My Kind of Differrent
I am a Gas Gas guy. I feel like I always have to make this disclaimer every time I talk about the brand. I have owned them and I worked for the company. All of that was nearly ten years ago, but it still seems to follow me around, as if it was the only bike I ever raced. People still routinely ask me if I am working with GG, as if that was the only job I ever had.
So, that always cracks me up a little bit. But yes, I have spent my own money to buy one and I raced that bike for a couple of years with plenty of success. I was just a rookie expert at the time, but I always thought the bike suited me well.
With that out of the way, let us talk about the 2011 300 Six Days model that is sitting in my garage. It was way back last December when it first arrived and I rushed it off to Tecate to ride the Los Ancianos enduro. My race experience was a mixed bag. I had a great time on the bike, but I ran out of gas in one section and made a timekeeping mistake in another.
As for my impressions of the bike, it was nearly all good. The tight confines of Tecate suit the enduro motor and chassis extremely well. The nastier the conditions, be brighter the Gasser shines.
Shortly after the race, the bike headed off to FMF Racing for some pipe R&D work. It was gone for a number of months before I got my hands back on it. Since then I have been putting miles on the 300 and refining my impressions of the Spanish bike.
2011 will surely go down as the year of the two strokes. I mean just look at the new models from KTM and Husaberg. Customer interest and demand is on the rise everywhere. That has to be a good thing for the boys at Gas Gas. It is great to see more premix bikes on the trail and even at the track.
A closer look at some of the features of the 300
Motor – The basic design of this motor has been around for a number of years. It works so well that there is not much reason to change things. For me, one of the unique qualities of the Gas Gas motor is the ability to be so good at going slow, and so good at going fast. It bridges the world of trail rider to racer extremely good.
The six-speed transmission is just right. There are no gaps in the gear spacing and it has enough overall gearing for everything from tight trail to open fire roads. The short kickstart lever requires a quick stab, but fires to life easily. The Keihin carburetor is easy to access and can be reached without having to remove the gas tank. The slide cover now comes with the captive allen head fasteners.
The Kokusan 2k3 ignition has high and low mapping settings. Like previous GG models we tested, the settings are more like minor jetting adjustments, giving a richer or leaner condition. There is not a very significant difference between the maps.
The EC motor is pushing around a pretty large flywheel. That means it has plenty of charging output for lights. As for the flywheel effect on the motor, it is very pronounced. In technical riding conditions, the motor is a delight. It is super easy to ride and needs very little assistance from the clutch.
For riders that are more aggressive it becomes a little bit of a drawback. The motor revs a tad slow and needs some help from the clutch to keep it spinning fast. The slow reaction time is most noticeable on the motocross track.
In the conditions it is designed for, the Gas Gas motor is hard to match. Point the 300 towards the nearest black diamond trail, then just sit back and marvel at the ride. That is why you will see the Spanish bikes near the top in all the extreme enduro events.
Chassis- The basics of the perimeter frame design and geometry have only changed a little in the last decade. What has changed are the quality of the materials and construction. The Gassers have always been an agile bike. Now the frame is stronger and the general fit and finish improved. The frame alone is a thing of true beauty.
As for handling, it does just about everything well. Turning manners are light and border on aggressive. Without a steering stabilizer, it can be a little twitchy at speed, but nothing too bothersome.
Suspension- The 2011 models came stock with a 45mm Marzocchi open chamber fork. The diameter is a bit small by today’s standards, but overall it works pretty well. At any sensible trail pace the ride is excellent.
Spring rates are a good balance, even for a 200lb rider like myself. It will do light mx duty without too much bottoming. By the time you read this, the new 2012 models will start arriving with a new specification, 48mm Sachs fork.
The rear shock for the Six Days model is an Ohlins unit. It has both high and low speed compression adjusters. It works well and never gives much cause to think about what the rear end is doing. It tracks straight and will handle most everything that is thrown its way.
Brakes- Nissan components front and rear work excellent. In 2009 when we last tested a 300, the brakes were one of the areas that I noted as needing improvement. For 2011, the Six Days model is fitted with Braking wave rotors and they have cured any performance issues. It is now on par with the KTM binders and I think it is entirely due to the rotors. They worked equally well on the new Beta I just tested.
Misc- There are a couple of things to gripe about the GG. The foot peg to shifter distance is short and is difficult to get a boot under it in some situations. The rear brake pedal is vulnerable to damage. The addition of a brake snake will help this significantly. My Sidi boots tend to snag on the bodywork. This typically just happens on the track and it is always disconcerting.
The self-retracting sidestand is a pain and the bike IS going to fall over and bend a lever at some point.
There are also some nice extra touches that are part of the Gas Gas experience. The AJP hydraulic clutch has a nice light pull. The headlight puts out a decent beam. The stock Rental Twinwall bars are as tough as they come. The graphics are holding up pretty well and the bike still has a great look.
Accessories- The Gas Gas brand has good acceptance in the aftermarket. On our test bike, we tried out a rear disc guard from Bullet Proof Designs. They also make radiator guards, but as our Six Days model came with some already, we did not get around to trying them.
From Pro Moto Billet we bolted on some handguards and their F3 foot pegs. The pegs give a larger platform than stock and are much stronger. By running them in the low position, we were able to get a more comfortable position.
Rekluse now offers their Core EXP auto clutch for the Gasser. I did not get the opportunity to try it on the test bike. From previous experience, I know it would make a great addition to the motor.
Conclusions- The most important thing about the Gasser is to remember it is just a little different. Now this is completely separate from the fact that it works excellent. It also is not that it is just different from Japanese bikes; it is a bit different from everything. It fits different, it is put together a little bit different.
I have seen plenty of owners who could just never mentally get past that point. I have also seen people climb on the bike for the first time and proclaim it the greatest thing on two wheels. Different strokes for different riders.
The bike is a nice well-rounded package. There are top of the line parts everywhere and it is fun to ride. On the World Enduro Scene, factory riders Nambotin and Cervantes are consistently putting it at the top of the podium. Nambotin sits second in the E3 class and has a real shot at the world championship, having won the last two rounds.
So maybe the Gasser is just the kind of different that you need to up your enduro game.
photos by Kato & Chilly