Giles conquers the offroad on a CCM 404 DS
Our two-in-one CCM finally gets its clothes dirty as too-tall ad man Butcher heads off to green lane heaven. Let's off road!I'd been itching to have a go on the 404DS ever since CCM kindly lent it to us back in March. Bertie had planned to brush up on his off-road riding around the green-lanes of Northants, but he never quite got around to fitting the off-road wheels supplied with the bike.
It should have made the ultimate city commuting tool when it arrived at the office, fitted with the Pirelli MT60 road wheels, but those who rode it (apart from Bert, to be fair) didn't seem particularly impressed. My first ride from the office down to my digs in Surrey proved my suspicions correct - they are all a bunch of limp-wristed pansies. I smiled as I swung a leg over it (and nearly took a chimney pot off the house opposite) but went on to have one of the most exhilarating and irresponsible rides I've ever had. You can just potter around on a super-motard (as I suspect the others had been), but to do so is to completely miss the point of their existence.
To get the most from this sort of bike, you have to ride it like an idiot. Stoppies up to traffic lights, wheelies away from them, lots of silly skids and rapid cornering. That's what the 404 is all about, and the CCM's light weight and quality WP suspension and Brembo brakes make this sort of riding not only easy, but mandatory. I arrived at my B&B grinning like an idiot, despite being in so much agony from a seat that I never wanted to sit on the bike again. Anyway, I borrowed a couple of OS maps and headed out to try a couple of green-lanes. Using road tyres off-road isn't usually to be recommended, but they did an admirable job on the bone-dry dirt tracks of Surrey and the forgiving suspension and smooth power delivery ensured that the grin remained on my face until I called it a day.
The 'DS' in the name stands for Dual Sport, and while it is supreme fun on the right roads, the real stomping ground of the 404 lies well away from Tarmac. Not having any paddock stands to fit the CCM, the bike was duly lifted onto a couple of boxes of magazines, and an hour or so later (you could halve this time if you know what you're doing), the wheels were changed. A couple of minutes later and it was in the back of the van, ready for a day of more serious off-roading in Surrey and West Sussex.
I had no idea that there were so many excellent trails so close to London, and with a KTM 250EXC as my guide, we covered around 80 miles of dry but still hilariously fun green-lanes. The CCM suited my relative inexperience perfectly. The 404's hugely reliable and proven engine is taken from the Suzuki DR-Z, and provides plenty of low-down torque with useable top-end power.
There are plenty of more focused off-road bikes available with significantly more power, but for all-day usability and for those who want to dominate the bike rather than the other way round, the CCM's engine is just about perfect. The gearbox is incredibly slick, allowing smooth clutchless up-shifts, while the high-spec suspension kept the wheels pointing where I wanted them to - most of the time.
The only problems of the day arose, firstly, when the engine died and refused to start halfway through a particularly deep water-filled rut. It had to be physically pulled out of the stinking mud and left to dry for a few minutes before coughing back into life. I'd be tempted to try and waterproof some of the exposed wiring and connections if you're expecting to ride through a lot of deep water. The other thing to give up the ghost was the side stand, which over time has bent to the extent that it'll no longer hold the bike upright. Not ideal, but there's usually a tree/signpost/wall somewhere nearby to lean it on.
I love the 404DS. While the engine is a little lacking in power for fast road work and the seat too uncomfortable for covering large distances, if your commute is mainly through town or consists of lots of twisty back roads, the CCM could be ideal for you. It'll also ensure that you arrive at work with a smile on your face in the morning! It's also very practical, simple to work on and fuel and maintenance costs should be very low. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to drop it without fear of costly repairs. And, with an hour or so's work, you can convert it into a totally different bike at the weekend when you want to go and get muddy!
I'm looking forward to spending some more time playing on the 404 this summer, although I'm going to have to wrestle the keys away from fellow ad-boy Benjamin, who's also fallen in love with it for riding around town. There really aren't any modifications worth making to the bike, other than fitting a mirror for road work, as all the main components are already top quality. A loud can would make you pretty unpopular in the countryside, so for the time being I intend to get some more off-roading sorted out, and possibly even enter an enduro event!
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