The only true Adventure motorcycle? The CCM GP450 Review
The Adventure sector of the motorcycle industry is dominated by monsters. Both in terms of the bikes and the manufacturers, it’s the big beasts that have a stranglehold on the burgeoning market. Yet within this landscape, the tiny British firm CCM is the only company to produce a midrange adventure bike that is genuinely capable of talking the type of terrain that the others show on their promotional videos. The CCM GP450 Adventure was marketed as a bike that has enough power to munch the miles on the hard top and still take on landscapes that would defeat the competition. We had to investigate. Here’s our review of the CCM GP 450 Adventure …
THE CCM BACKSTORY
CCM – Clews Competition Motorcycles – is celebrating an incredible 47 years in business this year, having started life back in 1971 after the demise of BSA’s competition department. Company founder Alan Clews, at the time a successful trials and scrambles rider, saw an opportunity to build bikes like the factory BSAs and bought up the entire inventory, initially making bikes in his garage. By the mid seventies, CCM bikes were taking the fight to the then dominant two-stroke Japanese bikes, regularly ranking towards the top end of the 500cc motocross world championship with their iconic four stroke bikes.
The company has gone through a rollercoaster of success and models over its history, with a variety of bikes and engine suppliers from Rotax to Suzuki. After a period under different ownership between 1998 and 2004, the Clews family bought back the company and returned towards the firm’s motocross heritage, re-entering the world championship in 2009, while also working with the armed forces to supply motorcycles for combat situations.
In 2013, Alan’s son Austin Clews and his team announced plans to produce a mid-weight adventure bike, going against the market trend of bikes like the massive BMW R1200GS. Their bike, the GP450 Adventure was launched in 2015 to promising reviews for both its performance and agility a world apart to its 230 kg competitors,
THE CCM GP450 ADVENTURE
With the bike’s reputation hugely dented, BMW went cool on the idea, but still reused the motor and much of the technology on the Husqvarna 449 bikes, but to little market enthusiasm. When BMW sold to KTM, the 449 did not survive the cut , but then neither did a single previous Husqvarna model.
But although the design and technology didn’t take the enduro or motocross market by storm, for an adventure bike it made far more sense. The GP450 features a forward slanted DOHC engine, allowing the air box to be above the engine rather than behind. The fuel tank moves to the centre and rear of the bike, positioning the weight close to the machine’s centre of gravity rather than high at the front of the bike
The transmission is coaxial, meaning that the front sprocket runs on the same axis as the swingarm. Although this might seem complicated, the design works well and means that the chain tension does not vary with suspension movement. The bike has conventional linkage suspension at the rear, rather than the BMW’s version that sat above the swingarm, with 12 damping and 24 compression stages. At the front, 47mm USD Marzocchi forks do the work, with 18 damping and 12 compression adjustments available.
With BMW having discontinued the G450, the motor was made under licence by Kymco and lost none of the punch and torque of the original unit. The clutch connects direct to the crankshaft, which makes the unit much more compact and lighter, and is noticeably narrower on this engine than the version that graced the Husky 449. The motor runs in reverse compared to a conventional engine, the resultant change in momentum contributing to mass centralisation of the frame and fuel tank placement. The CCM GP450 runs a five-speed gearbox and puts out a healthy 40 horsepower and 42 nm of torque from the four valve, fuel injected unit. Thanks to the frame design, a wide one-piece radiator spreads across the whole of the engine, rather than the usual split version usually seen on off road machines.
With all this tech on the engine, it’s easy to overlook the revolutionary design of CCM’s frame. The firm pioneered a frame design on their motocrossers using a combination of bonded and bolted components taken from the aerospace industry and this follows through onto the GP450, using 6082 forged aluminium with a machined finish. If you are looking for a weld on this frame, you are going to be looking a long time …
Our bike came fitted with the tall seat giving a seat height of 950mm, but the standard is 890mm or there are options for the shorter of leg at 850 or even 790mm.
REVIEWING THE GP450 ON THE TRAIL
OK so it would be easy to concentrate this test on the bike’s abilities on the road, on the basis that most adventure bikes will spend their lives there. But the point of this bike is that it’s built to do both road and off road without missing a beat. So with this in mind we’d planned a full weekend of dual sport action for the GP450 with everything from fast and flowing A roads to the most technical of terrain in a Long Distance trial. This would pitch the bike against not only those same monster adventure bikes but also lightweight specialist trials and enduro bikes. This was no paint by numbers bike review.
