2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 Review |
Trials and Trails Tested
The search for the trials bike/trail bike motorcycle chimera has been active for decades. The early 1970s Bultaco Alpina bridged the gap with a motorcycle that had an observed trials bike chassis with a thicker seat, knobby tires, and a high front fender.
Various attempts came and went, including the notable Beta Alp line in the 1990s. In recent times, the KTM X-Ride and Beta X-Trainer emulate the Alpina blueprint with their variations.
Concurrently, there have been kits for trials bikes that install a taller, thicker seat on a trials bike platform. That’s a fairly simply job, if a bit ungainly looking. Spanish motorcycle manufacturer Gas Gas, emerging from a 2015 bankruptcy, took that kit theory and applied it to their own successful trials bike chassis to create the 2017 Gas Gas Contact.
They also made a few other changes to make the Contact more trail worthy, without losing its ability to compete as an observed trials bike.
Gas Gas used an older lower-spec trials bike chassis and motor as a starting point. To turn it into the Contact 250, Gas Gas added an easily removed seat, a fuel tank that holds an additional quart of premix (but still less than a gallon), and more durable Pirelli MT 43 Pro Trial tube tires (trials bikes use tubeless rear tires).
The result is a two-purpose motorcycle—it is a trail bike designed for the most demanding technical trails, as well as a trials bike that can be successfully used in the lower classes of competition.
As an extreme trail bike, the 2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 is an unmitigated success. With an exceptionally low seat height and a wet weight of 160 pounds or so, it can be taken anywhere. Triple black-diamond trails that are treacherous on an enduro bike are child’s play on the Contact 250.
With the Pirelli MT 43 trials-style tires, traction on anything but sandy trails is excellent. Trials tires aren’t the best for loose hillclimbs—real knobbies fair much better—but in most conditions, the Pirellis are fantastic.
The motor is highly tractable, with not much of a top end. That’s great for controllability at lower speeds, which is what the Contact 250 is all about. The six-speed transmission is close-ratio for slow riding in the lower gears, with fifth and sixth cogs being something of an overdrive for going fast in smooth conditions.
Turning on the tight trails is entertainingly easy. On switchbacks where you would have to either slide the back end of an enduro bike or dismount and manually move the rear end around, the Contact 250 simply allows you to turn the handlebars full lock (there’s nearly 180 degrees of sweep) and complete the turn in a normal fashion.
Logs or large rocks on the trail are equally conquerable. Just ride over them like you would on any trials bike. Yes, the likes of Cody Webb and Colton Haaker can beat huge obstacles on an enduro bike, but the 2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 brings that ability to mere mortals.
Of course, there are downsides to the design for trail riders. While the Contact 250 is a great technical trail bike, the plush short-travel suspension and ultra-agile geometry means that the bike is tricky to ride fast. Whoops are to be avoided, and the low tire pressure can mean easy tube-punctures at higher speeds on rocky trails.
The compact Contact is anything but roomy when you’re sitting on it on longer trail rides. Most of the time, however, you’re likely to be riding standing up, as it has observed trials ergonomics.
So, if your tastes are for the toughest of the toughest trails, the 2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 is difficult to beat.
The other primary purpose of the Contact 250 is its abilities as a competitive trials motorcycle.
For the casual part-time trials rider, the Contact 250 is perfect. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than a current trials bike, the suspension is a bit less sophisticated than the latest machines, and the tube-equipped Pirelli rear tire is no match for the tubeless radials from Michelin and Dunlop.
Importantly, you still get the motor with plenty of low-end torque and a substantial flywheel that you need to successfully complete observed trials sections. Even with the slightly slippery Pirellis, you’ll find traction the majority of the time.
Someone who isn’t a dedicated trials rider will find the Gas Gas Contact 250 to be fully satisfactory. A hard-core trials rider will notice the differences, especially in the tires. Lower class riders will hardly be affected, but if you are in the top half of the trials classes, you will notice the difference.
As an experienced Intermediate, I felt like the Contact 250 knocked me down about a half-class, which isn’t bad for a dual-purpose motorcycle. I could do pretty much anything I could do on an exclusively trails motorcycle—it just required a bit more effort.
If you are a rider who loves extreme trails, the Contact 250 is a tough bike to beat. If you’re also a rider who also likes to dabble in observed motorcycle trails, then the 2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 is going to be an essential fixture in your moto-garage.
Photography by Kelly Callan
- Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon MIPS Retrospect (full-face) / Airoh Draft (trials)
- Goggles: Ariete Adrenaline Primis
- Pants + Jersey: Fly Racing 2017.5 Kinetic Mesh
- Gloves: Fly Racing Pro Lite
- Knee braces: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
- Socks: Fly Racing Knee Brace
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech T
2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 Specs
- Motor: Two-stroke single
- Bore x stroke: 72.5 x 60mm
- Displacement: 248cc
- Cooling: Liquid
- Lubrication: Premix; 50:1
- Carburetor: 26mm Dell’Orto
- Induction: Reed valve
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated diaphragm system
- Starting: Kick
- Frame: Tubular chromoly
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 40mm Ollé fork/6.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable Ollé shock/6.5 inches
- Front tire: 2.75 x 21; Pirelli MT 43 Pro Trial tube type
- Rear tire: 4.00 x 18; Pirelli MT43 Pro Trial tube type
- Rims: Aluminum w/ wire spokes
- Front brake: 185mm floating NG wave disc w/ Braktec 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 150mm NG wave disc w/ Braktec 2-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 52.0 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.7 quarts
- Dry weight: 153 pounds
2017 Gas Gas Contact 250 Price:
- $5999 MSRP