2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES Review: Trails + Trials
Observed Trials motorcycles, with their ability to go virtually anywhere—albeit slowly—have always had the attention of trail bike riders.Over the years, manufacturers have built trail versions of trials bikes, most notably the Bultaco Alpinas of the 1970s and the Beta Alp line of the 1990s.
Leading the way in the modern era is the 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES, an electric start trail bike with its roots in the competitive Gas Gas TXT 250 Racing trials bike.1. The 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES doubles as an extreme terrain trail bike, and a light-duty trials bike. With trials-pattern tires, a dry weight of 153 pounds, and a seat height of just 26 inches—about a foot lower than an enduro bike—the Contact 250 ES is incredibly nimble. It can be dragged where it can’t be ridden, and putting your feet down is always an option. For trials, it isn’t quite as capable as a purpose-built trials bike, but unless you’re in the top half of observed trials competitors, you are not likely to notice.2. In addition to light weight, the Contact 250 ES is also very compact. In addition to the low seat height, the Contact 250 ES is short and narrow. The distances between the seat, grips, and pegs are scant. Compared to last year, the 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES footpegs have been moved forward a bit, giving the rider a bit more legroom. Regardless, the ergonomics are extremely condensed by enduro standards, so they take some time to acclimate to.3. The Contact is for shorter technical rides, not long distance off-road touring. The fuel tank holds less than a gallon of premix, though the 26mm Dell’Orto carburetor is fairly frugal. While there is a seat, you probably won’t be sitting on it much. Standing is the natural stance on the Contact 250 ES, directly due to its trials pedigree. It is comfortable while standing, and the light weight of the bike means it is not fatiguing to ride—even on the worst trails you can imagine. When you need a break, unlike a trials bike, you do have a nice seat to sit down on.4. The motor may be oversquare, but it’s all about torque and short-shifting. You will get no pleasure from revving out the 248cc two-stroke motor. You’ll get more vibration than power. The Gas Gas Contact 250 ES motor is about low-rpm grunt that will allow you to smoothly tackle the most technical sections with ease. The six-speed transmission shifts well, though the short shift lever is far from the footpeg. You have to take your left foot off the footpeg to change gears, just as you do on a trials bike. Fortunately, the torquey motor requires less shifting, generally.5. Mitas Trial tires are a specialty item. Trials riders who are comfortable with the traditional block pattern knobbies will find much to like about the Mitas rubber. While the Mitas tires are not up to the sticky suppleness of the competitive trials tires from Dunlop and Michelin, they are fully adequate on most trails. Sand and loose rocks are not friends of the Mitas Trial tires, but they love giant rock slabs and quality loam. It won’t take long to discover where you like these tires and where you are wishing for traditional knobbies.6. You won’t be going fast on the 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES. The short 52-inch wheelbase, steep rake for the Ollé forks, short suspension travel, and narrow 2.75-inch front tire all conspire to keep speeds down. The Ollé suspension is incredibly compliant, but if you ride the Contact like an enduro bike, you will blow through the sub-seven-inches of travel very quickly. The tiny disc brakes are also best-suited to slower riding. Be wary of obstacles such as whoops, and keep air minimal on jumps. The Contact wants you to stay light on the bike and glide your way through inhospitable terrain.7. The electric start is a nice touch. The magic button is certainly not absolutely necessary for most riders, as kickstarting the two-stroke motor is not challenging. However, there will be times when you find yourself in a highly awkward position, and that e-start button will be exactly what you need. The downside of the electric start—which is new this year—is that the battery is stored underneath the seat. Previous Contact trail bikes allowed you to pull the seat for trials competition. That is no longer an option, as the seat must be in place to ride the Contact 250 ES.8. In addition to extreme trail riders, the 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES will appeal to small adults and older riders. As riders get into their 70s, a tall seat height and kickstarting become insurmountable obstacles. The Contact 250 ES can greatly extend the riding career of those whose physical limitations will keep them off an enduro bike. Likewise, smaller and less experienced riders will love the low seat height, light weight and ease of starting.9. If you want to ride a competitive observed trials event, or just freeride with friends on trials bike, the Contact 250 ES is more than capable. If you ride Intermediate class or lower, the Contact can get the job done. Yes, you will be giving up a little in ergonomics and tire quality, so be prepared for a few dabs you didn’t think you would get. At the local trials practice area, you might be a bit compromised, but you’ll still have plenty of fun matching skills with your trials buddies. In both cases, the seat means you will be enjoying the Contact on the loop—trailspeak for course—and the e-start button is always welcome.10. When riding with your enduro friends, get a sense of the trails they want to ride. If it is fast, wide-open terrain, you’ll get dusted immediately. Whoops will wear you out, even though the Contact is light. However, if it is some insanely gnarly trail—such as the famed Snowy Trail in California or 5 Miles of Hell in Utah—your enduro friends are going to hate you for how easily you’ll have it compared to them.11. The 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES is a one-of-a-kind trail bike that has something to offer for riders in a number of niches. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you are rider with some very specific needs, the 2018 Gas Gas Contact 250 ES will speak to you like no other off-road motorcycle.Photograph by Kelly CallanRIDING STYLE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the much anticipated Yamaha MT-10 SP. That’s the model with the Ohlins semi-active suspension. It’s only been available in Europe for the last couple of years, but finally the good news is, that it’s coming to America. The big question is, whether the extra 3k you’re going to have to pony up for the Ohlins is actually worth it, or perhaps there’s just not that much improvement over the stock KYB suspension that has suited the Yamaha MT-10 so well until now?
In the second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Val Collins. Val grew up on motorcycles and learned to love speed, however her real love is Formula 1 tunnel-boat racing. These are the guys and gals that are strapped into a tiny cockpit and then hurtle down the straights at 120 mile per hour and pull 5G in the corners. We attended the recent season finale in Lake Havasu and watched our friend Mike Quindazzi try to take the win. Val chats with Teejay about her love for two-wheels and tunnel-boats. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode and have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!