2017 TM MX 300Fi Four-Stroke Review | FIRST TEST
An Italian machine for the contrarian motocrosser.
TM’s are not only unique because of their extreme rarity or even their swapped-tank-and-airbox layout, but because of how they are made. According to Ralf Schmidt, TM USA Representative, the factory in Italy doesn’t start making a bike until he, Schmidt, places an order and they don’t ship the bike until the customer pays the MSRP. Since they are pretty much handmade, again according to Schmidt, there isn’t really a “stock” bike like other brands have where every machine on the dealer floor is identical. Since they aren’t just laying around and they have to be assembled, if you want a 50 tooth rear sprocket rather than a 49 or 51, that can isn’t a problem. The bike that we got to ride and hang on to for a little bit is basically what you would call as close to stock as TM’s get.
TM says that their sales are skewed heavily on the two-stoke side of things but this all new 300cc four-stoke is pretty cool.
For 2017, TM has introduced its first 300cc four-stroke, which isn’t a completely unheard of engine size, but it still isn’t the norm. As far as MX racing goes, it puts the bike in the 450 class, which is a pretty big size difference, but displacement isn’t necessarily king in off-road riding and TM also has a EN 300Fi that we should be testing pretty soon as well.
The exhaust note is pretty hearty but not too loud.
The ’17 MX 300Fi sports a Yamaha-ish layout with the airbox up in front of the seat and the gas tank back under the seat where the airbox usually is. But, the throttle body is still behind the cylinder and the exhaust comes out the front of the machine like a standard-layout bike. Because of the placement of the tank, the shock has to have a somewhat unique configuration with the reservoir directly in front of the shock rather than off to the side like other bikes. As a result, the shock is a TM branded unit built in-house with the rest of the bike. The fork is a KYB coil spring fork with compression adjustment on the top of the tubes and rebound on the bottom.
This 300 is not just a bigger cylinder and piston in the 250F. Everything but the clutch is different.
The aluminum frame is retro-Honda like in its appearance and one tester felt that it felt sort of Honda like in the rider geometry and riding position, which isn’t common with small-batch Euro bikes. Moving on to the powerplant, according to Schmidt, this isn’t just a punched out 250F – the 250cc and 300cc machines don’t share any engine internals other than the clutch. The 300Fi is the only MX bike in TM’s lineup with a six-speed gear box (all others are 5 speed). The bike is available with electric or kick start, but the starter motor is built into the cases so if a kickstart bike owner decided down the line that he or she wanted the magic button, they’d be out of luck. The brakes are a mix of brands with Brembo in the front and Nissin in the rear.
The gas tank is under the seat where the air box normally is. You can see the gas cap above the number plate.
ON THE TRACK
Now you know what the TM 300Fi is, let’s talk about how well it does on the track. Like we said earlier, hopping on the blue and white bike doesn’t feel abnormal and has a comfortable, Japanese-ish rider compartment. One tester talked about how the bike felt pleasantly slim in the seat area and actually wished it was a little wider in the rear so he didn’t slide back so far. The seat is a little more rounded than other ’17 bikes but nothing to really complain about.
You’ll turn heads if you decide to pony up the dough for this very rare machine.
A downside to the motor is that we noticed quite a bit of engine braking and a tightness/heavy flywheel feeling. When on the gas, the motor’s meaty pulling power makes you aware that you have 50ccs more than a 250F, but when the throttle is closed the TM suddenly felt on the heavy side. It is a slightly slower revving motor unlike most 250Fs and doesn’t have that light/free feeling. That being said, this helped it turn easier, especially for our heavier (215 lbs.) test rider who could only get the sag to 120mm with the stock spring by getting more weight on the front wheel. The gearing was a little weird where first and second felt on the low side (and close together), then a big gap to third, which was a little tall. We stayed in third most of the time, which the TM would happily pull around the track most of the time (except for the tightest few corners on the track).
The air box is in front of the seat like modern Yamahas. But, the cylinder isn’t reversed like the other blue brand’s bikes.
Moving on to the suspension, both front and rear were a little soft and possibly under sprung. We stiffened the fork compression a few clicks because on bigger hits it felt like it went too far into the stroke. We feel that stiffer springs would be better than just cranking n the clickers in this situation. But on the small bumps, the bike was balanced and absorbed them well. Our heavier rider felt like the fork and shock went too far into the stroke for his liking, which made the fork feel harsh on braking and acceleration chatter. We added some high-speed compression to the shock as well, which allowed it to stay higher in the stroke but not lose too much comfort and traction.
The power is thick and slow-revving. Plenty of torque for a small-bore machine but not a ton of throttle response.
