We take the new CCM GP450 Adventure for a spin, to see how it performs on the open roads between Cumbria and Wales…
Back in Issue 18 we rode a pre-production prototype of the CCM GP450 Adventure, the new low capacity adventure bike from Bolton based CCM. Mechanically it was almost there, with the engine in the right place, the frame finished and most of the suspension and brake components confirmed. The plastics were from a 3D printer, so we’re far from the finished article. The fuelling wasn’t quite right either, with more work needed to be done on the ECU. We weren’t given a long test ride of it, maybe just fifty miles, followed by CCM representatives in a van, as we stuck to the narrow winding roads in the vicinity of Lake Windermere.
It was then a taste tester, the bike ridden right in the midst of its final development stage when all the creases still needed to be ironed out. e-bike raised a lot of questions – and continues to raise a lot of questions, of all places on the ABR forum. Questions such as; whether the engine can cope with long distances, how comfortable it is, how reliable it is, and if the fit and finish of the final product can make the grade, given that it’s made by a small company based in Bolton, and not by one of the big industry players who have the money and the resources that CCM just doesn’t have access to. And I think that’s important when approaching this bike for the first time; that it has been built/assembled, by a small team, on a small budget, in a factory in Bolton. Not that that allows it any misgivings, but equally, we can’t just look at this as any ‘other’ bike. It is different. It is unique. And I have to declare from the outset that I have a soft spot for it, which might make me more forgiving of it, so bear that in mind when reading what follows…
The bike originally fitted with the knobbly Michelin T63s
The test began on a cold and wet winter’s day in Bolton. I was to have the bike from Monday to Thursday, with the intention to do as many miles on it as I could, just to get a feel for it, and to see how it performed on the open road. I didn’t plan on doing much greenlaning. In a future issue, we’re hoping to give the bike to our Green Lane expert Mike Beddows for him to give a more experienced view of the bike’s capabilities off-road. This test was more to answer my own curiosities because, on that brief test ride, I had wondered if this bike, with this engine (single-cylinder 450cc four-stroke, 40bhp, made by BMW/Kymco), really could do the miles, and whether it would prove comfortable enough to ride down to Morocco for example, or even travel around the world doing 400 miles a day. I did wonder about the vibration through the bars and the pegs, because if the bike couldn’t maintain a decent cruising speed then what would be the point? After all, the 17.5-litre petrol tank hints at long distance and the whole marketing pitch of the bike is of a lightweight adventure, but what does that actually mean, and what is this bike most suitable for?
For the test I would be loading the optional soft luggage (hard luggage also available), plus a separate Ortleib dry bag, with everything you’re likely to take on an extended trip; tools, tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, spare clothes, compact laptop, camera etc.
I went for the high seat option (950mm), rather than the standard height of 890mm. The guys at the factory said this was the comfier option of the two for long-distance. I also opted for the more road-biased Dunlop Trailmax tyres, as opposed to the Michelin T63, also available as a no-cost option. Other than that the bike was completely standard, bar the heavy-duty sump guard that comes in as a £192 extra. So no semi-active suspension, hand guards, heated grips or adjustable screen. With the soft pannier option, the retail value of this test bike was £8,998 (£7,999 for bike, £807 for the pannier set up and racks, plus the heavy-duty sump guard). The bike had 331 miles on the clock when I rode it out the factory and it would have 1081 miles on the clock by the time I rode it back into the factory three days later, giving an average of 250 miles a day.
For the road-oriented test, we switched to Dunlop Trailmax, which were excellent on the wet cold roads
The first destination would be the village of Alston in Cumbria, home of Danny Taylor who has just turned an old mill into a bunkhouse and campsite for cyclists, motorcyclists and walkers (see breakout). The distance would be 110 miles, mainly along the M6, with a good few hours of the journey done in the dark. The first thing I noticed was the improvement in the mapping. The bike certainly ran much smoother in the lower gears, still not massively happy in traffic, where you get a bit of ‘DAK DAK DAK’, from the drivetrain, but the clutch is light and full of feel, the throttle is also nice and progressive. The hand controls – indicators, lights, horn – are also nicely placed and easy to find. The wing mirrors have been altered from the prototype as well, now offering decent views of the road behind, with minimal vibrations, just a touch in the lower rev range.
Missing from the bike is a rev counter. The small instrument cluster only reads for speed, and at first, you do miss seeing where the revs are, but after a while, you just tune in to the engine and I can’t remember the last time I paid attention to a rev counter on a bike anyway.
