Jeff Allen

2018 GasGas EC 300 vs. 2018 Beta 300 RR

Showdown: Two midsize two-stroke off-road bikes go head to head

With GasGas and Beta each coming out with heavily updated 300cc two-strokes in 2018, it only seemed right to throw them up against each other in a Showdown. While the two European manufacturers are more commonly known for producing trials bikes, their presence in the dirt bike world continues to grow from year to year as their bikes continually improve, and that could not be more true in 2018.

The GasGas EC 300 is an all-new machine. In the engine, the only thing that wasn't changed was the transmission. In the suspension department, the EC 300 now comes stock with a Kayaba AOSS fork and Kayaba shock, and as far as the chassis goes, the bike has a new frame, subframe, swingarm, and bodywork.

The GasGas EC 300
The GasGas EC 300 is a completely new machine for 2018 with a heavily revised engine and chassis along with KYB suspension components front and rear.Jeff Allen

The Beta 300 RR receives a plethora of updates for 2018 as well, most of which contribute to a claimed 10.4-pound weight loss over the 2017 model. The 300 RR engine has new components in both the bottom and top end and the kickstarter was eliminated. Suspension-wise, the Sachs 48mm fork and Sachs shock come with updated settings. In the chassis department, the front end is completely redesigned, the subframe is new, and the bike also receives a few updated protection pieces including a new skid plate and muffler heat shield.

We tested these two 300cc two-strokes on the off-road trails at Cahuilla Creek MX that included a good combination of tight single-track with a plethora of granite rocks, hills, and some more wide-open sections. A few test riders even opted to take the bikes on the motocross track to see how the off-road-specific machines performed there. Here’s what four test riders had to say after a full day of testing.

The 2018 Beta 300 RR bike
The 2018 Beta 300 RR features engine, suspension, and chassis updates, all of which add up to improved performance and a claimed 10.4-pound weight loss.Jeff Allen

Andrew Oldar, Age: 26, 5'10", 130 lb., Off-Road Intermediate

The GasGas and Beta may be 300cc two-stroke off-road bikes, but they sure felt a lot different on the trail. The GasGas engine pulls better down low and feels like it has more torque, which helps tremendously when lugging the bike to get traction and avoid spinning. The Beta had decent low-end pull as well, but the GasGas felt better in this area. Both bikes have good midrange power, but the EC pulls better up top as the 300 RR seems to sign off a little bit when reaching the higher rpm. Also, the Beta has more vibration, which is noticeable the moment you start it. It transmits a lot of the vibration through the pegs, but I noticed it in the bar quite a bit as well.

Beta 300 RR new chassis
The new chassis on the Beta 300 RR makes the bike feel thin from front to rear.Jeff Allen

Suspension-wise, the GasGas’ AOSS fork and KYB shock work well. They both feel fairly plush on small chop and big impacts alike. The EC’s KYB suspension feels very progressive and much more similar to the setup of a motocross bike, especially the way the shock rebounds making unloading over obstacles a bit more predictable and more of what I’m used to.

The Beta’s Sachs fork and shock, on the other hand, leave something to be desired for me. The fork didn’t feel very progressive or plush. It had somewhat of an empty feeling at the top of the stroke. After it traveled into the mid-stroke, it felt firm but not very plush. The shock didn’t rebound very quickly, which helped the rear end track well over small chop, but similar to the fork, it didn’t offer much plushness or comfort. The lack of rebound also made it awkward when trying to blip and jump over high-speed whoops as the front end tended to want to stay high in these scenarios.

In the handling and ergonomics departments, the two bikes have quite a different feel.

The GasGas feels a bit taller than the Beta, which was proven when we measured the seat height. The EC seat is almost a full inch taller than the Beta with the GasGas seat height measuring 37.7 inches while the Beta hit 36.8 inches. The Beta feels a bit thinner overall and especially in the radiator shroud area, which I am a huge fan of. Both bikes felt most at home in tight, technical single-track, which isn’t all too surprising seeing as both manufacturers come from a trials background. Both bikes handled well, but the main difference seemed to be the suspension, which dramatically affected the handling. The Beta felt rigid due to how stiff the suspension was while the GasGas felt a lot plusher and easier to ride because of the top-notch KYB components.

At the end of the day, both bikes worked well, especially in the tight and technical conditions we rode them in, but the GasGas felt like a more complete package with a strong, torquey engine, plush suspension, and a balanced chassis. The Beta had a good engine and a nimble chassis as well, but the firm, almost harsh Sachs suspension held it back for me.

