Middle Ground

“Whatever way you look at it, the Sherco 300SEF-R is an impressive machine to come from Sherco.”

Featured in the May 2015 edition of Dirt Rider Downunder NZ.

1/05/2015

“Whatever way you look at it, the Sherco 300SEF-R is an impressive machine to come from Sherco.”

Featured in the May 2015 edition of Dirt Rider Downunder NZ.

If you caught the test of the 300 two-stroke in last month’s DRD, you’ll already know we were pretty impressed with the new models from the French manufacturer. With a dedicated factory specialising in producing the enduro models for the predominantly trials bike manufacturer, it’s a tried and tested formula comprising of top-shelf parts and proven technology, which is making the Shercos turn heads.

SMOOTH OPERATOR

Just like the 300 two-stroke, this new Sherco is a good looking bike but unmistakeably European with its angular front mudguard and distinctive styling. The chromemolybdenum frame is a bit of a giveaway, too, with the French team taking a leaf out of KTM’s book. But then why not, as the orange brand are undeniably the dominant force in off-road bikes at the moment, which is set to continue. Super-stiff aluminum frames are fine for the motocross or supercross tracks, where you’re having to deal with big hits, but off-road you still need some flexibility, something that Sherco have worked out.

With a seat height of 950mm it’s a stretch to the saddle on the 300, although that also means you get a decent amount of ground-clearance (350mm) for when the going gets fast and rough, which is likely to happen sooner rather than later with the ease with which the Sherco deals with the rough. Plenty of the credit for the smooth ride needs to go to WP, with the 48mm open cartridge forks seemingly outdated if you keep abreast of all the latest crazes, but despite that they’re still amazingly good and supply a decent combination of plushness and bottoming resistance. The forks are adjustable for compression, rebound and preload, as is the WP rear shock which features a linkage.

That means the shock is able to deal with bigger and faster impacts without having to crank the clickers up as is often the case with a linkless system, meaning it remains supple at slower speeds and over smaller bumps.

Matched to the flexible chassis and smooth suspension is a powerplant that is 100 per cent Sherco designed and made, which is quite an achievement as it is simply so good. The 303.7cc, DOHC, four-valve configuration could easily have been made peaky, but Sherco obviously knew who they were creating bikes for and instead the power delivery is smooth and grunty, with the extra 50cc over a 250cc machine seemingly adding a much bigger increase in punch than the tiny displacement boost would suggest.

The SEF-R is fitted with a slick six-speed gearbox which could easily be flicked up and down all day long, but you don’t need to with the extra torque of the 300cc machine allowing you to stay in one gear for longer. As it features double-overhead cams, the motor still loves to rev and you can hold onto a gear if you like, but the SEF is just as happy lugging up hills in a higher gear using the torque as it is bouncing off the limiter and flying up the track. The switchable mapping, which is featured as standard on both models we’ve tested, makes a noticeable difference to the power delivery and tends to dictate how you ride. In full power mode, the Sherco can be used near the rev ceiling, with the fast dry tracks we were testing on a perfect environment for wringing the French machine out. After doing close to a couple of hundred kays aboard the blue bike over the course of the weekend, a flick into the lower power mode made a huge difference to the delivery; and, of course, how you ride the bike. Shortshifting up the gearbox and using the bottomend of the slick motor makes for a much more relaxed ride and is perfect for slippery conditions or when you’ve simply reached the point of exhaustion.

The rest of the bike is well thought out, with the plastic tank able to swallow 8.5litres of gas, which is likely to get you a fair distance thanks to the economical fuel-injection. It’s a shame the plastic isn’t clear, as to see how much fuel is left inside, but it doesn’t take a second to unscrew the cap and look inside. The dash is nice and easy to read, with various trips and other functions there to help you out on an enduro. Brembo supply the stoppers, and these were a bit vague to begin with, which we found unusual. After spending a bit of time on the bike, the brakes eventually came right. It was more the fact that it was totally new, so someone probably got a bit adventurous with the silcone sheen before we got it. The 270mm front and 220mm rear certainly came good as the day went on, with serious stopping power available from one finger. The clutch is light thanks to the self-adjusting hydraulic system fitted, which should really be a must on dirt bikes. Unfortunately, it just seems to be the Euros who have got the hint…

With a bike that is designed to take you exploring in the bush, it’s a surprise to see the lack of a kickstarter to back-up the starter motor. Okay, batteries are better than ever and taking off the manual starter will shave a bit of weight, but there’d always be a nagging thought in the back of my mind about what would happen if the battery went flat mid-ride. Okay, I know: cars don’t still have crank handles, but bike batteries are small and it doesn’t take much to run it down. Thankfully, the Sherco burst into life first push of the button each time, the fuel-injection doing the best job of supplying the correct air/fuel mixture. It continued to work well for the duration of the ride, with no snatchiness felt from the throttle at lower rev ranges. The Sherco simply never missed a beat, proving that the French firm are here to stay, thanks to a quality product.

The wheels are supplied by DID and look trick in black with the white accents on the racing version. Although, not so cool is the gigantic muffler, which stretches out behind the lower right cheek of the rider. It’s a shame Sherco haven’t taken a leaf out of Yamaha or Honda’s book by shortening the can for this year, with the YZ250FX having a stumpy system when compared to the French contender. When it comes to noise, it does manage to make the Sherco a quiet performer, but we could imagine it would be extremely easy to damage in the event of a spill.

CONCLUSION

Whatever way you look at it, the Sherco 300SEF-R is an impressive machine to come from Sherco. They’ve only been making off-road bikes for a few years and they’ve been extremely clever with the placement of the 300 SEF-R. With KTM’s EXC-F and XC-F featuring 350cc power plants (albeit, two different power plants), it would be easy to follow suit and nibble away at their sales with a bike that would essentially be very similar.
But instead Sherco went for the more relaxed option, something which will be music to the ears of every trail rider out there who finds 450cc motocross weapons just a bit to much. It’s also significantly lighter than the 350 machine, with the Sherco tipping the scales a significant five kilos less.

Okay, it doesn’t quite have the same amount of punch as the bigger capacity thumpers, with the SEF-R feeling more like a 250cc bike on steroids rather than a slightly more manageable 450, but it works to make the Sherco a really great dirt bike that is as happy tearing around a flat paddock as it is tiptoeing through the trees.
The SEF-R compliments your riding rather than frightening you, something that has to be good for the majority. DRD




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