On to the M6, and this, for me, really was the moment of truth. MCN had had the bike in one of their tests and commented how it ran out of steam at fifty miles per hour, that it was quite vibey through the pegs. On the contrary, I found the bike accelerated briskly up to seventy and on to eighty, finding a sweet spot just below a GPS verified 75mph, which is where I left it, sometimes in the outside lane, sometimes accelerating up to 85, and with very little intrusion, if any at all, through the bars and the pegs.
It had been explained at the factory how through the development process various types of engine mounts had been used, with the bike I was on reverting back to the original style (the mounts just rubber inserts) as they gave less buzz. The footpegs too have been reworked, with the pegs on this bike a set of aftermarket Talons, with the final, final production version of the bike (deliveries starting end of March/ beginning of April), fitted with a set of in-house pegs which I have been assured will offer the same buzz-free feel as these.
Good riding position, with easy transition from sitting to standing
Much has been made of the gearbox, and whether it needed that extra gear (it’s a five-speed), and whilst there were a few moments where I went for an up-change, only to find I was already in top gear, I can’t say as the bike needed, or lacked anything, for not having that extra gear. I later saw figures back at the factory that showed how, at 62mph in fifth, the bike is pulling 5,500rpm, at 73mph it’s at 6,500rpm, with peak power at 7,500rpm and redline at 9,000rpm. In the mid-seventies then, the engine felt unstressed, with the gearing as standard set at 15/front, 47/rear. The seat was comfortable too, no aches or pains, with the screen giving a bit of protection from the heavy rain.
The only fault I had with the bike was the weak headlight, something that didn’t aid the dark, wet climb up Hartside Pass. There was also a brief moment, in the worst of the torrential rain (the new RST Adventure2 suit coped better than I thought with this), that the bike started to ‘hunt,’ and drop a little power, no doubt moisture in the electrics or in the airbox. I pulled into the inside lane and coasted for a while and it seemed to clear itself.
I stayed that evening in the Bunkhouse. Owner, Danny was quite critical of the bike. He couldn’t see where the money was, and found fault with various things, such as the side stand, which is a ‘suicide operation,’ meaning it flicks back up as soon as you take the weight off of it. It was later explained how the engine (originally from the BMW G450X) was never designed to have a stand cut off switch, and with legislation insistent that you can’t ride a bike away with the standstill down, the only other alternative is the suicide stand, which I too loathed, because even when tightening the straps on the luggage, you’d pull just a little too hard, taking the weight off the stand, the stand would flick up and you’d have to grab hold of the bike before it toppled over. Thankfully the bike only weighs a verified 130kilos, so it doesn’t take too much catching, but still…
Fit and finish of production bike is good. Bodywork made by Spanish firm Acerbis
The stand causes other issues. When checking the oil the sight glass is on the right-hand side of the engine, meaning that when you go around to check it, the stand flips up and you’re now on the wrong side of the bike to put it down again. This bike needs a centre stand, especially if you were going to take on an extended trip. It would be possible to change the pin in the stand so that it didn’t flick back up, it’s just that legally they can’t sell you a bike like that.
The other fault that Danny could find was the turning circle, which isn’t as tight as you’d imagine. Looking closer you can see that the forks rock into the radiator, with no way of increasing the lock. Once you get used to it – a bit like the stand – it no longer becomes an issue. The bike can also be a pain in the backside to start, requiring a gradual twist of the throttle, at the same time as you hit the starter button, in order for it fire into life. After a few days you’ve got the hang of it, but for those just having a look around the bike, it can prove frustrating.
Those soft pannier bags aren’t as spacious as I would have liked either. It’s the shape of them. Aesthetically pleasing, but practically useless, for an extended trip at least. They’re not as waterproof as I would have liked either, requiring dry bag inserts, which rob you of even more space. Maybe travels to a drier climate is the solution.
So as you can see, not a perfect bike, but on the ride down from Danny’s Bunkhouse to South Wales it continued to impress me with its ability to sit at decent speeds, without any fuss, and in relative comfort. In fact, it was nothing short of a revelation given the concerns I’d had prior to the test, meaning that the only time I didn’t like the bike was when I had to stop and use that blasted side stand.
The tank range was also decent. Sat at a steady 75mph the bike managed 200 miles to the tank, meaning that the claimed 250 might be possible on a slower speed run. It’s also stable at those kinds of speed, and in the atrocious conditions never put a foot wrong. I wouldn’t say it was a relaxing ride, but neither was it a tiring ride – it was an adventurous ride – meaning that a four hundred mile day would be possible, and only requiring one fuel stop along the way.
