Sherco hasn't been in the limelight for all that long in Australia. It was only last year it got ADR compliance and only a few years before that they began being brought into the country. On the face of it Sherco's bikes should be a good bit of gear. They have all the bling: Paioli fork and shock, stainless steel headers, Gianelli muffler, Magneti Marelli fuel injection and a high-tech digital speedo. It's all top-shelf stuff.
But the nationality of Sherco is a confusing affair. Sherco's head office is based in France but the production facility is in Spain. Is it French or is it Spanish? This year production has been moved to France, so at least that question has been solved.
If there's one thing the French hate it's coming second to the Italians, and it looks to us as though the French engineers got together with the designers over a bottle or two of Grand Marnier to produce a bike that is so attractive it'd make the Italians jealous. For 2007 Sherco has changed colour from blue to black, and it looks a treat. It looks better than a treat; if your missus looked this good you wouldn't take her out in public.
Like KTM's 450EXC and 525EXC, the Sherco 4.5i and 5.1i are identical except for engine size and the changes this requires (ie piston, conrod and crank). Other than the graphics, little has changed since last year's model, the only real changes being the colour and a host of accessories - plastic handguards, plastic frameguards, alloy bashplate and a pipeguard. They sound cosmetic but these add up to a few hundred dollars of extras that you won't have to buy after you've lashed out on a Sherco.
The 5.1i starts easily. There are no starting rituals involving sheep, virgins and a full moon; just hit the button and it fires every time. The engine is subdued at idle and it never gets to be anything other than pleasant throughout the rev range. The big Gianelli muffler not only looks great but it does a fine job of keeping the decibels to a respectable level.
The 2007 Shercos come with a dual-mapped EFI allowing two modes: race and normal. We started the day in 'normal'. The 5.1i engine has a single overhead cam, four-valve configuration. The power is extremely smooth, and with this configuration it should also be very reliable. The bottom end is strong but versatile. It works hard right from idle and has a never-say-die attitude, but the throttle response is so predictable there's never a second where it intimidates. The mid-range just continues on where the bottom finished, with smooth, continuous torque, and the top end is more of the same.
This engine doesn't pump out never-ending ponies like the Husaberg, the king of big bore motors, but the fun factor is certainly there. Wheelies and slides are only a twist of the throttle away, and with the amazingly linear throttle both are all too easy to accomplish.
Switching over to the 'race' setting on the EFI makes the bottom a little stronger but gives a noticeable boost to mid-range poke - as this is where we spend most of our time, we stuck with this EFI setting for most of the day.
The ergos on the big Sherco were just right for a 180cm-tall rider. The bar-seat-footpegs relationship felt natural whether you were standing or sitting. The seat is in the modern style of flat and slim, and we'd place its width somewhere in the middle of the range. It's easy to move around on, especially getting up the front to drive the bike through the turns, so this is a bike on which you can feel comfortable pushing your limits.
Last year's Sherco was our first encounter with Paioli suspension and we came away with a lot of respect for it. This year it's no different. The clickers actually work, in fact a couple of clicks made a noticeable difference in suspension actions. We ended up two clicks out from centre, front and rear. At this setting the fork was firm but responded to little hits. The rear was a little softer in the first part of the stroke but firmed up noticeably on the big hits.
The steering was, again, what we'd term middle of the range. It doesn't carve up the inside or change lines like a Gas Gas, but it doesn't push through turns like a Honda. The winning characteristic for the Sherco is its unflappable nature. Absolutely nothing upsets it - pick a line and it sticks to it.
As for downsides, we weren't impressed with a speedo that had its pickup on the rear wheel. In our opinion this is simply stupid, as it adds in wheelspin on top of the actual distance covered.
The Sherco 5.1i offers stability, tractability and a big grin factor, but these are not the only reasons that trail riders should take a good look at one. Sherco has filled a void that appears to have been forgotten by all the other cutting-edge enduro machines. It has mixed modern ergos with fuel injection and good suspension in a package that has been made with durability in mind, rather than simply aiming to pump out peak horsepower. The fact that it looks sexy too is just the icing on the cake.
Engine: 510cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve four-stroke single cylinder
Bore and stroke: 95 x 72mm
Fuel system: electronic fuel injection
Front brake: single 270mm disc with twin-piston calliper
Rear brake: single 240mm disc with single-piston calliper
Front suspension: 46mm Paioli USD forks, adjustable for rebound and compression
Rear suspension: Progressive Paioli monoshock, fully adjustable
Wheels: spoked alloy
Tyres: 90/90-21 front; 140/80-18 rear
Seat height: 900mm
Claimed dry weight: 109kg
Fuel tank: 8.5L
Price: $12,890 plus ORC
Warranty: three months parts only
Contact: (02) 6248 0229