This article was originally featured in the September 2017 print edition of Dirt Rider.
Once a thriving yet small company offering a wide range of two- and four-stroke enduro models, GasGas slowly offered fewer and fewer, ending up with only two dated off-road bikes (EC 250 and 300) in 2017. But with a new ownership coming in and not only pulling the company out of bankruptcy but revitalizing its manufacturing plant in Spain, GasGas seems to be a brand renewed, with five all-new models for 2018. To start things off, it has introduced the flagships of the group—the EC 300 and XC 300. The other models that will be introduced later this year are an XC 250, XC 200, and EC 200, all two-strokes. We asked about why there wasn’t an EC 250 planned, and GasGas said that for more trail-oriented riders, having a 300 and 200 covers the bases and that its 250 trailbike in the past sold in much fewer numbers.
The two model lines are XC (racer oriented with no lights and simpler electrical system) and EC (trail oriented with lights and computer) that are surprisingly close to one another on paper and out on the trail yet have very little in common with any of GasGas’ previous models. One of our biggest questions, and most likely yours as well, is, “Did they go on a diet?” Back to our “2013 300 Two-Stroke Off-Road Shootout,” the GasGas was the heaviest at 274 pounds, 2 pounds heavier than the Christini All-Wheel-Drive bike even. According to GasGas’ numbers, the ’18 model is claimed to be 9 percent lighter. With some quick math that would be 24.7 pounds—but our first impression ride was only for one day on the trail, so we haven’t had a chance to confirm that number.
The EC/XC has a completely new central-backbone frame, still made of chrome-moly steel, and is said to be 20 percent lighter. The aluminum subframe is new (claimed 15 percent lighter) and houses a larger airbox with toolless air filter access and removal/replacement. The gas tank is said to be both larger (2.6 gallons) and slimmer. The bodywork is all new, has simplified fasteners, and is designed with a slim feel in mind. The new seat has softer foam and a cover with more traction, and the footpegs and kickstand are new. The swingarm is also new and is a claimed 7 percent lighter. The EC model has a multi-function dash and handlebar electrical controls with an all-in-one start, turn signal, high/low beam selector, and horn button. The XC doesn’t have this, just a simple start button and kill switch. But frustratingly on both models, the start and stop buttons are on the opposite sides they normally are (start on the left, stop on the right).
We can’t help but notice a very KTM/Husqvarna-ness to the new design, in function as well as look. For example, the seat is held on by one left-side bolt under the number plate… We aren’t making any bold claims, but we do plan on getting a Spanish and Austrian bike down to their skivvies to compare and contrast.
Suspension can make or break a bike, and we are extremely happy to see KYB components both front and rear on the 2018 EC/XC bikes. If you like a coil spring in each of your fork legs, then you’ll be happy to hear the fork is an AOS, closed-cartridge system on both models. This is not the same SSS fork gracing Yamaha’s machines but similar, with off-road-specific settings just for GasGas. While other OEMs give their “cross country” and “trailbikes” completely different suspension, or at least different settings, the EC and XC 300s have identical units and settings. In our opinion, this is a good move since we are always trying to stiffen up the stock suspension on the bikes with headlights.
The engine has a new cylinder, crankshaft, and cylinder head, and while the dyno chart that GasGas presented us shows almost 10 more peak horsepower for the 2018 300cc engine over last year’s motor, this is the part of the bike that retains its character from previous red Spanish machines. The clutch is new as well as the intake (38 Keihin carb into a Moto Tassinari VForce reed cage), and all of this is the same on each model. What differs in the power department is the exhaust system. The EC model has a stock (read: unbranded) expansion chamber and an FMF muffler, while the XC has a full FMF system.
¡¡¡Vamos A Montar!!!
Now that we’ve introduced a pretty much all-new bike, time to ride it! Or them, we should say. And we might as well start there.
Hopping on the EC first, the e-start worked like a charm, and the 300cc smoker seemed to be jetted on point for the test conditions and altitude. The engine’s character is actually reminiscent of past models, just with more power across the board and a little bit crisper throttle response; the torque and the tractability of the power let us lug smoothly. As with most 300s, the power is shifted lower than on a typical 250. The meat is in the upper part of the bottom-end and through the midrange.
While top-end power and over-rev were okay, our testing trails for the day were pretty tight and didn’t have us wringing the bike out much. But we also were so happy with the power in the lower rpm that we’d probably short-shift it in any condition just to stay down there. The XC’s power is shifted a little higher in the rpm and comes on with a sharper hit, while the EC’s power is very linear and smooth. The XC has a tiny bit less boost right off the bottom but a more aggressive and powerful hit in the middle.
Just having new suspension doesn’t count if it doesn’t work on the trail. Fortunately, the KYB kit does work on the trail. Actually it works really, really well on the trail. The first thing that surprised us was the firm overall setup from both ends. Normally, European off-road bikes have such comfort-based, soft setups that we are begging for stiffer springs immediately. Not so with the EC and XC. Conversely, both of our testers went two clicks softer on the fork—one because he is very light (130 pounds) and wanted more comfort; the other because the front end had a slight push when turning and he was trying to get just a touch more front-end traction.
But overall, this performance-based fork and shock had great hold-up, smooth overall action, and good amount of plushness in the first part of the stroke. To be completely fair to GasGas, the fork and shock are so new that the “stock settings” are just the middle of the adjustment ranges. Geoff Aaron, National Trials champion and GasGas media liaison, hasn’t had a chance to sink his teeth into the bikes yet to put his experience to good use and come up with a best overall setting.
Handling doesn’t feel anything like the 2017 and earlier GasGas bikes. While the bikes don’t feel crazy light or thin, they are definitely close to the orange and white bikes. Changing directions through the trees took minimal effort, and the claimed weight loss was most noticeable when needing to slow down quickly, pivot, and get back on the gas. In our limited testing area, there were no open areas to get a feeling of the bike in high-speed whoops or long sweepers. But the bikes were stable and planted even in the dry and dusty conditions and in the few short sand sections.
We really look forward to getting these machines in our shop and putting more time on them, especially with other off-road bikes for comparison. As we often say, a bike on its own can feel pretty good, but with other machines as competition, its strengths and weaknesses are easily noticed. Our guess is these new GasGas machines have some serious off-road strengths.
Age: 25, 5’10”, 130 lb.
The GasGas XC 300 and EC 300 both have strong bottom-end power. The XC 300 engine revs through the midrange and into the top-end power quickly while the EC 300 engine takes a bit more time to do so. A quick pop of the clutch helps the EC 300 in this area. The fork responds well to clicker changes. Two clicks softer on the compression helped absorb the braking bumps better and move more through the stroke on bigger hits too. The bike handles well and feels light on every part of the trail.
2018 GasGas XC 300 and EC 300
- Crash diet, bike feels lighter
- EC has buttery, usable torque; XC has more snap
- Suspension is competition ready
- Not a rocket ship of a motor
- Where’s your GasGas dealer?
|MSRP||$9,299 EC, $8,999 XC|
|Claimed Seat Height||37.8 in.|
|Fuel Capacity||2.6 gal.|
|Claimed Dry Weight||231.5 lb.|