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2014 GasGas XC 300

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The Many Faces of GasGas

I have been testing the GasGas line since 2010 and each year I experience a different side to its personality.  Last year the open terrain of Colorado exposed the bikes’ abilities to handle chopped-out double track at speed.  It also dispelled the notion that the GasGas was only good in the technical terrain.  After we dialed in the jetting and adjusted the Marzochi fork, the 2013 GasGas ate up the faster double track.  My brother Keith went on to ride the GasGas to 3rd overall in the Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit – which is a serious departure from the terrain the GasGas is most famous for.  Short of screaming across the desert and huge whoops, the GasGas handled everything from Texas to Wyoming – in style.  Am I proclaiming the GasGas as a great western style open-terrain bike? Nope, but I am firm believer that the average Joe can set up a bike to perform adequately for the average Joe’s terrain.

This year we headed to Nashville, Tennessee and rode the 2014 GasGas in the rocky, muddy mountains of Tennessee.  It could not have been more different from last year’s test and yet I am still a fan of this exotic beauty.  The GasGas took a beating last year in some of the western shootouts for its static weight.  While it is heavier, the weight isn’t what stands out when the bike is in motion– it’s smooth motor and easy turning does.  Imagine for a moment if an off road “shootout” was held in the mountains of Tennessee where a smooth motor and a stable machine rule the roost?  How would that have upset things? Do you think the GasGas would have finished at the bottom?  Not a chance.

For this test we rode the GasGas over a two day period. Day one was a bit mellower; the trails were smooth with a few slick river bottom crossings and elevation changes.  For day two we headed to the CarterMountain riding area which was straight up nasty – steep hills, slick terrain and rocks, lots of rocks.

This was the first year I had ridden the GasGas with the e-start.  I like the e-start, but it nullifies the seven pounds the GasGas lost this year.  The E-start model requires you to turn the key to the on-position and is a weak spot for the GasGas; it’s heavy and seemingly vulnerable to impacts.  It works fine when the bike is in neutral but tends to spin when in gear.  I’d opt for a model without it and enjoy the weight savings.

When we first got on the bike, we adjusted the sag from 130 mm to 108 – which made it turn a whole lot better.  The compression was almost all the way out and the rebound significantly in. So as a caveat, you are going to want to check the off-the-showroom-floor settings before heading out.  We then turned the high speed compression out two full turns.

As the Sherco was on hand and analogous to a shiny new toy, I spent most of the first day on it.  I did about a half dozen laps around a 3 mile loop on the GasGas and came away thinking it is still a quick turner.  It also chugged up the steep, muddy leaf-covered hills with ease.  Day two is when the GasGas really made an impression on me.

I started the second day of testing aboard the GasGas, and after hitting the first few rocks, I knew I was in for a fun day.  While the super light Sherco bounced around a little on the rocks, the GasGas was tracking cleanly in a straight line.  The motor was equally impressive.  I rode a gear or two higher all day long without complaint.  The GasGas feasted on the muddy, rocky, hilly terrain all day.  Whereas the Sherco killed it on day one in the flowing single track, the GasGas killed it on day 2.  I didn’t want to get off of it.

We ran the stock jetting which was slightly rich but a good match for the technical terrain.  Wheel spin was minimal when cruising through the gnarl.  A couple of times throughout the day I would jump in front and whack the throttle back and found that the GasGas was quick enough for me (AA NETRA Enduro Rider).  Its’ strength, however, was in its smooth delivery of power – one that kept the bike constantly moving forward.  A few of the hills were quite steep and rocky and yet I had no problem lugging the bike to the top.  The motor really was a gentle giant this time around.

What about the new Rieger shock? The best thing about the Rieger shock is that I hardly noticed it.  It has an internal thermostat that is supposed to regulate the flow of oil based on the temperature of the oil.  I can say that the shock performed consistently throughout the day.   It also did a decent job soaking up the terrain and keeping the back end planted.  The forks were also pretty good.  They were initially better when noodling through the rocks.  Then I added three clicks to the compression settings and was able to keep it straight at speed.  The Marzochi forks really are pretty adaptable when you understand how to use the preload settings to your advantage.

As mentioned above, the cornering characteristics on the GasGas are sharp.  The GasGas has always been a quick turner and this year is no different.  As far as the weigh savings, I really couldn’t get a sound feel for it as this 300 had the e-start. In fact, the e-start made the bike feel heavier than last year’s model that did not have the starter.

So what’s not to like about the GasGas?  In addition to the heavy starter motor, the steering radius is a little wide.  We wove though some tight trees and I had to stop and back the GasGas up to make it around one corner.  Aside from that, there’s nothing weird or awkward about the GasGas.  It takes a little time to get used to but once you get a feel for it, the bike does everything a woods rider will ask of it.

Overall I had a great day on the GasGas – its motor was fantastic and the bike ate up the gnarly terrain. It’s been four years and I have yet to have a bad day aboard the GasGas.

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