MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2022 GASGAS MC 250 TWO-STROKE
THE GEAR: Jersey: O’Neal Hardwear, Pants: O’Neal Hardwear, Helmet: 6D ATR-2, Goggles: EKS Brand Lucid, Boots: Sidi Crossfire 3SR.
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2022 MC 250 BETTER THAN THE 2021 MODEL?
A: The GasGas MC 250 two-stroke is a brand-new model for this year—sort of. It’s new because it’s the first motocross-specific 250 two-stroke that GasGas has made, but it’s not so new because it’s basically a softer, red-colored, more affordable version of the KTM 250SX. In 2021, when the KTM Group first began selling its platform-sharing GasGas bikes, the 250 two-stroke and motocross-specific 350 four-stroke were missing from the lineup. Now, both bikes have been added—Although it should be noted that the 2023 MC 250 two-=stroke will be mechanically unchanged from the 2021.
Q: WHAT MAKES THE 2022 GASGAS MC 250 TWO-STROKE DIFFERENT FROM THE 2022 KTM 250SX?
A: If you know anything about the platforming relationship between GasGas and KTM, you know that the internals of each bike are practically identical, but the two have a few personality differences. Here’s a list of the parts that separate the GasGas MC 250 from the KTM 250SX:
(1) Aesthetics. The GasGas has uniquely shaped red plastics with a different fuel tank to accommodate the GasGas shrouds. You can’t mount your GasGas shrouds onto a KTM without installing the GasGas tank. Plus, the GasGas has silver Neken handlebars, silver rims and a closed-off airbox cover.
(2) Triple clamps. Like the rest of the GasGas big bikes, the MC 250 comes with triple clamps comprised of forged aluminum instead of CNC-machined aluminum. This does have some positive and negative effects on handling.
(3) Bar mounts. Instead of having a rubber bumper like KTM, the GasGas bar mounts are bolted straight into the clamps.
(4) Valving. The structural makeup of the WP XACT air forks and shock is the same, but the valving for both the front and rear suspension is softer.
(5) Tires. The GasGas comes with Maxxis MaxxCross MX-ST tires.
(6) Hour meter. The GasGas doesn’t come with an hour meter like the KTM and Husqvarna.
(7) Price. The 2022 GasGas MC 250 retails for $8199, which is-$600 less than the KTM.
The 2022 GasGas MC 250 two-stroke is a clean looking machine. It is purpose-built, lightweight and powerful.
Q: WHO IS THE 2022 GASGAS MC 250 DESIGNED FOR?
A: The KTM Group first bought Husqvarna in 2013 and kicked off its platform-sharing program selling re-branded white KTMs with unique carbon composite subframes at a slight up-charge. Then, in 2020, KTM bought the GasGas brand, inheriting the TXT trials bike lineup (a new category for KTM) and adding more motocross, cross-country and enduro bikes to its platform-sharing program. The KTM group did its best to offer the GasGas machines at a lower price without lowering the quality.
Truthfully, because of the softer suspension, the GasGas MC 250 two-stroke isn’t made for a top-level competitor who is looking to buy a bike and head to the races. The GasGas targets lower- to mid-level riders who like the idea of saving money and love the color red.
Q: HOW DOES THE GASGAS MC 250 RUN ON THE TRACK?
A: The GasGas MC 250 is fast. Shifting often is necessary on this bike because the engine revs through the rpm range quickly. Comparing the GasGas to a KTM, it’s practically identical. The KTM comes with an optional ventilated airbox cover that increases power, but it’s not so much of a big deal on the 250 two-stroke because the bike is already fast enough for most testers. Plus, UFO plastics makes a vented red cover to match the KTM one. The other options are drilling your own holes (as we’ve done many times) or shoving a KTM cover on instead (even though it doesn’t fit perfectly and is white).
Besides its orange and white brethren, the MC 250’s only major competition is the Yamaha YZ250. Updated for 2022, the YZ250 has new plastics, a new intake, and new suspension settings. But, unlike the new 2022 YZ125, the old-faithful YZ250 engine has remained the same. The YZ250 power is gentler and smoother from low to mid and blessed with tons of over-rev. For comparison, the GasGas MC250 comes on strong and pulls hard into the midrange, where it needs to be short-shifted because it signs off early.
Q: ARE THE WP XACT AIR FORKS ANY GOOD?
A: We are surprised to find that many riders badmouth the 2021–2022 WP XACT air forks. They either send them out for a fork kit without riding them or base their opinion on the pre-2021 units. The 2019 and 2020 WP air forks were good, but compared to the latest-generation ’21–’22 forks, they were not as compliant and they were more difficult to get acquainted with. In 2021, all KTM, Husky and GasGas air forks received new air and oil bypass holes and bypass notches to “blow-off” built-up pressure in the forks. Along with the innovative “trampoline valve,” the new XACT forks have a smooth and controlled action that starts off plush at the top of the stroke and gets stiffer as the forks compress.
We aren’t kidding when we talk about our appreciation for the WP XACT air forks; our testers love them! The 3-pound weight difference is noticeable in the front end when riding the air forks back-to-back with coil spring forks.
