Biking tips

Buying a cheap new bike – part three


It was a great feeling knowing that the CCM MT230 was not a complete dud. I had bought it on a bit of a whim, thinking that £2300 for a new trail bike was too good to miss out on, but I had my doubts about what it would be like in the real world.

If you have read Buying a cheap new bike part one and Buying a cheap new bike part two, you’ll know that while no-one declared it to be great, it was at least considered good for the money. I had taken it to my local bike shop and service centre, MIS UK LTD in Newark, for a thorough check, and the guys there had assured me that it was ok. That was good enough for me, so it was time for some longer rides and trail action.

One of the first things you notice about the bike – something I had already registered on the very first rides – is its lightness. It weighs a claimed 135kg, and that figure might be pretty accurate as it certainly feels very light – an excellent quality in a bike no doubt destined to end up on its side on many a trail. It’s nice to have that lightness on the road, but especially when you venture out onto green lanes it becomes a real virtue. It makes it easier for a trail novice like me to keep the bike upright, and when I run out of luck it’s easier to pick up.


CCM MT230-bike


Another obvious thing about the MT230 is that it’s very basic, with no fancy dash, no electronics, no bells, and no whistles. You certainly don’t have to worry about whether you left the ABS or traction control on, or if you are definitely in offroad mode when you leave the tarmac for a trail section – it has none of that stuff. It does however have both an electric and kick start, which could be handy. Being built for military purposes, it also has a blackout switch which kills all the lights, although this has been disconnected. I haven’t yet thought of a reason to reconnect it. It could be just my lack of imagination, but I can’t see myself needing to do that much stealth riding!

The noise from the little 230cc single-cylinder engine is very pleasant too. The exhaust note is not too loud, but loud enough to be noticed. It sounds like a bigger bike than it is. I love that single-cylinder thump, I could listen to it all day, and it’s a good job the soundtrack is good, because you won’t turn the scenery into a blur with the 18bhp the engine produces, nor with the very short gearing which is great for lanes but not for cruising. But it has a certain charm about it, and even with the lack of power, it’s easy to develop a bit of a penchant for.

There were only two things that I wasn’t happy with. The first one was the front brake, which seemed to do only slightly more than sending thoughts and prayers to the front wheel would have done.

The other was the gearing. The MT230 is geared really low, presumably to enhance its offroad capability, but on the road it felt like it ran out of gears in no time. I decided to ask Carl at MIS about the brakes and wait until I got some trail miles on the bike before doing anything with the gearing.

Back at the workshop, Carl immediately identified a few issues with the brakes. To begin with, the discs and pads needed cleaning, but he also pointed out that the brake discs were the same size front and back, whereas normally the front is bigger to offer more braking power. The real sticking point, however, was likely to be the master cylinder, which was rather small. Upgrading that to a larger one would give more braking power and feel. We decided to just do the clean for now and consider the master cylinder later. The result was that if I really concentrated hard, I maybe felt a slight improvement. It wasn’t what you might call a dramatic change. I might need to consider that master cylinder sometime in the future.




It was also a time for oil change while I was at MIS, and dropping the old running-in oil revealed it had a little moisture and debris in it, but nothing out of the ordinary. We were looking ok.

The first real upgrade to the bike was done at the same time when I took the bike to MIS: they swapped the stock Cordial (ever heard of them?) tyres to a nice set of Pirelli MT21 knobblies to offer a bit more bite on the trails, without being completely out of place on the road.




Carl also advised squirting some Slime sealant into the inner tubes to prevent punctures on the road, so I grabbed a bottle from Halfords on my way home and prepped the tyres. I wasn’t sure how much good this would do, but if it would give me a better chance of not having to change a tyre in the wild, I’d take it.



The original chain on the MT is not the sturdiest, and it will probably need replacing soon, but for now I decided to get some more miles from it. Maybe I will change it for a better quality one, along with the sprocket, if and when I decide to change the gearing.

So, after another visit to MIS, I now had a bike on proper knobblies, with brakes that were as good as they were going to get without upgrades, fresh oil in the engine, and an all-round clean bill of health. At home I added a makeshift pannier using an old Lomo dry bag resting on the rifle holder frame of the bike. I also dusted off my old Cool Covers seat cover from the Royal Enfield Interceptor, and chucked it on the MT230 – a perfect fit, what luck! The bike was starting to look the business now. It was time to do some greenlaning!

I already had my first proper trail outing planned: the ABR Festival. Finally, I was at a point where I was ready to hit the trails. But that that will be another story in itself

Thanks to MIS

Thanks to MIS in Newark, Notts for helping to get the MT230 sorted. MIS specialises in servicing and repairing, as well as selling and buying all makes of motorcycles, both classic and modern. The showroom has around 45 bikes with another 15 in the workshop at any given time. The team at MIS are thorough professionals, and always happy to help – even when you wander in with a dodgy Chinese bike…


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