When I throw a leg over a dirtbike I haven’t ridden, I look for suspension, handling and engine – in that order. A bike can be air-cooled, carburettor fed or conventionally sprung but if it handles like it’s on rails and hauls well, none of the modern gadgets matter when it’s just you and nature. While the Sherco SE 300 IR does not possess any of the out-dated features I just listed, it does receive a high distinction in the trifecta.
In previous years I’ve had issues with the Sherco suspension. It impressed in the engine department but when it came to handling, the suspension made a slight mess of it. I found my short affair with last year’s SE 300 I a love-hate relationship. The front end deflected off small bumps, without soaking them up and the rebound was always too fast and out of sync with the shock. For 2013, Sherco has improved the handling out of sight while maintaining the strong engine. The brand has acquired a progressive set of WP suspension front and rear, making an average-handling bike a class leader. The action is soft in the initial part of the stroke but refuses to bottom on the bigger hits. This allowed me to loosen my grip, knowing it wouldn’t deflect and spear me into the bush and while a lot of the upgrades for 2013 came in the way of engine modifications, the new WP suspension is the highlight for me.
The model I tested last year was not the IR, it was just the I (the R representing the racing model which comes with upgraded suspension) and the slightly different suspension internals make a huge difference. A new chrome molybdenum, semi-perimeter frame has also been reinforced up front for 2013.
The SE 300 IR is a supreme handling machine. Handling and suspension definitely go hand in hand but it is ultimately the chassis which has the final say on the handling. At 188cm tall, I find the Sherco incredibly thin between my knees. Redesigned radiators and a fuel tank that hides itself behind the frame and under the seat are the reasons for the great handling and nimble feel. The thin chassis enabled me to climb all over the bike when shifting my weight around, and this was made even easier thanks to the bike having a seat that is almost level with the fuel tank cap. Having a seat that is the same height as the base of the steering stem enabled me to slide forward easily.
This leads me to the final part of the Sherco trifecta: the engine. Sometimes a slower engine can actually make a dirtbike rider faster and here, the 300cc engine is the perfect balance of power for a bush bike. I was surprised at how strong the engine is for a 300cc four-stroke. A redesigned engine, with a longer stroke, inside a completely new cylinder and redesigned block, designed to reach higher revs than previous years for 2013, makes the SE 300 IR a little more responsive and much stronger later in the rev range. This meant I could ride the bike in one gear (second or third) without having to smash through the gearbox to find the power I wanted. Revised gearbox ratios also allow the Sherco to rev harder and longer in gear than most of the other small-to mid-capacity machines I have tested recently.
It also has two different mapping switches mounted on the handlebar – an aggressive map and a duller map. The aggressive map is great when the trail widens or when attacking the bush motocross track and the duller map is good for the tight single trail, because it allows you to be slacker with the throttle.
The SE 300 IR is a safe bet when it comes to a bike that will do anything without throwing up any nasty surprises. The engine is electric, the bike is lightweight and nimble compared with other enduro bikes, it’s easy to maneuvre in the air and doesn’t possess any bulky accessories. The bike’s adjustability in the engine and its trustworthy suspension makes it a machine to suit anyone, from beginner to racer.
Cylinder head DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore/stroke 84 x 54.8mm
Compression ratio 12.85:1
Fueling EFI, 4 x Magnetti Marelli throttle bodies
Power Not given
Torque Not given
Final drive Chain
Frame material Chrome-Moly
Frame layout Tube cradle
Rake Not given
Trail Not given
Front: 48mm fork, fully adjustable, 300mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, fully adjustable,
Wheels Aluminium, wire-spoked
Front: 21 x 1.6 Rear: 18 x 2.15
Tyres Michelin Enduro Competition
Front: 270mm disc, four-piston caliper
Rear: 220mm disc, two-piston caliper
Weight 102kg (dry, claimed)
Seat height 950mm
Max width Not given
Max height Not given
Fuel capacity 8L
Strong, snappy engine
Pipe sounded a littleagricultural and choked up
The Michelin Enduro Comp tyres struggled to find off-camber traction
You have to ride something French
Protect your Sherco. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.