Surprisingly, WP is selling its own spring conversion kit for its air forks to compete with other aftermarket spring conversion kits and to satisfy the “no air forks at all costs” attitude that many consumers have. But, even after testing the WP spring conversion forks back-to-back with the WP air forks, MXA prefers air. They’re ultra plush on top. They settle into corners easily‚ which inspires confidence‚ and they’re lighter. From our point of view, WP’s move to offer an aftermarket spring fork conversion kit for its stock air fork seems like a slap in the face to its air forks. Is WP admitting that air forks are bad? Why not stick to its guns?
Q: HOW DOES THE MC 250 HANDLE ON THE TRACK?
A: The 2022 GasGas MC 250 is a unique machine. In general, the GasGas models have lighter spring rates and valving settings to target a different audience. KTM’s motto is “Ready to Race‚“ while GasGas is characterized as the “energetic” and “fun” brand. GasGas’ marketing targets a younger, edgier audience. The brand’s image fits perfectly with the Red Bull GasGas team and its star rider, Justin Barcia. Although the 42 N/mm shock spring on the shock is the same as on the KTM 250SX, the internal valving on the GasGas forks and shock is softer. This allows the suspension to compress easier, giving it a plusher and more comfortable feel for riders who aren’t hitting the bumps as hard. In contrast, the soft suspension creates a harsh feeling for faster riders who charge into bumps at higher speeds, launch farther off jumps and hit the brakes harder coming into corners.
Q: HOW ARE THE FORGED ALUMINUM TRIPLE CLAMPS?
A: In addition to the softer suspension, the forged aluminum triple clamps on the GasGas allow for more flex in the front end. This softens the blow of chatter bumps, creating a smoother ride as well. On the GasGas MC 450F and MC 250F, we had more issues with the front end feeling “vague” in corners. It didn’t feel as precise as the stock KTM/Husky clamps or as accurate as aftermarket Luxon MX or Ride Engineering clamps.
As mentioned in other GasGas tests, we upped the torque settings on the triple clamps to 20 N/mm on the top clamp and 15 N/mm on the bottom (which is tighter than the recommended KTM/Husky settings). This helped bring back some of the front-end feel on the four-strokes, but this issue wasn’t as big of an issue for us on the MC 250. With two-stroke engines having a strong “hit” of power with practically no engine braking, the rear wheel certainly drives the bike more than the front wheel. The absence of engine braking is why two-strokes usually have softer fork settings than four-strokes. With those physics in play, the stock forged aluminum triple clamps weren’t as big of a difference on the GasGas compared to the CNC-machined KTM/Husky clamps.
Q: WHAT’S THE BEST POWER VALVE SETTING?
A: A square Robertson wrench is needed to adjust the brass power valve screw, but this tool is hard to find in the pits. One of our first upgrades you should make to the KTM, Husky or GasGas two-strokes is to replace the brass Robertson head screw with Kreft Moto’s Powerdial 3.0 ($49.95). The Powerdial lets us adjust the power valve by hand. We start by turning it at 1/2-turn increments. Once we get close, then we fine-tune it in smaller 1/8-turn increments. The average setting for MXA test riders is found when we back the power valve adjuster all the way out, then turn it in 1-1/2 turns. This setting is snappy off the bottom, but not so aggressive that it’s difficult to corner. The best thing about the Powerdial 3.0 is the ability to change the power valve quickly and easily. Sometimes our vet testers turn the Powerdial in 2-1/2 turns to mellow out the bottom end, especially when the track gets dry.
To further customize the power characteristics, you can change the small auxiliary spring inside of the main power valve spring. Basically, the primary power valve spring determines at which rpm the valve opens, and the auxiliary spring determines how fast it opens once it gets there. GasGas provides three auxiliary power valve spring options when you buy this model. The yellow spring is stock. The red spring allows the valve to open quicker, and the green spring makes it open slower.
The Maxxis MX-ST tires work well until the rear wheel’s knobs start peeling off.
Q: WHAT’S UP WITH THE RENTHAL HANDLEBARS AND GRIPS?
A: If you noticed that the handlebars on our test bike weren’t silver and the grips weren’t ODI lock-ons—good eye. With MXA test bikes, typically we get the motorcycle straight from the manufacturer, and we get to keep it until we return it the following year for the next version; however, in COVID times, with bikes in short supply, it is more difficult for the manufacturers to procure enough media test bikes. To get us a 2022 GasGas MC 250 two-stroke quickly, GasGas gave us the bike that Justin Barcia rode in the GasGas 250 two-stroke commercials and was later transformed into a flat tracker with lowered suspension and flat-track wheels for its 2022 team intro with Justin Barcia, Michael Mosiman and Pierce Brown flat tracking at Blackmore Ranch.
The bike had very little time on it, and GasGas installed the stock suspension, plastics and wheels back onto the bike, but they left Justin’s Renthal bars and grips for us. The black handlebars throw off the silver and red theme that we like on the GasGas bikes, but with a fresh 250 two-stroke in our garage, we can’t complain too much.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Spokes. As always, the spokes next to the rim lock come loose quickly, especially when breaking the bike in. Check them each time you ride.