So having collected the bike from CCMs HQ in downtown Bolton, it was a mere six hour drive down to the campsite in Devon where we would be based. The other riders on a wide range of bikes – KTM Freeride 350, Yamaha TTR 250, SWM RS300, Honda CRF230, Beta 300 X Trainer, Husaberg TE 550, KTM EXC350 and Honda CRF250X. With the CCM weighing in at around at around 15 kilos more than the heaviest on the team, it was certainly going to be an interesting weekend.
But the first lanes quickly showed just how well balanced and easy to ride the bike was, As soon as you were up on the pegs, the GP felt almost exactly the same as the KTM EXC250 we normally ride. Wide pegs and Renthal FatBars up front allow effortless control and deliver a position with your head ideally placed above the bar clamps. The wide fairing and radiator cowls were not noticeable and the soft and super comfortable seat allow good grip with your knees. The gearshift felt a tad short when seated and wearing a motocross boot, but this quickly eased once on the pegs. The clutch was cable operated but if you didn’t know this, you would swear it was hydraulic and it was as smooth at the end of the day as the start – impressive stuff.
Although CCM had said that the bike preferred being started in gear, we soon ignored that advice and the engine never faltered or failed to fire up. At slow speeds, being in too high a gear lead to initial cough stalls, but this was not too much of an issue. What was more of an issue when the lanes became slippery and one-lined was that the tyres on road pressures and a dual sport pattern were fairly difficult to control.
With a quick stop and a pressure gauge, the tyres were dropped from the road pressures right down to 12 at the front and 11 at the rear and things got very much better. OK so you still couldn’t stuff it into a fast, muddy corner and hope to stay unaffected, but this is just the reality of dual sport tyres. For any adventure bike, there is bound to be a compromise and you’ll have to choose whether your trip is predominantly on or off road. Choose off road and they will not be as good on the smooth stuff, choose road oriented rubber and grip will suffer in the dirt. That said, the Heidenau tyres coped surprisingly well with the terrain.
Highlighting both the bike’s and the tyres capabilities were the steep rock step riddled lanes that we encountered. While all but one of the other bikes were struggling, which was perhaps more down to the rider, the CCM GP450 made short work of the climb with only one leisurely drop when faced with a late line change. Once re-aligned, the bike just powered up, hitting the steps and pressing on ‘Terminator’ style till it reached the top. When we were expecting real difficulties, easy success was a complete result.
In the course of the day we encountered everything from narrow lanes with miles of grassy single ruts, fast rocky trails, deep-water crossings and fast roads and the GP450 coped with the lot without batting an eyelid. The brakes, particularly the front were truly exceptional and allowed complete control on the dirt or tarmac. OK so some sections involved a bit more planning and thought than would be needed on a dedicated off roader, but in fairness had the CCM been on the same combination of enduro front and trials hybrid rear that most of the other bikes were running, the CCM would have been very, very similar. But could those enduro bikes hold 80 mph cruising two up on the motorway ?
If there were any gripes we had whilst reviewing the CCM GP450, they would be that the gearbox sometimes didn’t want to change for a few seconds, and those occasional cough stalls were annoying. And with a 20 litre tank under the seat and no fuel gauge meant that much of the day was spent carrying more fuel and hence weight than was necessary. But after 120 miles trail riding on an adventure bike, that isn’t much of a list.
WANT AN EPIC ADVENTURE?
TRIAL RIDING THE GP450
So having boxed-off trail riding, the next phase was to really test the bike’s off road prowess. The Moor to Sea Long Distance Trial – LDT – is now in its 20th year and attracts riders from all over the UK, Some 129 riders had signed up for the challenge, and understandably the bikes entered were a good mix of everything from full on trials bikes to enduro machines and classic trials metal. In terms of adventure bikes there was just ours on the start list, and our fellow riders gave an almost pitying look as we set off for the seventy-mile circuit and the 30 odd trials sections that were on the way.
