‘Balanced’. That’s the word I used to describe the new EC300 after the first ride, and I was still repeating it after the end of the second and final test (in all we had an hour in the saddle – yes, more would have been preferable). Gas Gas have certainly been able to create a very complete package and there’s a sense, a feeling – I dare say a reality – that the engine and chassis are working in harmony.
The engine does not immediately feel any more powerful than its earlier incarnations. The power is fairly linear and while there is a powerband as such, the progression into it is very gradual and controllable. Word is the gearing is longer than the predecessor, 13:48, and so this probably softens the delivery – shorten this up and the extra kick will be much more obvious. There were no detectable holes or glitches in the carburation either, and shifting through the neat six-speed gearbox you could really keep the Gas Gas flying along. Being a 300 it’s a brave, no, talented, man who keeps it full-gas. But it’ll need a back-to-back test of old and new to reveal the true extent of the performance enhancement. All of which at least tells us that Gas Gas have done a sterling job on the management of that power.
The chassis meanwhile was equally competent. After a concerted rain shower we had a slick track to start with and this was leading to two-wheel slides as well as the more usual lurid power slides exiting the corners. But throughout there was an excellent sense of balance in the bike, and with the front able to seek out corner ruts like a regular pathfinder (and staying dutifully in them even on a gentle throttle) you could ride with a sense of ease. Even when the rear did let go big time a chopped throttle saw it snap straight back in line. The front meanwhile never tucked.
The Kayaba suspension also felt well balanced, meaning the bike felt to ride on an even trim front-to-back without excessive dive or squat, and whether this is true or not, it felt to stay mid-to-high in the stroke leaving plenty of reserve for big impacts. We didn’t have any rocky or woody terrain to see how the suspension would work on short sharp stuff, so for now we’ll have to hold back on a full evaluation, but first feedback is reasonably plush action and a good match front to back.
The ergos also felt good. The bike feels tallish (claimed seat height is 960mm) and the flat seat and lowish handlebars made for a sat-on rather than sat-in feeling. Yet it felt comfortable at that, you can command the bike and the tall feeling to the seat made standing to seated transition feel agreeably shortish. And again the flat seat and the narrowish tank and radiator shrouds meant you could get your weight well forward for the tight turns. All the levers felt to be the right distance so it was instantly comfortable on that account too. And the saddle was firm without being hard, just right.