Bikes 15 Jan 2016

Review: 2016 Sherco 450 SEF-R tests the 2016 Sherco 450 SEF-R.

Words: Guy Streeter

In the off-road market Sherco is a relative newcomer to the Australian scene. The brand has been around a long time in the trials arena, however in a highly competitive industry you have to stand out and it doesn’t take long to see why Sherco are making a name for themselves and coming to the fore locally.

It’s easy to miss the success the brand has had in recent years unless you follow the European race scene, with World Enduro Championship race wins and even winning stages of the Dakar Rally.

In 2016 Australia’s own dual world champion Matthew Phillips will be racing the Sherco 450 SEF-R in the World Enduro Championship. The brand has to be doing something right with an upward trajectory that it has been on for the last few years.

The Sherco 450 SEF-R remains mostly the same in 2016, although it has been tweaked slightly with a few minor refinements over the 2015 model, making this already mighty fine bike just that much better.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

One of the best refinements for 2016 is the keyless ignition system, which is one less problem to encounter turning up to your local trail. If you’re looking for a kick-starter don’t bother, because the Sherco 450 SEF-R doesn’t have one. With ever-improving technology and reliability in batteries these days, Sherco has done away with it and utilises a reliable electric start.

There’s a new lighter piston and connecting rod design and balance shaft to reduce weight and inertia, aiding in higher RPM, better traction and longer engine life. Further refinements to the bike’s engine include changes to the injection system, gaining a range of performance including fuel consumption and a more progressive feel to the motor.

The airbox has had a re-design, giving you greater access to the air filter and protecting the upgraded wiring system with better resistance and direct access to the diagnostic plug. The sub-frame gets some attention with reinforcements and enabling the wiring system to be routed more effectively. Also notably from the 2015 model is the redesigned front mud-guard and hand guards.

The 2016 Sherco 450 SEF-R is a slightly smaller set-up ergonomically. When you jump on the bike initially you don’t really notice it feeling small by any means; it’s not until you get in the really tight singletrack scenario that you notice it’s easy to push around. It corners and maneuvers just a little bit easier than what you might be accustomed to.

Sitting on board, the trunk of the bike feels slim with an 8.5 liter tank and you may feel a little closer to the ground. The positioning of the footpegs, handle bars and seating position feel slightly smaller, but not to the point of feeling cramped, even for the larger riders, and the overall feeling you gain is in charge of the bike.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

Like other selected European brands, the Sherco uses a Brembo hydraulic clutch, which has a great feel compared to the Japanese manufacturers in my opinion. Brembo front and rear brakes round out the cockpit of the bike and those brakes alone go without saying that they will do the job perfectly.

On the trail the 450 SEF-R feels like what you would expect out of any Japanese bike in many senses. WP Suspension front and rear come set for the trail, which makes the handling very forgiving and predictable. It has a 48mm spring fork and linkage system rear suspension.

If you’re racing you are going to want to stiffen up the front and rear, but having said that, no matter what brand you buy you will stiffen or change your suspension from stock to suit your individual preferences regardless.

Where the Sherco really comes into its own is in its cornering and agility. The front-end feel and ability to change direction mid-corner is really evident in tight and slow turns, which in turn helps save energy and enables you to comfortably ride harder, for longer.

In terms of the motor, initially the Sherco doesn’t feel like it has the power that will remove small portions of your fingerprints while trying to hold onto notoriously hard stock grips. The engine certainly isn’t slow or short of power, but it gives you a lot of confidence that you could wring its neck right off the bottom and the power keeps building through the six-speed gearbox.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

Image: Stephen Tuff.

As with the rest of the Sherco range, the 450 SEF-R has a map switch on the handlebars as standard, race and traction options. This is a really cool feature to have as standard direct from the factory.

With a huge variety of conditions you can experience on a short ride in the Aussie bush, having the ability to change things up on the fly is a huge advantage. In addition to this, the bike’s ECU mapping can be altered with the Sherco diagnostic tool.

Sherco’s 450 SEF-R has been a real surprise and has proved to stand out. A few years ago this bike would not have been on most people’s radar, but more and more success on the world stage helps bring attention to this boutique brand and growing popularity with world-class riders can only mean that the brand is clearly capable and stand up to other bikes available.

The 2016 Sherco 450 SEF-R is available at your nearest Sherco retailer from January 2016 for $13,290. If you’re interested in a test ride, make sure you check out the Sherco Motorcycles Australia website for the next scheduled ride day or contact your local dealer to arrange a ride on one of the test fleet.