as witnessed by the Kawasaki KX line of the day. Gas
Gas went with the trend, but since then, the shortcomings
of that design have made themselves clear. Weight and
range (fuel-tank capacity) are right at the top of the list.
Today’s backbone frame might be a throwback to earlier
times, but KTM has proven that the layout is still hard to
beat. The new fuel tank is much slimmer and still holds 2. 6
gallons, and the whole machine is much more compact.
Likewise, there’s no reinventing of the wheel when it
comes to suspension. The new Gas Gas has a KYB AOS
(cartridge) fork. In the rear, there’s a KYB shock with linkage connecting to a new swingarm. The motor is familiar
to those who know their Gas Gas’, but since that isn’t a
very large sample group, it might as well be new. It’s an
electric-start motor with a case-reed inlet, a Moto Tassinari
reed and a ball-ramp power valve. The electric starter is
mounted on the left, just as on KTM two-strokes prior
to the 2017 model year, and it gets to keep its kick-start
lever. The starter is driven by a lead-acid battery. The new
parts for 2018 are the crank, cylinder, piston, head and
more. It still has a 38mm PWK Keihin carburetor, and that
gives rise to more questions. Is this bike a place-keeper
awaiting fuel injection? To be blunt, yes. Of course it is.
You don’t have to be an insider to know that all two-stroke-makers are working on their own EFI systems
behind closed doors. What we don’t know is when that will
happen. Right now, Gas Gas says this bike meets Euro 4
emission standards for Europe, and that’s what matters.
U.S. standards for EPA-approved off-road bikes are still
too strict, even for the new KTM and Husky TPI bikes.
There will be two versions of the Gas Gas 300 available in the U.S. The EC is the one we have here, with the
headlight, taillight and digital speedometer. The XC version
will have a numberplate in front instead of the headlight.
Additionally, the XC will have an FMF exhaust pipe. Both
bikes will have an FMF Powercore silencer. Odd story: the
U.S. government actually prevents either bike from having
a spark arrestor. When EPA officials see a spark arrestor,
according to the Gas Gas importer, they automatically
assume it’s an off-road bike and insist that it conform to
emission standards. By not having a spark arrestor, it fits
the profile of a closed-course competition bike and is free
of that requirement.
We’ll only compare this bike to the previous Gas Gas
EC300 long enough to say this: there’s no comparison.
This isn’t to say that the old bike was without merit, but
it could only sing one song. If it wasn’t a tight, technical,
slow-speed ride, the bike wasn’t happy. The new version is much more versatile. You can ride it on the same
extreme trails that the previous bike was known for, and
then you can take it into wide-open spaces, shift into higher gears and give away nothing.
It all starts with the motor. Company press releases
say that the new cylinder and head result in a 20-percent
TEST: GAS GAS EC300