Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Raptors and Rockets review of the CCM Cafe Racer.

From Raptors and Rockets:

Words: Tor Sagen/Photo: Gary Freeman/Redeye & Tor Sagen
"Since rising from the collapse in 2004 CCM have recently launched an all new retro collection of offroad and road motorcycles. The British maker of offroad and competition motorcycles has only recently turned to the retro market. And it’s a wise choice since CCM’s heydays was in the 70’s and 80’s. We rode the new Street Scrambler and Flat Tracker on English roads and on the Speedway track.

On my way to pick up the SR40 Street Scrambler it was my first time visiting the Bolton based CCM factory. CCM is hidden away inside an industrial area typical for the North-West of England, the industrial revolutions cradle. I am greeted by Gary Harthern (49), the Managing Director and saviour of the modern CCM. Further inside the new CCM premises off Vale Street in Bolton I find Austin Clews (42) on his knees working on next years FT35 Flat Tracker race bike. Austin is officially the Sales Manager, but everyone is very hands on in this family run business. Russel Clews (30) is the youngest of the two Clews brothers and the Purchasing Manager. These three make out the CCM management.

Austin runs through the controls and idiosyncrasies of the SR40. Idiosyncrasies because the SR40 Street Scrambler is the only existing prototype! So the seat is not final, the exhaust is too close to the rear tyre etc. I am being told that I am now an official test mule and if any problems just call. Worrying, but after writing down all the mobile phone numbers I feel safe that I would at least be picked up by a CCM van if something should go wrong.

The SR40 is a tiny and very short motorcycle. With a punchy little 398cc single cylinder engine taken from the Suzuki DRZ400 SR40 becomes somewhat wheelie prone. But with 42bhp and wide retro offroad handlebars it’s all very controllable. The SR40 is a Scrambler modelled on popular Triumph’s and BSA’s from the 60’s and 70’s. The handcrafted untreated alloy fuel tank makes a clear statement of minimalism and true retro looks. The aluminium mudguards and headlight with stainless steel guards are also retro and for someone that is used to riding a lot of modern bikes this is a real treat to the eyes. Despite the retro looks and image this Scrambler can and will handle most terrain.

The dry weight merely tips the scales at just over 120kg and riding it away from the Bolton factory I feel like a giant on the small bike. The ergonomics on this one and only existing prototype is nothing short of torture. I was shown the new seat at the factory that will replace this thin piece of leather that is fitted to this bike. When seated I could feel the sub frame trying to crush my bum-cheeks, but as mentioned this will be changed before production starts. The SR40 like any other new CCM will only be produced as Limited Editions-All handmade and assembled in Bolton.

The Paioli front fork has got modern internals, but is modelled on exactly how a classic offroad bike would have looked like. The suspension at the back is just as retro with double shocks from Brit firm Hagon. The suspension feels quite soft, but never bottomed out. The wheels are 18inch at the back and 21 inch at the front with offroad spec tyres fitted. These give the bike a tall and swampy feel on the road. They are slippery on the edges in the bends, but will easily do a wheelie on the wet when the bike and road is straight. Top speed on the motorway is around 90mph which is plenty enough on this short and small Scrambler.

On difficult offroad terrain is where this little gem could give a few grown up offroaders a surprise. It could be described as a mixture between a trails and offroad bike. Because it is so small and light it is nimble as very few bikes. At the same time it has got that low Scrambler seat height that will allow even docile offroad riders to perform daredevil manoeuvres on the dirt! The SR40 is a very forgiving offroad bike and I can’t see anyone ever getting into trouble on one! It’s like a small and stubborn mountain goat that will climb and climb when others have given up. So yes, a mixture between a trials bike, offroad and Scrambler is what the SR40 is. CCM have fitted Brembo brakes both at the front and back and not much is needed to stop this lightweight.

At the end of the test we headed out to Scunthorpe speedway circuit in the North-East of England. It was a bloody cold, wet and misty day-but I haven’t had this much fun in ages. On any Sunday is a brilliant film, and racing on the Flat Track ovals is all it’s about. This was my chance to play Mert Lewwill anno 1970 and I grabbed it with both hands! After doing loads of static shots around the track and action shots on the road I could wait no longer. I had Scunthorpe to myself and three bikes to choose from. The SR 40 Street Scrambler, the FT35RS and the FT35 race bike that won the British championship in 2006.

Since I had spent more time on the SR40 than the other two bikes at this point I headed out on the wet dirt track with the Scrambler first. First I just felt my way round to find out where the major puddles of standing water was and then I tried to start sliding like a pro. And I tell you it’s not easy and particularly not when it’s wet! The slide quickly becomes uncontrollable and who am I to demolish CCM’s one and only SR40 prototype? So I decided to go fast instead to let the sliding happen naturally. I forgot to ask the CCM guys which direction you are supposed to ride around Scunthorpe and went anti-clockwise. Not that it mattered as I was the only guy circulating. Pete Boast was present at our event to get some real sliding done for the camera and it didn’t take long before I had to call him in to get the job done.

But first I swapped the SR40 with the FT35 Flat Tracker race bike. A tuned single cylinder beast with a growl that shouts Torque! With 46.2Nm of torque on the rear wheel (!) available at just over 6.000rpm it tells a story. The race bike is a 500cc conversion though with Remus race exhaust and the max horsepower figure is 46bhp @ 7.500rpm measured on the rear wheel. Before I had had the chance to do one lap I was covered in mud! As you might know a Flat Track race bike comes without a front mudguard, but one usually put a mudguard on when it’s wet! We had still planned to shoot the FT35 roadbike and the CR40 Café Racer on the road so I thought it would be best to wait until last with the race bike when it was ok to get all muddy. But too late for my white Scott jacket. There’s no front brake which takes time to remember and you do need to brake even on an oval sometimes. The Brembo rear brake will have to do the job.

