WEAPONS IN THE WOODS

2018 SHERCO SE-RS AND SEF-RS

Dirt Rider - - Gear Bag - STORY BY SEAN KLINGER PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF SHERCO

“What you have to re­mem­ber is that we are only 19 years old,” ex­plained Thomas Teissier, gen­eral man­ager of Sherco Mo­tor­cy­cles and son of owner and CEO Marc Teissier. “You look at Beta; they have been around for three gen­er­a­tions, and we are com­pet­ing with them and more.” The young, sharp French­man makes his point as we share tapas in a stun­ning chateau out­side of Nimes, France. We are sur­rounded by Sherco im­porters from around the world. To my right is the im­porter for South Africa, to my left, Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, and pep­pered in the mix are all the French em­ploy­ees look­ing at the bikes staged around the lux­u­ri­ous court­yard. This is nice— just what I ex­pected from a bike in­tro in Europe. But be­fore you roll your eyes and de­ride me for be­ing a spoiled magazine brat, let’s back up a few days.

It’s not here. I’ve been star­ing at the bag­gage claim as ev­ery­one else has grabbed their bags and left. Will­ing my bag into ex­is­tence doesn’t seem to be work­ing, so I re­sign my­self to go­ing with­out. That means no

gear, no clothes, no Gopro, and, most im­por­tantly be­cause of the un­usual heat wave in the south of France, no de­odor­ant. The bike in­tro is the fol­low­ing day, so I have the plea­sure of spend­ing my few hours be­fore the press pre­sen­ta­tion vis­it­ing a French mo­tor­cy­cle shop, where I got in­vited to a lo­cal dirt bike club party (the Sherco sales guy I was with was shak­ing his head “no” with big eyes be­hind the in­vi­tee, know­ing some­thing I didn’t) and then buy­ing some un­der­wear, shorts, and a shirt at a sport­ing goods store by the ho­tel (still hadn’t found de­odor­ant).

The pre­sen­ta­tion laid out Sherco’s model lineup for 2018, and the big­gest news, ac­cord­ing to them, was the in­tro­duc­tion of the all-new 125 SE-R. The big­gest news to me was the an­nounce­ment that all the en­duro models will be ac­com­pa­nied by cross-coun­try models, specif­i­cally de­signed for the US, South Amer­i­can, and Aus­tralian mar­kets, called the SC-RS and SCF-RS. This means no lights, stiffer, Mx-style WP fork and shock, full FMF (two-stroke) and Akrapovic (four-stroke) ex­hausts, and MX tires. The SC and SCF-RS were not avail­able to ride but should be hit­ting the US this Au­gust.

With fac­tory Sherco jer­sey, pant, and gloves, and newly pur­chased ev­ery­thing else, it was time to ride th­ese six bikes: the 125 SE-R, 250 SE-R, 300 SE-R, 250 SEF-R, 300 SEF-R, and 450 SEF-R. I’ve never rid­den in Europe, and it was il­lu­mi­nat­ing to say the least. The 16(ish)-minute test­ing loop was at a mo­tor­sport park north of Nimes. There was a road course for street­bikes and cars and “trails” that webbed through the ad­ja­cent thickly forested hilly area. It was a lo­gis­ti­cal feat to get such a long trail sec­tion into such a small area, and to do so the loop had to be tight. Like, the tight­est trail I’ve ever rid­den.

The ser­pen­tine sin­gle-track nearly weaved back on it­self every 20 feet. The ter­rain was al­most like a cas­tle that was vi­o­lently de­stroyed then old-growth for­est was al­lowed to re­claim the ru­ins. Loose, square, soft­ball-size rocks mixed with tree roots and stumps, with a few ledges to climb and de­scend made up the ma­jor­ity of the tech­ni­cal, but not re­ally that hard, trail. Also, keep in mind as you read this test that it was one day (half, re­ally) in one lo­ca­tion so th­ese are my first, lim­ited im­pres­sions.

This style of rid­ing suited the bikes per­fectly, and I un­der­stood why the Sherco en­gi­neers seem to put such a pre­mium on agility and nim­ble­ness. The first bike I rode was the 250 SEF-R four-stroke, and for just get­ting to know the loop, this was a good bike to start on. That be­ing said, it was my least fa­vorite out of the bunch. The en­gine is tuned for max­i­mum trac­tion and us­abil­ity, but there is very lit­tle ex­cite­ment any­where in the rpm range. The bot­tom is

2018 SHERCO SE-RS AND SEF-RS

mel­low and smoothly tran­si­tions to the mid, where it makes most of its power. Throt­tle re­sponse is good but not amaz­ing, and in the two some­what open sec­tions of trail, I wasn’t that im­pressed with the top-end or over-rev. The top-end is ad­e­quate for a 250 but not a strength.

The han­dling, as with all the bikes, is where this bike shines. Be­cause of the slim feel between the knees and an­kles com­bined with a light, nim­ble feel, I had no prob­lem putting the 250 where I wanted it to go.

