It is difficult to know exactly where to start any conversation about Gas Gas today. Everything is overshadowed by the news of the financial dilemmas of the past six months. So we simply cannot ignore that fact. The company is effectively shut down, in bankruptcy and now under the direction of a court appointed receiver. Hopefully, that is the last of the bad news and we will see positive news for the future of the company from here forward.
Reflecting on my ride time with the new 2105 XC300e (XC is the US model designation), there are significant improvements to the bike. About half of the little nagging issues that were complaints of the past have been addressed. There is still one significant glitch. As Homer Simpson said, “Marge, the scales are lying to me again!”, we will get back to that later. Regardless, there is plenty to like about the Gasser, some because it just works and some because it is simply different, unique.
Who knows what the future holds, but if you don’t already own this bike, or planning on buying one from a dealer showroom, you will probably never get a chance to ride this exact model. Not only are we unsure about the next incarnation of Gas Gas, but Marzocchi will soon cease suspension production and the 48mm Shiver fork will be no more. I guess that makes our test bike about as exotic as they come.
The powervalve system is redesigned this year. A new spring tension system allows for external adjustment of the preload. This looks very similar to the system on the smaller KTM motors, remove the large nut cover to access the screw adjustment underneath. Adding preload lets the powervalve open faster for more aggressive power delivery. Decreasing preload delays opening to reduce power for challenging conditions.
The other big news is the redesign of of the starter motor. When Gas Gas first introduced their E start a few years ago, it was a large unsightly motor that was obviously just tacked onto the existing design. It has been a continual eye sore and not always the best performer. On our test of the 2014 model, the electric start often required multiple stabs at the button to get it to engage properly.
The new starter design is much smaller. It is well integrated and tucks in close to the motor. The function was perfect. It started every time without hesitation. It is only lacking a fancy plastic cover.
Gas Gas finally comes with proper looking footpegs. They are larger and substantially beefier than the old ones. Footpeg mounts are bolted to the frame and can be reversed to give a 12mm lower peg position. Along with that comes a new shift lever that offers more room, another long overdue fix. The brake pedal is Japanese style that runs outside the frame.
All the two strokes get new ignition maps for 2015. Other detail changes include gas cap, seat, wheel adjuster tension spring and rubber band for the side stand. The battery on the electric start models is mounted to the underside of the seat.
The Carry Over Components
The suspension package is the same as last year. Up front is the Marzocchi 48mm Shiver fork with the PFP valve. Reiger supplies the distinctive purple shock.
The fuel tank capacity is 9.5 litres (2.5 gl). The European style wiring harness includes a key ignition, full switch gear, fork lock and brake light. Gas Gas retains the bar mounted choke with the easy to reach lever on the brake master cylinder. The bars are now a Gas Gas branded model that look similar to the previous Renthal Twinwall. They are a fat bar with a cross bar. Grips are by Pro Grip.
The OEM GG exhaust is paired with the FMF Q muffler. The brake package consists of Nissan calipers grabbing Galfer rotors. The move to Galfer rotors a few years ago was a big improvement. Excel rims and Metzler Six Day Extreme tires complete the list.
In The Garage
For testing this time around we had two other bikes for reference; Husqvarna TE250 and Geoff Aaron’s Endurocross prepped XC300. There will be more on the Endurocross monster to come!
First up on the list was a trip to the scales, Husky vs Gas Gas. GG has always had a bit of a battle with the bulge to contend with. Both bikes were box stock, full of gas and mounted with Dunlop tires. The Husky had a set of mousse’s and 2 litres more fuel capacity. But overall it was a pretty square head to head comparison. Results, Husky – 250 lbs, Gas Gas – 263 lbs. As a side note, the Husky weighs within 3 lbs of its published “no fuel” weight.* Gas Gas gives a claimed dry weight of 235 lbs.
On The Trail
Our 300 came to us jetted a bit on the rich side. Dropping the needle to the second position helped the bottom end significantly. On the second day of testing we changed the 170 main to a 162 and that really woke up the top end.
I confess that we did not mess with the powervalve setting. The overall character and power delivery were good enough I didn’t see the need. But the same can be said of other two strokes we test too. You need to really be looking for something outside the normal range of performance to make significant changes to the PV. I have often helped “dial in” bikes for friends by setting their PV back to stock, with great success I might add.
Overall the motor is just what we expect from Gas Gas. It shines on the bottom end. The worse the conditions, the better it feels. It is super easy to ride in the tough stuff. I think I said this of the last one we tested, it has an almost auto clutch quality. If you have to get out of the throttle, you can get right back into it without shifting or using the clutch. The power comes back steady and smooth.
The mid range is much the same, there is just something super sweet about Gas Gas motors when ridden in their happy spot. On the very top the 300 becomes a bit more of a handful to ride. They have a lot of mass so the response can be a little slow. It is best to keep it more to the mid range and not try to over ride, or rev it. It becomes more work than reward.
It was interesting having the Husky TE250 along for comparison. The 250 gives up a bit on the bottom, but in general is equally happy being ridden hard or mild. The 300 proposition is this; you get more right off the bottom and in the midrange, but riding the 300 wide open takes more skill to make it payoff. The differences are not huge, just two different ways of accomplishing the same thing.