Later Flat Track racer Pete Boast went out on the FT35 race bike to show us how it was done. Even he found it difficult with the sliding on the wet Scunthorpe surface, but we got a couple of shots before he got a puncture on the rear tyre. We rode with Speedway tyres by the way to get some grip on the wet. Just a couple of weeks later Boastie won a race on Scunthorpe so the man knows his way around a dirt track. But with a punctured rear tyre and the light going fast we had to call it a day. No more Flat track racing for me that day.

CCM have been best known for making Supermoto bikes in the last few years. You might be mistaken to think that the FT35 road bike is a supermoto. It isn’t really, but you can treat it like one when riding. The main difference from a supermoto is that the FT35 is derived from Flat Track racing which means it has a much lower seat height for better control with those slides when leant all the way over. This FT35 has got road tyres and superb suspension from WP.

The first thing you notice about the FT35 is the tiny instruments from Accumen. It lights up like a Christmas tree. Then when pushing the electric starter button the bike is unbelievably loud! There is a reason for that and that is the cone shaped stubby exhaust from Remus. This is not standard off course as it’s highly not road legal. A single cylinder engine releases a lot of noise given the chance to breathe freely, even a small 398cc engine like in the FT35. As soon as the engine has warmed up and you can push the manual choke back in place it’s a little more civilised-But only until you touch the throttle.

This was fun for a while, but the loud noise is such a hard noise rather than a smoother sounding V-twin bike with open pipes. You really should ask your neighbours about permission before installing that Remus exhaust…

Out on the motorway this 400cc bike accelerates all the way to an indicated 120mph! That’s pretty unbelievable for any single cylinder bike to be honest. But then again the Accumen speedo might not be completely honest. This very bike that I was riding belonged to a certain Mrs Foggarty and might have more goodies mounted than I was aware of. The windblast is relentless and the sooner I could turn off the motorway the better it was.

In town I absolutely loved this bike. It doesn’t wheelie unless you want it to, but I certainly wanted it to and it did. In town I think it’s ok to be loud, agreed some poor little old lady might get her hearing aids blown up, but at least pedestrians and everything else can hear you coming. We were so close to getting into so much trouble several times during the weekend on the CCM FT35 that it was a slight relief to return it. I was chased away by this lady that claimed her horses that were in a stable several miles away, found the charming little bike disturbing.

So I returned the anti-social little beast back to CCM quite content. A weekend was enough, but there could still have been more fun to be had. Fun is all this bike is about and it is a great little short distance commuter.

I was now due to ride the CR40 Café Racer. But there was a problem when I arrived, there was no sidestand on the bike and the new one was not ready yet. We could have disengaged the sidestand switch and gone for a spin, but then CCM remembered that they had removed a footpeg as well to use on another bike that had gone out to the press in a hurry. So I had to settle with sitting on the CR40 S with the 80’s TT inspired fairing. The bike is very different from the SR40 Street Scrambler that it shares both chassis and other parts with. The clip-on handlebars are retro racing and the tyres are road orientated Dunlop’s rather than the knobby ones on the Scrambler. Great if you fancy the look, but me I’m a Scrambler man.


Of all the CCM’s that I rode the SR40 Street Scrambler is my favourite both when it comes to looks and offroad ability. There’s just nothing like it out there. The FT35 roadbike with loud pipes made the most spectacular impression and it handles better than all the other CCM’s-Perfect if you ride a lot in town or if you are not tall enough for a supermoto. But that Remus stubby silencer is bloody loud! Riding the bikes on the Flat Track was the highlight of the test and this experience is highly recommended. CCM organises Flat Track experience days and you should try it if you have got the chance. The combination of reliable Suzuki engines, quality suspension and brakes and hand built CCM chassis and fuel tanks should be irresistible if you like how the bikes look like. If not you could always buy a puke yellow DRZ400…

CCM brief history

CCM was founded in 1971 by Alan Clews-Then called Clews Stroka that soon became Clews Competition Machines, now known as CCM. During the 70’s CCM had great success in Motocross with John Banks and Bob Wright. In 1976 Eddie Kidd jumped 13 double decker buses on a 2 valve 500cc CCM. More than 54 machines were then sold to the Sultan of Oman for his display team. In the early 80’s CCM Armstrong won the British trials championship two years running with Steve Saunders. In 1981 CCM Armstrong won the 250 TT with Steve Tonkin. Niall McKenzie dominated the British 250cc Road racing championship with the world’s firs all carbon fibre frames. CCM produced over 4000 motorcycles for the North-American market under the Can Am brand. During the same period CCM produced more than 3000 MT500 army motorcycles to the British, Canadian and Jordanian armies. Harley-Davidson bought the rights to produce the MT500 in the US. In the late 90’s and until the bankruptcy CCM were active in four stroke racing with rally success in Dakar, but mainly on the supermoto track. In 2004 CCM was at the brink of extinction. Gary Harthern, a local business owner from Preston came up with the cash needed to restart production. Together with the two Clews brothers Austin and Russel he now runs the small British company from the North-West of England. Since then we have seen the launch of new bikes each year at the International motorcycle & Scooter show in Birmingham. This will continue and CCM are now developing a brand new 450cc motocross bike. Motocross is where it all started in the 70’s and be sure that CCM will soon be back on the MX scene."

1 comment:

Evan said...

The CCM motorcycles are very cool. I absolutely love them. But at the same time, I have a problem with all the modern companies producing retro styled bikes. I would rather just see more companies rebuilding true vintage bikes and bringing them back to new. There are obviously lots of people doing this, but on a small scale. My motorcycle blog.