For those that have not ridden a LDT, you get one point for a dab up to a maximum of three. If you stop or fail to complete the section you get a straight five points. But you can dab as much as you like as long as you keep going for the three points. With all of the other bikes considerably smaller, lighter and crucially shod with trials tyres, we were hoping for a few threes, a lot of fives and maybe just one clean…
And as it turned out, that was exactly what the CCM GP450 delivered. It handled every challenge and section that was thrown at it, pressing on again like that legendary relentless cyborg to complete the section. OK so at times it wasn’t pretty and we are certainly no Chris Birch, but the fact that this bike could do a high proportion of sections that had rocks, roots, inclines, declines and everything else in between on dual sport tyres and a heavy fuel load was impressive. Even the hyper steep rock hill climb was despatched after a bit of help but no falls or disasters. And when we cleaned a tricky river section that most of the other riders were picking up points, it was like winning a GP.
Towards the end of the day, the trails connecting the sections were actually tougher than the trial sections, and it took all our skill and determination to keep going. Muscling 140 kilos of bike over rocks and roots is not fun – doing it twenty to thirty times an hour certainly tests both man and machine. But the CCM did it and won the respect of both the pilot and those that had watched the pilot all day!
The final section of the 32 on the course was a steep and tricky hill climb on grass, with points given for the maximum height reached. Having completed the 70-mile loop without disaster, this was one fight that we were not going to enter. Sometimes you got to know when to fold …
If it’s any measure of how well the bike coped, the CCM finished just eight places behind one of the the group who was on a Gas Gas Pampera with trials tyres front and rear. Enough said?
If we are to judge this bike in terms of its criteria to take on genuine cross global adventures, the CCM GP450 has all the tools it’s need to achieve just that. It has a 250 mile range fuel tank, powerful and reliable engine, excellent off road credentials and the ability to cruise all day long at motorway speeds.
But the CCM has something that many of the big bikes have had designed out of them. The traction control systems on the latest Africa Twin, KTM 1290 or BMW GS have staggering technology and hardware to deliver the perfect power delivery and their ABS systems have sensors and control systems that deliver the optimum braking whatever the conditions. What the CCM GP450 Adventure does is hand that control back to the rider.
For traction control, the rider has to judge whether he wants the rear wheel to break out or stay in line, and apply the right amount of throttle to allow this. In terms of ABS, it’s the rider who decides whether he wants to lock up the rear drag it or simply control with a gentle touch. On the front the bike’s huge brake has enough power to haul up the bike from eighty to a stop in an instant, but with the right rider it’s still delicate enough to trickle over rocks like a trials bike.
It’s a very real and non-sanitized bike and in this sector, that is a refreshing change.
So will CCM ever match the sales of those big beasts? Can David really defeat Goliath? Well the answer is of course no. But if you think that’s what the Bolton based firm are trying to do, you are missing the point.
The CCM is deliberately different. It’s a bike that can deliver the promise of real overland adventures for the few intrepid travellers that actually have the cahones to set off and do just that. It has all the tech you need and you can still pick it up when it’s upside down in a creek – that’s a true Adventure bike in our book.
- Displacement – 449.5 cc
- Engine type – DOHC, single cylinder four stroke
- Power – 40.23 HP @ 7000 rpm
- Torque – 42.8 Nm @ 6500 rpm
- Fuel system – Fuel injected using Keihin digital system
- Fuel consumption – 52.27 mpg or 22.3 km/l
- Cooling – Liquid with single radiator
- Clutch – Cable operated wet clutch
- Service intervals – 5000 miles (8000 km)
- Gearbox – 5 speed
- Dry weight – 125 kg
- Seat height – 790 to 950 mm
- Overall Height – 1475 mm
- Overall Length – 2170 mm
- Wheelbase – 1510 mm
- Fuel capacity – 20 litres
- Ground Clearance – 360 mm
- Maximum speed – 90 mph or 145 kmh
- Frame type – 6083 forged aluminium bonded
- Rake – 26.75 degrees
- Trail 108 mm
- Front suspension – 47mm USD forks
- Rear suspension – Aluminium swingarm with linkage and single shock
- Front wheel/tyre – 21″ 90/90 21
- Rear wheel /tyre 18″ 120/90 18
- Front brake – 320mm disc, Brembo caliper
- Rear Brake – 240mm disc, Brembo caliper
- Handlebars – Renthal Fatbars
So what do reckon? Is CCM the only one making these bikes because not many people want them, or is there a real need for smaller no frills bikes rather than two-wheel tractors that the market is filled with?
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