GasGas EC 300 in action
The GasGas EC 300 feels taller than the Beta as a whole, but mostly in the handlebar and seat area.Jeff Allen

Sean Klinger, Age 31, 5'8", 215 lb., Off-road Vet Novice

First off, I like both of these bikes but for very different reasons. Starting with the suspension, I know that a lot of our test riders have had an issue with the Beta’s fork and shock saying they are too stiff and/or don’t move that much. But for me, and probably because of my 215-pound weight, the suspension works okay at low speeds. It is slightly confusing because I like it in the slow technical stuff, but it’s less predictable at high speeds.

The GasGas’ fork has a more “racebike” feel that is smooth and confidence inspiring at faster speeds but is a little stiff for tight, technical riding. But this is something that you can dial in for your particular riding area and style. The biggest difference between the bikes’ suspension is the GasGas overall feels more predictable than the Beta. The KYB fork and shock on the EC have a more planted feel and predictable action through the stroke.

Beta 300 RR Sachs ork and shock off road
The Beta’s Sachs fork and shock are set up on the stiffer side, especially for an off-road bike.Jeff Allen

The Beta seemed to act differently than expected at different speeds and in different terrain.

Motor-wise, the GasGas just plain has more torque across the board. This makes it more usable and easier to ride. The Beta isn’t bad; it just has a thinner, less meaty feel to the power. In fact, it reminds me of a 250 two-stroke in the fact that it has more of a hit in the midrange, but it definitely is more powerful than a 250. I actually prefer the Beta’s power in slow, tight terrain where I could leave it in second gear and just keep a constant flow of power and crawl over all the obstacles on the trail. The GasGas has a little more bark that required better throttle and clutch control in super-tight, rocky sections.

Chassis-wise, there is a huge difference between these bikes. Where the Beta is super thin and has an overall narrow feel, the GasGas is definitely wider at the seat and maybe a hair wider at the pegs. But, even though I noticed the difference, I’m not sure which I like better. The Beta’s thin feeling leads to an overall nimble, flickable feeling. But the GasGas’ more substantial feeling is very comfortable and gives me something to really dig my knees into and control the bike that way.

Which do I like better? I would say if I were to only ride super-tight woods, I would take the Beta’s controllable power and agility. For pretty much everything else, I would take the GasGas. It has more of the 300 torque that we all love and solid, predictable suspension.

GasGas KYB AOSS fork
The GasGas’ KYB AOSS fork has a plush and progressive feel to it.Jeff Allen

Evan Allen, Age: 20, 5'8", 120 lb., Off-Road Novice

Initially when getting on the Beta 300 RR, I had no idea what to expect. Being 20 years old, I have primarily ridden four-stroke machines in the past. Perhaps underestimating the “300” on the side panels, I was quickly humbled when the powerband kicked in and nearly ripped my arms off! After adjusting to the hard-hitting powerband, I was able to find a comfortable flow in the very versatile second gear, which I stayed in most of the day on the tight, technical single-track we rode on.

Sachs shock on the 300 RR
The Sachs shock on the 300 RR rebounds fairly slow, which helps the rear end track well and stay connected to the ground.Jeff Allen

While riding up and down rocky terrain on these trails, I was immediately impressed by the tractor-like ability the motor had way down low. The motor has a great all-around package that can deliver a good punch down low before hitting the powerband. This was one of the aspects I really enjoyed because second gear allowed me to track through tight corners and technical rock gardens as well as winding it out up any hill climb or straightaway. This allowed me to ride closer to my full potential due to the fact that I was not wasting time shifting gears. I was either on the gas or on the brakes.

One area that caused me to lose confidence in the Beta was due to the stiffness of the fork. This made me constantly feel like the front end was pushing away from me, which was most noticeable under hard braking. Although the front brake was grabby and had a good initial bite, it did not seem very progressive. It seemed to have an all-or-nothing type of feel. The shock also felt stiff as if it were set up for a motocross track. This caused the rear end to dance around under hard braking and when accelerating in any sort of rough or bumpy terrain.

The chassis also seemed very stiff and noncompliant when leaned over, which didn’t allow me to steer with the rear when blasting through a corner. Another complaint I have with the Beta, which I regrettably learned the hard way, is that it does not come stock with hand guards. This led to tons of abuse to my hands, as well as causing me to nearly go head over when the front brake was unexpectedly applied by a large branch. Beta might have slightly missed the mark with the 300 RR, but with a little more refinement, I believe it could be a true contender in an off-road showdown. Despite it having a few flaws, I really enjoyed riding this bike.

GasGas EC 300 KYB shock
The KYB shock on the EC 300 has more rebound than the Beta, making it feel more like a motocross type of setting.Jeff Allen

Immediately after throwing my leg over the GasGas EC 300, I felt right at home. Simultaneously after releasing the clutch and rolling away from the truck, I felt very comfortable on the bike. Almost as if I had previously spent time on this well-balanced machine. Like the Beta, the motor offered a great all-around package. With a granny-like first and second gear that could track up and over just about anything with little to no modulation of the clutch. With an amazing bottom-end, I was able to snap the throttle and light up the rear wheel to slide through a corner or get myself out of any sticky situation us off-roaders often find ourselves in.

