We got a chance to try out the 2006 Gas Gas 300 DE from Keytime Motorcports during the next-to-last round in the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals near Morrison, Illinois.
After many weeks of anticipation looking forward to race-testing the 2006 Gas Gas 300 DE from Keytime Motorsports, it looked like I would have to sit this one out due to circumstances beyond my control. An air carrier had, for the third (or was it the fourth?) time this year, somehow gotten my gear bag on a different plane as me, despite plenty of time at check-in and transfer. (Actually, I did have my helmet and goggles, which I'd carried on.)
So instead of riding, I resigned myself to following my usual routine at the races: actually covering the event. Not that doing so is such a bad thing, but it doesn't come close to being as fun as actually riding, especially at one of Bill Gusse's events-this one dubbed "The Race" at his place near Morrison, Illinois, the next-to-last round in the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals. The combination of tight woods, fallen logs, creek crossings, wide-open corn fields and deep whoops in the peat make for a challenging and fun hour and a half, the duration of the combined-classes race I should've been in. Oh well.
It started months ago when Gary Gibbs suggested he could arrange for me to race-test the Gas Gas and it would be set up specifically for me. It didn't take too long to agree, as long as it didn't interfere too much with my primary mission of covering the weekend's events (which it didn't).
Gibbs, a long-time friend of Gusse and an industry insider, relayed my stats and preferences to Keytime's Craig Hayes. His dealership (28702 County Rd. EW, Warrens, WI 54666; 608-378-4290; www.keytimemotorsports.com
) prides itself on personalizing the bike to the rider, especially when it comes to suspension setup (less the cost of necessary parts; adding accessories will also increase the price.)
While the Gas Gas 300 DE is a good machine out of the box, Keytime's assembly and personalization make it better for the end user. Our test bike had nearly every option available simply to show them off, not because they're absolutely necessary.
So, after giving Gibbs my info to pass along, I couldn't wait to get to Illinois and take the Gas Gas from Hayes for a 90-minute thrash.
Even without my riding gear, of course, I could appreciate the bike. The Dealer Edition differs from the regular EC only in that it comes with the 35-watt ignition found on the MC motocross bikes. But what Keytime does is what really helps set the bike apart from your average dealer. According to Hayes, he uncrates each machine and pulls it completely apart, reassembling it with Loc-tite, anti-seize compounds and an eye to detail.
Hayes wasn't satisfied with simply dialing in the suspension and making sure things wouldn't fall off of this particular 300, though. Since it was going to be showcased, he threw nearly every aftermarket part available at the bike, making it a rolling dirt bike catalog. Among the items were a CRD pipe, Checkpoint power-valve cover, Moose hand guards, G2 Ergonomics Throttle Cam System, Renthal Fat Bar in Tag bar mounts, Pirelli MT32 tires and Decal Works graphics, plus more that would add another $1800 to the 300 DE's $6895 price tag.
All I needed was my riding gear, and I could've taken it out (sigh).
Apparently sensing my despair, though, Hayes, photo model/racer/Parts Unlimited rep John Strangfeld, hero Dick Burleson and my travel buddy/gourmet cook/helmet painter/TV commentator Jerry Bernardo went into action. Strangfeld came up with some Moose riding gear (2006 sample stuff, no less) and his spare pair of Alpinestars Tech 8s, Hayes got the bike ready after its morning photo session and DB said he'd sign me up with some 10 minutes to go before the race started.
Checkpoint's power-valve cover increases volume for added low-end, enhancing the 300's ridability. Also visible is the aluminum CRD skid plate/frame guard.
Still, I was hesitant to ride without my knee braces, knowing that it was just inviting injury-until Bernardo insisted I use his. Well, even though they weren't mine and thus wouldn't fit as well as I was used to, that was the clincher. So, with only a minute or two before the green flag waved, I got suited up and hopped aboard the Gas Gas for the very first time, kicked it to life and putted over to the starting line on the edge of a plowed corn field. (That, of course, was my also my chance to get used to the thing before the race, but how hard could it be-down for first and up for the rest, right?)
The dead-engine start found me getting to the first turn in the middle of the pack, I think; it was about what I expected. All that was left was spending the next 90 minutes getting acquainted with the bike and, hopefully, passing more people than passed me.
