There’s bad news and good news for two-stroke lovers. The bad news is that the basic formula hasn’t changed in years. That’s also the good news. The general description for the ultimate off-road bike is still a European 300cc two-stroke. Never mind the crowd that claims two-stroke technology is neglected. Two-strokes haven’t changed much simply because no one has come up with anything better for hard-core off-road riding.
The people at Gas Gas are at least trying. By now, most off-road riders have probably heard of these guys. Even if you’ve never seen a Gas Gas in a showroom, you can’t escape video clips of Adam Raga doing amazing things on his trials bike. Raga is kind of the senior statesman of the trials world, still threatening to win championships after 15 years of competition. But even though Gas Gas is an iconic name in trials, enduro models like the EC300 are more obscure, even to the point where they can be called cult bikes. The company struggles to produce more than a handful each year, but this marks a big year of change. First of all, the factory has recently emerged from financial reorganization. And starting with the 2015 models, U.S. sales of the enduro bikes will be handled by GasGasmotos.us, under strict control of the factory in Spain. And 2015 also marks a year of big mechanical change for the motorcycles themselves.
WHERE THEY WERE, WHERE THEY’RE GOING
The Gas Gas EC300 is an old-world two-stroke, and it’s been around since the mid-’90s. Back then, British rider Paul Edmondson was on top of his game, and he won the 1996 World Enduro championship on the 250cc version of the bike before it was even introduced. If you look at the current model, you can see a number of parts that haven’t changed in 20 years. The distinctive chamber on the side of the cylinder is still part of the power-valve configuration. The bore and stroke are still 72mm by 72mm, identical to those of the KTM 300XC-W. The biggest change in recent history took place in 2012, when an entirely new chromoly frame was offered.
In its current configuration, the Gas Gas has a six-speed gearbox and a 38mm Keihin carb feeding a VForce4 reed. The silencer is by FMF. The fork is a closed-cartridge Marzocchi Shiver and the shock is a German-made Reiger. Never heard of Reiger? It’s well-known and highly regarded in the trials world. For several years Gas Gas has offered electric start as an option. This year the whole system got redesigned. The power valve is also new this year and now is externally adjustable. The footpegs, shifter, seat cover and suspension settings are also new, and the engineers made further changes to the frame.
There’s no doubt that the EC300 is very European. It comes with Metzeler Enduro Comp tires, which are approved for street use. It also has a number of electrical switches for blinkers and other street-going components.
RIDE AND SMILE
It seems odd, but two-stroke electric starters require more electrical power and bigger batteries than four-stroke starters. Despite that, the Gas Gas’ starter is amazing. It spins the motor so fast it seems like you left the spark plug out. It comes to life instantly. The electric-start option only costs $100 more. The next surprise on the list is the bike’s peak power. It’s surprisingly fast. This kind of rocks our sense of reality. Going all the way back to 1997, all the Dirt Bike back issues say the same thing about the EC300—nice but slow. So much for all that stuff we said about the bike not changing much over the years. The 2015 version has a ton of power in the middle of the rev range. When the Gas Gas is in the meat of its powerband, it’s actually faster than the KTM or Beta 300 two-strokes. The power starts later than the other 300s, then signs off sooner. That means you have to work a little to keep it moving. When you’re not in a hurry, the Gas Gas is fairly smooth down low, and you can low-rev your way through most tough obstacles. The EC keeps running at rpm levels so low that virtually any four-stroke would cough and die. Gas Gas is true to its trials bike heritage in that way. But when it’s time to race, there’s not much real power down low. You have to work the clutch to stay in the happy zone. Luckily, it has an awesome hydraulic clutch. The pull is one-finger light, and the actuation is precise and consistent. No matter how much you abuse it, the engagement is always where it should be.
This year the power valve can be adjusted very easily. It can actually be done on the trail. You remove a cover on the left side of the engine, and then tighten or loosen the preload on the governor spring. One turn out gives the power a softer hit; three turns out and it has a fairly intense kick. It doesn’t change the amount of power, only the delivery, which is all about personal preference.
TIGHT TRAIL TACTICS
We all know what the Gas Gas is designed for. It’s a bike for tight, slow, difficult trails. That’s why people buy two-strokes in general, and why they look to Gas Gas in particular. The bike is a very solid platform for very unsolid terrain. When you have rolling rocks, slippery mud and angled tree roots, the EC300 goes straight and is oblivious to all the carnage in its path. The bike is somewhat heavy for a two-stroke, and that adds to the feeling of stability. It stays the course. But, the weight works against it in other situations. It can be difficult to pop over ledges and manhandle the machine. It never feels especially small. The suspension setup isn’t especially lively, either. It’s not soft or cushy as you might expect for a bike of this type. It’s firm, and when you combine that with a very hard seat and a fairly high level of vibration, the Gas Gas doesn’t rank very high on the comfort scale. It’s a very business-like machine.
That doesn’t detract from the bike’s hard-core mission. Geoff Aaron will be riding an EC300 this year in EnduroCross and extreme enduros, and we know he only decided to switch after extensive testing. In that harsh world, the Gas Gas is unstoppable. It’s made to get through the ugly stuff, just like it’s been doing for 20 years. That hasn’t changed, thankfully.
• Excellent clutch
• Electric starter
• Hard to stall
• Hard to break
• Abrupt power delivery
• Hard seat
• Harsh suspension
GAS GAS EC300E
Engine type … Liquid-cooled, power-valve
Displacement … 299cc
Bore & stroke … 72.0mm x 72.0mm
Fuel delivery … 38mm Keihin
Fuel tank capacity … 2.5 gal (9.5L)
Lighting coil … Yes
Spark arrestor … Yes
EPA legal … No
Running weight, no fuel … 254 lb.
Wheelbase … 58.3″ (1480mm)
Seat height … 37.4″ (950mm)
Tire size & type
Front … 90/90-21 Metzeler
Rear … 120/80-18 Metzler
Country of origin … Spain
Price … $7999
Distributor …. https://gasgasmotos.us/