--BY SARTHAK RAJ BARAL
Established in 1971, Italian motorbike manufacturer SWM (Sironi Vergani Vimercate Milano) was a perpetual fixture in the Trail and Enduro segments during the 70s and early 80s. Unfortunately, the company went into liquidation in 1986 and production came to a standstill. It was resurrected in 2014 through financial backing via the Chinese entity Shineray Group. Since then, SWM has made concerted efforts to reclaim its standing among the pantheon of exemplary off-road motorcycle manufacturers. Under the guidance of Ampelio Macchi, whose legendary stints at Italian brands Aprilia, Cagiva and Husqvarna led to the production of bikes that have claimed 51 World Championships, SWM is back in its pomp and entered Nepal with a compelling showing at the NADA Auto Show 2018.
The SWM RS300R, targeted at enduro riders, is one of the three SWM bikes on sale in Nepal. We spent some time with the off-road behemoth to ascertain its capabilities.
When it comes to enduro vehicles, the design aspect is often secondary to the performance. However, that is no excuse for manufacturers to skimp on the design element. Even for off-road enthusiasts, who are presented with a litany of options, the look of the bike can often determine the purchase decision.
Fortunately, SWM has ensured the RS300R is a standout. The rugged yet classic nature of the bike is certain to attract plenty of eyeballs, particularly on the streets of Nepal. The colour palette, a combination of black, red and white, contributes to the aesthetic appeal of the bike.
On the rear, the dual exhaust cylinders look stunning while also adding to the powerful theme the bike exudes. The LCD instrument cluster on the front is, as expected in this segment, uncluttered yet useful, and comes equipped with an inbuilt digital tachometer. Like most off-road bikes, the RS300R is distinctly tall, a fact further emphasised by the impressive ground clearance. While this may serve as a minor stumbling block for some, it certainly contributes to the rugged nature of the vehicle.
Engine, Performance and Ride Quality
While design and aesthetic appeal is an important aspect, an off-road bike’s primary calling card is its performance and consequently, the manner in which it tackles challenging terrain. It comes as no surprise then that this is where SWM have made every effort to impress and delivered a capable and powerful vehicle.
The suspension is critical in this segment and the twin 48mm Kayaba forks with adjustable compression at the front and back provide a fair bit of travel, 300 mm to be precise. The corresponding figure for the rear is 295 mm. The high strength steel, single beam double cradle main frame further aids in the suspension as well as manoeuvrability.
The liquid-cooled engine is a 297 cc unit with a 12.1: 1 compression ratio and has a 6-speed transmission. It can generate up to 37.5 units of brake horsepower (bhp).
The engine roars into life and can be revved up to your heart’s content. The powerful suspension mechanics at play make the riding experience an enjoyable one. The bike is wonderfully balanced and manoeuvrability is fantastic. Although we did not quite have the opportunity to go on the trail with the RS300R, we put it through its paces in some challenging terrain and it came out with flying colours. For off-road enthusiasts keen to venture into the wild with a reliable companion, the RS300R packs a significant punch.
The ride quality is impressive considering the terrain; it’s another area where the stellar suspension mechanics really shine.
Braking and Safety
Both the front and the rear brakes offer hydraulic control. On the front is a fixed disc with a floating calliper and on the rear a floating disc with a similar calliper. The Michelin IV tyres are robust in every sense of the word and the wider rear tyre adds to the safety aspect of the bike while also aiding the manoeuvrability. The brakes offer plenty of bite and the response time is appreciable as well.
Nepal is undoubtedly a fertile market for off-road bikes. A combination of rough topography, uneven and poorly built roads and obstacles raised by the seemingly perpetual construction efforts mean that bikes that can go the extra distance in terms of their off-road capabilities will always find willing suitors in the market.
However, considering the hefty price tag attached to the SWM RS300R, Rs 16, 00, 000, the bike’s target market is certainly not the commuter segment. For genuine off-road enthusiasts, those added zeroes provide them with an international grade off-roader with state-of-the-art specifications and an ideal ally for trips into Nepal’s diverse yet unquestionably challenging terrains.