235

www.dirtrider.com

2018 Sherco 250, 300, and 450 SEF-R Review

235
...

If you are into trials riding, Sherco needs no introduction. Yet if you are not, then the French bike company might not be at the forefront of that special part of your brain where you catalog all the new, cool dirt bikes you come across. To be fair, Sherco has only been around for 19 years yet has a lot of racing success in European and World stages, such as Dakar, Enduro GP World Championship, and Extreme Enduro racing. Here in the States though, the “other blue bike” is only really seen on the East Coast and only rarely.

To say that we were excited to scoot across the pond to race in Sherco’s native France would be an understatement. First we’ll get into the changes for 2018 and then talk about how the machines worked on the trail.

Performance Changes

  • New WP 46mm shock
  • New shifter fork rollers on the 450
  • Stronger gear selector spring
  • New header on the 250 and 300 for better rpm response
  • New silencer as well on the 250 and 300 that is 300 grams lighter
  • New engine maps
  • New piston on the 300 with higher compression
  • New crankshaft and connecting rod on the 300 as well
  • New muffler on the 450 that is 500 grams lighter

Durability/Usability Changes

  • Radiator cap is easier to get to and turn
  • In-molded graphics
  • New seat cover from Luna Selle De Valle
  • 20 percent more flexible plastics
  • Reinforced rear fender for easier lifting
  • Enduro dash has better protection against water
  • The light’s rubber mounting has been revised

On The Trail

250 SEF-R

As the smallest four-stroke in the line up, personally we feel that it is left in no man’s land. Meaning, the 300 and 450 SER-Fs have noticeably more power and different engine characters, but if you want a super light nimble bike, the 125 two-stroke or even 250 two-stroke would fit the bill better for outright agility. If we rode the 250 SEF-R by itself, we would come away pleased, if a little underwhelmed by the power. But riding it on the same day and on the same trail loop as all the other 2018 Shercos left us wanting more from the 250. The power is tame and very usable, with a bottom end character similar to KTM’s 250 XCF-W yet when you really open it up, you are not rewarded with a gnarly, screaming top-end. It makes most of its power in the mid-range, with usable torque on bottom but nothing to straighten your arms. It definitely doesn’t have the quick revving power character that Yamaha 250 four-strokes do, though throttle response isn’t bad at all.

With only 50ccs more displacement, the 300 is night and day different than the 250. A very general rule of thumb is the bigger the motor the slower the rev, but for some reason the 300 seemed to have a quicker revving power-plant with pretty instant throttle response. And with that extra bit of juice, came a healthy portion of more torque. Where the 250 had us grabbing the clutch in tight corners to keep the motor making good power, the 300 let us be way lazier and lug the bike lower without having to wonder if we’d have enough pulling power to get us up the next rocky hill. Usable, tractable power with a good bit of excitement… That’s what the 300 motor has. It’s not going to give a 450 a run for its money, but we would put it up against any 350 no problem. The extra grunt also made the 300 SER-F feel a little lighter than the 250. Not that the 250 felt heavy, just that the 300 had more snap to get out of the incredibly tight 180s and lift the front over the cobbly, rocky ledges.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems, as they say. You can say the same thing when talking about cubic centimeters. We have to explain that the testing loop we were riding in France was one of the tightest, twisty trails that we’ve ridden. Before you could get any real momentum going, there was another 180 up a ledge, then zigzag through trees, then another 180 down a ditch. It was moderately technical but just didn’t suit premier class bike. That being said, the Sherco 450 SEF-R would probably be our top pick out of all other 450 off-road bikes for this type of extremely tight riding. The power is very usable for a 450 but it was still a handful and it was the hardest to ride out of all the models we rode. It was hard to be smooth and ride consistant when each blip of the throttle surged the bike forward with a lot more force than the 300 or 250 SEF-Rs. Even with more power on tap, the exhaust note wasn’t much louder, if at all, than the other four-strokes. A ride in our normal testing trials would probably benefit the 450 the most since we would be able to hold the throttle open a bit longer and actually use the torquey power to its full potential.

