MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2024 GASGAS MC450F
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2024 GASGAS MC450F BETTER THAN THE 2023 MODEL?
A: It depends. The big plus is that the new (for GasGas) engine is considerably stronger than last year’s six-year-old engine; however, we preferred the 6-pound-lighter 2023 GasGas chassis and much sleeker plastic, especially because the all-new 2024 plastic has ugly door gaps, loose fitment and a tendency to pop loose from its mounting points. The 2023 GasGas frame did not require 10 hours of break-in time before it became compliant.
Every time we talked to the GasGas product managers, we told them to keep the 2023 GasGas bikes in circulation—and hold off on forcing the all-new KTM and Husky frame on GasGas buyers who were happy with what they had. We felt that the typical GasGas owner was more than willing to stick with the 2023 GasGas MC450F’s old version for three reasons:
(1) Parts. GasGas dealers would benefit from the fact that parts for that old chassis are plentiful. Plus, the plastic companies have a stockpile of replacement GasGas plastic.
(2) Weight. KTM used to tout how light its bikes were as a performance benefit, but the 2024 GasGas models gained 6 pounds. It would cost a couple thousand dollars to knock 6 pounds off of any 2024 machine—regardless of brand.
(3) MSRP. A few years ago, a GasGas MC450 retailed for the same price as a Honda CRF450 or Yamaha YZ450; now it is $700 more than the CRF and $400 more than the YZ450F. The suggested retail price of the 2024 MC450F is $10,399—so much for it being the “affordable brand.” Q: WHY DIDN’T GASGAS KEEP THE OLD BIKE FOR ANOTHER YEAR?
A: There are harsh realities in the business of selling motorcycles. First, you have to supply your dealer network with buzz-worthy products to sell. The GasGas model line was first introduced to the American market in 2021 and has gone unchanged since then. You can tell a potential customer that the old bike is great, but “new” is always better (at least until he loses a couple of races on it). Second, neither the factory nor the dealers want to have more part numbers than they already have. It is better for the Austrians to produce three different brands using the same base components (frames, engines, swingarms, etc.) than two brands with the same parts and a third brand with a completely different supply chain. Third, KTM explained that keeping the 2024 GasGas MC450F on the old platform, while the orange and white brands continued to evolve with newer and newer models over the next four years, would actually make the GasGas more expensive.
We accept the answers in spite of our infatuation with the whole line of 2023 GasGas models, especially the carbureted two-strokes.
Q: WHAT DIFFERENTIATES THE 2024 GASGAS MC450 FROM ITS BROTHERS?
A: Platform-sharing makes the consumer think that only the color of the plastic differentiates the GasGas from a Husqvarna or a KTM. Not true! The KTM, Husky and GasGas engineers go to great lengths to make their three brands different from each other—sometimes in componentry, sometimes in aesthetics, and sometimes in outright performance. Let’s break down the GasGas differences by components, aesthetics and performance.
Q: WHAT ARE THE COMPONENT DIFFERENCES?
A: Here is the parts list: (1) Triple clamps. The GasGas triple clamps are forged aluminum, which offers more flex and a different front-end feel from the CNC-machined clamps of KTM/Husky. (2) Subframe. GasGas gets its own unique aluminum subframe compared to the KTM and Husky units. (3) Mapping. The MC450F has the same base, but it does not come with the switchgear to access the aggressive map, Quick Shift and traction control. GasGas owners have to buy the map switch from PowerParts to get the electronic trickery. (4) Brakes. The GasGas comes with BrakTec brakes, while the KTM and Husky still use Brembo units. (5) Clutch. BrakTec also handles clutch actuation. (6) Handlebars. The non-branded silver Neken bars are 12mm taller than KTM’s handlebars. (7) Exhaust. The GasGas MC450F exhaust comes with a restrictor screen in the muffler to detune power, and the lack of a resonance chamber adds a touch of mellowness. The KTM and Husky have a resonance chamber and do not have a restrictor screen.
Q: WHAT ARE THE AESTHETIC DIFFERENCES?
