If you’re old enough to remember the early 1980s Honda XBR500, then the Mash Dirt Star 400 will look vaguely familiar – or at least the engine will. It’s a downsized 400cc version of Honda’s four-valve air-cooled single, made by Shineray in China.
So this is a Chinese bike, but styled and overseen by the French brand Mash. They launched the basic roadster Roadstar 400 last year and the Dirt Star Scrambler is the latest variation on the theme.
The Dirt Star’s styling suggests that street scramblers of the 1960s/70s were really just road bikes with a few off-road styling cues added to indicate mud plugging ability. Hence the semi-knobbly tyres, wide-braced handlebars, competition plate, mesh headlight protector and two-into-one exhaust.
With lots of matt or satin black (virtually everything apart from the tank) it all works well, giving Mash Dirt Star 400 a tougher image than the standard Roadstar, though it really needs a high-level pipe to finish it off.
Mechanically, Mash Dirt Star 400 is almost identical to the Roadstar, which means the Honda-derived engine is in a soft state of tune, offering 29 BHP @ 7.000 RPM. It’s fuel-injected now, but still air-cooled, and the rest of the spec is determinedly retro, with a simple tubular steel frame, five-speed gearbox, front disc/rear drum brakes, non-adjustable forks and twin rear shocks.
There are a couple of changes over the Road Star, notably a square-section swingarm, beefier looking rear shocks and gaitered front forks. There’s no ABS, but presumably that’ll be fitted by the end of the year, in time for Euro 4.
On The Road
As you climb aboard the Mash Dirt Star 400, it’s clear that this will be a relaxing ride. The seat is a low-ish 780 mm and you sit upright, hands grasping the wide bars with a good view of what’s going on around you.
Mash likes to say that its 400s don’t compete with that king of retros, the Royal Enfield Bullet, which has its roots in the 1950s. And they’re right, because the Mash motor is a child of the 1980s, far revvier, power peaking at 7000 RPM with an ignition cut-out at 8500 RPM. Truth be told, I never got that far with the test bike, which had only 30 miles on the clock, but experience with the mechanically identical Roadstar suggests more performance than 29bhp might suggest, certainly enough for A- and B-road fun.
Buzzy vibes do come in over 5000 RPM, but the Mash Dirt Star 400 will happily sit at 65-70 mph, with plenty in hand, though the upright riding position gets a bit blowy at anything over the legal limit.
Really, the Dirt Star is better suited to back roads, and in fact the motor is quite flexible, pulling with less than 3000 RPM showing. It handles well too, as the wide bars enable you to tip it into corners with a tiny nudge, and the semi-knobblies hang on well, at least in the dry. It’s a slim and lightweight bike, which helps.
The basic suspension doesn’t suffer from having no front end adjustment, and the rear shocks do have pre-load, which will need winding-up if you want to take a pillion. Both Dirt Star 400’s brakes felt a bit wooden, but I’d put that down to the test bike’s low mileage – the Roadstar I tried last year had fine brakes.
Mash Dirt Star 400 Specifications
Engine : 4-Stroke, Single Cylinder, SOHC 4-Valve, Air-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 85 x 70 mm
Capacity : 398 cc
Compression Ratio : 8.8 : 1
Induction : Siemens 2.0 EFI
Transmission : 6-Speed, Chain-Drive
Power : 29 HP @ 7.000 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 30 N.m @ 5.500 RPM (claimed)
Seat Height : 780 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 13 litres
Weight : 151 kg (dry, claimed)
Frame : Tubular Steel Frame
Front Suspension : 41mm Telescopic Fork
Rear Suspension : Twin Shock Absorber, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : Disc Brake, with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brakes : Drum Brake
Front Tyre : 90/90 – 19
Rear Tyre : 130/70 – 18
Price : £3999 Inc Vat