Getting the TM to corner was easy for some of our testers but not all. One rider said that he had a hard time getting the front wheel into the inside rut, but our other riders praised the TM’s tight cornering ability. Its neutral, balanced feeling could also lend to it being easy to corner for most riders. One tester said it is Suzuki like in the way that it feels heavy taking it off the stand, but feels light and nimble on the track. Our big guy had to use the throttle to get the bike to turn (rear end steering) with as much sag as he had. But, that goes to show that both a front end-steering guy and a rear end-steering guy were happy with the way the 300Fi got around the corners. Straight-line stability was good, but not amazing. We got a little headshake on a few choppy sections before a couple big jumps.
While we are normally impressed with Brembo binders, this bike’s front brake wasn’t as sharp as we wanted.
Since we only had this bike for a couple days we can’t really speak to the longevity of its parts. We can say that even though it has a Brembo front brake, it felt on the weak side. The header also burned one of our testers boots quite a bit – perhaps a heat shield is in order. The hydraulic clutch was almost too easy to pull – a tester said that he had to keep his finger off the clutch because just resting it on the lever, he felt like he was slipping and engaging the clutch around the track a little bit.
Out back the TM has Nissin brake components.
Overall, we are definitely pleasantly surprised by the TM MX 300Fi. It is a fun, comfortable motocross machine that has a controllable, torquey engine character in a chassis that is stable and pretty easy to turn. So, who is this bike for? In our opinion it is the perfect bike for a vet racer with a penchant for Italian machinery and someone who just has to be super different. Whether or not that is TM’s target rider for the 300Fi is a different question. At the end of the day, what else can a 300cc four-stroke motocross bike be other than a really fun track bike for someone who isn’t racing for a living.
- Torquey, powerful motor
- Coil spring KYB fork and TM shock give a balanced ride
- Fun bike that makes you want to ride it more
- Price tag
- Retro, slow revving motor feel
|2017 TM MX 300Fi|
|Fuel Capacity:||1.9 gal.|
|Weight (Tank Full):||238 lbs|
You can kind of make out the shock, which is a TM built unit with the reservoir in front of the shock since the tank takes up a lot of space in the back of the bike.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the TM 300 FI’s engine character. It doesn’t have a ton of throttle response like the Yamaha YZ250F, but is very similar to the Yamaha in torque feel. Rolling the throttle on gave me a very meaty pulling power feeling and that gave me confidence to go inside on corners and clear the next obstacle. Both ends of the suspension felt balanced and plush on small bumps. Hitting larger size jumps the fork felt like it went into the stroke too far. The TM corners well and is not scared taking inside lines around the track. Straight line stability felt adequate and bump absorption of the frame was very comfortable to the wrists and ankles. Overall TM did a pretty good job in making a fun bike to ride that is comfortable to go fast on. If they can stretch second gear out a little more and cut down on some vibration, I would love to ride this around my local moto tracks.” – Kris Keefer, 6’, 168 lbs. Vet Pro.
The handling comments were overall positive. For some testers cornering on this bike was very easy. A few others weren’t super impressed.
“The TM 300 is a chuggy, slow-reving four-stroke. I prefer a faster rev and sharper throttle response, but this bike does have power and does get good traction. What really threw me off was the chassis. I felt like I was way up high over a front end that was steep. The slower and sharper the rut, the harder of a time I had getting the TM to go where I wanted. As for the suspension, it felt like it was set up for a much more aggressive rider, and the front end had a too-solid feel to it, like I was holding a solid bar or aluminum mounted to a stiff fork. The power had a cushioned-feel to it, but the chassis and suspension had none. The bike did feel like a quality piece, and I could see this being a bike to consider for the rider who is tall and heavy but who wants a bike without the weight-feel of a 450.” – Pete Peterson, 5’10”, 175 lbs., Vet Novice
There is a good amount of hold up from the fork and shock. One tester went as far as saying that it was too stiff.
“I’m a weird bike guy. I’ve always liked one-off small production machines but I know that sometimes being rare doesn’t mean that it is good. To my relief, I really liked the TM MX 300Fi. It turned really well for me and not once did I feel the front end push even with my less than proper corning technique. The fork had some harshness on choppy straights but had nice hold up for me. The engine felt hearty and strong, but had a ton of engine braking that made me adjust my riding style. But I think that same engine braking made the bike easier for me to turn. I would be interested to see what could be done to lighten up the engine feel which would make it feel even better.” – Sean Klinger, 5’ 8”, 215 lbs., Vet Novice.
Most riders hopped off the bike and had the same overall descriptor for the TM… Fun
It isn’t the lightest bike on the track but feels relatively agile
We could pull third gear in most corners but a quick stab of the clutch gives you a big reaction if the power was falling off
Our fast guy testers where hitting all the jumps they normally would… Not lacking on power!