A: The aesthetics of all three Austrian motocross bikes really stand out. Here are the differences: (1) Bodywork. The red plastic is completely proprietary to GasGas. It does have some issues with how well it fits and the size of the side panels, which double as the airbox cover. The fuel tank also has slightly larger capacity. (2) The seat. The GasGas seat pushes underneath the lip of the plastic fuel tank cover and is secured to the bike with an 8mm bolt behind the left-side panel. With this system, you have to remove the side panel to get the seat off. KTM’s and Husky’s seats attach via an 8mm bolt at the front of the seat. (3) Graphics. The graphics run down the complete side of the bike and, oddly enough, the logo, which is very large, has the bottom one-third of the letters cut off. The real problem for the GasGas logo is that when a racer tries to put white backgrounds on the rear number plates, they cover up a large portion of the first “Gas” in “GasGas.” The only clean solution is minicycle number plates. (4) Rims. The GasGas is unique in that it is the only modern model with old-school silver rims. MXA prefers silver rims because they don’t show tire-iron gouges or rock dings like black or blue rims, plus they coordinate well with the sliver muffler, swingarm, triple clamps, handlebars and engine cases.
Q: WHAT ARE THE PERFORMANCE DIFFERENCES?
A: There are performance differences between the GasGas, Husqvarna and KTM, but most of them are to undermine performance, not enhance it. Here are the differences: (1) Suspension. The GasGas has softer suspension valving, front and rear. It is tailored to lighter or slower riders. (2) Airbox. The KTM group has a hierarchy of performance for its three brands, and they enforce the hierarchy by limiting airflow into the engine, with KTM getting the most air, Husky the second most and GasGas the least. (3) Electronics. The KTM and Husqvarna get all the electric gizmos, while the GasGas has its electronics limited to the mellow map. It would be a much better-performing bike if they made the aggressive map the go-to map. (4) Exhaust. The GasGas exhaust pipe doesn’t have a resonance chamber in the head pipe, which cuts down on midrange power. (5) Tires. The GasGas bike comes stock with Maxxis MX-ST tires, while KTM and Husky bikes come with Dunlop MX33 tires. (6) Brakes. For 2024, every GasGas bike comes with BrakTec brake and clutch components. They have been updated with a round lever shape and 16mm of leverage, and the master cylinder piston is 11mm compared to Brembo’s 10mm. The brakes and clutch mechanism are okay, not great.
The brake components look similar to Brembo’s, but they don’t perform the same.Q: WHAT ABOUT THE BRAKTEC BRAKE COMPONENTS?
A: In an effort to keep the retail price down, the GasGas is spec’ed with Spanish-made BrakTec Components. There is nothing stopping BrakTec from making brilliant brakes. After all, they are owned by Brembo and have full access to Brembo’s technology. Therefore, we must assume that in order to meet GasGas’ OEM-equipment price point, they had to cut corners.
The MXA test riders could feel a difference between the BrakTec and Brembo brakes almost immediately. The initial bite was strong, but they felt like they had glazed brake pads. They will slow the bike down, but stopping takes a firm pull. The test riders who had raced 2023 bikes that came with BrakTec brakes as OEM equipment were positive that this year’s BrakTec brakes worked better than last year’s, but they were still nowhere near the feel of Brembo brakes. They were especially lacking in modulation.
Even odder, all the BrakTec parts (levers, hoses and fitting) are different from Brembo’s, meaning you can’t use Brembo’s hoses on the 2024 GasGas MC450F. You can, however, use the brake pads.
Q: DOES THE BRAKTEC HYDRAULIC CLUTCH POP OR NOT?
A: Not. The BrakTec is not a “pop” clutch like the Brembo hydraulics on the 2024 KTM and Husky. A “pop” clutch is one where the release point of the clutch can be easily felt and replicated each time you use the clutch. The BrakTec clutch is not as precise as the Brembo clutches on the KTM and Husqvarna models. That seems strange, because all the clutch internals (basket, pressure plate, clutch hub and Belleville washer) are identical on all three brands, meaning that any clutch issues fall directly on BrakTec’s shoulders.
Q: HOW IS THE 2024 GASGAS MC450F ENGINE?
A: On paper, the GasGas MC450F engine never stood a chance against its Austrian brothers, but on the track, the impressive torque number is the second highest of all seven available 450s, making the engine feel hooked up. Obviously, the handicaps that the Austrian engineers placed on the 2024 GasGas MC450F don’t help it in sheer power, but most MXA test riders love the mellower power delivery, which seems to translate into the test riders pushing it harder than they would the more powerful KTM or Husky. All that said, it is a fun 450—not a fire-breathing dragon; it is more of a rider’s machine. Yes, it is mellower, but the mellow nature is only a cover-up for its impressive 59.35 peak horsepower. GasGas MC450F has good power everywhere with an added kick on top.
