Matt welcomes the Sherco 450 SEF-R for a year fun-filled Amcross racing, trail riding and even some motocross.
STORY BY MATT BERNARD PICS BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST
Our test day on the Sherco Six Days range was the day I decided that I wanted to race a Sherco SEF-R 450 in the DIRT ACTION Amcross series in 2018. I got some funny looks from mates of mine. With a line-up of 450cc motocross bikes ready to race out of the crate, a euro enduro bike seemed an odd choice to race. Not to me. I had spent plenty of time on grass tracks on the Sherco 450 SEF-R Six Days and that alone had me convinced it would be a solid machine for some grass track action. After some discussions with Stephen ‘Tuffy’ Tuff, Sherco Brand Manager and all-round legendary human, a Sherco SEF-R Racing was on its way to Sydney Sherco and I was getting very excited.
Neil from Sherco Sydney is a top bloke. He runs a great shop in McGraths Hill and is a walking talking Sherco encyclopedia, to boot, he has one of the best moustaches I have ever laid eyes on. Neil pre-delivered our Sherco SEF-R 450 and went above and beyond to get our machine ready to ride. With so much experience with Shercos, Neil ripped it out of the crate and went over the machine to get it set for the dirt. There are some bolts on the bike which are important to use thread lock on as with all dirt bikes. On the Sherco it’s important to locktite the bolts in the chain guide, tank bolt under the seat and the engine mounts – it’s good practice to do it now, rather than constantly nipping them up. With tools still in hand, Neil used lock wire at the front and rear brake lines and the fuel vent line. As I said, Neil and his Sherco Sydney team are first class. He fired it into life, ran it through the gears and once all given the tick of approval it was into my van.
TIME ON THE BIKE
The first round of Amcross was only four weeks after I picked up the Sherco, so time was against us to get comfortable and the plan was simply to be happy on the bike in mostly standard form, race the first round and see where the Sherco and I were at. It’s been three years since I had lined up for a race, so the expectations were pretty low. I spent every weekend hitting a grass track out at Pacific Park in NSW. The guys there had mowed in a track which was pretty similar to what I hoped the first round in Canberra would be like, although shorter. I was already fairly comfortable with the Sherco ergonomics from our previous test days, but I did find the handlebars to be a little straight. I tried the forward and rear positioning of the bar mounts on the top triple clamp and prefer the rear location. The seat cover isn’t grippy enough for me, I have found my butt slides and causes the bike to wheelie – super easy fix. The engine is pretty darn good for riding grass track in standard form. I like the bike in the aggressive mode, the traction mode has its place, but on a grass track the bike is best in the aggressive mode. The engine is smooth and keeping up corner speed is pretty easy thanks to it’s torquey bottom-end. Engine-wise, I was comfortable to race the bike as is, I just needed to fine tune the handling package. I found the forks to be a little twitchy at highspeed and to be a tad difficult to hang onto in deep braking bumps. It was riding too low in the fork travel while braking and unsettling the bikes balance. This is an enduro bike, valved to handle trails, tree roots, hill climbs, big drops all of which are handled with ease by the Sherco SEF-R 450 but none of these are on a grass track. So, I called Matt at MCD Racing to get his take on the WP 48mm forks in standard form.
My goal for this Sherco is to have it set up well for grass track and within a few adjustments of the clickers be ready for some MX and the same to be set for a trail ride. I took it over to MCD in Penrith and left it to Matt to convert it from a super plush bush setup into a natural terrain motocross race-ready machine.
For my level of riding, we went with a basic setup with no need to reinvent the wheel, maintaining all the stock components and just modifying the soft trail friendly standard shim stack configurations.
Most guys around 85kg would find the rear shock spring to be a little on the stiff side and struggle to get the adequate sag numbers, but being a bigger guy it was perfect for me. Matt did have to swap out the soft front fork springs to match the heavy rear with some heavier Race Tech fork springs. Being that the rear of the bike is already sprung heavily meant going up a few rates on the fork springs helped balance out the chassis. Vice versa with a smaller guy a softer shock spring would get you pointed in the right direction.
The stock WP suspension has heaps of adjustment, and with a few clicks each way we will be able to fine tune it to tackle motocross tracks and some big jumps with ease to taking it back to it’s roots and being able to enjoy a cruisey trail ride.
