The surprise announcement last month that Italian manufacturer Beta has developed and launched its own range of 250 and 300cc two-stroke enduro bikes, brings the total number of mainstream factories building enduro strokers up to four… Well, five if you count Husaberg as distinct from KTM.
It’s interesting to note all five factories are European - the Japanese having long-since abandoned the competition two-stroke engine on the spurious grounds of environmental impact (conveniently ignoring the fact it requires far more energy and raw materials to construct a complex four-stroke engine in the first place, than a much simpler two-stroke).
So why have Beta entered the fray at a time when even a successful manufacturer like KTM/Husaberg are consolidating their range? It’s all about demand reveals Jochi Saur, spokesman for KTM: ‘the 300 two-stroke is our biggest-selling motorcycle, and as long as people want to buy a two-stroke we will continue to build them.’
Talk to John Shirt the UK Gas Gas importer and he’ll tell you much the same. An unashamed fan of two-strokes, Shirty’s opinion is even more direct: ‘I wish we didn’t have to sell four-strokes at all’, he told RUST in the past, ’they’re just a pain in the a[butt]. You know where you are with a two-stroke…’
Indeed we do. Relatively simple mechanically, they are not just easy to work on, but also great fun to ride thanks to their addictive power-delivery. Perhaps that’s why British dirt bikers (and northern Europeans) buy more 300s than anything else. And although worldwide 250 four-strokes outnumber 300 2Ts, that’s more a consequence of the giant Japanese factories building a number of different products in this class.
The bottom line is that we Brits love our powerful, lightweight dirt bikes. And 300cc two-strokes tick all the right boxes. Inherently lighter than a four-stroke thanks to their unsophisticated engines, there’s a bellyful of torque at your disposal for trail riding, as well as a savageness to the power delivery for when we want a motorcycle to absolutely spank us. It’s the ultimate combination in an off-road competition machine.
Just ask Christophe Nambotin who has not only wrapped up this year’s E3 Enduro World Championship on a 300cc two-stroke, but he’s also forced thumper-addict David Knight to switch from his preferred 500cc four-banger onto a 300 stroker in order to try and remain competitive.
However, these are two of the very best riders in the world, competing at the top of their game, so what chance the average rider of racing a 300 and staying in one piece? It was a question we wanted to try and answer by racing one in a timecard enduro. After all we know that most of you trail ride your 300s, but realistically are they too powerful and too aggressive for a forty-something to go racing on? We were about to find out armed with a brand new 2013 Gas Gas EC300 and a, um… forty-something!