Armed with a new U.S. importer, a revised model lineup and a growing complement of dealers, Gas Gas' assault on America's trails has begun. The Spanish company recently invited us to test its most promising new 2011 model, the two-stroke XC250, by entering it in the grueling Muddobber National Enduro in Indiana.
The Gas Gas brand has evolved considerably in recent years. This latest machine boasts several improvements including revised suspension, better cooling, an updated headlight and an FMF Q-Stealth silencer. The choke is now mounted on the handlebar for easy access via a small cold-start lever.
Available in both kick- and electric-start versions, the 249cc ring-ding is versatile and tractable-two traits Gas Gas first developed for its cliff-climbing trials bikes. Power delivery starts out smooth and steady and ramps up into a fat midrange, followed by a strong surge of top-end power, thanks in part to the VForce3 reed valve. The XC runs crisp and clean, and didn't require any departure from the stock carburetor settings. The six-speed transmission is smooth and evenly spaced, and I found myself riding comfortably on the crest of the midrange surge, making it easy to modulate power and carry speed through turns.
The Gas Gas is undeniably eye-catching. In a field of silver aluminum frames, the XC250's
The XC may be an off-road bike, but the company's trials heritage has not been lost. The front end retains a lightweight feel and the seat is lower than most, which eases foot-plant turns and direction changes. Low-speed front-wheel placement is extremely precise, but in fast, flat turns the rear tends to slide. This doesn't so much represent a loss of traction as it does a handling trait, and it occurred predictably in dry terrain.
The XC's ergos allowed me to get way up on the tank in turns, and the handlebar has a comfortable sweep to it, though the seat feels flat and rigid after a long day. On a work stand the steering stop felt as though it contacted the frame early, but I never noticed this out on the trail.
I quickly gained an appreciation for the bike's torque and flywheel lug, both of which were a good match for the Indiana terrain. Neutral was a little too easy to find, as I accidently selected it three or four times throughout the day, but I dug the six-speed tranny on the highway transfer sections.
When all was said and done, the XC250 took me from my 61st-row starting position to a top-20 finish. I didn't go into the race with any expectations, but I certainly came away impressed with the performance and durability of this new machine. Gas Gas is onto something, and I predict that recent changes within the U.S. branch of the company will only help the bikes' popularity and accessibility amongst trail riders and enduro racers, many of whom are awaiting the Gas Gas invasion with open arms.