First Ride: CCM 404DS

Our Niall has a bit of history with off-road specialists CCM - they gave him a break into racing, and he's owned one of their bikes. Before they knew it he was riding their new 404DS

I must always be careful when evaluating CCMs as I could so easily be biased towards every bike they produce. You see, during

the 1980s CCM were taken over by the Armstrong Shock Absorber Company and became Armstrong Motorcycles. In 1983 they kindly plucked me from obscurity and for four years allowed me to hone my racing skills on their carbon fibre racers. After winning four British Championships, I jumped ship to

HRC in 1987 and soon after they reverted back to their original name and off-road roots. Backed with venture capital cash they moved from Bury to a fresh new factory in Blackburn where production is steadily increasing and a factory expansion is planned in the near future.

Thinking I was paying them back in some small way I actually bought a 640cc Rotax engined CCM in 1999 believing I could take on my mates with Japanese equivalents. I was wrong. It was heavy with not such good suspension and it scared me, so she had to go.

Trax in Preston was the venue for the new 404 launch and it was the DS model, that comes in supermoto and trail form, that I was testing. I was hoping to find that this Suzuki DR-Z-engined model would agree with me more than my Rotax powered brute ever did.

First up was the supermoto version and a tentative venture on to the damp tarmac with everyone watching as I was first out. Immediately I realised I had two options: look average and enjoy the rest of the day or look spectacular and enjoy the rest of the day at Preston Royal. My insurance benefits are much less attractive these days so I chose option one, gradually building up speed as the track dried.

I couldn't get a lot of feel from the standard fit Pirelli MT60s, however I had no big moments as the circuit became dry. I thrashed round and round on the clockwise circuit side with no sign of overheating or tearing. Throttle response was super smooth especially off the bottom with a closed throttle which greatly helped a supermoto amateur like me. A bit more oomph further up the powerband would have been nice as top end power felt quite flat. This might have gone unnoticed but CCM factory supermoto rider Stephan Mezard let me loose on his steed which has twenty more bhp. It also has beefed up brakes and suspension but strangely made no difference to my lap time.

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