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Bernie returns for another ride to sample the all-new VIP Experience, Hampton ride and to test the EC 450F and EC 500F.

It was with fervent glee that I managed to swing a gig at the first VIP Experience, Hampton ride for 2024. Sporting a brand new fleet of fresh GASGAS motorcycles, comprising the full range for 2024 from 250s right through to the new 500s, these excellent paid for “guided tours” focus on the punters and giving them the Gold Treatment. They are run throughout the year at various locations and are led by the motorcycle racing legend, Ben Grabham (aka Grabbo).

This was the first ride of the year and was held in Hampton, NSW. It allows riders of all abilities to get a chance to jump on every bike within the GASGAS range and sample them on all manner of terrain from winding tar backroads to rocky fire roads and obviously sensational single track. With a photographer and film crew in attendance, the spectacular terrain was on show, as well as the riders showing off their abilities, or lack thereof!

The VIP Experience, Hampton ride weekend started off with punters arriving on a Friday afternoon at the flash hotel accommodation. Beers and dinner were laid out for all, and the bikes were pristine, glossy and looking their best being brand new and still fresh. An easy 7:30am start was met with bacon and egg rolls and a quick rundown on the bikes. The crew were eager and excited to get some miles under their belts, and the first dressed grabbed the bike of their choice.

The virgin bikes smelt fantastic (I love that smell of a new bike!) and we casually made our way over to the forests to start throwing some rocks with the new knobbies. The pace was good as the whole crew moved as a group and there was little standing around time, as everyone swapped bikes at every opportunity to sample the next size up or down.

Surprisingly for summer, the conditions were wet and cool. An evening storm ensured that the rocky terrain we started on was slippery, and the loose boulders sent myself and a few others off in tangential directions to the trail! Fortunately for me, the improved chassis and suspension of the MY24 models really shone through and I managed to keep the 500 under me upright despite being 180 degrees to the trail. As we pushed on, beautiful trout streams and fern gullies whizzed past and big hills and rocky outcrops made way for tight pine singles not he VIP Experience, Hampton ride.

All the riders jumped from bike to bike with huge grins, with much conversation about what bike they liked best, how the 500 was a beast, how good the 350 put the power down or how much fun the 250 two-stroke was. The morning flew by, and before we knew it, it was lunchtime in the bush as Grabbo’s van magically appeared out of nowhere with food. We all hooked into some tucker and made the most of the brief break while Grabbo threw some fuel into the bikes.

The VIP crew encourages everyone to hit up Grabbo for any ride tips or questions along the ride. He is a man of few words, and would rather let the bike do the talking, so whenever we stopped, it was always a good idea to pump him for info on how to ride faster! Of course us mere punters had a crack and tried to stick with the main man and if you can hang with him for more than 5 minutes, you’re doing well!

Grabbo was riding his 500 Finke bike stating it was setup so well and the bike is so versatile, that he can ride it anywhere now, but in the same breath, was saying how he would prefer to swing a leg over a 250 four-stroke for the tighter stuff.

The afternoon was over before we knew it. We had covered almost 180km in the first day of the VIP Experience, Hampton ride and arrived back at the hotel with a good dose of cramps (the joys of getting old!) Sated, exhausted and excited at the same time, the crew rocked up to the restaurant to again have an open slather at the menu and start spinning some yarns about all those close calls.

Sunday rolled around and a few tired and weary riders emerged, again to be greeted by a cooked brekkie and the excitement of yet another big day on the red steeds. By now, the riders had a fair idea of what each bike was capable of, and they clamoured for what they thought would be best for the ride out. While the bikes had lost that showroom shine, the motors were now bedding in and the bikes loosening up. The pace was set, the lads were all on the pipe and grins were everywhere.

A few more photo opportunities were made due to some of the amazing scenery of the Hamptons. However the slick conditions were still prevalent, and the clay trails proved interesting on the stock rear knobbies running 14psi tubes! Some of the hill climbs on the VIP Experience, Hampton ride were challenging, with many taking multiple goes to get up. Cameras were out and comradery was at its best as we all jeered everyone along and much laughter ensued.

Grabbo chimed in with some tweaks to the forks, dropping them in the triples to the top, while riders all marvelled about how such a small adjustment can make such a profound different in stability. The afternoon loop was simply amazing, a ton of flowing singles and magic scenery, it was the icing on the cake why this venue was so sought after. We had a blast on the VIP Experience, Hampton ride smashing out some loops from old racing legends training grounds, slipping our way down almost out of control through clay singles where you could do nothing but hang on!

Before we knew it, the VIP Experience, Hampton ride weekend was done and dusted, while the bikes received a well earned wash, the lads all showered before departing. Big thumbs up all round from all riders, it was certainly an experience, and a VIP one at that! A big thanks to Grabbo and the VIP crew for a top ride, on what can only be described as next level good bikes. A very unique opportunity to sample all the range (on the GASGAS ride days by comparison you can only sample three) and one we can heartily recommend it to anyone thinking about a new dirt bike.


