To those in the know, Gas Gas produces some pretty incredible motorcycles. They tip the upper spectrum of trickness mainly in the trials arena, where they are dominant figures in the obstacle-driven sport. In the off-road/enduro stage they are much better known in Europe as mainstays of competitive racing machinery, where they constantly garner good results in world enduro events. But here, they?re unusual. They?re oddities. You just don?t see a whole lot of them. We received a call from Matt Stavish, a Minnesota racer who is now employed by the Spanish motorcycle marquee. Matt has huge credibility as a superb enduro racer, finishing in the top ten overall results for the last half decade, and has been mounted on a Gas Gas since 2000. He was in town for the Works Event and had with him the traveling 70-foot Gas Gas Semi along with a handful of new scoots. Would we like to ride one for a day? To be honest, we?re a picky bunch here. We don?t like one-day tests and really choose to evaluate a machine over a period of time, stressing them under the pressure of several habitats, which lets us to get a proper evaluation. But we relented and gave in to Matt?s will and what follows is a one-day test of the 2002 Gas Gas EC 300. In order to quantify and qualify the test, we invited Larry Roeseler along for his input. This made us feel a whole lot more comfortable.
ABOUT THE BIKE The EC 300 that we tested was a special model that was equipped with Ohlins suspension both fore and aft (White Power is the standard fork). The frame is a perimeter unit similar to the Kawasaki KX?s. Gas Gas wanted more rigidity and less flex and this was accomplished via the perimeter system. The fuel cell drops down between the upper frame pieces and holds 2.1 gallons of petrol, which is a shade on the slim side for an off-road machine. The subframe is detachable and the air filter well nestled inside a well-sized airbox. Our bike came stock with an FMF Fatty pipe and FMF Turbine Core II spark arrester. The engine is a case reed unit with a square bore and stroke (72.0mm x 72.0mm) and is carbureted via a 38mm round slide Mikuni (???). A six-speed transmission is standard, as is the hydraulic clutch. For 2002 Gas Gas updated the internal bearings, fit a more ergonomically acceptable shifter, revised the crank, updated the carburetor jetting spec, fit a new head with altered squish and new bigger engine bolts. Besides the new graphics, the EC300 has new front valving in the fork and shock, taller aluminum handlebars, new brake discs and enduro lighting.
ON THE TRAIL Larry Roeseler set up our test loop, which was just over 45 miles long, super technical and, in California terms, very tight and slow. Ergonomically, the EC300 is well proportioned; the seat height is well suited for average sized pilots and is mated to a good bend bar that all felt was a shade too low. The grips are excellent, the clutch pull pure vanilla and the brakes have good modulation and are strong. The throttle pull feels a bit stiff, and the standard Michelin tires are more suited to loose yucky stuff than what we subjected them to. The big strength to the EC?s arsenal is the electric motor. Our machine felt jetted a bit rich on top, yet it would throttle down like a trials bike (imagine that!) and craved a “lug it hard and let it tractor” mode. There is no real hit to the motor, though with a stab of the clutch you can make things happen. Still, the muscle of the system rests in its ability to chug down low and build power slowly. No matter how difficult the obstacles became, the engine pulled a tall gear over and through the nastiness. The mid hit is almost linear and the upper revs of the machine feel like an afterthought. Why ride it there? The six-speeder likes to be short shifted and in this fashion maintains very good traction. Too, it keeps the suspension relaxed and working to swallow the bumps rather than spin off of them. Handling-wise, Roeseler felt that the EC was nimble, and cornered with little rider input. Stability felt good (though we really didn?t get a chance to test this facet of the bike) and the suspension was a strong suit of the machine. The Ohlins fork felt stiff enough to take on the big hits, yet tracked superbly in rocky, tractionless conditions. Stitched to good handling mannerisms, this made for a good taste when the conditions got gnarly. Larry felt that with very little setup that he could race this machine competitively as it is.
IN THE END In spite of the short test time, we left with a very good feeling about the Gas Gas EC 300. Roeseler too felt it was palatable since the accouterments gave him the tools to manage, control and conquer ugly off road terrain. This is what the machine was designed for, and it swallowed it up quite nicely.
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