The price is right
To be honest you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a four grand bike sitting in a seven grand marketplace and really ought to be judged in that context. Riding in the company of four other enduro bikes all of which cost £6.5-7.5k when new, you can’t help but be impressed by the thoroughness of the job that Gas Gas has done on the Cami, and how competent it feels. It never felt outclassed or outpaced (though we weren’t hurrying), and aside from the fact that lifting the front end over puddles requires a serious tug on the bars rather than just a handful of throttle, there wasn’t a lot to choose between them - suspension aside.
One of the things I most love about trail riding is how it takes you into the back of beyond of places you thought you knew. I grew up in this part of rural Berkshire where we were riding, and figured I knew the area pretty well, but when you’re out on the trail there’s always lovely little gems hidden away, waiting to be discovered. Stuff like historic houses, ancient woodland or picturesque lakes, little villages with traditional village greens, thatched cottages, great little country pubs to try out and even things like ostriches and llamas running around the fields. I kid you not.
I love looking at the houses too - wherever you look there are architectural treasures hidden in the depths of the countryside set along ancient lanes: old houses dating back four or five hundred years, and modern and futuristic glass boxes. Who’d have thought that a simple trailbike could take you back in time… and forwards into the future like that? And one of the most pleasing things about the Cami when you’re riding in a heavily populated rural area like this is that its exhaust note is nicely muted, so that no-one really notices you until you’ve whooshed passed their front door. That’s a real bonus.
I liked the Cami’s stability on the trail too… It was a sensible blend of geometry that was quick enough to let you switch ruts with impunity, yet stable enough to hold a chosen line through the squelchy mud when you needed to.
Throughout the day it grew steadily on me, so that when we swapped bikes later in the afternoon, I was happy enough to spend just a few minutes on an enduro bike before opting to get back onto the Cami. Yes, the enduro bike felt quicker and its suspension was plusher. But down these lanes there was no need to go any quicker than the Cami would take you. And anyway, none of us found that the Cami was holding us up.
There was a decent mixture of lanes to choose from: most were squelchy, though some were pretty fast and open. But all were wet in places and the Cami showed no sign of suffering from water ingress.
Through the mud and along the waterlogged lanes the Cami plodded on without hurling huge amounts of roost at the scenery (or your mates), and it was only when crossing over a fallen log did we notice its marginally less ground clearance compared with an enduro bike. Of course that means getting your feet down is easier, and the Cami always felt like an easy bike to ride, whatever the terrain. It never got stuck, never caused us to crash and nothing broke or stopped working.
That said, there were a few little niggles that it’s worth bringing to your attention. The kickstarter knuckle just touches your right boot when you ride, and the sidestand does the same with the heel of your left one. And talking of the sidestand, it’s about four inches too short. Take a look at the static pictures and you’ll see what I’m getting at. The Cami really doesn’t like starting in gear either, oh and you have to pull in the clutch to engage the starter (it’s a trailbike thing).
By the end of our ride the IRIS chain was starting to rattle, so you’d probably want to keep an eye on the tension, or else swap it for something like a DID. Same goes for the clutch free-play at the lever which slowly disappeared as the engine warmed up in the slippery conditions. No problems, as long as you remember to keep an eye on it, and adjust it as you go along.
I must say, none of these things was a deal-breaker for me and certainly wouldn’t put me off owning this bike. On the contrary I was thoroughly impressed by how well it performed and how much fun it offered for a fraction of the price of a modern enduro bike.
And that’s really the whole point of the Cami. It’s a brand new dirt bike at a fraction of the price of a KTM or Yamaha (a six-tenths fraction). It can do their job equally as well on the trail for considerably less outlay, and an awful lot more people can lay their hands on four grand, than seven.
Sure, if you like to race or you’re a proper petrolhead who’s prepared to take a risk on a pre-owned machine, then four grand will get you a well-used enduro bike that’s a couple of years old, offering better performance than the Cami. But for those riders that want or prefer a trail bike, then this thing seems like a bargain.
One of the guys I was riding with asked me if I’d have a Cami over the Honda CRF250L and my answer was unambiguous… For commuting? No, I’d take the Honda over the Gasser. But if it was a genuine trailbike I wanted, then the Cami wins the battle hands down. It’s a better green laner than the Honda, and is not far off the Honda’s brilliance on tarmac.
Sure the Honda has a superb engine that’s top-of-the-form in this class, but overall it’s 20kg (40lb) heavier than this baby and on the lanes that makes it much more of a handful.
If you can endure and overcome the ‘Cami’-Knickers jibes and mickey-taking which all your trail buddies will aim at you, then underneath it all you will find a decent, modern trailbike that’s frankly a bargain at this price. Really it’s you who should be doing the laughing… All the way to the bank!