All the restrictions that KTM put on the GasGas MC450F engine can be fixed with the judicious application of money for a new map switch, Twisted Development mapping, an aftermarket exhaust system and some holes drilled into the airbox cover.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 GASGAS MC450F HANDLE ON THE TRACK?
A: Hate it for 10 hours and then love it forever. Thanks to rolling out of the freighter with softer and plusher suspension than its white and orange shipmates, the MC450F delivers where it counts. Everyone from vets to pros liked the GasGas suspension. Yes, the pro riders did say that it felt too soft, but thanks to WP’s HydroStop bottoming cones, they could push it to the limit without getting in trouble. As for the vets, it was just right (although the WP XACT air forks also needed a couple hours of break-in time).
The biggest changes over the 2023 frame are that the new-generation frame is stiffer, taller and less pitchy in the rough. We credit the new frame’s anti-squat geometry for reducing wheel hop in braking bumps and lessening kicking under hard acceleration in ruts.
Q: HOW ARE THE WP XACT AIR FORKS?
A: The MXA wrecking crew has lots of time on WP XACT air forks. We know how air forks work better than almost anyone. We like the WP XACT air forks, and although we have more than our fair share of kitted coil-spring forks to test, we always fall back on the very light XACT air forks in a pinch.
Here’s a hint: Air pressure is just a replacement for the coil spring. It does not do anything else. It holds the front end up and is adjustable from super soft to super stiff. Once you find the proper air pressure for your speed, weight and local track, you are halfway home. The other half is to use the compression and rebound clickers to fine-tune the overall feel.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Detuned. We’re glad the Austrian engineers are making an effort to define the three different brands, but we can’t condone leaving free power on the table with crackpot muffler and airbox gimmicks. We drill holes in the airbox cover to get the throttle response back.
(2) Brakes. The BrakTec components are a time-travel machine. They take you back to 2001 when it comes to stopping power. BrakTec is not in the same league as Brembo.
(3) Weight. The new 2024 GasGas MC450F is much heavier than last year’s 2023 model, which was the lightest bike in the class at 219 pounds. Now it weighs 225 pounds.
(4) Chain slack. It’s hard to get used to seeing chains so loose. The 2024 KTM/Husqvarna/GasGas chassis likes the chain slack to be around 65mm to 70mm at the rear of the swingarm buffer pad.
(5) Plastics. The new ultra-long GasGas airbox cover/side number panel doesn’t fit very well. We have had it fall off our test bikes on the track. Plus, some test riders catch their boot on the front of the panel and pop it off the fuel tank as well.
(6) Push buttons. It’s a weird complaint, but the start and stop buttons are hard to press.
(7) Seat height. The 2024 GasGas is significantly taller now.
(8) Spokes. The spokes come loose all the time. If you aren’t good at checking your spokes, at the very least check the spokes closest to the rear rim lock. If those spokes are loose, you need to tighten all the spokes.
(9) Brake-pedal tip. It gets crushed, bent, or broken in any crash or collision you have. There are much stronger aftermarket tips available.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Chain torque. GasGas moved the countershaft sprocket down 3mm to reduce rear-end squat under full power. This is most noticeable in whoops, consecutive bumps and under hard acceleration in a rut.
(2) Frame backbone. The 2024 GasGas MC450F frame is stiffer than before, but, once broke in, it is very stable in motion.
(3) Airbox. We love that it comes stock with a Twin Air filter and that it is ultra-easy to install, but since the airbox cover is included in a one-piece side panel that runs from the back of the bike to the front, it takes some effort to remove it.
(4) Crossbar pad. Thankfully, GasGas replaced last year’s miniature bar pad with a full-size pad in 2024.
(5) Aesthetics. The plastics are unique; you’ll get attention in the pits. Our favorite is the red frame, though.
(6) Platform-sharing. It’s nice that many modifications cross over from KTM and Husky. That means if you can’t get a GasGas part, KTM and Husky parts might work.
(7) Finding neutral. Getting the transmission into neutral on the starting line is very hard. We rev the engine with the clutch pulled in, and when the rpm peaks, we snick the shift lever into neutral before the rpm drops.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: The KTM/Husqvarna/GasGas consortium does a pretty good job of making a 450 motocross bike for everyone. The KTM 450SXF is best for racers. It’s taller, stiffer and faster, while the Husqvarna is the ultimate vet bike with broad power, a low seat height and terrific handling. The GasGas is not as affordable as it once was, but it is still a sweet bike that captures riders’ hearts with its fun nature.