In Wales, I visited Martin Vermeire for the ‘My Garage’ feature on page 104. We rode together, Martin on his Enfield, along the winding back roads to the Touratech office in Ystradgynlais. On these roads (such as the one in the picture above), even in these conditions, the CCM really comes into its own. Those Dunlop Trailmax are fantastic on wet tarmac (plenty of grip), the Brembo brakes strong but not snatchy, and with the high bars and lightweight, you feel in a perfect riding position to push the thing around. The bonded chassis feels tight, lithe, nimble, and with so little weight, and such direct steering, it’s a great ride on these twisty roads. In dry conditions, it would be superb.
Service intervals confirmed as 5,000 miles. Oil change mid-way wouldn’t do any harm.
Nick Plumb of Touratech couldn’t believe it when I told him it had sat at seventy-five all that way and not put a foot wrong. It didn’t look like it had used any oil either, as this was something I was also keen to keep an eye on, what with the sump only holding one litre.
The final ride was back up from Wales, to Bolton, all in one run (216 miles). It was two degrees and snow was starting to fall on the M6. Again, the CCM just sat on the motorway at 75mph, which it felt like it could do, and did do, all day long. Somewhere outside Birmingham I stopped for fuel and brimmed it with super unleaded. I don’t know if it was this, or the extra miles on the engine bedding it in (now over a thousand), but the bike really started to fly from that point on. The sweet spot for me was sat in fifth gear, at fifty miles an hour, winding out the throttle, the power curve perfectly linear, a real muscle about the engine, and the speedo quite easily creeping up to ninety. Even in its detuned state, this engine has guts. It cruises well.
Getting lost on the way back to the factory I found myself on a dual carriageway, roundabouts every half a mile or so. The tarmac was mostly dry, and with the extra fizz in the engine, the bike felt in it’s element; charging hard down the straights, carving up the roundabout… a real memorable biking moment. Then back on the motorway doing eighty-five, and green laning at the end of it, if you so fancied. The bike certainly has a wider breadth of talent than you think it might have, especially its ability to do long distances.
In a way I see the CCM as a mini GSA – it’s probably the bike BMW should have built themselves – in that it seems to be able to do a bit of everything, with its strengths slanted in just a different direction. It obviously won’t cruise as well as a GS, but it will go off-road with much greater ease, and arguably prove more fun on winding mountain roads. At 130kgs, and with low seat options available, it also makes ‘adventure’ bikes accessible again. I don’t know if I’d be keen to go around the world on one. I’d probably still stick with something tried and tested, such as a DRZ, but CCM is certainly on to something with this GP450. Faults aside (and I’m assured everything bar the turning circle will be addressed by the time customers receive their bikes), this is a genuinely interesting, talented, comfortable, and above all else a fun bike to ride, especially for anyone wanting something a little lighter and more manageable than the more established brand of adventure bikes. It has also come on leaps and bounds since that first ride on the prototype and we only expect it to get even better…
All that needs to happen now is for the first batch of bikes to be delivered, and then to hear some genuine feedback from the people who are riding them. In the meantime, as ever, we wish them well.
Haggs Bank Bunkhouse
Haggs Bank Bunkhouse is a labour of love by Danny Taylor (aka Danny’s Campfire Cookout from the HUBB) transforming an old and dilapidated forge and mine shop into the perfect rest stop for travellers passing through the stunning North Pennines. The Bunkhouse sleeps 23 people, in three different bunkhouses, with all bedding included and towels available to hire. There’s a fully fitted kitchen, hot showers, a conservatory, lounge, and not a TV in sight.
Price for a night in the bunkhouse is £18, with the cost of renting out the entire place (for a rally or such like) would be £380, accommodating 23 people. Behind the Bunkhouse is a fully kitted out campsite, costing £8pppn, and even motorhomes and caravans have their own pitch, at £18 per night. The place is superb, a real testament to six years of hard graft. The roads around there – both off and on-road – are also stunning, with this area of the Pennines known as the ‘forgotten’ part of England, and all the better for it.
At the other end of the ride was the main branch of Touratech, the celebrated after-market company that continues to lead the market for bolt-on bits for your GS and XCs. Owner Nick Plumb was short-staffed and rushed off his feet when we dropped by, but took time to show us the new catalogue for 2014, as well as some of the neat bits of kit new for this year, including the latest top of the range Touratech suit, not to mention the aftermarket electronic suspension kit for the water-cooled GS, developed in conjunction with Tractive (interviewed on page 78), and said to offer great improvements over the standard OEM parts. Don’t forget the Touratech Travel Event on the 3/5 May, with camping, stalls, guest speakers and a chance to ride some green lanes.