EASTERN PROM­ISE

Can Benelli’s af­ford­able new ad­ven­ture ma­chine go the dis­tance?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - LIAM MARSDEN WEB PRO­DUCER liam.marsden@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

Free­dom, ad­ven­ture, pas­sion with­out any lim­i­ta­tions. That’s what TRK stands for, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese-owned Benelli – but, in re­al­ity, the TRK502 is far from lim­it­less. The main is­sue is the lack of power from the 500cc par­al­lel-twin en­gine, com­bined with its colos­sal weight of 235kg – just 9kg less than a top-spec BMW R1200GS Ex­clu­sive TE. The bike makes 47bhp so it’s A2 li­cence friendly, but coughs and wheezes as it strug­gles to pull its own hefty mass. There’s no char­ac­ter or sweet spot to the en­gine ei­ther, just a huge spread of not very much power do­ing its best to turn into for­ward propul­sion.

Try com­ing to a stop and you’ll al­most be thank­ful for the lack of shove. The front brakes feel very dated in terms of per­for­mance. They’re in­cred­i­bly spongey for most of the lever’s travel, only bit­ing when the lever is al­most back to the bar. The lever is span ad­justable, but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to feel any dif­fer­ence be­tween the four set­tings. On one oc­ca­sion the lever came all the way back to the bar with­out the calipers bit­ing the discs at all – a ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ment that re­quired a lit­tle rest at the side of the road to change pants. ABS is pro­vided by Bosch, so that should be good, right? Er, no. Per­form an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of an emer­gency stop and the front locks, the Pirelli An­gel emits a loud chirp in protest, fol­lowed by the ABS re­leas­ing the brakes, re­sult­ing in a sin­gle huge pulse at the lever which al­most brings it fully back out again.

The han­dling also fails to im­press. Granted, the in­cred­i­bly bumpy and in­con­sis­tently sur­faced roads we tested the TRK on in north­ern Italy would put most sus­pen­sion through its paces, but I do like to have at least some com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the bars of what the front end is do­ing while cor­ner­ing. But I never had any idea what was go­ing on – the fron­tend felt dis­tant and dis­con­nected at all times, and failed to in­stil any con­fi­dence.

So what’s good about the Benelli? The screen is well po­si­tioned, although it would be even bet­ter if it were ad­justable, and de­spite wear­ing a peaked hel­met I never ex­pe­ri­enced any buf­fet­ing at all. It’s also great for those who find most ad­ven­ture bikes too tall. The seat height is only 800mm, which means get­ting both feet on the floor won’t be a prob­lem for the ma­jor­ity of riders. The seat is comfy, with enough pad­ding to cra­dle even the skin­ni­est of bot­toms, and there’s plenty of room to move about, too. It’s a com­fort­able place to be, let down by a gut­less en­gine, in­ex­pli­ca­ble mass, vague front end and poor brakes. Yes, it’s rea­son­ably cheap at just £5699 – but Honda’s CB500X is a mere £5799 – and a dra­mat­i­cally more ac­com­plished bike.

‘There’s no sweet spot, just a huge spread of not very much power’

The dash is ba­sic but clear enough It looks the part but don’t ex­pect much power Ra­dial brakes but they lack per­for­mance

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