As always the Gas Gas hydraulic clutch has super smooth pull and lightweight feel. It has always been one of my favorites.
On last year’s Gas Gas outing the conditions were as difficult as they come, muddy, wet and cold. I didn’t get much opportunity to put the suspension through its paces. This time around was different. One day of mountain single track and one day of vet moto let us do just about everything.
The Reiger shock was very good. I added one or two clicks of compression and opened the rebound one click. Overall it seemed to do everything well. The GG has kind of a long and low feel to begin with, so the rear always seems like it has too much sag. But it also is very stable in the rear end. Geoff Aarons’ EX bike is running an Elka shock and I actually felt that I liked the stock one slightly better. But the EX bike is aimed towards some very specific handling goals also.
The Marzocchi Shiver fork was more in the middle of the road. Our faster tester liked it for its initial stiffness. It stays well up in the stroke and that let him feel more comfortable at speed and taking big hits. There is no doubt it works best at speed. Going too slow makes it feel harsh and it shows some tendency to deflect. I didn’t like that the fork stayed so high in the stroke under braking, it was harder to get good feel for the front tire. On the track is where the fork worked best. The slightly stiff set up gives confidence and bigger hits are sucked up easily.
Initially the 48mm fork would bounce back hard from big hits. Two additional clicks of rebound got it slowed down properly. We wanted to try the PFP settings, but both clickers seemed reluctant too move, as if frozen. After a couple of attempts, I figured best just to leave it alone.
You have to admit Gas Gas make a beautiful motorcycle. With such sleek lines it appears graceful and light. It looks fast standing still.
First ride impression is that it is long, low and taut. The rather stiff bar and rock hard seat would make you swear there was not an ounce of fat to be found on it. For that matter, it hides the weight well all around. In the stock position, the pegs feel just a bit high, but well out of the way of rocks too. For perhaps the first time ever on a Gasser, the shift lever and brake pedal are just about in the perfect position.
The 300 likes to move the whole bike at once. It isn’t as much of a “ride on the front wheel” feel as the Husky. The chassis encourages you to sit back and put the entire bike into a corner at once. It likes a steady sweeping motion versus a hard point an shoot approach. Just picture yourself carving turns around a beautiful grasstrack.
It was great on the motocross track. It would hold a berm or rail an outside line well and always very stable. This is the first Gas Gas I have ever felt entirely comfortable on at the track. Comfortable enough to push some of my own limits. Admittedly it has been a few years since I last did some moto on a GG. The improved shift lever and brake pedal positions have a lot to do with it.
On the tighter trails it often just feels long, with the front not quite moving in unison with the rear. But that is only in first gear kind of terrain. Once it opens up a bit the feel is much better. At times the brakes seem to take a bit of extra effort. It is not really the brakes, but the extra weight rearing its head.
Many of the things on our Gas Gas wish list have finally been addressed. The Electric start is now a modern design. For the most part, the ride is a sweet as the aesthetics. Here are my remaining pains;
On the plus side there is the nice odometer, FMF silencer, ignition map switch and a host of quality parts throughout.
Normally I would write a conclusion that would include my recommendations. Given the status of things, that is out the window. I like riding the 300 Gas Gas a lot. Fix the hard seat and stiff bars and it is a bike I see myself spending more time on. The fork would need some attention too, but not a wild amount. So I guess that just leaves me hoping that we will see a new future for the Catalan brand on the horizon. We certainly need the diversity, something our market is sorely lacking right now.
*Husky published weight, 104.2kg, 104.4kg x 2.2 = 230+17.4(2.9x 6 lb per gallon fuel)=247.4 lbs vs 250 lbs actual
|2015 Gas Gas XC300E MSRP $7,999|
|Engine||2-stroke Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled|
|Bore x stroke||72,0 x 72,0 mm|
|Starter||Kick (Electric optional)|
|Gearbox||6 speed gearbox with foot control|
|Clutch||Multidisc in oil bath|
|Carburettor||Keihin PKWS 38 mm|
|Intake system||Direct reed valve VForce 4|
|Handlebar||GasGas Double Force|
|Frame||Perimeter frame in chrome-molybdenum|
|Subframe||Tubular aluminum alloy|
|Swingarm||Aluminium, progressive system with tie rods|
|Front fork||Marzocchi shiver inverted ø48 mm, closed cartridge|
|Suspensión travel||305 mm|
|Adjustability||Spring preload, rebound and compression|
|Shock absorber||Reiger Mono shock, Special settings|
|Adjustability||Spring preload, rebound and compression high/low speed|
|Suspension travel||298 mm|
|Rim type||Excel Aluminium spoke rim|
|Rim – tyre||Front: 1.6 x 21 – Metzeler Six Days Extreme 90/90 – 21|
|Rim – tyre||Rear: 2.15 x 18 – Metzeler Six Days Extreme 140/80 – 18|
|Front brake||260 mm Galfer wave disc, 2-piston Nissin caliper|
|Rear brake||220 mm Galfer wave disc, 1-piston Nissin caliper|
|Fuel||9,5 l (2-stroke-oil/fuel mixed 1:50)|
|Dry weight||104 kg / 107 kg|
|Dimensions||Length x width x height: 2.200 x 830 x 1.260 mm|