2018 Gas Gas XC 300 and EC 300 Review | GNCC and Enduro Ready
Gas Gas is back with a renewed spirit and concerted effort aimed at making a big impact in the off-road two-stroke market. After a hard day of riding technical single-track at MotoVentures in Anza, Calif., we have the 10 Fast Facts you need to know about the 2018 Gas Gas XC 300 and EC 300.1. Forget anything you previously knew or thought you knew about Gas Gas off-road bikes. The 2018 Gas Gas XC 300 and EC 300 are completely new from the ground up. Equally impressive is that the Spanish manufacturer is under new ownership since its 2015 bankruptcy, and with US distribution now consolidated under a wholly owned factory subsidiary. To show that Gas Gas means business, the American arm has stacked the management team with talent from all corners of the off-road world to lead the charge—Damon Bradshaw, Fred Andrews, Steve Hatch, and Geoff Aaron were all at the first ride of the new 2018 off-road Gas Gas motorcycles.
2. KYB suspension front and rear is a game-changer. Gone are the terrible days of the Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock combination. Not only was it hard to balance the suspension fore and aft, but the aftermarket expertise to help you dial it in was extremely limited. The new KYB suspenders are not only proven and universally known by suspension tuners across the country, but our test bike held up extremely well right out of the box.3. Right out of the box, the 2018 Gas Gas XC 300 felt balanced and both the front and rear soaked up the technical single-track terrain with ease. With my 170-pound frame aboard, the XC stays up in the stroke and does not wallow in the corners. Although I didn’t get to test it over deep whoops at high speed, I would feel completely comfortable racing the stock suspension in any single-track enduro conditions.4. Gas Gas has upgraded to premium components throughout. The hydraulic clutch is now the competition standard Magura, providing a smooth and consistent feel in tight conditions. Other competition-proven components include anodized black Excel rims, Renthal Twinwall handlebars, an FMF pipe/spark-arrestor combo (XC model only), soft seat foam with a gripper seat cover, no-tool access to the Twin Air filter, a Moto Tassinari VForce4 reed valve, and electric starting (an obvious add-on unit integrated into the left side of the engine.) The only things missing are fuel- and oil-injection.5. The Metzeler MCE 6 Days Extreme tires are FIM-compliant, but not the best choice for most American racing. Do yourself a favor and mount up a set of Dunlop Geomax AT81s or Maxxis Maxxcross Dual SX tires and park the eco-inspired rubber in the garage for resale time.6. The 299cc two-stroke motor is plenty capable. It’s luggable, meaning that you can ride it a gear high through technical terrain to maximize traction and lessen rider fatigue. Revving to a sizeable mid-range hit that kicks up the mph in a hurry, though I’d like to see it get a counterbalancer for high-speed comfort. The gear spacing was appropriate on the test course, as we primarily used the lower half of the six-speed gearbox on the technical course. A pleasant surprise—the dB level is refreshingly low.7. Handling and flickablity are light and crisp. This bike can turn! Although the Geoff Aaron-mapped torture test loop was tight and technical, the Magura clutch feel and deft handling of the new Gas Gas made for an extremely fun time. Although I didn’t have a chance to test the 300s’ high-speed stability, the handling characteristics are spot on for enduro-type terrain.8. Nissin brake calipers and NG rotors provided consistent fade-free operation. As tight as our test loop was, and with heavy trail braking into corners, I didn’t experience any brake fade—another testament to premium componentry.9. The 2018 Gas Gas EC 300 version is slightly different from the XC. The big change is that it has a lighting kit and computer, though it feels very similar to the XC model. Other changes include are a Spanish-sourced exhaust pipe (both have FMF mufflers), and Gas Gas branded handlebars. The plastic switchgear for the lights and starter were a bit oversized (and seemingly crash-vulnerable) for such a capable off-road bike, but highly functional. Riding the EC back to back with its XC sibling, the additional weight of the headlight was noticeable, as was a slightly slower rev and pick up through the gearbox. Still, the EC is not detuned in any sense of the word.10. The ergonomics of the Gas Gas XC and EC 300s are neutral, and similar to anything you are currently riding. The rider contact points of seat/peg/grips are comfortable for my 5’ 9” frame, and absent is any “Euro feel” from earlier models. The cockpit and dimensions of the 2018 models is well thought out and comfortable for a large swath of riders.A full-test of the 2018 Gas Gas XC 300 and EC 300 will reveal how they stack up to the competition. We can’t wait to open it up over different terrain and experiment with adjustments to the power valve, fork height, sag, and suspension settings.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style:
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