(2) Brake pedal spring. The spring that attaches to the rear brake pedal will either fall off or break over time. We always turn this spring around, so our boot won’t catch on the exposed tang and push out it of the pedal. If your brake pedal spring breaks, replace it with a Honda rear brake spring. They’re stronger and come with a rubber grommet around them for protection.
(3) Engine. We want to have our cake and eat it, too. Please, Mr. Pierer, can we get some more over-rev without losing the strong bottom and midrange? Our left foot is tired of shifting.
(4) Tires. The Maxxis MX-ST tires aren’t horrible on the track, but the durability is low. We started chunking off knobbies in a matter of three hours.
(5) Bar pad. The mini bar pad looks awkward and feels dangerous. The only nice part is that it’s super easy to take on and off.
Buy a Kreft Powerdial to get the full benefit of the MC 250 engine.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Weight. At 210 pounds, the GasGas is ultra light and easy to maneuver around the track, carving from inside to outside perfectly.
(2) Suspension. The WP XACT air forks and shock are perfect if you’re a vet rider or if you’re light.
(3) Gearing. We like the 14/49 gear ratio.
(4) Brakes. There were rumors that GasGas would have another brake supplier to further differentiate the brand from KTM. We’re glad they spec’d the same Brembos as KTM and Husky.
(5) Aesthetics. The red plastics and red frame can’t be beat. Modern-day Hondas and GasGas’ always get attention in the pits, especially when they’re brand new.
(6) Power valve. We appreciate that we can customize the power for each rider and track on GasGas, KTM and Husky two-strokes.
(7) Oil change. The MC 250 doesn’t have the same sight glass as the four-stroke GasGas models for checking oil height. Instead, it has an oil-level monitoring screw positioned behind the rear brake spring. Remove the spring and take the 8mm bolt out; if a small amount of oil comes out, you’re good.
(8) Maps. Although we often forget to mess with them, the GasGas has adjustable maps like the KTM and Husky. Unplug the white male/female connector under the left side of the gas tank to access a mellower map.
(9) Radiator cap. The GasGas MC 250 comes stock with a 1.8 radiator cap. We wish the Japanese brands would run this cap on all of their four-strokes.
Q: WHAT DID WE REALLY THINK?
A: With cherry-red plastic, a color-matched chromoly frame, silver wheels, handlebars, triple clamps and a chrome 250 two-stroke pipe, this bike looks trick. In motion, the GasGas 250 two-stroke has suspension that is plush and compliant, and it has an engine that comes on with authority, demanding respect from its rider. The stock version of the GasGas 250 two-stroke has suspension tailored for Vet and Novice riders and is mated to an engine designed for Intermediates. Faster riders will need stiffer suspension to enjoy this bike, and slower riders will need to turn in the power valve screw to mellow out the bottom end and learn how to shift quickly.
MXA’S 2022 GASGAS MC 250 SETUP SPECS
This is how we set up our 2022 GasGas MC 250 for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.
WP XACT AIR FORK SETTINGS
We always recommend using a zip-tie to find your correct air pressure setting. Then, once you find the air pressure number that brings your forks to within 1-1/2 inches of bottoming out, start messing with the compression clicker until you’re comfortable. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setup for the 2022 GasGas MC 250.
Air pressure: 10.4 bar (151 psi)
Compression: 8 clicks out (for Intermediate and up), 12 clicks out (for slower or lighter riders)
Rebound: 10 clicks out (18 clicks out for slower or lighter riders)
Fork height: 2nd line
Notes: As a rule of thumb, don’t start playing with your air pressure or clicker settings until you set the air pressure for your weight, check the tire pressure and bleed the air out of the little Torx head bolt on both fork caps. Also, on a hot day, your forks will gain pressure over time. Check the pressure periodically throughout the day, especially if it’s hot out. We’re confident that you’ll love the new WP XACT suspension if you set your air pressure and use the clicker to control the damping.
WP REAR SHOCK SETTINGS
The WP XACT rear shock is easy to feel comfortable on. For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2022 GasGas MC 250 (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 42 N/mm
Hi-compression: 1-1/2 turns out (2 turns out)
Lo-compression: 14 clicks out
Rebound: 14 clicks out
Race sag: 105mm
Notes: The stock MC 250 settings are better for Novice and Vet riders because they are softer. If you are fast or heavy, you’ll need to go in on the clickers, switch to a 45 N/mm spring or send your suspension off to get it sprung and valved for you.
MIKUNI TMX 38 JETTING SPECS
The stock GasGas MC 250 jetting worked great for us on our SoCal tracks. Obviously, there will be some air screw, needle or pilot adjustments needed for your local elevation, humidity and temperature. Here’s what we ran in our Mikuni TMX 38 carb:
Main jet: 450
Air screw: 1-1/2 turns out
Notes: If the bike is hesitant off the bottom, try adjusting the air screw. Have someone hold the throttle at 1800 rpm while you turn the air screw in and out. When the engine’s idle reaches its highest peak rpm, that is where the air screw should be.