MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F

While KTM and Husky are all new for 2023, the GasGas lineup is sticking with last year’s bike for one more season. THE GEAR: Jersey: Fly Racing Kinetic, Pants: Fly Racing Kinetic, Helmet: Fly Racing Formula, Goggles: Viral Brand Works series, Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7.

Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F BETTER THAN THE 2022 GASGAS MC250F?

A: No, but it is more expensive. For the 2023 model year, KTM’s and Husqvarna’s bikes were revamped to be all-new from the ground up, while the GasGas lineup is staying the same for one more season. Last year this bike retailed for $8699; this year, with slightly updated graphics, it goes for $9199.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F DIFFER FROM THE 2023 KTM 250SXF?

A: The 2023 KTM 250SXF engine, frame, subframe, swingarm, rear axle, shock, plastics, electronics, seat, air filter, rear brake pedal and triple clamps have all been changed.  The GasGas MC250F has stayed the same since KTM bought the brand and started producing the platform-shared bike in 2021. It has the engine that KTM has used since 2016. It has the frame that KTM used for its 2019 through 2022 models (only the GasGas frame is painted cherry red). It also has the same WP XACT air forks that KTM uses.

As a refresher course, we’ll break down the real performance-altering differences among the 2021, 2022 and 2023 GasGas MC250F and last year’s 2022 KTM 250SXF:

(1) Suspension. The most noticeable difference on the GasGas is the softer suspension settings. The 2022 KTM 250SXF came with a 45 N/mm shock spring while the GasGas shock comes with a 42. Obviously, the air forks can be made stiffer or softer with the use of WP’s hand pump, but the internal valving on both the forks and shock is also softer. The 2023 GasGas MC250F is a softer, more vet-friendly version of last year’s 2022 KTM 250SXF.

(2) Triple clamps. The most expensive difference between KTM and GasGas is the triple clamps. The GasGas forged-aluminum triple clamps are softer than the KTM’s CNC-machined billet clamps.

(3) Tires. The Maxxis MaxxCross MX-ST tires aren’t horrible. We like the rear tire, but it isn’t as durable as the Dunlop MX33 that comes on the KTM, and the front tire isn’t as predictable.

(4) Exhaust. The GasGas MC250F doesn’t have a resonance chamber in the header pipe, which leaves extra horsepower on the table (easily found with aftermarket exhausts). 

(5) Map switch. The GasGas MC250F engine has two maps—Traction Control and Launch Control—ready to go, but they aren’t accessible until you buy and install the same map switch that comes stock on the 2022 KTM. The 2023 KTM 250SXF has all-new switchgear, along with new maps, Quick Shift, Traction Control, Launch and stop/start buttons.

The GasGas MC250F comes stock with a perfect setup for most Novice and Vet riders. The suspension is compliant and plush, with great bottoming resistance.

Q: IS THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F INFERIOR TO THE 2023 KTM 250SXF AND HUSKY FC250?

A: The next-gen 2023 KTM and Husqvarna 250Fs have been going through a teething phase. 2023 KTM and Husky owners have had to adapt to new handling characteristics, and tuners are busy developing new suspension and engine mods to enhance the 2023 models. Thankfully for GasGas riders, the current 2023 MC250F is well known and has a long list of updates available for it in the aftermarket. Hopefully, the next-gen 2024 GasGas bikes will be able to bypass all the bugs that the first-gen 2023 KTM/Husky bikes have dealt with.

Since the 2023 GasGas MC250F is using a tried-and-true platform, riders know what to expect from it. The MXA test riders feel right at home jumping on the 2023 MC250F. From the get-go, it doesn’t take long to break in. It is easy to ride, compliant over the bumps, and nimble in the corners. The 2023 KTM/Husky 250Fs take over 10 hours to fully break in and start working properly. Plus, the new anti-squat chassis characteristics take some time to get used to. The rear end of the next-gen bikes sits higher in the pits and rides higher on the track.

Q: HOW IS THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F SUSPENSION?

