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I don't think there are too many people on here (or anywhere else) using CCMs for overlanding so experience may be a bit thin on the ground. Chris of Motocross Africa set off to do UK to Cape Town and back on one of the smaller 404DS's but he hasn't updated his blog for a while so I've no idea how things are going / went. If anyone else has current information perhaps they could post it in this thread.
I have one of the older Rotax engined CCMs which I bought nearly three years ago to replace a Honda XR600. You may have come across some of my older posts about it. The Suzuki engines replaced the Rotax in 2001 but other than that the bikes remained much the same.
I bought it because I thought it had the makings of a good overlanding bike. The core bits of the bike - frame, suspension, wheels, brakes etc looked good and I thought that the other bits could be changed to suit my needs. I come from the old school of biking where oil under the fingernails and a spanner in the back pocket is normal so tearing most of the bike to bits and making parts that I couldn't buy is normal practice. With that in mind this is my considered assessment of the CCM:
1. They are of variable quality. I've been lucky, mine has been reliable in the sense that it hasn't stranded me at the side of the road but you need to be prepared to fix / remake things that other manufacturers would never release. I've had to remake the silencer mounts (about four times!), the lock stops and the tank mounts. The carburation on the Rotax engine is dreadful but that shouldn't affect the Suzuki. Others have not been so lucky and you frequently get four letter word comments about them.
2. They are pretty solid. The subframe is detachable and easily reinforced although I haven't had to make any alterations in this area. Unfortunately solid = heavy. They are not in the GS range but compared to the XR the CCM has tank like qualities. The seat height is the usual sky high trailie particularly if you have the seat rebuilt even higher (which you will - the stock one is second only to a DRZ400 for its numbing quality) but that shouldn't be a problem for you at 6' 6".
3. Nobody makes bits for them. Most of CCM's 644 production was of the supermoto version and there are some bits to bling up these but that's not much help. Tanks and luggage are the main problem. The std DS tank is 13 litres and that gives a range of around 160 miles. There are some 23L ex Paris Dakar tanks around but they are very very rare and you'd be better to see if something else will fit. When I was trying to do this I didn't find most of the usual suspects very helpful. You would need some pretty detailed measurements, particularly for the gap in the middle where the tank goes over the frame. I got lucky and managed to get one of the PD tanks but I can tell you that Acerbis XR tanks are much too narrow!
Luggage is going to have to be DIY so you'll have to be handy with a welding torch - or left to someone like Overland Solutions. Mine is DIY (and looks it!)
4. They are pretty cheap to buy and pretty difficult to sell. Based on what I've read on the CCM user group site the Suzuki engine seems to be good for about 25K miles before much goes wrong - as long as you don't convert to 710cc. The only other problem seemed to be the cylinder base gasket leaking oil on the earlier (02, 03) ones - fixed with a updated gasket.
Overall I've been pleased with mine. It is pretty crude but I like that. I don't have to worry about ruining something valuable and you do get a sense of involvement when you've improved some part of it or made a bit that you couldn't buy.
Thank you so much Backofbeyond. That is So helpful.
Yeah, not much response from the masses. I need to brush up on my spanner skills and want to do a course before I head off. They are pretty simple engines aren't they? I have a mate that is an expert bodger to knock up a frame for luggage and up-rate the subframe.
Over all a good bike then? It is my first trip on a bike. I had a few off-roaders as a youngster and have only just got my road licence. Still not sure to go for a BM. I am hopefully getting my 04 CCM on friday. I am getting it as a warm up bike. Hopeully (if needs be) I can sell it before I go.
I intend to potter about the globe and can't imagine going more than 200 miles a day. But I just don't know whats out there yet. I think I would prefer something nippy and agile, so when I take the luggage off for a day or two I can have fun on the thing. I'm a big lad, but the BM just looks almost like a chore to ride. I want to skip around the lumps and bumps not just flatten them. More fun! The F800 GS is the one for me really, but unless I win the lotto I think its a no go!
Have you had an rides on the 1150 GS?
If you could pick, which would you choose? (I suppose you have actually. Answered my own question...The CCM!)
The tank is an issue. I don't want to spend the etire trip filling up.
I had a CCM 604 Rotax, I'm pretty sure all the plastics (inc tank) were made by Acerbis. An easier option instead of a big tank could be side tanks that replace the rear side panels - they may be easier to find.
For what it was worth, my CCM was rubbish - electrics were dire and looked like they'd come off a 1940s wireless set. It vibrated like hell resulting in small thinks (like exhausts) cracking.
The clincher for me was the company going bust (again) - I wasn't going to be left with a bike & no real backup, especially as the Rotax engine supply was drying up.
Yeah, you either love em or hate em. Seems to depend on whether you got a Monday morning one or a Friday afternoon one. I guess I've just been lucky with mine.
Engine vibration is just about the same as the XR600 Honda I had before the CCM. but what did crack an exhaust mount on mine was wheel balance. The rim locks put each wheel 110gm out of balance - a huge amount. Because the wheels are different sizes they rotate, and vibrate, at different speeds and the vibration goes in and out of phase over a 3-4 second period at around 60mph. At its worst this would make your teeth chatter and give you double vision. Balancing the wheels cured all of this and I've not had any problems since.
It's certainly not a "turn key" bike. Think of it as a two wheel series 3 Land Rover and you won't go far wrong.
Location: Dreaming of travelling and riding bikes in general..
Chris of MA
Chris can probably tell you better than I can about his trip even though I was with him. Overall it was very successful. He broke his sidestand early on (repaired Yaounde), had to do the waterpump washer trick in Bamako after it overheated, cracked a rim in Ouagadougou, lost the oil out of his right fork (filled in Niger) got run off the road in Gabon, lost a tooth from his rear sprocket in Namibia but made it all the way to South Africa and home again (on the plane).
He does walk like John Wayne now thanks to the seat, despite the airhawk
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