I have that strange sense of deja vu again. It seems like I have been right here before. Every season, when it comes time to say goodbye to the Gas Gas, I find myself reliving the sentiment of the previous model: I like the bike, I just wish that Gas Gas would address a few of the issues that keep it from greatness.
This year we have an entirely new bike and it has made some real progress. Never the less, some of the hang ups persist. But let’s start on a positive note here and talk about what I like most about the 2012 Spanish bike.
The new frame is very nice. I like the way the bike handles. The new design includes fixing the brake pedal design, a long time flaw on the Gasser.
The new linkage works well, along with the Ohlins shock
The slim bodywork and flat seat make it easy to move around
Nice component parts, some new and some carry over; brakes – bars – grips.
Super light hydraulic clutch
Stock FMF Q silencer
Nice AXP skidplate
Turning the conversation to the things that still need improvement, the one biggy is the front fork. All European bike builders are stuck with what they can get for suspension. There are very few great choices out there for them. The smartest thing KTM ever did was to purchase WP. Say what you will about WP, but KTM has complete control over what they produce and what goes on the production bikes.
For the Gas Gas, this Marzocchi fork just is not stellar as delivered. Our fork lacked dampening control both directions, compression and rebound. We did a quick service to verify that oil levels were correct but that did little to change the overall feel. For most enduro riding it was not bad, but once on a more challenging motocross track, the lack of control reared up.
The Gas Gas motor has some very nice characteristics, particularly for nastier conditions. Testing the GG against our project KTM 300 and a stock 300xcw showed that the GG has the narrowest focus of the group. The big flywheel really slows down the reaction times.
Long sections of second and third gear trail are where the Gas Gas really comes into its own. The smooth motor, light clutch and lightweight feel of the package feel right at home. But our bike never felt like a real power house.
Interestingly, the XC is great down low and pretty good when singing along on the pipe. But it feels flat in the middle. Again, on a open motocross track it would run well, but on a tight track with slow turns and rhythm jumps, the big flywheel made the power delivery feel very inconsistent for aggressive riding.
The reaction coming out of a tight corner starts as too little power, then sort of dead in the middle, to too much power on top. If a jump comes along somewhere in that range, hold on tight because you are not quite sure which part of the power you are going to get. By comparison, the stock KTM 300xcw would chug around the same track without much effort or thought.
Once in a while I ride a friend’s 2002 Gas Gas XC300 with smaller ignition that used to be offered on the US models. I am astonished at how much the chassis scares me, because I spent a whole season riding the exact same bike. At the same time, I marvel at how great the motor is, even compared to current bikes. I don’t think this current motor has made any significant advances from that 2002 model.
Here is my list of “needs improvement”. The 2013 bikes are already on the way, so I hope that they have addressed some of these issues.