Less is more, David against Goliath, the holy grail of adventure bikes. A lot has been written about this slender black machine from Bolton, England. After lots of research, it was time to see one for myself. Timing could have been better though. But special bikes ask for special measures. Which in this case meant a 4-hour drive through snowy Eastern Germany. On the 6th of December.
In Germany, the CCM GP 450 is currently only offered by Thomas Scholz, located in the Harz region. Because of my satnav and a test bike parked in front of his house, his so-called Motorradladen (simply: bike shop) was easy to find. During the days before the test ride, I was worried by the ever-changing weather forecast. But I was lucky: it was dry and temperatures were about 5 ° Celsius. At first we just talked a lot about the bike. I didn’t have a lot of questions anyway. As I stated in earlier articles, I had soaked up every little piece of information, opinion or rant that you could possibly find. So I got my gear and changed. Finally I swung a leg over the high saddle of the test bike, which was, by the way, Thomas‘ own private bike.
Instead of gaining an impression, the test ride was rather about confirming the many things I had read about. Which was not a bad thing! But I am likely to repeat what others have already said about this motorcycle. The low weight is indeed the bike’s key feature. At just about 130 kilograms dry and 145 kilograms fully fuelled, it is a joy to mount, ride or just push it around or out of the garage. CCM has created a unique frame that consists of 15 individually machined aluminium parts that are held together by bonding agents and screws. The result is an extremely light yet stable chassis. The ‚bond-lite‘ frame was extensively tested during the development phase, when CCM took part in many motocross events across Britain. It’s the main reason for the low dry weight, making this combination of a complete, fully-kitted adventure bike and low mass truly unique. What do I mean by that? First of all the weather protection. The screen (adjustable version available) and the side tanks shield the rider from the elements. Maybe not as much as on a GS Adventure, but hey, you’re still riding a motorcycle. Still this means less fatigue, especially on longer stints through bad weather. Turn on the (optional) heated grips and along with the comfy seat it’s quite a comfortable ride. A small luggage rack is also a standard feature on all bikes. Vibrations are as expected from a single cylinder. Maybe a bit rougher than a smooth BMW/Rotax 650, but only riders that are used to twins, triples or four cylinder engines should need time to adjust.
The source of the vibrations has caused a lot of debate on the Internet: the 450 cc single, that originated in the BMW G 450 X and was later also put into Husqvarna’s TE449. Despite CCM’s efforts, lots of people thought the 50 hp high-strung enduro engine had been the wrong choice, especially for a globetrotting adventure bike. At first, it seems like a fair assumption. The G 450 X service schedule included an oil change every 10 hours and the replacement of some parts after 70 hours. How could the (from a mechanical point of view) same engine now last for 8 000 kilometres between servicing? Yet no one had any evidence to prove the unreliability of the engine. And when you look at the facts, not many concerns remain. CCM has changed the engine-mapping, which reduces peak revs and also the peak power from about 50 to 40 hp. According to the engineers, reducing the maximum revs from 9000 to 8000 also reduces the stress on the engine parts by square. Moreover, they put a lot of miles on pre-production bikes and even consulted with Kymco (the engine maker) and BMW, including oil samples. And if you ask people who actually ride the bike, there is nothing wrong with it at all. If anything, CCM now even offer a performance kit, which should ultimately show their trust in the engine. It consists of a power commander module (which alters the mapping again) and an aftermarket exhaust pipe. This will give the bike its usual 50 hp. Up until now this could only be done with the offered power dongle, which invalidated the warranty and led to the previously stated service intervals of the G 450 X. Further research showed that the TE 449 service intervals are actually the same – every 5000 miles / 8000 kilometres. Only the use in a derestricted, competition mode leads to the mentioned maintenance by hours.
The rest of the bike’s components seem to hold up as well, even when enduring strenuous trips through Africa or South America. There have been some cases of broken starter motors, burnt stators or flat batteries. But with CCMs worldwide shipping service of spare parts, these problems can be dealt with relatively easy. Parts like these can always fail during an extensive trip, no matter what make the bike is. Last but not least, even the unique frame can be repaired, however unlikely this may seem. As John Drogan, the marketing manager told me: „It’s possible to heat the frame to separate the joints to enable repair.“ Though this may seem more complicated than having your regular steel frame welded in some dodgy workshop, it’s good to know that a damaged frame can be repaired at all.
However, last bits of wariness were instantly replaced with pure joy while riding this often-called hooligan of a bike. The sporty, rough-edged engine is fun to ride. It might not be as tractor-like as a BMW 650, but then again it does not have to be. It really thrives on revs and you have to get used to that. Speaking of revs, there is no rev counter, but I wouldn’t say that the CCM needs one. It will tell you when it’s time to change gear. And since the motor doesn’t offer a lot of flywheel mass, you have to use the clutch frequently. Which, again, isn’t an issue since it’s super easy to handle. It just takes some time to get used to. The same applies to the brake lever: easy to use with enough stopping power for every situation. The rest of the bike is ergonomically sorted as well. Just like the low weight and the suspension, the arrangement of footpegs, levers and handlebar leads to great confidence when riding the bike in the dirt. Although the ‚dirt‘-sections were limited to a few trails, gravel roads and dirt tracks during this testride.
Thomas‘ bike has already run 13 000 kilometres, which meant numerous journeys and therefore signs of usage. These added to the robust impression the bike already made. His bike featured an array of additional equipment: a chain oiler, heated grips, lowered pegs and additional spotlights. The latter are even street legal in Germany, as opposed to the ones that can be ordered from the factory. I was more impressed by a rather trivial fact: the battery is located beneath the seat! What a relief for G 650 GS riders like me. Like the airbox it sits high up in the motorcycle, which makes it an excellent tool for river crossings. One of the few things this specific bike did not have was the cush-driven rear wheel. This is mostly noticed (and heard) when driving in town, when cruising at around 30 or 50 kph. Users also reported improved chain and sprocket wear since they retrofitted the cush-driven wheel.