A: The GasGas suspension is aimed to please light riders, Novice riders and Vet riders. The damping is softer than the KTM and Husky suspension, which means that you don’t have to go as fast for it to work well. As a rule of thumb, faster riders need stiffer suspension because they’re hitting bumps, ruts and jumps harder. Fast riders need suspension that won’t dive excessively coming into corners or on the face of jumps. Slower riders need softer suspension to compress over the bumps, even though they aren’t going the same speed as the Pros. 

The 2023 GasGas MC250F forks are soft and plush on top, offering a compliant and comfortable feel, but they are stiff enough at full stroke to resist bottoming. Thanks to its air forks, the GasGas front suspension gets stiffer as it compresses to help the rider stop bottoming.

If you are a Pro, you will find the suspension to be too soft, but what real Pro leaves his suspension stock? The GasGas setup is designed to suit the needs of the vast majority of riders (Novices, Vets, old-timers, trail riders and play riders). Conversely, it isn’t well suited to riders over 185 pounds because of its softer 42 N/mm shock spring. If you are heavier or faster than your racing buddies, you will probably want the 45 N/mm spring from the KTM or Husky.

The GasGas engine is the same one that KTM first started using in 2016. On paper, this engine is old, but on the track it still runs like a spring chicken.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F CORNER?

A: Thanks to its compliant chromoly steel frame, light weight, and adaptable WP suspension, the GasGas MC250F turns well‚ but it could be better. The forged-aluminum triple clamps affect the turn-in character of the GasGas MC250F because they are more flexible than the CNC-machined clamps that the KTMs and Huskys have. The GasGas isn’t as precise or predictable when initiating a turn into a corner; however, we need to note that any of our test riders who spent a generous amount of time on the GasGas eventually got used to it. Some riders even prefer the flexible clamps because they are more comfortable going through harsh terrain. Additionally, the vague turn-in feel is less noticeable on the MC250F than it is on the MC350F and MC450F bikes because it is lighter with less rotating mass in the engine, meaning that it naturally turns better than its bigger brothers.

We’ve tested and tried multiple aftermarket triple clamps for the GasGas bikes, and the Luxon MX Gen2 clamps are our favorite. We’ve also found that upping the torque specs on the top triple clamp to 22 N/mm and bottom clamp to 17 N/mm helps to cover up the vague feel.

Although the triple clamps make the biggest difference, the Maxxis MX-ST front tire and soft forks also contribute to a less than stellar feel at turn-in for faster riders. The softer forks dive coming into turns, and the front tire loses traction easier than a Dunlop MX33 front.

Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?

A: The hate list:

(1) Airbox. GasGas needs to offer an optional airbox cover like KTM and Husky, so the engine can breathe. The stock one is very closed off. You can order vented GasGas airbox covers from UFO Plastic (in red, white or black).

(2) Spokes. The spoke by the rim lock comes loose quickly. Watch it closely from the git-go.

(3) Preload ring. The plastic preload ring gets chewed up when setting sag. Thankfully WP fixed it on the next-gen KTM/Husky bikes.

(4) Fork adjuster. The fork clicker adjusters need to be a little longer for more leverage.

(5) Bar pad. The GasGas bar pad is tiny and doesn’t make much sense; however, it is extra easy to put on.

(6) Front tire. We think the Maxxis rear is a good tire while the front still needs work.

(7) Gearing. For a 250, it is geared very tall with 14/51 sprockets. If you want quicker and more responsive low-to-mid power, gear it down by changing the gear ratios to 14/52 (3.714 ratio) or 13/50 (3.846 ratio).

(8) Brake spring. The stock rear brake pedal spring doesn’t last. This isn’t a problem on the new 2023 KTM/Husky bikes, but you should replace your spring with a Honda one if you buy a GasGas. 

(9) Price. Last year, the GasGas MC250F was the price-point buy. This year it jumped up by $500 to $9199.

(10) Next year. MXA would prefer that the 2024 GasGas motocross bikes not be turned into clones of the current 2023 KTM and Husky. We feel that the plusher 2023 GasGas chromoly steel frame and reduced price suits a wide range of riders and offers a viable choice for lots of riders. But, next year’s GasGas MC250 will be platformed shared with the KTM and Husqvarna.

