Bike Reviews / Motocross

On Test: TM still going its own way – TM300Fi & 450Fi Test

On Test: TM still going its own way – TM300Fi & 450Fi Test

Too Fast Media

last week we filled you in on the 2017 TM 250Fi model and how it rode in our exclusive test around the Sandy Valley circuit in Ireland – and this week we are going to share our thoughts on the 300Fi and 450Fi models.

Now in their 40th year as a manufacturer, TM has carved a niche over that time and is well-known for doing things its own way, in its own style.

And it must be doing something right, as it captured two world titles in 2016 – the Enduro E1 World Championship and the World Supermoto S1 Championship. Following on from that success, 2017 has started off with a bang for TM with Samuele Bernardini taking a moto win at the Indonesian MX2 Grand Prix.

Away from the track TM has continued to develop its range of bikes and innovate with new ideas.

In the company’s own words the 2017 machines have continued the tradition of being built to perform at a level in standard trim. TM has strived for greater performance throughout its range – not just in power but in delivery and rideability.

They claim say they’ve improved handling for all terrains with new chassis geometry and suspension units.

TM has also gone to lengths to better centralise the mass of their machines and in their eyes make some of the lightest ‘ready to ride’ machines in their class.

The Italian manufacturer utilises a variety of high quality materials and treated parts for the internals of their machines as well as machined aluminium and high-end parts on outside suppliers.

TM’s favourite saying is that they build their bikes to a specification not to a balance sheet.

This shows in the wealth of trick bits and parts that come as standard on the Italian steeds.

Albeit not totally brand-new for 2017, the TM range still features some of the innovative changes and updates that they received when this current generation model was first unveiled.

For example, all the 2017 four-stroke machines feature the reverse layout with the fuel tank where the air intake traditionally is and the air intake where you’d normally expect to find the fuel tank.

There is some refinement and the 2017 models feature new chassis construction techniques to reduce the overall weight while maximising strength. This reverse layout design and the new alterations supposedly lower the centre of gravity further into the chassis with each capacity model featuring a chassis unique to that engine size. The company says that this and the new suspension components work harmoniously to create more nimble and agile machines.

We could go on and on about what TM does differently and what is new for the 2017 model range but the most important thing is how these bikes perform on the track. So let’s take a break from the technical jargon and hit the Sandy Valley track for some Italian seat time.

Out of the three bikes I rode the 450Fi was the most surprising to me. Typically, I’m not a major fan of riding the big bikes because I like to feel fast and in control. I’m a 125 rider by day and my preferred style most definitely does not suit a 450.

However, I was shocked and surprised as I walked away from our TM test with the big 450Fi being my favourite bike of the day.

In terms of handling I felt like the 450Fi was the most stable of the bunch. It featured suspension that was a little stiffer (it was set up for Maxxis MX1 racer Stuart Edmonds) and I definitely preferred the feedback that it provided.

The bike felt incredibly planted in the turns and with the awesome 290mm oversized front disc – which provided great and awesomely noticeable stopping power – I could track through the ruts like a dream. The TM was also very nimble and agile for a bike of its class. It definitely didn’t feel like a 450 in that regard.

It did feel big and powerful when it came to engine performance though. TM – once again – has no need to search for more power here and instead they have pursued a more usable power curve. Instantly I could feel the power at my disposal.

In Map One – the more aggressive setting – the bike was insanely punchy and insanely fast, an outright beast. In Map Two the power output was tamed back a little, the delivery was smoother and was a lot more usable.

Faster, harder riders will love the aggressive mapping and clubmen and weekend warriors will definitely enjoy the smoother setting.

It’s nice to have this option and I have to say this is probably the biggest difference I have ever noticed when toggling between map settings. The map switch itself is located down by the rad. The switch is very easy to use – maybe not as user-friendly as a KTM or Husqvarna but definitely more so than the Japanese brands.

Much like its smaller sibling, the 450Fi delivers awesome low to mid-range power as well as being super-fast at the top end. Unlike some of the other 450s on the market you’re able to let the TM get in the low rev range without the constant threat of stalling. At times it may sound like the bike is going to stall as you enter and negotiate a slow, tight turn but you just have to trust the bike and know that the TM is going to pull you out no matter what. Now that’s a nice feeling to have.

Besides, even if you do stall the motor, that’s no stress. The electric start (available as an optional extra on all the four-stroke machines) is a godsend.

