2022 Sherco ST Factory Trials
Words by Ant – Images by Alex Jovanovic
Mention the word Trials around any petrol head and the conversation inevitably always leads to excitement and awe as someone recounts the latest video of Toni Bou going full ibex, leaping nimbly bimbly up a sheer rock face any normal human would need a series of ladders, scaffold & climbing ropes to ascend. If you’ve never experienced the joy of watching trials, pause reading this and stream some now. You’ll be a better human for it.
Full disclosure, despite becoming a bit of a hard enduro tragic over the last couple of years, I’d never ridden a trials bike. I’ve fawned over them plenty, I’ve even fondled a mates old one behind his shed once or twice, but never thrown a leg over. This puts me at a disadvantage in reviewing the new Sherco 250 & 300 ST Factory machines but what I can do is describe the experience, and if you’re in the same boat as me and have never felt the pleasure of having such a petite, yet energetic machine between your legs, this might be the gentle nudge you need to lose your trials virginity also.
To say I was frothing with excitement would be an understatement when the opportunity presented to not only ride the brand new Sherco Trials range, but to do it under the tuition of Aussie trials and hard enduro legend Tim Coleman. If it weren’t for the few beers & bourbons at the Railway Hotel in Heyfield the night before I don’t think I would have slept. I wasn’t adequately sedated though to sleep through the thunderstorm and torrential rain in the early hours of the morning and as the roar of rain falling increased, so did my eagerness for this adventure to begin.
Fortunately the rain abated and we woke to brooding clouds which slowly cleared as the morning rolled on. Tim Coleman runs trials, enduro and adventure bike schools on his family property in Glenmaggie Victoria. This near 1000 acre playground has almost every kind of terrain you’d ever want from undulating grassy hills, to creeks and rocky river beds, along with steep climbs of varying difficulty. Of course, Tim being the trials gun he is, there is also plenty of purpose-built trials obstacles. The perfect setting to cut my teeth in trials.
For 2022, the Sherco 125, 250 and 300 Factory ST machines all receive revised graphics, updated rear shock settings, and a new red Oxia cylinder head with interchangeable domes. The 250 and 300 machines also receive a taller second gear and all three new models are based on the same tubular section chrome-moly chassis. As with last years models, they also feature Tech aluminium forks, S3 Hard Rock footpegs and Galfer disks & Braktec master cylinders.
It’s hard to come up with an adjective that adequately describes the look of the new Sherco Trials and Enduro range without sounding a bit naff. I think they’ve nailed the blue and yellow graphics. The photos really don’t do them justice. In person, these machines are dripping in cool. I’ve always loved the function first design and look of trials bikes , something akin to a supercharged whippet, and I couldn’t help but caress the narrow waist of the 2022 Sherco 300 ST Factory and admire its slender form. If only I could survive on a diet of two-stroke and oxygen maybe I too could look this svelte.
No electronic ignition on these machines. If it doesn’t need to be there, it’s not. That also means no seat and no speedo. Less is more anyway right? I believe there is an optional long-range tank and seat available if you require the added range and comfort. A couple of kicks and the beautifully crisp two stroke sings. You don’t really throw a leg over a trials bike either, you sort of just step through and then become slightly intimidated at embarrassing yourself on your first take off as there’s nowhere to sit. It turns out is pretty simple though as the clutch is predictable and the motion of throttling on and stepping of the ground to get moving is easy. The gear selector is spaced quite a way forward from left peg, to ensure you don’t accidentally click the bike out of gear while weighting the pegs manoeuvring over obstacles, but you soon get used to lifting your boot forward to change gear.
After a quick briefing from Tim and a demo of what the bike can do in the hands of someone with talent, we embarked on our first lesson in trials school, balance. I won’t bore you with all the activities we went through, however balance was one I found interesting. I’ve tried engine off balancing on my enduro bike and I’m hopeless at it. On the much lighter trials bike, every movement you make with your body to counterbalance has more of an impact. There’s also a lot of room to move around without a seat getting in the way and I was amazed at how much of a difference the reduction in weight makes and how much easier it is to balance and stay on the pegs. This also makes slow manoeuvres more manageable, the increased steering lock when compared with a larger enduro bike is also a great advantage.
A few more training drills later and my first impressions are all positive. My trepidation about the riding position and not feeling comfortable quickly faded. I’d imagine if you were particularly tall you’d want to fit taller bars or risers, but at my 5’10 height the set-up was spot on and standing was comfortable. The only time you really want for a seat is when your stopped & chatting.
Because the machine is so light, brake response is strong yet very easy to modulate and with the added grip trials tires afford, even in wet the wet conditions, playing with stoppies & controlled sliding of the rear was a load of fun.
Suspension is plush, as you’d imagine, allowing you to use your body weight to compress and weight the front or rear for maximum dive and traction. Beware though, these bikes aren’t designed to soak up larger bumps at speed like enduro bikes are. If you try and hit logs at speed, as you would on your dirt bike, without being prepared to use your legs as added suspension, expect to jar your ankles. As you are so free to move your body around the machine though, you soon learn to anticipate the bumps and become an extension of the bike, making the experience all that more rewarding.