The stock WP open chamber forks come with a built-in preload adjuster as well as compression and rebound adjustment. The shock has high and low speed compression adjustment, rebound adjustment and preload of the shock spring.
I only got to ride the bike once before the first round of the Amcross series, so luckily for me, Matt had set the bike up pretty close to spot on first go. On Matt’s recommendation, I tried a few clicker adjustments to nail in my comfort on the new setting. I sped up the rebound to get the fork a little more active as it felt like it was packing on the rougher sections and stiffened it 4 clicks, to help it hold up, but that was it. The re-valve from MCD and the heavier fork springs have transformed the Sherco from a plush enduro beast, to a grass track animal. I’m really looking forward to spending more time on the bike and some time with Matt at MCD to get even more comfortable.
I would head to the first round of the DIRT ACTION Amcross series with only five rides on the bike, but confident in the Sherco. The standard tyres on the Sherco were starting to wear out, so I was searching for some extra traction on the track. I opted for the Bridgestone X20 tyres at the recommendation of the good people at McLeod Accessories. Neil at Sherco Sydney fitted them up for me and I was ready to rip into some Canberra soil. I own my own graphics business, Moto Kit, it keeps me busy away from my position with DA. Unfortunately, the week leading up to Amcross was also the first round of MX Nationals, so I was flat out and my own custom graphics kit went on late the night before we left for the race. I didn’t even get a good look at it until we were in Canberra! However, I am happy with how it turned it. With the bar ends plugged, the graphics on, fresh Bridgestone tyres and my new MCD Suspension the mostly standard Sherco was thrown into my van with my Wife and Daughter and we headed south to Canberra.
I didn’t do the Sherco any justice on the track. I ripped a good start amongst a full 40 grid in the first race and was inside the top five. That was until the mid-point of the race when I got a tad aggressive and went down. I caught my finger somewhere in something and instantly thought I might have broken it. The bike was twisted and bent so I limped to the finish outside the top 20. After some Nurofen, Panadol, anti-inflammatory gel, some ice on the finger and a cup of concrete I lined up for race two to see how I’d go. I got a shit start but rode from around 16th to 9th, only to get taken out by another rider and get stuck under the bike with a few turns to go on the last lap – man, what a return to racing. Another average start led to an 11th in the last race. I have since had X-Rays that found a fracture in my pinky finger, but I was still so disappointed to not give the bike the results it deserves.
Being that the first round came so quickly, I will now aim to get a few things sorted with the bike that I missed out on before the first event. I have ordered a pleated gripper seat cover, as the track got rough and I found it hard to stop my weight from sliding to the rear of the bike across acceleration bumps. I got some shithouse starts and with 40 bikes, you can’t do that, so a holeshot button is high on my list of priorities. I practiced a bunch of starts and was confident it wasn’t needed, but as the ruts got deeper and the pole on the gate became a big hump, I couldn’t keep the front wheel down. It would be great to get an exhaust and extract a little aggression and snap from the bottom-end of the power curve as well. I’m already so keen to head to Cooma for the second round of the series, but for now, I’ve got 2 more weeks with my finger splinted before I can ride again – bugger!
GIMME CLEAN AIR BRO
I hate cleaning air filters – like proper hate it. I know some people find it methodical and peaceful, those people are weirdos, it sucks. Thankfully, the team at UniFilter Australia have developed a new program where it’s no longer needed. The guys sent down a box of five Pro Comp 2 Air Filters with a return addressed express post bag. Once you have dirtied your filters, simply pop them into the bag and post them ack to UniFilterland. The legends there will wash, oil and return your air filters ready for the next ride day – how bloody awesome is that. It won’t break the budget either, for the Uni Filter Pro Comp 2 pack, you are looking at $279 – money well spent and money saved on cleaning fluid and oil. Sign up, you won’t regret it!
WHAT DID IT COST?
MCD RACING SUSPENSION WORK
$600 Fork and Shock Revalve
$189 Race Tech Fork Springs
MOTO KIT CUSTOM GRAPHICS
$339 Full Custom Graphics Kit
BRIDGESTONE X20 TYRES
UNIFILTER AIR FILTERS
$279.95 PROCOMP2 CLUB PACK – 5 x ProComp2