Each bike is an individual. We know this. It's not rocket science, this is dirt biking. Sometimes when you meet someone, you get off on the wrong foot for one reason or another. After a bad impression, you have to work really hard to make up the ground you lost in the beginning. This was exactly the case when I got the 350 XC-F. No kick starter, what a bummer! Then I go out on a technical, slow, loose trail and struggled to keep the bike running. You can see where I'm going with this. We got off on the wrong foot. Because you can't just give up on someone right away, I kept taking this bike out on our little rides. Slowly but surely, it's really won me over. Sure, the power isn't quite as "in your face" as on the 300 two-stroke. Yeah, sometimes you feel like the motor is almost boring, but then you realize that it's not boring, it's just smooth. It's got all the power you need on a bike, and then some, you just have to learn where it's at. On this machine, it's all in the mid to upper range. Sure, it's easier to kill the motor at low RPMs than the 300 smoker, but then again, what bike isn't. Fair point?
The first big realization is that the 4CS forks, and the linkage shock on the rear, want to go fast. This bike really shines when you have enough room to let that 350 rev and roll. This thing eats up the big bumps and whoops like no other bike I've owned. It begs you to stay in the same gear at the point you'd be shifting on other bikes. It makes me wish I'd kept the 2009 YZ 450F to compare it against. Each time you roll on the power, it sort of lulls you into a false sense that you are going slow, and that there isn't that much power. The truth is anything but. The truth is that you are going fast. You are going really fast, and the suspension lulls you into believing that you aren't. It's pretty cool. Makes me really want a 300 XC as my next bike, since that would give me the motor I want, with the chassis/suspension I'm becoming acquainted with here. I honestly think that will be the perfect bike for me. Time will tell.
After a number of rides near where I live, I took the bike to Jericho for a ride. It rained the entire drive and was quite cold when I got there. Compound that with the fact that I'd been doing a lot of stop/start riding (running the battery down) on the previous outing, and the bike wouldn't turn over fast enough to fire up! Given the fact that it doesn't have a back up kick starter, this really sucked. Scott and I tried to bump start it on the dirt/sand to no avail. We ended up getting it started by pushing it out to the asphalt road and bump starting it there. Almost had to drag it behind a truck with a tie down! Remember what I said about bad first impressions? However, once the bike was running, and started eating up all the deep whoops you tend to find in Jericho, it was once again finding it's way back into my good graces!
It's a bike I was scared to ride for fear that it would shake my "two-stroke" testimony. It hasn't, but it's helped to understand why people really like their four-strokes. One thing I've learned is that although this bike is unbelievable good in its own right, two-strokes are funner to ride, for me anyway. You may dis-agree, which is your right, but that is how I feel. The nice thing about having both bikes is that I now have a "change of pace" bike that is totally different than my current 300 XC-W.