Extreme Enduro Test | 300T V 350F | Bike Reviews | Features
If you look at the entries for an extreme enduro event you’ll notice it is stocked with 300cc two-strokes, with the odd 250cc two-stroke and the even more rare four-stroke.
In last year’s Erzberg Rodeo there was one four-stroke in the top 50 finishers, a KTM 350EXC-F piloted by a German named Phillip Sholz.
To understand why the two-stroke dominates extreme enduro we put two bikes of similar capacity but very different combustion against each other in an exclusively extreme environment.
To do this we headed to Aussie extreme enduro legend Rob Nowak’s property in Vicco, where the gearbox never hit third. No singletrack or fireroads, just a massive hill, loads of fallen trees and the odd tyre.
The two capacities we chose were the 300cc two-stroke and the 350cc four-stroke. This was not a test on the Beta enduros, they were just playing picture bitches. And the two testers we used were Nowak and Con Thermos, both very accomplished extreme enduro riders.
What we hadn’t expect was for Gary Grealy from Beta Australia to bring the Beta X-Trainer as well. It was never meant to be part of the test, but as soon as the boys saw it they wanted to ride it. And the results were surprising.
I sat down for a chat with Rob and Con, after a hard and sweaty slog in the extreme terrain, to see which bike they thought was the better extreme enduro weapon.
ROB: If you’re an experienced rider, nothing comes close to a 300cc two-stroke. For every type of terrain. In general, if you’re doing the entire extreme calendar it’s the best bike for an expert.
CON: Yeah, I agree with Rob, but if you’re a short rider, or someone with less experience, I would choose the X-Trainer, out of the Betas, over a 300cc two-stroke.
ROB: I see what Con is saying but I’m too heavy for the X-Trainer on some hills, the torque in the engine and weight and the way it delivers the power is great, but not for big hills. The four-stroke feels good until you get tired and you need to start pushing. You can notice the weight difference as soon as you have to start pushing. It might not mean much on the scales, but as soon as you need to start pushing it they get top heavy.
CON: Exactly what Rob said. As soon as you start getting into the nasty stuff where you’re about to put your foot down and start pushing, you feel the weight of the 350. It’s just not as flighty as the two-stroke when you need to change directions. The X-Trainer was like turning around a pushbike.
ROB: All that being said, while we’re saying the 300cc two-stroke is the best, that 350cc four-stroke Beta can do it all. It might stall easier, but it doesn’t stall nearly as much as other bikes do off the bottom. If you wanted to do a bit of extreme and still trailride in comfort the 350cc four-stroke would be better. For a beginner rider who’s coming from a motocross bike or trail background, the 350cc four-stroke isn’t intimidating. That being said, the beginner may feel that weight more and it does stall easier than the 300cc two-stroke.
CON: I kinda disagree with Rob. The 350 is an excellent trailbike, but after riding the Beta X-Trainer I think that bike is perfect for the beginner. Just the physical size of it, it’s lower to the ground also. It gives you more confidence.
ROB: Yeah but come on Connie, you don’t need as much clutch control on the 350cc four-stroke. It’s only right off the bottom that it will flame out easier. But Con is convincing in his argument. If you were a deadset beginner in extreme enduro, you’ve gotta go that X-Trainer.
CON: I agree with Rob in regards to the injected four-strokes flaming out. It is a problem for me, because I stall four-strokes a lot because I like riding in the bottom of the power. When I was racing overseas last time I stalled it in the worst possible positions, like I nearly fell into a ravine, just because I’ve come round a corner and it flamed out and I’ve got nowhere to put my foot. In extreme riding your doing such slow speeds, and I know that all four-strokes just ride too fast.
ROB: If you had ambitions to go overseas and do a Romaniacs and an Erzberg, there’s hardly any transport legs that are fast, it’s all off-camber and up and down all day, and that X-Trainer just gives you confidence. As you get tired, especially at the end of the day where a 300cc two-stroke can get you into trouble as you make mistakes, the X-Trainer would be perfect.
Con: I’d go one step further than Rob and say you could be competitive in Gold class in Romaniacs on the X-trainer. If I went to Romaniacs again and had to ride a Beta, it would actually be the X-Trainer.
ROB: I can’t agree with Con there. Because I’m heavier, the X-Trainer wouldn’t pull me up some of those big hills at the start of Erzberg. There’s just a couple of sections in extreme enduro where you need brute horsepower and it just doesn’t have it.
CON: I can see where Rob’s coming from but if I had to categorise the 300cc two-stroke I’d put it in the extreme enduro class.
ROB: Yeah the 300cc two-stroke is an extreme enduro bike for me as well. And I think the X-Trainer is one of the best trailbikes you could ride for a beginner.
CON: Obviously the X-Trainer is an excellent trailbike, but for me it is a better extreme enduro bike, and the 350cc four-stroke to me is a great trailbike.
ROB: The 350cc four-stroke is marketed as the race bike, so for me it would probably give me the most confidence going fast. I’d prefer to go fast on a 350 than a 450 at an event like an AORC. The motor gives me a lot of confidence. The motor can be held flat-out.
UR EXTREME LEGENDS
I’ve competed in Wildwood every year since it started, Erzberg four times, Sea to Sky, Romaniacs, and I did the Enduro-X twice.
I’ve done Romaniacs twice and regularly compete in B-Class in trials,
trailriding, I dunno!
WORDS & PHOTOS | MITCH LEES