Gas Gas Ec 250

■ Engine Type: Liquid-cooled single

■ Transmission: Five speed/chain drive

■ Frame Type: Deltabox

■ Front Suspension: 45mm USD

■ Rear Suspension: Monoshock

■ Brakes: Single 2-piston caliper front, single piston rear.

■ Price (RRP): $11,799 + ORC

them well forward. A nice neat rubber pad slips over the top of the handlebar clamps to soften the blow if things go wrong. All the controls feel comfortable and easy to use, and there's a decent quartz halogen headlight up front and a very tidy tail light and number plate mount at the rear.

The silver multipurpose readout in the centre of the cockpit is easy to read and lights up well for night riding. Although there isn't an ignition lock there is a steering lock to slow any thieves that may be trying to knock off your bike if you ride it down to the shops. There is an alloy side stand that is lightweight and sits well out of the way but has a very small foot that will sink into anything a little soft allowing the bike to fall, so just beware. None of the Gas Gas bikes we tested this year came with blinkers fitted on them so I didn't get to see how durable they are. Apparently they didn't trust us not to break them.

There is a single screw at the back which releases the seat to expose the foam air filter and the battery. A spring loaded pogo stick releases the filter for easy servicing and the battery is mounted just behind the filter. A cam lock instead of a screw to release the seat would have been a nice touch to make it a tool free operation.

During the test I had a screw on one of the battery terminals come loose just as I stalled the bike in a big deep muddy waterhole. Man didn't I do some cursing trying to get it started before eventually dragging it out, tightening the terminal and firing it back into life. I think this electric start stuff is making me soft!

The steering felt very light and the bike felt very nimble and easy to flick around as a 250 does. All the suspension settings started in the centre positions but I found the front suspension a little unstable on anything that gave it a good bump. When I backed the compression damping right off it felt much better but it felt like it needed to be backed off a little more to stop anything kicking offline so I think a bit more tuning to suit the rider will just get that extra bit more out of it. The steering on the EC 250 FSR always felt light and precise where the 450 uses a different steering head angle and was hard work until I got the front suspension settings right. So long as you worked the clutch the 250 was surprisingly easy to weave up through steep rocky outcrops and tight single trails. The gearing is well suited to weaving your way up a rutted or rocky hill without being too slow, but you can feel the tall seat height when things go bad.

The Gas Gas is easy to loft the front end over all sorts of obstacles and it just seems to go where you want it to go. The engine revs well and it will run along at 80 or 90 km/h happily and faster if you push it a bit.

At 110kg the claimed weight is 7kg lighter than the EC 450 FSR but I was surprised to find it has a very similar fuel range considering it uses the same 7.5 litre tank. I travelled 70km of fire trails and tight single line tracks before going onto reserve. 5.8 litres of fuel topped it back up giving the bike about a 90km range depending on the terrain. For those that want a better range I believe there is a tank available from Safari Tanks in Victoria that offers almost double the capacity.

The recommended retail on one of these will set you back $11,799 + on road costs and it now comes with a 12 month warranty. ■

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