Biking tips

Buying a cheap new bike – part four


If you’ve been following our story, we’ve bought a brand new Chinese built CCM MT230 for £2300. We’ve taken it for a quick spin and had a mechanic cast an eye over it, but now it’s time to do what we bought it to do, and take it off road.

It felt like a long wait, but finally it was time to head out to the ABR Festival, and explore the mighty CCM MT230 in its natural habitat. The reason I picked the festival as the first proper testing ground for the bike was that there was 40 kilometres of trails to explore, and they were all well marshalled, so even if the bike completely disintegrated, I could get some help recovering it. It was time to go.

I live about 80 miles from the Ragley Hall where the ABR Festival is held, and there was no way I was going to ride the bike there. Its very limited 18bhp and short gearing make it rather too tedious for road riding – certainly for distances like that on big roads. Pootling on country lanes or in the city is ok, but where the CCM really wants to be is on trails. And that is just what it was going to get.

So, with the bike and a few token tools in the van, I headed for the festival. As soon as I arrived, I could tell that the bike was in good company. There were bikes of all sorts there from pukka trail machines to scooters and classic bikes hitting the trails.

The trails at the ABR Festival were absolutely perfect for the test ride, and just the sort that I enjoy riding. They were fairly easy and flowed nicely, with some more technical sections to keep you focused.



I started with the Bridgestone Adventure Trail. It only took a few metres before I had a big smile on my face. The little CCM was doing well. I knew that speed and power were in short supply but the trail was limited to 30mph. Properly enjoyable riding requiring much slower speeds at times anyway, so this was not an issue. In fact, on the trail, the short gearing felt appropriate and, if you kept the revs a bit higher, you could feel the bike pull well. I even managed cheeky little power slides around corners. It felt like the 230cc single-cylinder engine had suddenly found a few extra ponies to pull it along. I know a lot of MT230 owners have put a bigger front sprocket in to make the gearing a little more appropriate for road riding, but since I will mainly ride this bike on trails, I will leave it as it is for now. On green lanes the gearing feels just fine.




I had some doubts about the suspension before the ride, and while it’s not up there with the best, the traditional telescopic fork and the single rear shock certainly did a good job in allowing the bike to roll over bumps without too much bother. The only problem I had was when I did a cheeky little jump off a big bump and bottomed out the suspension. It didn’t feel awkward, but the rear wheel caught the reflector at the bottom of the mudguard and bent it, a small price to pay when you are literally jumping for joy. I must admit that I haven’t changed or even checked the fork oil yet, so I might do that now to see if that improves things further, but I definitely will not be making any drastic changes as the setup seemed perfectly adequate.




I also complained about the lack of bite from the front brake in a previous article, but on the trail I didn’t feel like I really needed any more power from the brakes. Both front and rear offered enough stopping power when the speeds were moderate and the surface loose. The lack of ABS seems an academic issue on dirt – as long as you don’t stomp on the brakes too enthusiastically, you’re fine. This ride convinced me not to bother with upgrading the brakes – at least not yet.



As is often the case with dirt bikes, small is big. I was reminded of this on the Bridgestone Adventure Trail as I zipped past some big adventure bikes struggling to deal with the conditions. The claimed 135kg of the CCM feels even less when you are floating on green lanes, and there was absolutely no instance where I thought the bike would struggle with anything that the trails threw at us.




Before the ABR Festival, I had been to my local bike shop and service centre MIS UK LTD in Newark where the bike had gone through a thorough check, and been fitted with Pirelli MT21 knobblies. The Pirellis are less aggressive enduro tyres than I had intended to use, but they were absolutely fine on the (mostly dry) trails. Whether on gravel roads or grassy paths, they never slipped unless I was trying to get the rear moving on purpose.

One required upgrade that became obvious after the first couple of laps on the trails was the drive chain. The original is not the strongest and started to stretch quickly under enthusiastic trail riding. I had to take the bike back to the van and adjust the chain before getting some more riding done as it started rattle rather unnervingly.

My choice of accessories for the bike turned out to be well chosen, too. The makeshift pannier (an old Lomo dry bag resting on the rifle holder frame of the military issue bike) stayed in place during the rough ride, which is pretty much all it needs to do. And the old Cool Covers seat cover I previously used on my Royal Enfield Interceptor fitted the MT230 perfectly – almost as if it was made for it.




So, what’s the verdict? Well, the CCM MT230 is a thoroughly delightful bike to ride on green lanes. It might not have a lot of power, no high-end components, and none of the fancy electronics we’ve come to expect these days. But for a novice trail rider it’s absolutely perfect. It will go wherever you are brave enough to go, and it handles tricky terrain well enough to keep you smiling all the way home. And the lack of tech is only a bonus as you learn to get the feel for power, brakes and handling. I have a feeling that I will be riding this one for quite some time. Now I just need to plan the next adventure…

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