But here's where the TM feels different to every other bike out there at the moment. Forget the rock-hard (non-standard) settings of our test bike, every single part of the TM's chassis and cycle parts is set up for racing. The steering from the giant 50mil forks set in forged triple clamps with 22mm off-set is utterly precise. You feel every bump, every stone, every tiny movement of the front wheel, not just through the bars but through the whole machine. Those of you who have ever driven a proper racing Kart or race-car will know what I mean when I say that it's the difference you get between a rose-jointed feel, and the slightly woolly feeling you get from a fast road car sat on rubber bushes. It's not the firmness, it's the precision and feedback you feel all the time with the TM. Through the rock-hard seat, the giant flat pegs and the tall braceless bars - I see now why TM don't recommend their machinery for trail riding.
This feedback lets you be very precise with the TM and position it where you want it - which is just as well as the bike doesn't feel like the smallest of 250s. It's funny, the deadly accurate electronic RUST scales recorded its weight at a smidgeon under 114kg (without dials - removed by Phil), which makes it among the very lightest machinery out there. It's about a match for the new ultra-light Husky - lighter than the Yam, Honda and Gasser etc. In fact only the KTM is lighter still (by less than a kilo), and yet for all its lack of mass the TM never feels featherweight in your hands. Instead it feels sufficiently light yet very planted - it doesn't shake its head nor do anything weird, and in some ways it handles like a slightly larger machine. I think part of that is down to the firm suspension making it sit higher in the stroke at all times, partly it's due to the very tall bars which position you high and upright, and partly it's thanks to the TM's 'Honda' geometry which makes it incredibly stable on all types of terrain.
Get it onto a grassy test with flat turns and you will be amazed by the TM's prowess. The brakes (Nissin master cylinder feeding a Brembo caliper up front, Nissin system at the rear) are unbelievable. You can leave your braking till the very last moment, slam on the anchors and still get the thing stopped in time for a corner - even if it's bumpy. With a superbly deigned, slimline (and low) tank, together with well-designed narrow rad panels letting you climb all over the front of the bike, turning in couldn't be simpler. And throughout the radius of the corner the TM feels utterly composed and settled into the track no matter what your angle of lean (though it's not the most agile through the turns - KTM still takes that accolade). Then, on the way out you wind on the power, shift your weight towards the back of the seat and point it at the next corner, and the TM just hooks up and drives - no bouncing, no shimmying or wild oversteer, just forward motion. Brilliant.
Whether it would feel quite so good in a slippery woods section with exposed white roots and deep ruts I can't really comment, because although the stability would work in your favour, the firmness of the whole bike might not. We did find some woods to ride in and rather surprisingly the TM turned out to be excellent at feet-up riding, but we couldn't re-create wet Welsh conditions in the heart of SE England in summertime.
Loose surface going with stones, sticks, and loam are sensory overload. The amount of feedback you get from riding the TM threatens to overwhelm you at times as you feel precisely what both ends are up to. But once you get your head around the bike's feel, you quickly learn to process the information and use it to your advantage.