Gas Gas SM 400

28 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Gas Gas SM 400

Gas Gas SM 400

Sometimes when reviewing used bikes it’s a little difficult to find something special. So when I was offered the use of a pretty rare Gas Gas 400 SM supermotard I jumped at the chance.

Supermotards have their origins as off road race bikes modified for road use with 17” wheels and more powerful brakes, in 1970s US racing where they were raced on tracks with surfaces that varied between loose surfaces and blacktop.

It took the Europeans, however, to make them popular on the road where competition enduro bikes modified to be street legal, fitting lights and switchgear to satisfy the powers that be without changing much more, in essence making a full competition motorcrosser one of the most fun urban motorcycles of all time.

Since then several of the bike manufacturers have developed supermotards from the ground up. KTM make an excellent series called the SM range with engine sizes from 600s to 990s, BMW have released the wonderful GS derived Megamoto and Ducati have the Hypermotard. All of these machines were designed as street bikes inspired by these early modified dirt bikes.

The GAS GAS remains true to its origins, at the time of manufacture the full competition dirt bike and the supermoto were made alongside each other and were identical in power and size as well as sharing many common parts.

Parked up the bike packs a certain amount of menace, its minimal body work and high seat height, 940mm, certainly make it look intimidating. It’s only concession to being a road bike being it’s 17” wheels. The motorcross styling is complete throughout with a headlamp set in to an mx number board like a proper enduro machine.

Everything on the SM is minimal, the clocks are a very small electronic affair which sit beside the ignition, balanced by a set of idiot lights which are hidden behind the number board. The entire assembly would appear to be on the bike simply to satisfy the demands of the road traffic act, once underway it becomes very remote. The build quality of the machine is exceptional, fuel injection is by Magnetti Marelli and the front and rear suspension are by marzocchi and Ohlins respectively.

Both are, of course, fully adjustable.

Once on board I’m relieved to find that it has an electric start with a fast idle choke in addition to the kick start so I don’t need to embarrass myself with trying to turn the engine over manually. I always find it difficult as I crack myself on the shin with a high compression kicker when the owner of the bike is standing beside me and I appreciate the Gas Gas’ efforts to spare me this most degrading of humiliations on this occasion.

The seat is high, the wheel base short and the rake of the front forks steep, so even with less than 50 bhp this 119 kilo motorcycle can be quite intense. This intensity is emphasised by the lack of mirrors and the weedy sounding horn. I really do feel that I’m on my own here.

After spending some time on the bike I start to adapt to it’s way of thinking – it’s power to weight ratio, noisy exhaust, and all round bad attitude make it quite the hooligan toy. That being said, the Gas Gas SM is an honest bike. What you see is what you get, there certainly isn’t any ABS or traction control here.

If you’re looking for power take off sockets, luggage and a windscreen you’ll need to look elsewhere.


Riding around town, once I’ve gotten used to doing proper shoulder checks to compensate for the lack of mirrors, the SM is somewhat of a giant killer. Accelerations is quick enough off the lights and filtering through the traffic is made incredibly simple due to its light weight and short wheel base. Filtering through and around the front of and behind cars can be done feet up with ease, there are not a lot of machines that can go where this does.

At one point I was slicing through grid locked Dublin traffic with as much ease as a seasoned cyclist. I can see what those canny Parisians were at with their modified Honda XRs back in the day.

One of the of the other aspects of this machine is because of it’s light weight and long suspension travel it’s a joy to green lane on, in spite of the road wheels and tyres it really hasn’t left its off road origins behind. And while I didn’t embarrass myself, it doesn’t look like the type of machine that going to have any problem weathering a few knocks and bruises.

Most of the supermotards on the market these days are 650s or similar and the GAS GAS is a noticeably smaller bike with its 47bhp single cylinder engine. Out on the motorway its undeniably hard work with its lack of a screen, poor aerodynamics and low power, but if you’re taking one of these out on the M50 you’re missing the point. Complaining that a Supermotard is no good on a motorway is a bit like bemoaning the fact that BMWs S1000RR doesn’t come with heated grips.

Much more appropriate, and fun, is to ride the bike through the city. Its low power means that its a lot of fun to ride at relatively legal speeds and its long suspension soaks up potholes and sunken manhole covers.

In conclusion, other than Suzuki’s DRZ400 there isn’t a lot in the market place like this and because of the low power engine, it’s actually learner legal. Depending on what way you ride it it can either be one of the most stylish novice bikes on the market or and hand grenade looking for a war. A bike like this from 2003 can be bought from a dealership for as little as €2,500 and costs very little to run. A big thanks to Ciaran Hayes from Megabikes for use of the machine on test.

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