Honestly speaking, I tend to spend most of my time riding on tarmac. Hence I was eager to find out, how the bike copes when ridden on normal roads. But again, it just proved what other riders had already found out during their testrides around Bolton. It’s agile and very easy to ride, especially for beginners (which I would still call myself). Around 120 kph seems to be a good cruising speed for the bike, which supposedly tops out at about 145 kph. The only thing that could get annoying over time is the temper of the engine: it just feels unhappy when ridden at a steady pace. But, for the third time now, that is probably something you might just have to get used to. Still, cruising along the motorway for hours might be the only thing this bike is not suited for. Like any other thumper. Or actually, like most bikes in general.
So apart from minor issues that every bike has, the only disadvantages that remain are the missing ABS option, a missing temperature gauge, the non-existing dealer network and the biggest of all, the price. For the 9 grand of a standard CCM GP 450, solvent buyers could also buy more powerful bikes like the KTM 690 or its sibling, the Husqvarna 701. If these bikes are too heavy for your taste, you could get yourself a proper 450 dirt-bike. BUT: you will get a standard bike with standard components. Which, by no means, equals bad. You will just have to live with the usual restrictions. Small fuel tanks, no fairing and a seat that is barely worth mentioning. Let alone a luggage rack. So you can call on the usual suspects like Touratech or RallyRaidUK, spend money and time to make the bike work for you (like I did with my Sertao) and end up with even more weight. If you have the better equipped GP 450 S in mind, you might as well spend the money on a F 800 GS or an Africa Twin. According to general understanding, more bike and therefore better value for money. But does more power (and weight) really result in a better bike? Furthermore, the support that CCM offers compensates for a wide dealer network, at least from my point of view. The last time I visited a BMW dealer was when I bought my bike. That was three years ago. And like many adventure bikes, I service the bike myself. Still, if you prefer to have it serviced, the straightforward design and proven components mean that any BMW dealer should be able to service the bike. Though, special parts might have to be ordered in Bolton.
Finally, the GP 450 offers more adventure spirit than any other bike (where the term ‚adventure‘ is used most notably in expensive ads and videos). Since every adventure bike is about compromise, the question is always where the trade-off lies. This is where the CCM truly shines. It manages to combine the dirt-performance of a 450 with the comfort and luggage options of bigger adventure touring bikes. And with its low weight, there is no need for more power. So is it worth 9500 or almost 12000 €? I certainly think it is. Or do I? Read further below…
What I like about the bike…
- the lightest adventure bike
- well thought-out package
- high quality components
What I don’t like…
- petrol tanks only detachable when empty (unless you want to waste petrol)
- in the long term questionable supply of spare parts
- no warning light for an overheating engine
Despite my admiration I didn’t buy one. Quite naturally, the answer is partly financial reasons. It would have taken years of saving to afford a CCM, even a used one. Another reason was the availability of spare parts, especially in the long run. Hence the BMW G 650 Xchallenge raised my attention again. It seemed like another, almost perfectly balanced compromise. On top of that it features anti-lock brakes. You can read more on this in another article, unfortunately only in German.
Moreover, recent reports indicate that the bike’s electric system has some critical flaws, while ironically the engines seem to have no issues at all. It is of course debatable if these reports are representative for all bikes that have been built. But they are certainly enough to question the bike’s reputation as a serious travel enduro. It’s a real bummer.
Thanks to EU4 regulations CCM develop a successor, the CCM GP 600. The new bike will seemingly use the ex-Husky engine that is already in use with SWMs 650 R and Superdual. It will probably be a little heavier than the GP 450, though the bond-lite-frame will still ensure a class-leading low weight. Still the same concerns remain when it comes to supply parts and long-term-ownership. And as long as I don’t win the lottery or live next to the factory in Bolton, I find it hard to commit to such a product, no matter how tempting it is. And sometimes it is indeed very tempting!
- 449 ccm single cylinder, fuel injected, liquid cooled
- 40 hp / 7500 rpm and 42 Nm / 6500 rpm
- 1 l oil capacity, drysump
- five speed gearbox, chain driven, max. 140 kph
- weight: 145 kg, dry 125,5 kg
- 20 l tank, consumption approx. 4,5 l/100 km, range 400 km / max. 440 km
- front: Marzocchi 45mm USD-forks, 265 mm travel, adjustable, 90/90-21 wheel
- Tractive rear suspension, 265 mm travel, adjustable, 120/90- 18 wheel
- seat height 890 mm / 940 mm with high seat
- breaks: Brembo, 320 mm front disc, 240 mm rear disc
- 180 W alternator
- service intervals: after 1000 km, then every 8000 km (oil change, valve spec etc.)
- price: new € 9500 (standard model, price in Germany including tax, additional costs for transport and paperwork about € 350)
- luggage frame, soft luggage frame, soft luggage
- engine guard, brush guards, front accessory frame, rear lifting strap
- heated grips, spotlights, 270 W alternator
- adjustable screen, high seat, lower suspension (- 100 mm)
- cush-drive rear wheel, electronically adjustable suspension
At the moment, there is no bike that can be compared directly to the CCM. However, these are the bikes that are considered the closest competitors:
- KTM 690 Enduro with Rally-Raid-Kit
- AJP PR 7 (available in 2017)
- KTM 640 Adventure (discontinued)
- BMW G 650 X-Challenge (discontinued)
- BMW G 450 X (discontinued)
- Husqvarna TE 449 (discontinued)