Once again – much like the 250Fi – you have to grow accustomed to the reverse layout, the different sound and the unique weight distribution.

But once you’ve done that you can really focus on getting the most out of the company’s powerhouse machine.

The TM 300cc four-stroke is another example of how this exotic Italian brand likes to innovate and experiment in order to build the best race machines possible. Born through TM’s involvement in the enduro scene the 300Fi is designed to bridge the gap between the big 450Fi and the 250Fi.

In theory the 300Fi will be ideal for enduro racers and clubman motocross riders alike. It has to be said that the 300Fi is most certainly not a big bore 250. The 300Fi has been designed and built from the inside out as a completely unique, standalone bike.

I was expecting big things out of the 300Fi. I’m a big fan of KTM’s 350 and I believe that is the perfect engine size for a rider of my capability. I was expecting the TM 300Fi to tick those same boxes.

To begin with I struggled to get the bike set-up to my preferences. The suspension was very soft for me which upset the balance and the traction of the machine. A few adjustments to stiffen that up made a world of difference.

Due to the very unique chassis design and weight distribution of these machines, set-up is very important in order to get the feeling that you’re looking for, probably moreso than on any other bike. You have to really fine tune these machines to your desired preferences and if you’re out by just a little it is very noticeable. But I guess that’s something that is expected when talking about factory calibre, race ready machines.

In terms of power delivery the 300Fi performed much like the 250Fi – it was very strong through the mid-range. However, I did feel like I was shifting through the gears a little quicker when riding the 300Fi.

Is the 300Fi a big 250 or a small 450? In terms of power performance I’d say the bike feels like a big 250. Despite improving the handling and feel dramatically through adjusting the suspension settings I never felt truly comfortable on board the 300Fi. Every time I let off the power I felt the front-end dip which in turn affected traction at the rear wheel.

I came in thinking that the 300Fi was going to be an eye opener – a new revelation for the MX1 category. However, that wasn’t quite the case for me. I can see the idea behind this and how it could be the ideal bike for the average clubman racer if you’re wanting a little more than what the 250 provides. but you’re not after the brutish power that the 450 puts out.

If that’s the case this could be the bike for you.

The 300Fi is all new for 2017 and I think with some time TM could develop this bike into a great machine for the weekend warrior.

But as of right now I had more fun on the 250Fi and I felt a lot smoother and quicker on the 450Fi.

That said I do like the idea of the 300cc machine and I’d relish the opportunity to give this bike a second go with some stiffer springs because I really think the Italians could be on to something here with this engine capacity.

2017 model TM 300Fi (MX) Specifications

  • Bore x Stroke: 81 x 56.7 mm
  • Displacement: 300cc Timing system: DOHC with finger follower & 4 titanium valves
  • Lubrication: Dry sump with double rotor pump
  • Fuelling: Battery-less Electronic Fuel Injection with 44mm throttle body
  • Ignition: Kokusan generator, Microtec Electronic
  • Clutch: Multiple-disk in oil-bath with hydraulic control
  • Gearbox: Six speed
  • Cooling System: Coolant liquid with pump
  • Starting: Kick start (optional Electric start)
  • Front fork: Kayaba USD
  • Rear shock: TM Racing
  • Front brake: Braking wave disk 270 mm with Nissin master cylinder & Brembo caliper
  • Rear brake: Braking wave disk 245 mm with Nissin master cylinder & caliper
  • Fuel capacity: 8.2 litres

2017 model TM 450Fi (MX) Specifications

  • Bore x Stroke: 95×63.4
  • Displacement: 449.16
  • Timing system: DOHC with finger follower & 4 titanium valves
  • Lubrication: Dry sump with double rotor pump
  • Fuelling: Battery-less Electronic Fuel Injection with 44mm throttle body
  • Ignition: Kokusan generator, Microtec Electronic
  • Clutch: Multiple-disk in oil-bath with hydraulic control
  • Gearbox: Six speed
  • Cooler System: Coolant liquid with pump
  • Starting: Kick start (optional Electric start)
  • Front fork: Kayaba USD
  • Rear shock: TM Racing
  • Front brake: Braking wave disk 270 mm with Nissin master cylinder & Brembo caliper
  • Rear brake: Braking wave disk 245 mm with Nissin master cylinder & caliper
  • Fuel capacity: 8.2 litres