Having previous riding experience at Gusse's, I was more or less familiar with what to expect of the course and had always considered a 200cc to be the perfect bike for me there. For my (limited and desert-based) ability, anything bigger would've been a liability.
But that was before I rode the Keytime-prepped 300 DE.
The Renthal Fat Bar in Tag's mounts felt comfortable and provided good control. Moose's guards protected the hands well while the bar pad added peace of mind.
Since I'm not too proud to admit I'm no threat to someone like DB, I'd put the ignition selector on the handlebar to the "rainy day" setting, opting for torque instead of top-end power. That and the G2 Ergonomics TCS made the Gas Gas really easy to cope with in the tight and technical sections of the course. I never felt any hard hit that would cause excessive wheelspin and felt it easy to control how much power I wanted to dial up.
When I needed full power for those top-gear runs across the corn fields, it didn't seem any more difficult to get up to speed. Oh, talking about speed, one of the great things about the Gas Gas is that it has a six-speed, and that lets it gobble up ground at an incredible rate. That enabled me to pass a number of competitors in the corn fields, even bigger four-strokes. It makes you wonder why all off-road bikes don't come with six-speed gearboxes.
In the woods, the 300 DE felt very flickable, not at all like an Open-class machine. Granted, it wasn't quite as light as a 200, but it worked its way through trees and over logs without much effort on my part. Of course, being able to just torque through obstacles helped a lot, another plus for the engine and its power delivery.
In the woods the mellower power delivery of the Gas Gas with the ignition in the "rain" mode in conjunction with the G2 Ergonomics Throttle Cam System (using cam 400Y) was a welcomed feature.
Hayes put the suspension (45mm Marzocchi inverted fork and Ohlins shock) right in the ballpark for me; it felt great. Afterwards, he said that watching me made him wish he'd put in slightly stiffer fork springs, as I apparently tend to ride farther forward on the bike than the average guy. Stiffer fork springs and, perhaps, setting the sag correctly might also have diminished the headshake I encountered at times in the corn fields at speed, usually in those pesky off-throttle transitions between full gas and I need to catch my breath a minute before I hit the brakes. (No, the one thing that Keytime didn't put on the bike was a steering damper.)
After 90 minutes, I'd been very impressed. (Not with my riding ability, of course; after all, at least one guy from the C line and a kid on an RM80 had passed me.) The Gas Gas 300 DE had proven easy to ride, letting me concentrate more on trying to go faster despite having arms pumped up like rocks after about a half mile. The greatest impressions were of its friendly, ridable, non-tiring nature in the woods and its superior top speed after clicking it into sixth.
As for my result, I was sure I wasn't last, though I was equally certain I didn't win. Sure enough, I wasn't and I didn't. I ended up second in 40-49 B. Maybe next time I can do better-as long as the airline doesn't lose my gearbag again.
The Goodie List:
2006 Gas Gas 300 DE - $6895.00
80/100-21 Pirelli MT32F front tire - $75.95
120/100-18 Pirelli MT32 rear tire - $83.95
CRD exhaust pipe - $308.00
CRD skid plate/frame guard - $131.00
CRD air filter - $19.95
CRD radiator brace - $89.95
DP rear brake pads - $41.95
DP front brake pads - $41.95
DP clutch kit - $203.00
The 45mm Marzocchi fork performed well, though Hayes said he would've sprung it slightly stiffer to accommodate the author's riding style after watching him. DP supplied the brake pads and solid rear rotor.
DP solid rear brake rotor - $129.95
Motion Pro rim locks - $12.95
Motion Pro rim lock - $14.95
Checkpoint rear brake reservoir extender - $49.00
Checkpoint rim lock nuts - $12.95
Checkpoint power valve cover - $51.95
Checkpoint clutch slave protector - $39.95
Moose rear brake pin - $10.95
Moose front brake pin - $10.95
Moose 48-tooth sprocket - $55.95
Moose X-ring chain - $125.95
Moose hand protectors - $19.95
Moose hand savers - $49.95
Moose footpegs - $79.95
Pro Grip grips - $10.95
Decal Works sticker kit - $75.00
G2 Ergonomics Throttle Cam System - $99.95
LT Racing mudguard - $19.95
LT Racing radiator bar - $29.95
Tag oversized handlebar mount - $49.95
Renthal Fat Bar handlebar - $89.95
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