The Yamaha Tenere XT660Z is a superb overlanding bike – and even better if the suspension is upgraded and the engine is opened up with a new exhaust and air filter. It can handle the rough stuff with ease, and cruise for hours on the hard top. But she’s heavy – close to 200kg (dry) once you’ve added a bashplate, crash-bars, pannier frames and the like. Hence my quest for the Tenere’s lightweight cousin. For months I had a bead on KTM’s 690 Enduro with a large tank and fairing. And then CCM’s GP450 Adventure entered the fray.
I was lucky enough to take a GP450 for an extended test ride – about 250 miles over two days, including twisty back roads, a motorway run, some urban riding and most importantly, 25 miles of green laning in north Lancashire.
Before I proceed with my thoughts on the GP450, it’s important I lay out the baseline from which I judged the bike.
Firstly, the rider. I’m not a professional motorcycle reviewer and won’t try to be. My task was simple and focused – to assess whether the CCM would be a better bike than the Tenere to take through the back-roads of the Andes, or a similar off-road orientated trip. Having accumulated over 40,000km across a wide variety of terrain – from motorways to mountain dirt tracks – on a single cylinder adventure bike, I felt adequately qualified for the task.
Secondly, the machine. I was given a GP450 with about 3500 miles on the clock. It was fitted with the high seat, and half-worn knobblies (T63 front, Mitas E-09 rear). I discovered after the test ride that the bike had just been used in a rally and the suspension was set up accordingly – ie, very stiff. Most importantly, this is still a pre-preproduction bike.
For the first couple of hours of riding I was a little underwhelmed – but that may have been a case of over-expectation. To me the bike feels somewhat ‘agricultural’: the engine has the rough characteristics you would expect from a single; there is fair bit of vibration through the bars, seat and pegs riding on road, especially when cracking open the throttle; and I thought there was a lot of noise around the cockpit area, which sounded like vibration in the plastic dashboard or cowling (although I couldn’t pin it down and find it). Being very used to a big single, this didn’t overly-bother me and I soon got used to it. But if you’re used to a smooth and solid ride, it may take a little longer to tune in to the GP450.
But tune in I did. The 450 grew on me; by the time I handed it back was really enjoying it. I found the engine very functional and certainly powerful enough for what I would need in South America. It may lack the X-factor which some engines possess, but it has ample punch for a lightweight bike. And contrary to some ardent views out there, I didn’t feel the lack of a sixth gear.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stand-out characteristic for me was the lightness of the bike. The low dead weight when maneouvring the bike at slow speeds or when dismounted was a joy compared to my Tenere. But is was even more pronounced when riding the twisty back lanes. The 450 feels very light and agile in the corners, and really well balanced. It is very responsive and easy to handle – and a lot of fun.
Get off road and it feels even more at home – the dirt is this bike’s natural habitat. The riding position, seated on standing, fitted me perfectly (very similar to a Tenere). It was very manoeuvrable. And when I hit a loose and rocky section of trail I hardly batted an eyelid, whereas the Tenere would have demanded much more caution and focus.
Unfortunately, the very stiff rear suspension setup (the preload was wound fully down) made for an uncomfortably hard ride – particularly on the unkempt back lanes – so I couldn’t assess the bike in this department. When I’ve got eight hours of pot-holed roads or washboard to ride in a day, I want a softer setup to smooth things out. I also had a very hard seat fitted to the bike, which became uncomfortable after about 40 minutes (four hours on the Tenere). Again, I discovered after the ride that this seat was made for rallying; the production bike will utilise a softer foam.
The thirty minute motorway ride up the M6, with a blustery crosswind and plenty of high-sided traffic, provided a different perspective. The 450 is light and tall. As a result, I was getting thrown all over the place as I passed trucks and buses. 70mph was enough for me in such conditions, but the engine had more to give and in calmer conditions I reckon the bike would cruise comfortably at this speed. Of note for those looking to do some long hauls on the CCM, the vibes were also notably reduced riding on a steady throttle at these speeds.
It is without doubt a very well appointed bike; most of the components such as pedals, handlebars (Renthal) and brake discs are high quality; the frame and the swingarm look beautifully engineered; and CCM have designed some well-considered aftermarket parts such as the dummy exhaust container. The soft luggage frame was great and my Giant Loop gear fitted very well.
The instrument panel is very basic. I can live with it except for one omission – there is no temperature gauge or warning light. Personal experience tells me this is an essential for an overlander. My fan packed up in the Atacama desert. With no warning light I would have been unaware of this and would probably have cooked my engine. I then had to ride for several thousand kilometres until I could get a new one; far from ideal, but at least with a warning light I could manage the situation, knowing when I was on the threshold. When I mentioned this, the answer was that rally bikes don’t have one.
And herein lies a question I kept asking myself – is the GP450 a rally bike with panniers, or a genuine overlanding bike? I got the clear impression that CCM’s intent is to build an ‘go anywhere’ overlander, but I was left thinking they have built a rally bike – perhaps unsurprisingly given CCM’s heritage and the company’s DNA. The temperature warning light was one clue. So to is the classic dirt bike kickstand, which I found awkward deploying from the seat (overlanders don’t usually get off a fully loaded bike before deploying the stand, because swinging a leg over a kitbag and pannier behind you is tricky!) And let’s face it – the rather beautiful bonded aluminium frame is pure rally; any sane overlander would surely opt for steel which can be repaired by any local, outback welder.
Does it matter? Maybe not, and if you’re an overlander hell bent on riding the really rough stuff, adding some rally pedigree may in fact be a positive thing. I only mention is so you know what your getting with this bike.
And so to the crux of the issue….. Would I swap my Tenere for a GP450 were I to ride South America again? I really want to say yes, but I can’t do so right now with 100 percent confidence. I would need to ride the bike again when it is in production form, and with it set up properly for overlanding – the overly stiff suspension and other ‘pre-modification’ characteristics distorted the ride too much. I was assured that the production bike will have suspension offering softer settings, a more comfortable seat, a modified plastic dash which may reduce the noise, and a number of other minor alterations which will tidy up a few niggles.
CCM have undoubtedly designed a great bike. With the promised changes, they should build a great bike. If the engine the frame holds up (and given the history of both there is no convincing reason to believe they won’t), I think they GP450 could be a superb overlanding bike for riders who subscribe to the lightweight philosophy and want to push it on the dirt.
To my mind, that leaves CCM with one final challenge. The totality of the biking experience is more than the buying and the riding. The after-sales infrastructure is a key part of the overall equation – servicing, accessibility of spares, access to technical expertise and advice, and a robust recalls process for parts that later prove to be faulty. This is even more important for a brand new, unproven bike, as gremlins are an inevitable aspect of product development. Once CCM have got the bikes rolling out to their customers, this after-sales service will be the final part of the jigsaw. If they get that right, then the GP450 could establish itself as the lightweight overland bike of choice.
I really hope CCM can nail it with the GP450. I want to love this bike and am hoping the production bike will seduce me. Not only will we then have a great, lightweight adventure bike to enjoy, but it may also act a market catalyst and encourage the more established brands to compete. Then we, the riders, get even more choice in a largely neglected sector of the market.
If I haven’t answered some of your questions here, feel free to ask in the comments box below and I’ll do my best to satisfy.