Doesn’t it seem like there is no longer a grace period for new entrants in the off-road motorcycle market? Right now the norm is for a new entrant to be immediately effective when the rubber meets the dirt. Sherco achieved that last year with their new 300i 4-stroke as did Beta with their 2013 2-stroke. Last year’s 4-stoke 300i impressed us in a lot of ways; it was light and agile – on par with or lighter than many 2-stokes. We even hailed the Sherco 300i as the Most Impressive Bike of 2013. So when the new Sherco 300 SE-R 2-stoke became available to us, we hopped a flight to Tennessee with high expectations.
Our test ride took place over a two day period in the mountains of Tennessee. Day one took place in the leaf covered hills of the country side while day two found us at the Carter Mountain riding area, just a few miles from where the Tennessee knockout is held. Needless to say, day two was rocky, wet and muddy with some impressive hills.
A walk around the new Sherco reveals some neat features like an S3 cylinder head and an FMF Fatty pipe (the silencer is OEM). The open cartridge forks and rear shock absorber are provided by WP and despite being sprung light (.41 forks and 52 spring), the valving is quite firm and sits high in the stroke. The power valve is electronic with the only visible components being a cable that runs from the motor, under the fuel tank and adjacent to the throttle.
A 36 mm Keihin carburetor is fitted to a V-Force block. The starter for the Sherco is located under the motor and bathed in oil. In addition to being equipped with a headlight and tail light, the Sherco is wired for blinkers, which are removed prior to being imported to the U.S. A coolant catch tank is located to the rear of the bike on the left side. And for what it’s worth, the chain guide is the same as the KTM.
The 2 stroke chassis is nearly identical to that of the 4-stroke with the exception of the frame being augmented to accommodate the 2 stroke motor. An interesting feature is that the 2-stroke line does not come fitted with a kick starter, nor is there any place to install one. Given that the electrical system pumps out 220 watts of DC power, one could infer that Sherco is paving the way for a fuel injected 4-stroke.
Sitting on the Sherco doesn’t reveal anything odd. The pegs are slightly higher but not enough to be bothersome. The bike is also very slender with the only snag point being that annoying (and useless) plastic silencer guard that so many other bikes are fitted with. The Sherco still feels like it has a shorter wheel base but in reality it’s only slightly shorter than other bikes.
And what about the availability of parts? Well, I stood in the Sherco Headquarters parts supply room and can confirm they have everything you need in stock and ready for shipping. Like all boutique brands, you will need to be proactive in ordering parts and supplies.
So what’s it like to ride the new Sherco 300 SE-R? Quite honestly, it’s a great bike. The first thing the Sherco reveals about itself is its trials motor heritage. With a long history of trials riding success, the small Spanish manufacturer knows how to build two stroke engines and it shows with their introductory 2-stroke. The motor is a true enduro specialist that produces a smooth, linear delivery of power, courtesy of that big electrical system we mentioned and its larger flywheel. If the new trend in the off road 2-strokemarket is a smooth delivery of power, the Sherco just raised the bar. Wheel spin is minimal and the motor is almost stall proof. The Sherco motor craves the technical terrain and holds lower revs than anything else out there, except maybe the GasGas.
A crack of the throttle makes the bike spring ahead in a smooth, controlled manner. The bark off the bottom is snappy but transitions smoothly through the gears. Carrying an extra gear or two is a non issue for the Sherco and the transmission is spaced such that there are no awkward gaps to deal with.
Given that we have identified the bike as a true technical terrain or enduro specialist, many will interpret that as lacking quickness. That’s not the case. The Sherco is quick; quick enough for a wide range of riders, minus the elite – in stock trim. You can rev it and make it go fast and the quickness is there, but the bike caters to a composed style of riding – one that carries momentum over pinning it from corner to corner. You won’t mistake the Sherco for a YZ 250 and that is a good thing. We would have liked to experiment with jetting and gearing changes as we are certain we could have easily gotten even more out of it.
The handling is every bit as agile as we thought it would be. The claimed dry weight is 225 and while we didn’t have a scale with us, we didn’t feel the need to dispute it. The back end rides a little high which makes it a quick turner; it also tracks cleanly through the sweeping corners. Between its slender feel and quick turning ability, the Sherco is easy to thread through the tight trees. In terms of agility, the Sherco is among the most agile.
With WP as the suspension provider, I had no trouble finding its sweet spot. When I first rode the bike, the forks were much too soft. They were great when putting along but when ridden aggressively they would blow through the stroke. I then added about 17 turns to the compression and found a great medium for rolling back the throttle and chugging along.
All we did with the shock was turn the high speed compression out 2 full turns, set the sag at 107 mm and run a little extra rebound for the rocky conditions. I ended up with the shock compression clicker settings in the middle, while the forks were about 10 in from the firmest setting. An important thing to note is that I don’t think I bottomed out the suspension once when properly set up. Overall, the suspension worked well in stock trim. The only time I was thinking about a revalve was in the slower, rocky conditions we rode on day two.
So what’s not to like? Access to the shock is a pain. It’s difficult to get to and makes adjusting the sag a slow process. Also, the stock tires are dumpster bait. The smooth motor on the Sherco was the only between me and cutting them off with a saw. As a side not, Vee-Rubber and Sherco are teaming up at the national enduros for demo rides. If you take a Sherco for a test ride at a national enduro, it will likely have a Vee-Rubber tire mounted to it. As we mentioned above, If you are coming off a Japanese motocrosser, you probably won’t like the smooth delivery of power. Aside from that, we’ve got nothing.
Sherco definitely came out swinging with their introductory 300cc 2-stroke. In terms of agility and a smooth delivery of power, Sherco already has much of the competition beat. If you ride amongst the trees and aren’t afraid to get into some nasty, technical terrain, Sherco has just served up a winner for you.
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