Response from the 250 and 300 Factory ST machines is lively, effortless and entertaining. With bags of instant torque down low you never find yourself really revving the bike unless you’re hitting a climb at pace. As mentioned earlier, second gear is taller in the 2022 model year 250 and 300, however fourth and fifth are where you’ll notice the gearing is much taller, almost like overdrive. This means transiting between stages or making your way along fire trails is more practical, and allows more efficient use of that little 2.4L fuel tank. Very light clutch action allows you to deliver that instant torque predictably and confidently. We did a few drills learning to ride the clutch while rolling backwards down hills and even slow monoing up hills, feet down, slipping the clutch and never experienced any fade.
Mechanically, these bikes feel very solid and well put together by their French builders, but you’d expect that given the punishment they are designed to endure. Because every component is so compact and thoughtfully packaged within the confines of the frame, it feels like it’d take a pretty big off to break any major components. A thermo fan comes fitted as standard and was on a lot, especially while tackling slower obstacles.
These bikes are fitted with tubeless rear tyres that allow you to run super low pressures, I think we were running 4.5 – 5 psi giving maximum squish and huge traction. The side stand is fitted to the wrong side of the bike….not sure why….must be a trials thing? The magnetic ‘dead mans’ leash on the left side of the handlebars is very handy and easy to use, killing the ignition as soon as you pull your hand from the bars which breaks the magnetic contact.
During the course of the day, with Tim Colemans guidance, we all challenged ourselves and pushed our skills to the limit but felt comfortable doing so. We all made it out of the other side in one piece, maybe a little tired and battered, but no major injuries were sustained and this brings me to what I think is one of the most valuable takeaways of the trials experience. Trials bikes are so unintimidating, sure the rocks, riverbeds, logs, hill climbs etc. might have been, but the bikes themselves are so light and nimble, and easy to disembark from in moments of panic, that you never really feel like you’re in any danger of being hurt by the bike or having the weight of the bike throw you off balance and into trouble. This makes approaching those more challenging obstacles far less scary, and in turn this makes it easier to build confidence, and confidence is key to most off-road motorcycling disciplines, along with balance and coordination.
Toward the end of our day we had the opportunity to tackle a relatively short but steep hill climb complete with a few tricky tree roots, that I may not have had the confidence to tackle on my two-stroke enduro bike, but on the more forgiving trials bike I threw myself at it again and again, about a dozen times until dripping in sweat, I finally conquered the climb. There’s no way I’d be able to attempt that hill climb on my enduro bike a dozen times. The energy it takes having to drag the bike and turn around, then fight to traverse across the hill to descend through blackberry bushes all the while just trying to stay on my feet….I’m getting tired just thinking about it. The Trials bike however, when I was in trouble I could stall out and step off easily, use the weight of the bike to turn it, and then use it as a support to keep me on my feet until I could get to a point where I could remount and roll back down, all without using too much energy.
My other takeaway from the day, after chatting to Tim afterwards, is how perfect Trials would be for a family with kids interested in enjoying motorsport and socialising together. As far as motorsport goes, its cheap, older bikes are still competitive and aren’t massively expensive, and family members can share bikes.
Servicing them is simple and because they aren’t revved hard, rebuilds generally require little more than a piston and rings. Tim was telling me it’s pretty standard to get a year’s use from a rear tyre, and a couple of years from a front. Other consumables like discs, pads, chains, sprockets etc. all last longer than regular dirt bikes because they are never really ridden at speed, thus you don’t need to carry a bundle of spares to events. Trials clubs offer a range of different classes providing courses for every skill level so mums, dads & kiddos can all get involved. Small trials courses can be constructed out of almost anything and all within the confines of a small back yard. Discarded pallets, logs, lumps of timber, rocks, old tyres…the possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and because trials bikes don’t emit the same bark motorcrossers and enduro bikes do, noise can be kept at a reasonable level to not upset the neighbours.
It’s fair to say I loved my day out on the 2022 Sherco trials machines and my desire to own one has grown substantially, not just because they are so well engineered, easy to ride and confidence inspiring, but also because the whole trials experience is so much fun. It’s hands down one of the best day’s I’ve spent on two wheels. If you enjoy challenging yourself when you ride, learning new things and pushing your limits then I highly recommend giving a trials bike a go. Or better yet, book into one of Tim’s ride schools or one of your local trials schools if you’re in another state. I can clearly see how spending more time on a trials bike will carry across and improve my enduro skills, sharpen my balance, increase coordination and allow me to analyse and attempt obstacles with more confidence and less risk. Watching Tim jump, spin, wheelie, bunny hop, stoppy, and perform various other kinds or aerial wizardry on the Sherco machines demonstrated that they are clearly very capable, and its only us mere mortals at the controls limiting their performance. Like most bikes then…
Big thank you to all of the team at Sherco and Mojo Motorcycles for giving me the opportunity to ride the 2022 Trials range and to partake in the Tim Coleman Trials experience, and also to Tim for his guidance and wisdom. You’d be hard pressed to meet a nicer guy, his calm delivery of instructions and relaxed style of coaching made the day that much more enjoyable. It’s certainly whet my appetite for more trials shenanigans. Thank you also to Fly Racing for kitting me out in some spangly new moto clothing & boots.