Ital­ian pair tear through the dirt

Albany Extra - - Motoring - Stu­art Wood­bury

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 . . .

Leon­cino Trail

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.

TRK502X

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.

En­gine

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.

Sus­pen­sion

Frame

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.

Ser­vic­ing

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!

Which one?

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.

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