Handling
For handling and suspension, we’ll talk about the bikes as a whole just because they share so many characteristics with a few exceptions. First of all, not only is the 450 harder to handling in super techy stuff because of the power, but the frame is longer by a few millimeters than all the other bikes. We asked Sherco about this and they said that a typical 450 customer would most likely be riding in more open, fast terrain and would benefit from more stability (just as a side note, if you haven’t read it, the 125 SE-R two-stroke has a shorter frame for the opposite reason). Even so, all the Sherco SER-F bikes have a very slim, nimble feel. It is clear that Sherco puts a premium on agility above all other handling characteristics. At the seat and between the pegs, the bikes feel very thin and easy to flick around. They don’t feel long and even though we didn’t have time to set the sag for each bike (more than a dozen different editors), our 215-pound tester didn’t feel too chopper-ed out or even unbalanced, really. The SEF-Rs are quick turning and respond to minimal rider input, though the two-strokes feel even more so. This is a great characteristic for slicing through tree trunks and twisty grass tracks, but we are dying to get the bikes to the US for faster paced riding. Quick-turning might just turn to twitchy and unstable.

Suspension
All the four-stroke models use the same WP fork (coil spring both sides) with compression adjustment on top and rebound on the bottom. Sherco said that they tested with the 4CS and couldn’t find a setting they liked. The “Race” editions of the bikes will have the WP Xplor fork (the 125 SE-R already has it). Overall, these bikes are soft, but in the best possible way. We’ve been wracking our brain since the intro trying to explain how to explain the suspension without making it sound bad, because it isn’t. It is absolutely great on the baseball-to-softball size rocks that littered the single track we were riding, as well as on the ledge-y, root-y sections. The wheels track the ground like magnets and front and rear tire traction was at a maximum. Even with the soft feel, we didn’t bottom the bikes, yet there weren’t really any fast sections to do so.

Though we in America would say that the fork and shock on the Shercos have a more comfort than performance set up, the French would be mad at us because their whole theory of what makes a bike fast is different than ours. For them, making a bike as compliant as possible and using a very active suspension set up with a flexible frame allows racers to ride through gnarly, choppy trails fast. And while that isn’t untrue, we would argue that once you hit a whoop section or try to take a g-out at speed, blowing through the stroke would slow us down. Overall, you have to chalk it up to the terrain in Europe and European racing being very different than what we have, plus rider preference and style, plus different bike setup philosophy. Perhaps we are weird for wanting an overall stiff setup to avoid bottoming out at all costs, while they would take the occasional clank to have an overall more supple ride.

We flew back to the US with a huge smile on our face because we had a blast riding in France on French bikes. We are also very optimistic that these bikes are the best that Sherco has made to date and that the newly announced cross country models (“mx-style” suspension, no lights, mx rear tire) are going to be more in line with what US riders want and expect from their off-road bikes. Stay tuned for more on the SC models and the two-stroke models as well as (hopefully) some longer term testing on American soil.

(All measurements are claimed)

MSRP $NA
Displacement 248.6 cc
Fuel System Synerject EFI
Transmission 6 speed
Clutch Hydraulic
Fuel Capacity 2.56 gal.
Brakes Brembo
Weight 224.87 lbs.
Seat Height 34.25 in.

(All measurements are claimed)

MSRP $NA
Displacement 303.68 cc
Fuel System Synerject EFI
Transmission 6 speed
Clutch Hydraulic
Fuel Capacity 2.56 gal.
Brakes Brembo
Weight 224.87 lbs.
Seat Height 34.25 in.

(All measurements are claimed)

MSRP $NA
Displacement 449.4 cc
Fuel System Synerject EFI
Transmission 6 speed
Clutch Hydraulic
Fuel Capacity 2.56 gal.
Brakes Brembo
Weight 242.51 lbs.
Seat Height 35.4 in.