Hop­ping on the 300 SEF-R four-stoke im­me­di­ately af­ter had me think­ing the mo­tors have noth­ing in com­mon. In ret­ro­spect, I can say this 300 was my fa­vorite of the six. The mo­tor had plenty of torque, and where the 250 had me search­ing for the meat of the power com­ing out of cor­ners, the 300 let me stay a gear high and just use the throt­tle with­out wor­ry­ing about my left hand. The 300’s mo­tor is live­lier, more ex­cit­ing than the 250’s, and felt like it had even a lit­tle quicker throt­tle re­sponse; I’d eas­ily put it against any 350. The mid­dle four-stoke had just as lively and quick-turn­ing of a char­ac­ter as the 250 but with more power.

Next I grabbed the 450 SEF-R and pinned it into the trees. My con­fi­dence in do­ing the loop a cou­ple of times was negated by try­ing to con­trol this full-size ma­chine. Over­all, it has a smooth and con­trol­lable power de­liv­ery, but it is still a 450, and try­ing to blip over and up ledges with­out blow­ing the next cor­ner 10 feet away was a chal­lenge. I didn’t re­ally have a chance to wring it out, but it re­minded me of a KTM 450 XC-F where it revved pretty quickly and liked to be higher in the rpm to make the most power. When I com­pare this bike’s han­dling to other 450 off-road bikes, it’s right up there with quick turn­ing agility. Yet when com­par­ing it to the other Sherco models it is a lit­tle slug­gish in the han­dling depart­ment. For one, more weight and re­cip­ro­cat­ing mass has that ef­fect on mo­tor­cy­cles, and for two, it has a slightly longer frame and wheel­base than the other models. Thomas in­formed me this is be­cause a rider who is buy­ing a 450 prob­a­bly wants more sta­bil­ity be­cause they are go­ing to be rid­ing faster.

At the end of the third loop I wasn’t rid­ing faster. I don’t know if it was the 90-plus temps, hu­mid­ity, or jet­lag, but with­out tak­ing a pause between three bikes I got my heart rate up to 192. We jour­nal­ists shared liter wa­ter bot­tles like pi­rates pass­ing around bot­tles of rum—then it was back at it. Time for the all-new 125 SE-R, which was a wel­come re­prieve af­ter the 450.

This bike is ridicu­lously easy to ride, and straight off the bat, it has enough power to get even big dudes through the trails. I’ve rid­den some off-road-spe­cific 125s in the past and they have been frus­trat­ingly tame. The Sherco ac­tu­ally feels like it has some torque to it (as far as 125s go). The SE-R’S power starts rel­a­tively low and builds smoothly through the rpm.

As fun as the mo­tor was, the real magic of this French ma­chine is how in­cred­i­bly easy it is to turn. It was like the bike knew where to go and how far to lean be­fore I did. Its shorter wheel­base and feath­er­weight feel made it a joy to slice through the trees, to laugh at their at­tempt to catch a bar end, and to pick ab­so­lutely any line you want. This bike is the only one of the bunch to get the WP Xplor fork. I’ve been im­pressed with this fork and have a lot of time on it rid­ing the 2017 KTM 250 EXC-F. I think it’s a great choice for com­fort and ad­justa­bil­ity (one click makes a big dif­fer­ence).

My last two loops were on the 250 and 300 SE-RS, and th­ese are prob­a­bly the most alike of the dif­fer­ent models. Both have that Sherco nim­ble­ness and quick cor­ner­ing feel, and both feel more ag­ile (and a lit­tle less planted) than the four-strokes. I first rode the 300 and I thought I would like it best out of the two, but I was wrong. Its barky yet smooth bot­tom- to midrange was im­pres­sive and made short work of any ver­ti­cal ob­sta­cle and what lit­tle straight­aways we had to work with. Yet af­ter rid­ing the 250 I was much fonder of its ex­cit­ing, snappy, less luggy char­ac­ter that was si­mul­ta­ne­ously eas­ier to ride and more fun. The power made it feel like it would be very ver­sa­tile and only gives up some bot­tom-end torque to the 300.

I would put the 250 SE-R a very close sec­ond be­hind the 300 SEF-R just be­cause I’m more of a four-stroke fan over­all.

I learned a lot on this trip. Not just about six dif­fer­ent Sherco models but about the Euro­pean phi­los­o­phy of bike build­ing and rid­ing, and what they view as nec­es­sary to go fast. I also learned that a rel­a­tively young mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer with a lot of pas­sion can make some fun and ex­cit­ing dirt bikes. I also learned that I can fly to Europe with noth­ing but the clothes on my back and fare pretty well. My bag did fi­nally show up… about 12 hours be­fore my flight home. WANT MORE?

We talked with Thomas Teissier a lot more than what we could fit here. Check out the full in­ter­view: dirtrider.me/s4wfwv.

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