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First ride review of the all new Gas Gas XC300 enduro bike. There is plenty to report about the rebirth of the Spanish marque!

I’m not quite sure why, but I find myself in the somewhat unique position of being widely considered the “Gas Gas Enduro Guy”. It has been 15 years since I worked for the company and just about as long since I regularly raced the Spanish enduro bikes. But I got that reputation when the company was just getting rolling in the US and it has sort of stuck to me.

2018 Gas Gas XC300

If you know anything about Gas Gas, you probably know that the company and its US distribution have been through more incarnations than can be counted. After many years of strife, the original company finally ended up in receivership two years ago. It was then bought by Spanish electric bicycle maker Torrot. The Gas Gas we see today is an entirely new organization.

For the first time ever, the Gas Gas factory manages its own US distribution for both trials and enduro models. The company is making a major commitment to the US market. This should give encouragement to anyone looking at the brand.

I have had the unique opportunity to test and race every generation of the Gas Gas enduro line since 1999. There have always been strong points to enjoy, as well as a few rough spots.  The motors are known for being very easy to ride and thrive in nasty terrain. Although, over the last few years they seemed to lose a bit of peak power for some reason. The chassis excelled in nasty terrain too, but seemed to get overwhelmed in faster conditions.

Gas Gas 300 in Action

Love it or not, the Gas Gas has always been a very unique bike, but not necessarily one that suited the American market perfectly. In recent years suspension choices also hampered the bikes. Not that the components were bad, but the stock set up was not the best. I suspect Gas Gas lacked the time and resources for proper suspension R&D for their bikes. The parts always felt “off the shelf” rather than specifically suited for the bike or a particular riding style.

New For 2018

The big news this year is the all new chassis design and philosophy. Almost nothing carries over from the previous model. The long time Gas Gas design hallmark, the perimeter frame, is now gone and replaced by a very traditional looking backbone frame. The design is lighter and claims to have less torsional stiffness.  

2018 New Gas Gas Backbone Frame

KYB suspension is now standard on both ends. The AOS air/oil separated 48mm spring fork is up front. This is a closed cartridge design not to be confused with an air fork. The shock features both high and low speed compression adjustment.

KYB AOS Fork

The swingarm construction is now very modern looking, that is to say it looks like a KTM. There is a new linkage configuration for the KYB shock. Chain guide and rollers are updated also. The chain guide mounting is identical to KTM, so it will accept the same aftermarket parts.

Gas Gas Swingarm

The new fuel tank is narrower and is no longer confined to the restraints of the perimeter frame. The left number plate snaps off to allow air filter access. The cover is held by four large grommets. It is easy to remove and closes securely. The air box space is very open and the filter is easy to reach.  The same spring style pin holds the filter in place. The sub frame is narrow. The body work does not protrude anywhere. The exhaust pipe and silencer are from FMF.

 

Side Access Air Filter

The motor gets some updates. The cases and cylinder design are immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with the Spanish bikes. Cylinder porting gets modified as does the head stay.  The XC models feature a lighter flywheel to add some bark to the enduro motor. The electric starter is slightly redesigned and is more compact.

Gas Gas XC300 Motor

The 300 comes in either the standard “EC” enduro model or “XC” cross country race version. The primary performance differences are the flywheel and exhaust. The racier XC’s do not have lights and get a much simpler wiring harness. The EC wiring harness is typically a full dual sport style. The six speed transmission remains the same.

Details

New foot pegs are much larger and substantial looking. The hydraulic clutch is now by Magura instead of the long time supplier AJP. Brakes remain the same, Nissin with NG discs. Wheels are black Excels with Metzler Six Day tires. The side stand works well and has a large foot. A plastic skid plate comes standard as well as handguards.

Gas Gas FMF Pipe

Ride Impression

For testing I had the opportunity to ride the XC300 on the Vet track at Cahuilla Creek MX. This is one of my favorite places to ride. The natural terrain track is really like a GP course. The biggest shortcoming is that it is pretty smooth, so it isn’t a perfect all around test for suspension.

