2019 Bike Test Week Part 4: SHERCO 500 SEF-R | Bike Reviews
Sherco has done something not many, if any, manufacturers have done and developed a brand-new motorcycle at the request of its Australian distributor.
The French manufacturer has built the 500SEF-R specifically for us and, according to Sherco Australia, they didn’t take much convincing.
It’s based on the 450 but with a different cylinder, larger piston, custom mapping and beefier clutch. If I can get technical for a second, it’s actually 478cc, like the Beta. In contrast, the KTM 500EXC-F is 510cc from a larger stroke and smaller bore. This gives the KTM’s engine a more docile nature.
To handle the extra torque, Sherco has fitted a stronger clutch as the 450 clutch wasn’t up to the task. It’s got a slightly heavier pull than the rest of the range but it ensures longevity. These changes are all which separate the 500 from the 450SEF-R but it’s amazing how different they feel. The 500 is aggressive and the extra inertia from the larger piston is noticeable.
The only 500 available to test at the 2019 Sherco launch in France was a Factory and, with 10 other journalists fighting for seat time, it was an all-out brawl to get on the bike. I eventually worked my way on-board the machine I’d flown more than halfway around the world for and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an animal, the rate in which it picks up speed between corners is insane.
Maybe the Racing version, without the Akrapovic exhaust, will be a little tamer but the Sherco 500SEF-R Factory made the KTM 500EXC-F seem docile. Depending on what you like in a dirtbike, you can take this as a bad thing or a good thing but, at the end of the day, Sherco wants you to know you’re riding a big bruiser.
You can feel the massive piston thumping up and down inside the newly designed cylinder and the tight, rocky singletrack making up 90 percent of the test loop wasn’t really 500 territory. The other 10 per cent was, though, and I made good use of it. The power comes on with excitement, it hits hard and pulls forever.
Tight turns on the 500 require a lot of rider input, as you’d expect. I jumped on the 500 after getting off the 300SEF-R, which only exaggerated the 500’s tendency to stay upright. It holds a straight line under acceleration like it’s on rails and doesn’t get disturbed by anything in your path like smaller capacity bikes might. On the fast uphill sections of the test loop, with big loose rocks and ruts galore, I’d just pick a line, twist the throttle and the bike would do the rest.
The KYB suspension was stiff across all the Factory models but on the fast sections I didn’t find it too stiff and, given that the 500 is designed for open terrain I think the KYB gear is a good match. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Racing model, with the WP Xplor legs, performs when we test the new model on Australian soil.
Words: Olly Malone
Read the full report from the 2019 Sherco launch in issue #468 of ADB Magazine – on sale August 6.