We like the Maxxis rear tire, but the front tire isn’t up to par with the Dunlop MX33.

Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?

A: The like list:

(1) Weight. The 217-pound GasGas is the lightest bike in the 250 class.

(2) Brakes. Brembo brakes still haven’t been beaten, butGasGas 250s made after a certain production line date, might come with the Braktec brakes from the KTM, Husky and GasGas off-road models. This is reportedly due to supply line production shortages at Brembo.

(3) Chassis. The GasGas MC250F offers more flex and comfort than the other two Austrian bikes, making it easier to adapt to. For most riders, minimal changes are needed to feel comfortable.

(4) Air filter. It’s very easy to install and remove air filters on the GasGas. Another plus is that it comes stock with a Twin Air filter.

(5) Hydraulic clutch. The Brembo hydraulic clutch is durable and pleasant to use (it too could be Braktec on certain units).

(6) Power. The 2022 GasGas makes 42.5 horsepower and 20.5 pound-feet of torque. A vented air box and aftermarket exhaust will get the dyno numbers up with the best in class.

(7) Silver rims. Silver rims look trick with the red plastics and frame. And they match well with the silver handlebars and triple clamps.

(8) Braided-steel brake hoses. The GasGas comes stock with minimal-expansion PTFE brake/clutch hoses with a 64-strand, braided-steel overlay.

(9) Suspension. The only riders who won’t love the suspension setup are fast guys.

Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE 2023 GASGAS MC250F?

A: We think it was a great idea for the Pierer Mobility Group (KTM) to upgrade the KTM/Husky models while leaving the GasGas lineup alone. Why wouldn’t they? This year there’s a bigger difference between the three brands, and the GasGas is a failsafe option for riders who don’t want to buy a “first-year model” KTM or Husky.

One downer about the 2023 GasGas MC250F is the jump in price. For the last two years, the GasGas was affordable. You could save money while still getting a KTM engine, frame and suspension components without a few of the knickknacks (map switch, hour meter, exhaust resonance chamber, CNC-machined clamps, black rims). Unfortunately, supply and demand, as well as inflation, have fattened the GasGas MC250F price tag.

Our test riders felt right at home on the MC250F. It needed very little break-in time.

MXA’S 2023 GASGAS MC250F SETUP SPECS: 

This is how we set up our 2023 GasGas MC250F for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.

48MM XACT FORK SETTINGS
Most MXA test riders didn’t drift too far from the stock clicker settings. The WP XACT forks offer a plush setting that has great bottoming resistance. When we noticed that some test riders weren’t using all the WP fork’s travel, we turned the compression clickers out until they used the entire stroke. We did notice that the front end felt vague in tight corners, but sliding the forks down in the clamps and torquing the triple clamp bolts helped big time. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setting for an average rider on the 2023 GasGas MC250F (stock specs are in parentheses):
Air pressure: 151 psi (Intermediates), 145 psi (fast Novices), 140 psi (Vets and Novices)
Compression: 12 clicks out
Rebound: 12 clicks out
Fork-leg height: Second line
Notes: Check the air pressure in your forks as often as you check your tire pressure. Also, don’t forget to bleed the air screws to release built-up incidental air pressure.

WP SHOCK SETTINGS
We like the GasGas MC250F shock. Although we do make high-speed clicker adjustments, most of our riders usually stick to the stock 15 clicks out on compression. Our only issue, which only applies to heavier or faster riders, is the 42 N/mm shock spring. For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2023 GasGas MC250F (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 42 N/mm
Race sag: 105mm
Hi-compression: 1-1/4 turns out (1-1/2 turns out)
Lo-compression: 15 clicks out
Rebound: 10 clicks out
Notes: For heavier racers, the stock 42 N/mm shock spring is going to be on the soft side. If you are outside of the recommended free-sag numbers, switch to a 45
N/mm spring.

 

 

 

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