the testing impressions.
On my home terrain the Shercos are pure fun. The chassis encourages aggressive riding with its nimble yet stable feel. The bias on the front wheel allows it to carve well and feel very solid in the front when the traction is good.
The new 300 two stroke motor feels very similar to the 250 that I last tested, just with a bit more power down low. In general, it is right in the same league as the other 300’s. It is not quite as smooth down low as the Gas Gas, but probably a bit stronger once it is into the mid range.
The unique electronic powervalve is operated by a servo motor. The bar mounted map switch controls both the powervalve and the ignition timing. In theory it should offer some very beneficial power choices. I did not get into too much aggressive riding during this test, but in the previous testing what I found was that the mild map position would help control wheel spin while trying to ride fast.
It will also shut the power down very early on the top end, but a quick flip with the thumb puts the setting right back to the aggressive mode. For this test I seldom got the revs up high enough to bring the powervalve into action.
The 2014 300 four stroke boasts an overall gain in horsepower. From what I could tell, it was mostly in the mid range and on top. The bottom end power was similar to our long term 2013 test model. One obvious difference was in the exhaust note, our ’13 always sounded a bit blubbery, like it was running rich. The new bike sounds much crisper. The 2014 four strokes come with an all new injection system and throttle body from Synerject.
This was the exact bike that David Knight rode at the Las Vegas Endurocross round. David had brought a few of his own parts to use in the race. We rode it in complete stock form. Of the two Sherco lines, I find myself gravitating to the four strokes.
My impression is that many of the design concepts and settings were originally developed for the four strokes and then adapted to the newer two stroke line. Consequently a number of things seem to perform slightly better on the 4t models. Admittedly, I spend most of my miles on four strokes anyway, so I am sure to have a some bias that direction too.
The suspension is good on both bikes. I am sure that I sound like a broken record in my appreciation of the WP open chamber fork, but they really do work well. It is not that they are perfect, but they are super consistent. The action is always the same and that makes it easy to predict how the bike will act/react in any situation.
The two stroke 300 gets one litre of extra fuel than all the other models, 9.5l tank vs 8.5. There is also a new accessory tank for all the Sherco models. If I recall correctly, it is about 12 litres. Sherco has it in stock now in the US. Also unique to the 300 2t is the FMF exhaust. The 250 2t models come with the European OEM pipe.
Sherco vs Gas Gas
Of course that is question everyone has been asking. For this test the conclusion was pretty obvious. I found the Gas Gas easier to ride and more confidence inspiring in the wet and muddy conditions of Tennessee. It was a surprise to me. But in the super nasty stuff, the smooth motor of the Gasser was tops. The stable front end let me relax more in the ruts and gave me confidence.
Do I like the Gas Gas better as a bike? The candid answer is no. I see improvement across the board for the Spanish bike, but they have a (insert polite negative here) track record for quality control and durability. Time will tell how much those issues have been improved on the 2014 models.
The Sherco is impressive everywhere you look or put a wrench. Everything is top shelf. Looking close reveals many design aspects that are similar to KTM or Gas Gas, the best ideas of each brand and often improved upon. No detail seems to have been overlooked. Sherco gets a higher “happiness of ownership” rating.
If I could get the “pro rider” treatment to just show up and ride/race, then it would be a tough call. If we were looking at something akin to an extreme enduro, the Gasser would get the call. For faster racing or open terrain I would lean towards the Sherco.
2014 Sherco 300 SE-R MSRP $8399 2014 Sherco 300 SEF-R $8999
If you would like see more on the Sherco models, take a look at my previous reviews.