The KYB AOSS fork was impeccable and absolutely amazing. It felt very plush and progressive in the beginning of the stroke, yet stiff on the bottom to absorb any sort of hard hit. The fork worked wonderfully under hard braking, which helped the bike get lots of front-end traction. This allowed me to really come into a corner hard, hit my mark, and accelerate hard propelling myself farther down the trail.

As for the shock, I have no complaints. Being a 120-pound rider, most manufacturer’s shock settings are far too stiff for me and therefore create an unstable feeling in the rear of the bike. However, the KYB shock squatted well allowing the rear wheel to feel planted when railing through a corner or climbing rocky terrain.

The combination of the all-around exceptional motor and plush suspension allowed me to confidently navigate tight single-track with ease. I was able pivot trough tight corners and steer with the rear wheel and put the bike exactly where I wanted. I instantly felt comfortable on the EC 300. It inspired a lot of confidence in my riding ability with its great motor package, excellent suspension, and a nimble chassis. In my opinion, the GasGas 300 is the better bike and the one I would choose whether I’m going out for a weekend ride or lining up for closed-course competition.

Beta 300 RR jump
Both engines have a strong yet usable midrange, but each sign off noticeably on the top-end.Jeff Allen

Tyler Duncan, Age: 33, 6'0", 167 lb., Off-Road Expert

I was actually impressed by the way both of the bikes performed off-road. I can definitely tell by the overall performance and feel of the GasGas that it might have put a little more technology into its R&D. Although, in certain off-road situations, the Beta surprised me.

GasGas engine has more torque than the Beta
The GasGas engine feels like it has more torque than the Beta, which makes it easier to lug and maintain traction.Jeff Allen

The overall feel of the Beta was comfortable. I would say the best way to describe it would be more like a Cadillac—softer and plusher. I feel the Beta’s suspension on rocks, jumps, and high-speed straightaways and turns performed better than the GasGas. The rebound was very slow and the compression in both the front and rear were really soft for me.

The Beta engine was good. It was strong off the bottom-end but then quickly flattened out through the midrange and top-end. The correct gearing would make a difference as the gearing was short, requiring me to do a lot of shifting. The handling suited my style very well as the Beta sits a little lower in the rear, which I like. As much as I’ve heard about the bike’s vibration, I didn’t have much of a problem with it. I can definitely tell a difference in balance between the two bikes, and the Beta lacked balance. I liked the feeling of the brakes and clutch, but I wish it came stock with hand guards. Also, I had a problem reaching the rear brake pedal. Other than that, I think with a few crucial adjustments, the Beta would make a great desert, GNCC, and GP bike. Overall, it likes more of the high-speed or even motocross track riding conditions.

The overall feel of the GasGas 300 was good. The best way to describe it would be slow and steady. I feel like the bike did not like to go fast as I was definitely more comfortable on it in the tighter, more technical trails where I was riding it at lower speeds. It excels in very tight switchback turns and areas where you’re going from a dead stop to climb up and over obstacles. The suspension on the GasGas had a very rigid feel to it. It had what I think to be a much better brand of suspension with a KYB fork and KYB shock. However, I received a scary amount of headshake on the fast straightaways and it did not corner very well through berms or high-speed turns. It did corner well through really tight, low-speed corners and very deep ruts though. The suspension felt well balanced with a fairly stiff fork and pretty soft shock setup.

The engine on the GasGas has a smoother powerband but not as much power as the Beta. The bike felt slow off the bottom-end, had decent midrange, but flattened out on top. The gearing was a little better than the Beta as it held a gear longer, which made for a lot less shifting and work to ride it. The overall handling was decent, but I noticed it sat higher than the Beta. Also, I liked the hand guards as they are a nice feature to have in stock trim. I think with some adjustments, this bike fits more of the GP, GNCC, and EnduroCross styles of riding.

Beta and GasGas climbing rocks
Both bikes come stock with quality components including FMF mufflers, hydraulic clutches, and electric start.Jeff Allen
Beta and GasGas climbing rocks
With the two manufacturers coming from a trials background, both bikes unsurprisingly climb obstacles very well.Jeff Allen
GasGas and Beta on a rock formation
The extensive list of changes Beta and GasGas made to their respective machines in 2018 make each bike remarkably better than the previous year models.Jeff Allen

Again, both bikes impressed me, but if I were buying one of these two brands off the showroom floor, I would have to go with the GasGas. It comes out of the crate with much higher-quality parts and is a good machine overall. I think both bikes are very close in comparison and with the right aftermarket components, you can definitely make the Beta a better bike; it would just take the brands that already come stock on the GasGas to make it that way.