Italian pair tear through the dirt
Benelli not too long ago released the Leoncino and TRK502 with the news that more dirt-focused variants were on their way. Well, they have both arrived and I headed off to Victoria and the Mount Macedon area to give them a whirl in and around the pine forests . . .
My first preconceptions of the Leoncino Trail were that it would just be a Leoncino with off-road tyres. How wrong I was . . . the Trail is quite different; let’s have a look.
First, there’s a 19-inch spoked wheel on the front, with a 17-inch spoked wheel on the rear. Suspension travel is longer, which results in the seat being higher — up from 785mm to 825mm. And, finally, the front brakes feature wave discs and twin-piston slide calipers, whereas the road-going Leoncino has normal (round) discs and radialmounted four-piston calipers.
The reason behind the change in calipers is that Benelli saw the need to reduce initial bite for dirt riding.
Having lived with the road-going Leoncino for the past few months I found the reduced braking a bit of a shock to start with, but once we got to the dirt I understood the decision as the radial brakes would be a bit too much in slippery mud.
The wonderful styling of the Leoncino has been retained and in my mind looks so much better with spoke wheels. Having ridden both models, I would buy the Trail over the road-going version for that reason and the extra seat height, which suits my long pins better.
The best-selling motorcycle in Italy. Yep, Benelli is rather proud to have reached number one in Italian bike sales for the month of August. The TRK502X was up against some stiff competition (as you can imagine) and beat the likes of the Africa Twin, R1200GS, Z900RS, Tracer 900 and MT-07.
Will that result in large-volume sales in Australia? It should as the X is priced extremely well and outdoes the competition, not only in the mid-sized capacity market but anything priced near it for standard features.
The big change from the roadgoing model to the X is obviously the high mounted muffler.
This was done to increase ground clearance as is the change to spoke wheels from the road going cast set-up. Just like the Leoncino Trail, the X features a 19inch front and 17-inch rear.
Seat height has seen a big
increase, up to 850mm (from 800mm) which might rule out some shorter riders but having the overall increased travel and ground clearance means you can take the X to all sorts of rough trails.
During the launch we decided to venture into a pine forest down an unused trail.
This turned out to be a slushy, grey muddy trail that really tested both the X and the Leoncino Trail to see how they’d handle difficult terrain.
It proved to be some of the best fun many of the riders on the launch have had for a while.
It was backed up by stupendous barrels of laughter once we finally got back out on to the main dirt road.
The bikes looked like they had just been pulled out of a creek but as a test of how they handled such gnarly terrain, both bikes passed with flying colours.
Both models share the engine of the street bike, a 500cc fourstroke twin-cylinder that is liquid cooled, with a power output of 35kW at 8500rpm and torque of 46Nm at 6000rpm.
I am quite fond of this engine and the way it makes its power — as an all-rounder that caters for learners right through to the experienced it will more than satisfy unless you’re power hungry.
The donations continue with both models sharing their road-going counterparts’ tubular steel trellis frames, bodywork and ergonomics.
Both are light and easy to ride with high and wide handlebars for fast steering.
There had been some confusion surrounding the exact servicing intervals for the Benelli range.
The guys at Benelli Australia were of the belief it was every 3000km or 4000km, but after much confusion going back and forth, the actual figure is every 7000km or 12 months. I always thought every 3000km sounded a bit low!
It proved to be some of the best fun many of the riders on the launch have had for a while ... The bikes looked like they had just been pulled out of a creek but as a test of how they handled such gnarly terrain, both bikes passed with flying colours.
The wonderful styling of the Benelli Leoncino Trail bike has been retained, with spoke wheels improving the look.