We were very excited to throw a leg over the 2017 Sherco enduro range after the small French firm wrapped up the World Enduro GP title with Matt Phillips.
And the reason we were excited was that we would be able to find out what changes the best off-road racer on the planet had made to the stock bikes.
If you go hunting for news on the Sherco changes for 2017 you’ll probably only hear about the in-mould graphics and tougher plastics. But as I found out, the changes go much deeper.
First up, the seat feels lower. The middle of the seat feels lower than the previous model, despite the spec sheets sayings it’s the same as ’16.
The foam has been shaved in the front, while the rear-end sits a touch lower, meaning you sit in the bike rather than on top of it, which has resulted in a more balanced feeling. This is the same on every model.
Sherco also has made changes to the geometry. The changes include an altered steering head angle, but the specifics aren’t important. What is, is that it handles even better than before. Across the range these few changes stood out much more than the BNG‘s and have significantly improved handling and agility.
It should come as no surprise that the 300SEF-R is still the jewel in the crown, despite only receiving a redesigned gearbox and improved lubrication system, in addition to the above mods.
For 2017 it is again the perfect balance of responsiveness and handling. This bike is so easy to ride it’s no wonder Phillips won the World Enduro GP title, even I could’ve won it on this thing! Okay, maybe not, but as I’ve stated in previous tests the power feels electric-bike smooth, it’s incredibly linear.
When it comes to horsepower, it is important to remember the 300SEF-R has a little over 300 cubes, so long, power sapping hillclimbs will require significant clutch work. The 300 shines in flowing singletrack, not climbing out of that quarry at Erzberg.
But the bike that surprised myself and testers Scott Runciman, Olly Malone and Glenn Kearney was the 250SE-R.
This was the preferred two-banger, purely for its bottom-end grunt. The 250SE-R was more agile than the 300SE-R but, more importantly, it somehow produced a more powerful bottom-end with less sting than the 300. The Sherco suspension has not been touched in 2017 and it behaved best on the 250SE-R than it did on any other model.
A rebalanced crankshaft, rejetted carby and a set of V-Force 4 reeds are to thank for the stronger but linear bottom-end in the 250SE-R which has even reduced vibration. The 300SE-R received the same upgrades so it’s a shame they didn’t have the same effect on the bigger bike.
Or perhaps it wasn’t the above mods that improved the engine, but the new piston and combustion chamber, only given to the 250SE-R. If that is the case, hopefully Sherco deploys these weapons on the 300.
The 300SE-R felt like a completely different beast to the 250. Runciman and Malone agreed. It’s faster, and harsher in its delivery than the 250, and the suspension didn’t seem as predictable or plush, despite being identical.
Despite possessing an extra 50 cubes and forging a name as the torque king, on this occasion the 300 felt like it had less torque than the 250 but with a stronger hit up top.
WORK IN PROGRESS
It’s no secret that I didn’t gel with the 450SEF-R when I tested it in 2015. When we arrived at this test I hopped straight on the 450 SEF-R and after an hour, I can confirm it has improved.
The 450SEF-R still suffers a little from a touchy rear-end that throws off the front. On top of that, the engine mapping feels aggressive and a little too abrupt. But I no longer get the headshake I did with the 2016 model and the engine is more user-friendly than its predecessor.
It doesn’t feel as comfortable, agile and easy to ride as the 300SEF-R, which is weird because Sherco has pretty much jammed a 450 engine into the same frame as the 300.
The 300SEF-R is still the testers’ pick. It’s the kind of bike that could take out a Dirt Bike of the Year award because it more than satisfies the design criteria and acts as an innovative capacity in a sea of bigger machines.
As for the other capacities they also have improved, most notably the 250 SE-R. If you’re still not convinced, try it for yourself at a Sherco ride day or ask a mate who has one. I’m still a firm believer in the hands-on approach.
MISSING IN ACTION
The 250SEF-R did not make it to Australia in time for our test, but Sherco Australia is importing it so watch for a test in ADB.