KTM owns GASGAS and this brand is their “value” range compared to KTM and Husky which is their “premium” product and priced accordingly. Fear not however, as the motors on each brand are essentially identical. The cost savings are achieved through cheaper forks (XPLOR OC vs CC), raw aluminium hubs, rims and engine finishes etc. These MY24 models now share the same frame, gearbox, swingarms etc right across the range (eg. two-strokes and four-strokes have the same gearbox) making it easier for parts ordering at the consumer level as well as the dealers.

What is surprising however is how different each of these bikes behaves, despite having essentially identical frames, wheelbase, suspension etc. Obviously, it all comes down to the motors themselves.


The 250 and 350 have had a big upgrade for MY2024 with more power from completely revamped motors. These little four bangers are an absolute hoot to ride tight trails on. Its hard not to say the 350 is the best all round bike. It’s brilliant on the tight stuff and the open stuff.

The 250 was my pick for tight trails, it’s unbelievably nimble, fast and could carve a tighter line than the others. Don’t be fooled into thinking it does not have enough power! With a shorter stroke and higher compression, these bikes need to be test ridden before you judge!

The 450 and 500 are new to GASGAS and are a welcome addition! Grabbo specifically was hooting with glee that he could finally ride Finke on a GASGAS. Both bikes were very powerful (more so than last year) and very smooth.

The 450 was an easier all round bike, while the 500 was a handful in the tighter terrain, requiring some careful throttle use versus smashing it open like on the smaller bikes. The extra poundage was noticeable, although the riders were having so much fun on these two (they dominated the hill climbs) they were a favourite pick at the start of the day but by days end they all wanted the small bikes as they were too tired to ride these!


Plenty has been talked about this new generation of all new bikes and motors with TBI, and the short answer is yes, they are that good! They ride more and more like four-strokes, and are smooth on the road, but light and nimble on the tight trail. The two-stroke zip and crack of the throttle is still there, and it brought out the kids in us all. Very much a play/race bike feel, and great fun to ride.

The 250 felt lighter and more nimble than the 300 which commanded more respect. In typical two-stroke fashion they lugged and climbed hills easily. It has to be said though, by the end of the weekend, everyone gravitated towards the four-strokes.


Name: Westley Tompkins

Height: 180cm

Weight: 90kg

Riding Ability: Intermediate/advanced

Choice of bike: If I had to take one home, and I only had the chance to take one, I’d take the 350F as it’s just an all-rounder. It does everything well, it’s got power when you need it, it doesn’t wear you out as much and it’s just an all-around really good bike. I’m coming off a 250cc four-stroke and a 250cc two-stroke and I just like that little bit of extra torque, hopping over logs and yeah it’s just it’s a real all-rounder. The highlight for yesterday was definitely the EC 450F, it put a smile on my face, and the EC 500F too for that matter but yeah, if I had to choose one, it’d be the EC 350F

Name: Mick Parker

Age: 49

Height: 192cm

Weight: 95kg

Riding Ability: Intermediate/advanced

Choice of bike: I’d probably take the EC 500F home, it’s the Universal Soldier. Compared to previous years they’ve made a bunch of changes, the mapping on it’s really great, and the new fork is really good. I’ve got a set of WP 6500 inserts in my own bike and they’re not too far off this bike. It handles really well and just the way it delivers power makes it super stable too.

Still, being a 500, it’s a little bit hard to turn in the tight stuff but that’s one of its aspects but all around, yeah she’s my go-to.

Name: Max Powers (yep, we’re not joking)

Age: 31

Height: 181cm

Weight: 73kg

Riding Ability: B-grade motocrosser

Choice of bike: I’d have to go straight down the middle in the EC 350F. It’s just the most versatile out of all the bikes really. You could just hang off it, second gear up any of the slippery hills and then on the wide open stuff it’s just got perfect gearing for it as well.

Name: Bernie den Hertog

Height: 192cm

Weight: 110kg

Riding Ability: Trailrider

Choice of bike: This is my second VIP Experience, I did one two years ago before the 450cc and 500cc arrived. Back then I went away from this ride and bought an EC 250F so I’m pretty biased towards the small four-strokes. I think they’re just such an easy little bike to ride.

It was really greasy conditions out there today. A lot of clay and slippery hill climbs, and the little four-strokes just manage to put the power down so much better. The big girls, you just punch on and you have to sneak them up to third or fourth to make them track up these hills otherwise you’re just getting wheelspin everywhere. The little two-bangers are light and nimble and now good fun as again, they lug really well up the hills.

But for me the little fellas are my favourite. I really like the EC 350F but the EC 250F was still my pick this year.

Name: Guy Streeter

Age: 43

Height: 180cm

Weight: 84kg

Riding Ability: Mostly motocross and a little bit of enduro

Choice of bike: Well, yesterday, the EC 300 two-stroke was amazing. I really loved that at the start of the day, not so much at the end of the day when I had no energy. But the EC 350F, you couldn’t go wrong with that, that was a lot of fun. On the second day I jumped on the EC 450F and I think that probably has to be the best one, it sort of literally does everything real easy.