Right, I’m going to be totally honest about this from the outset, I wasn’t really looking forward to riding the 2013 Gas Gas EC250F Racing. In fact I considered that I might enjoy it even less than having to listen to my fellow competitors blather on about ‘the good old days’ in the pub the night before the test. And this was before I’d even set eyes on the thing.
Call me a big girl’s blouse if you must, but being close to death with a nasty dose of man-flu (snivel) the thought of an early start and a five hour race really wasn’t all that appealing. It wasn’t just what felt like the final stages of the ebola virus (minus the intestinal leakage) that was quashing my usually unbreakable enthusiasm either. You may recall this particular bike attracting some less than enthusiastic reviews back when it was first launched. The final upshot being that the 2010 model Gas Gas EC250F was felt to be ever so slightly lacking in the design, detail AND performance departments.
I will freely admit at this point that I never even set eyes on that particular bike, let alone rode it, so I won’t be comparing old with new here. But if anything, I think that should help in providing what can only be a completely unbiased opinion. As my mother once said to me ‘If I don’t expect much from you then I will be all the more surprised and impressed when you do manage to get something right’. Bless her. She’s still waiting…
So what we have here is essentially Gas Gas’s attempt to get a slice of the ever-popular 250 4T market by taking someone else’s engine and sticking it into their chassis. Fair enough I reckon; it’s not like we’ve never seen this before from other European manufacturers.
From an engineering point of view it’s pretty time-consuming and expensive to develop your own single cylinder four-stroke engine, especially so if you haven’t got any multi-cylinder R&D to borrow from. So why not play to your strengths, buy someone else’s bombproof, well-proven engine and simply plonk it into what is arguably one of the greatest clubman dirtbike platforms ever created? Sadly, at their first attempt Gas Gas managed to mess up the concept and produced what is best described as a Smartprice Tiramisu on an already well stocked shelf of fresh cream cakes.
The thing looked reasonably good and promised much but in reality, well, yeah, no-one appeared to be hurrying back for seconds. But hey, that was 2009 and a lot has changed at the Spanish concern since then. Effectively what we are now looking at is the refined version; and perhaps most importantly one that has been built under the new regime which promises a determined focus and motivated drive towards quality.
So, has evolution been kind to the featherweight four-stroke?
The first thing to notice about the 2013 EC250F is that it is not black. The bike’s plastics have been restyled, with sharper creases and a refreshingly simple set of graphics. I have to say that I’m also quite sold on the whole black, red and white thing that makes the bike look a bit like an Arsenal scarf. In fact I reckon that the sharp styling of the whole EC range is pretty spot on. It’s current, stand-out and cool.
Running a critical eye over the 250F reveals that the resurgent drive for quality appears to be more than a hollow marketing promise. The plastics have a robust, quality feel to them and the general fit and finish of the fittings is a match for any of the big enduro players. That said, one or two details are still a way off the Teutonic perfection we’ve come to expect and there is still a familiar hint of Gas Gas with a few aspects still not quite achieving the new standard.