FRIDAY WRAP UP: NEW SUZUKI, HUSKY, SHERCO

SUZUKI’S NEW 450

The cover came off the new Suzuki RM-Z450 this week, and it was exactly what it was supposed to be. The bike looks nearly identical to the machine that Kevin Strijbos and Arminas Jasikonis have been racing in the MXGP class. That bike was shown at the beginning of the season in February. It’s an all-new chassis with a partially new motor.  You can read a list of bullet point changes by clicking here. There are three big points to digest here. First: No electric start. Both Honda and Yamaha lost their kickstarters completely for 2018. KTM and Husqvarna had already done that. That means Kawasaki and Suzuki are sticking with old-school Kick-it-like-a-real-man thinking. The irony is that old-school riders were the first to embrace electric start, mostly because their knees are shot. It’s hard to grow old gracefully in motocross.

The next thing to take note of is the return to a spring fork. That’s a very big deal, and once again shows that Suzuki is going traditional. Item number three is that in the official press release, Suzuki doesn’t make any big claims about overall weight loss. Several components were said to have lost a little, so we’re guessing that under pressure, Suzuki engineers will say the same thing that Yamaha engineers said: “We’re happy to come in at the same weight. In Yamaha’s case, they gained electric start. In Suzuki’s, they gained coil springs. Both bikes will probably weigh 10 pounds more than the KTM 450SX-F.

Interestingly enough, much of Suzuki’s press information was devoted to upgrades in the S-HAC (Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control) system. Consumer reaction to these systems has been a little underwhelming, but all of them have some value, according to our testing. Our test riders mostly agree that the concept is legit, but few of them actually use the feature in practice. I think that’s going to change in the near future. This is Suzuki’s (and KTM’s, and Kawasaki’s) way of dipping a toe into  the world of traction control. Once that technology is truly released, nothing will be the same.

HUSQVARNA GOES EFI

Last Monday, Husqvarna released the remainder of its 2018 off-road bikes. As expected, the big news there was the TE250i. At this moment, I’m in Canada, attending the official world introduction of that bike. Next week, I’ll have a riding review, although it shouldn’t be much different from the one we’ve already published on the KTM 250XC-W TCI. For that video, click here). The biggest difference between the two bikes isn’t in the injection system–the two systems are identical. But the Husky has linkage suspension, a different airbox and a number of different components, just like most other model comparisons between Husky and KTM.

 

SHERCO GOES LEGIT

Also this week was the Sherco 2018 unveiling. This might not shake the world, but it definitely excites me. My friend Fabrizio Azalin is the manager of Sherco’s European Enduro Race team, and he’s had spectacular success with Matthew Phillips, to the tune of an Enduro GP world championship. The bike that Phillips rides is the 300 four-stroke. The bike that is officially being released is the 125SE-R, a 125 off-road bike. Last week, I ran a photo of an early version, but the one above is finalized and no, there’s no kickstarter. I’m fine with that.

Right now, it looks like the French Sherco Factory will produce about 22,000 bikes by the end of the year. That kind of production means that Sherco is for real. Clay Stucky is the U.S. importer and he’s doing a great job on the east side of the U.S., but unfortunately, there still aren’t any dealerships in California. I hope that changes soon.

PROJECT YZ450F

 

Pete Murray and I were up early last Saturday shooting a project bike built by Tom Webb’s brother Mike. Since retirement from the Yoshimura Suzuki team, Mike has been doing a little test riding for us and found he enjoys the YZ450F. He was out of town when it was all done, so Pete and I did the photos in the morning before REM. The story will be in the September issue, but after riding the bike, we can say it’s very fast and still fun to ride. Those two things don’t always go together.

ENDURO GP

Hungary held its first Enduro GP last weekend and it was a big comeback for Christophe Nambotin. It seems odd to us here in the U.S. where KTMs dominate all things off-road, but smaller European makes have been on top of the game over there. Eero Remes is E2 champion on a TM 250 four-stroke, and Mattie Phillips is the number one plate holder in Enduro GP on a Sherco 300 four-stroke. Nambotin has been injured for what seems like years, but he won this week. In the points, Steve Holcombe and Beta are leading the Enduro GP class right now, with Nambo in third behind Yamaha rider Loic Larrieu. Phillips has been struggling this year and is in fourth. KTM is looking to its younger stars like Josep Garcia, who is currently leading the Enduro 2 class.  Garcia, remember, was the man most threatening to Taylor Robert in the ISDE last year for the honor of top individual.

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ABC OF HARD ENDURO

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This is a fun little Red Bull video series about Hard Enduro.

RED BUD

 

 

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