By nature, the Gas Gas model has always been at home in challenging enduro terrain and struggled on a motocross track. Ergonomics were the main reason, followed by suspension and power. Within a few turns it became obvious that the 2018 model really is a complete departure from any previous Gasser.

Everything on the bike seemed to be just in the right place and doing the right thing at the right time. Other than leaning out the stock jetting, I did not touch a thing on the bike. I didn’t feel the need to. I felt immediately at home on the bike. Two weeks prior, I rode a 2017 KTM 250SX on the same track, so I had a good reference for how a two stroke should feel.

Fun Times On The Gas Gas

Ergonomically everything worked. As I moved around on the bike, there was no body work to catch. Foot and hand controls were right where I expected them. The bike actually felt just a bit roomier than the current KTM which suits me very well. I did not feel cramped or confined.

The power was ultra-smooth with a strong bottom end and decent midrange hit. The strong power off the bottom made it easier for me to ride than the 250SX, easier to control. The extra flywheel weight of the enduro bike is noticeable, but it is certainly lighter than past models. With just a bit of clutch work, the motor spins up fast enough for quick corner exits. For most corners I could choose to either rev the mor in 2nd gear, or stay in 3rd and feather the clutch to keep the revs up.

The motor was very smooth, there is no obvious vibration. The Magura clutch has a nice feel. Lever pull is only slightly heavier than the buttery AJP model.  Shifting is smooth, especially without the awkward lever position of some previous models. By just dropping the main jet to a 170 (from 175), throttle response was perfect for the 5,000 ft elevation.

10 Time National Trials Champion Geoff Aaron

As for the KYB suspension, it was great. Both ends were nicely balanced. The fork action is firm but compliant. The action is very consistent, giving the kind of feel and feedback that I like so much in a traditional open chamber fork. Front end confidence was good. But I would consider raising the forks to see if it would improve. This was my first experience with the AOS fork and I was pleasantly impressed.

Steering geometry is not overly aggressive, it still has a distinct smooth enduro feel. I suspect it will prove to be a good all-around set up. The one set up I did not care for was the stiff Renthal Twinwall bar and solid bar mounts, my hands were starting to tire before too long. I would cut the crossbar and consider aftermarket rubber mounts.

When I last tested the Gasser in 2015, it was at this same location. We had the stock bike and Geoff Aaron’s highly modified Endurocross race bike for comparison. There was a huge difference between the two. The stock bike was too little and the race bike was too much. I should say, too much for my skill level and speed. The 2018 splits the difference almost exactly. Perhaps with more time and varied terrain, I might find some things I would change, but for the day it was perfect.

To conclude, I think the overriding impression I have is this; the 2018 Gas Gas is more mainstream than ever. It is not as unique as it once was. It is no longer exotic, but somehow very familiar feeling. I suspect most will find that a good thing. I hope to get more time on the Gasser to really give it a workout in some single track.

I wonder if I can talk the company into giving me a ride for the Tecate Enduro?

Right Side View XC300

2018 Gas Gas XC300 Specifications – $8999 MSRP

Engine

2-stroke Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled

Displacement

299,3 cc

Bore x stroke

72 x 72 mm

Starter

Kick and Electric

Gearbox

6 speed gearbox

Clutch

Multidisc in oil bath. Magura clutch pump

Carburetor

Keihin PWK 38 mm

Intake system

Direct reed valve VForce 4

Exhaust muffler

FMF PowerCore 2.1 – GASGAS Powered by FMF

Handlebar

Renthal Twinwall

Frame

Center frame in chrome-moly-steel frame

Front fork

KYB 48 mm, AOS system, closed cartridge

Shock absorber

KYB

Rim type

Excel Aluminum spoke rim

Front brake

260 mm NG disc, Nissin caliper

Rear brake

220 mm NG disc, Nissin caliper

Fuel

10 l (2.64 gl)

Dry weight

231 lbs claimed

Wheelbase

58″

Seat height

37.5″

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