2021 GASGAS EC300 TWO-STROKE: FULL TEST

The GasGas EC300’s nucleus came from a pipeline straight from the KTM mother ship. It’s TPI-injected, oil-injected, a 6-speed wide-ratio gearbox and, more important, counter-balanced to erase all forms of vibration. The frame, too, comes from an Austrian ancestry via the chromoly chassis, rear suspension with linkage, WP XPLOR dampers up front and a WP XPLOR shock that runs through a linkage system. The subframe is aluminum, the airbox is a tool-free design, and, like both of its family members, the EC300 comes with a beefed-up exhaust pipe and a spark-arrestor-free muffler. It’s fit with forged triple clamps, Braktec brakes (as opposed to Brembo) and Braktec hydraulics at the clutch (as opposed to Brembo/Magura). The other big variances are the lack of handguards, silver rims and a lower price tag.

There’s no doubt that GasGas had to write a mission statement that veered off the KTM course somewhat.  Its headline is, “More affordable than a KTM,” and the EC300 sells for $9599, whereas the 300XC-W is $10,199. In order to offer that price, the EC uses some different parts. We mentioned that the brakes and hydraulic clutch are by Braktec. The bars and rims are unbranded versions of the Neken and Excel items that come on KTMs. And, the overall weight is 235 pounds sans fuel, which is a double six more than a PDS-equipped KTM 300XC-W.

With the GasGas EC300, you get the TPI heritage and performance from the Austrian bloodline at a bit of price cut. The machine lacks a few necessities, like handguards (we installed the SXS Burly shields) and a skid plate.

INSIDE THE MACHINE
The powerplant is a 6-speed with enduro-specific ratios, is fuel-injected, oil-injected, has a twin-valve-controlled power valve and a vibration-reducing balancer shaft. The oil injection uses speed- and throttle-position-sensor data to feed the proper amount of oil. Incredibly, the precision of the design makes the average ratio used by the EC300 at 80:1, meaning one tank of oil will feed five tanks of gas. 

Engine management flows through the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that is equipped with the latest digital mappings for strong and balanced power. It controls the ignition timing and the amount of fuel injected, using sensor data such as intake air pressure, throttle position and coolant temperature to feed the proper ingredients to the cylinder. The entire engine is very compact, is electric start only and comes fit with an exhaust system that features a beefed-up belly to ward off blows.

Managing the operating temperature is an integrated cooling system, radiators that are mounted low (for handling) and use as few hoses as possible for efficiency. It does not come equipped with a radiator cooling fan. The fuel tank totes 8.5 liters (2.4 gallons) and comes equipped with a fuel sensor to let you know when you’re running low on petrol.

Stellar bottom-to-mid power mates to a strong handling package on the EC300. On the tight trails, the juice is clean and meaty, and with the bigger sand climbs, it is a bit on the lean side.

Uniquely GasGas, the EC300 uses Braktec hydraulics to control the clutch modulation and engagement. Internally, the clutch is a DDS, which have been notoriously strong units on the KTM/Husqvarna side of the family.

A chromoly chassis is a direct descendent from the “Queen Bee Katoom” but is powdercoated red. The EC uses rear linkage, like the Husqvarna and KTM XC, and the damper is a WP XACT unit. Internally, the valving is set for enduro work, with the focus on absorbing the trail nasties that the woods/trail rider will encounter. The fork, a WP XPLOR unit, features a split design where each side gets springs, with compression damping on the left and rebound damping on the right. Both adjusters are on top. The triple clamps are 22mm offset and are forged units with a four-position handlebar adjustability.

Distinctive to the GasGas are the unbranded silver rims, Braktec brakes and unbranded bulge handlebars. Stopping power via the Braktec hydraulics come through a two-piston caliper up front and a single-piston caliper in the rear. The rotors are 260mm front and 220mm rear. For those who don’t know Braktec, they are big players in the trials with a strong reputation. The hubs are machined, the tires Dunlop AT81s and are known for their versatility.

WP XPLOR suspension and linkage driven in the back come on the GasGas EC300. Tires are Dunlop AT81s, and the brakes are Braktec and worthy, though they lack the Brembo’s ultimate stopping power.

ON THE TRAIL
Power-wise, the GasGas EC300 is strong. It’s KTM-like in all ways, from immediate starting via the button to clean and very tractable muscle that starts very low in the powerband. The gearing is wide-ratio, meaning first and second gears are low for tight terrain, third jumps a decent gap, with fourth, fifth, and six spread out nicely for faster terrain and long transfer zones. Right out of the hole the EC snorts robustly, then really wants to be shifted as it enjoys pulling the tallest gear possible and absolutely refuses to stall. From the upper mid-range to the top it feels pent up, and here’s where we backed out the power-valve adjuster two turns. This let the valve open sooner, enhanced the mid-hit and let it sing with some pretty strong lungs. All of our above-average testers liked this setup. Throughout the powerband this machine rated top marks from every test rider for its virtual lack of vibration. It’s flat stunning how smooth this engine runs, even when abused.

Braktec hydraulics have built a strong following in the trials world

The feel to the chassis is stable, has precise steering and good habits at speed. Both suspension ends are cushy, almost to the point of being too soft for riders over a buck seventy-five. For the trail and enduro technician, the action is all about removing the hack from the trail. Bigger pilots will definitely require stiffer coils at both ends, and even our 135-pound expert felt that he could use some more resistance on higher-speed G-outs. But, like all things suspension, you can’t be everything to everybody, and the WP dampers walk the fine line of good feel at the expense of aggressive pros splatting a rock face at an Extreme Enduro.

The EC300 is fuel-injected and has oil injection mirroring its Austrian siblings.

Here’s a look at some key performance points:

—The Braktec hydraulic clutch performed flawlessly. In fact, the action (clutch pull) is lighter than the KTM with superb feel.

—The BrakTec stoppers have strong initial power, but are just a shade weaker than Brembo’s on long sustained downhills.

—Dunlop AT81 tires received positive reactions, though not great ratings in the sand but good marks in the hardpack and rocks.

—No skid plate is a blemish, as are no handguards. We realize that this was a cost-saving measure, but come on, it’s an off-road machine.

—Airbox/air filter has side access and is a no-tools-required operation.

—Power is clean, strong and nearly perfect for the off-roader.

—Handling is balanced, planted, a bit soft but well-focused for the technical terrain pilot.

The electric start is the only way to get it to fire (lacks a kick-starter), the damper is a WP unit, and the linkage rate is identical to the KTM and Husqvarna models.

AND THIS MEANS…
We really have to generate a lot of effort looking for flaws in the GasGas EC300. The TPI-injected machine makes wonderful power, runs clean, gets great gas mileage, is oil-injected, has a well-spaced 6-speed tranny, and this mates to a competitively light machine equipped with competent suspension. Our biggest snivels come in what it lacks—handguards, a spark arrestor and a skid plate. Welcome to the family. You’ve got a strong bloodline and all the basics to be a top contender in the two-stroke off-road-world planet. 

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