With its Italian heritage and attractive price, the Benelli TRK 502 X Adventure caught our attention.
Benelli is an Italian motorcycle company that keeps ticking. It is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle brands still in business, and has certainly had its ups and downs in its 110-year history. Today, Benali is owned by China's Qianjiang Automobile Group, which bought the brand in 2005. Thanks to this deal, Benali motorcycles are now made in China but are still designed in Italy, so in theory you can get the best of both worlds - Italian engineering without sticker shock. Benelli is now distributed in the United States by SSR Motorsports in Southern California.
On the sidewalk is the happy place of Benelli TRK 502 X.
One of the newest Benelli motorcycles to roll off the production line is the Benelli TRK 502 X, a mid-size adventure motorcycle priced at $6,399. TRK 502 has been around for a few years, but this is the first time it's made it to U.S. soil. The TRK 502 comes in two versions -- the standard TRK 502 and the more grime focused TRK 502 X that we rode here. Compared to the standard model, the X comes with crates with wire-spoke wheels, a 19-inch front wheel (as opposed to the 17-inch), a bit more suspension travel on both ends, earthen Metzeler Tourance tires and an additional center stand for use with the side stand. You can get all these things for only $400 more than the standard model. For another $1,000, you can equip your TRK 502 with Benelli's own aluminum side pockets and top box (including the stand),
Both the Standard and X models come with bumpers to help protect the bike's beautiful plastic and wraparound hand guards to protect your knuckles. There is also a small windshield and a sturdy frame fairing.
Both models also feature a large 5.3-gallon fuel tank, "detachable" ABS (though not on the road), semi-adjustable suspension, and 55mm front fork tubes.
Powering the 502 was Benelli's own, Chinese-designed fuel-injected DOHC parallel twin-cylinder engine with a two-in-one exhaust system and six-speed transmission.
502 claims a dry weight of 467 pounds, not a motorcycle.
Comfort is one of Benali's strongest selling points.
You can feel the weight of Benelli immediately. It takes quite a bit of effort to remove it from the side bracket, but once you get there, the seat height of 33.1 inches can easily stay there. Benelli was also a large motorcycle. At least it feels that way -- it's much bigger than a typical 500cc motorcycle, but at least it's comfortable. It has a good seat with plenty of room and the seat itself is comfortable/sturdy and well contoured. The pedals have detachable rubber inserts that we left in place.
Benelli can handle some light off-road, but that's about it. Street tuning of the suspension and a bit of weight makes it a bit difficult on rough terrain.
The dashboard looks modern, with few buttons and switches to fumble with, as Benelli's rider assist is zero (ABS excepting); You go ahead.
The first thing that catches your attention is Benelli's fluency. Vibration is almost non-existent and riding is enjoyable even at high revs. The suspension is well tuned for the sidewalk, and the huge front fork provides Benelli with a sense of safety, solidity and reliability during curves. The bike also feels very stable at low speeds and high speeds, with little coaxing required to get it to do what you want when handling. It is very sensitive to rider input and makes you forget its weight very quickly, especially for a motorcycle of only 500cc.
Benelli wasn't fast, but I wouldn't call it slow. According to Benelli's statistics, maximum torque is reached at 6000 RPM and maximum power at 8500 RPM. At 70mph in 6th gear, you'll see revs of around 6000 RPM, and very little vibration through the carefully designed windscreen (i.e., by way of unadjustable). The oiling is correct and the gear ratio seems to be in sync with the motor. Shift effortlessly, clutch pull is light enough to feel good. This is a surprisingly good motor, which surprises me.
The Italian-designed And Chinese-made Benali doesn't look cheap. The fit and finish are quite good.
Unfortunately (well, at least for some people), the Benelli is not an SUV. Despite the nice looks of its ADV/SUV, on the Benelli there is very little else except on well-maintained dirt roads, and the suspension doesn't match any significant bumps or ruts on the road unless you don't want to accelerate. Yet, on a well-groomed dirt road, go; Benelli was fine, thanks to the bike's smooth and predictable power output and good off-road tires. The key to having fun in Benelli's dirt is to take your time. Instead, take your time and enjoy the view.
Bumpers are a good contact. The tank holds a large capacity of 5.3 gallons.
Large side pockets and top boxes can hold a large number of items, convenient but bulky and easy to scratch. The latch is simple to operate, but requires a second key from the ignition switch.
For those worried about buying a Made-in-China motorcycle, ALL I can say is that Benali seems to be doing a good job. It doesn't feel made in China. From the outside, the fit and finish seemed comparable to most other pricier motorcycles from Japan and Europe, and we didn't notice any unusual noise or wear during our short ride. It didn't break or fall off. Of course, long-term reliability is a bit of a mystery, but so far our test bike has been very good, showing over 700 miles on ODO.
Benelli offers its own accessory side pockets and top boxes for about $1,000. They do hold a lot of stuff, but as you can see, they're bulky.
So what would we compare Benelli TRK 502 X to? It's hard to say. In terms of price, Benelli sells for a few hundred dollars more than Kawasaki's Versys 300 ABS, KTM's 390 Adventure and BMW's 310GS. In terms of displacement, you can compare it to suzuki's V-Strom 650, Kawasaki's 650 Versys or Honda's CB500X, which are much more expensive than the Benelli (around $600- $2,400). You can also include the new Kawasaki KLR650, which starts at $6,699 and is an even more powerful OFF-road vehicle. As you can see, Benelli fits somewhere in the middle.
The $6,399 MSRP of Benelli TRK 502 X is attractive, especially if your ADV plan includes full sidewalks and well-maintained dirt roads.
On its own, though, the Benelli is a surprisingly good motorcycle -- street friendly -- yet it can handle some light (and we mean light) off-road. For that money, you can get a lot for $6,399. It's a very comfortable motorcycle, performs well on the street, looks solid and, hey, looks a bit Italian. The cherry on top is the benelli name on the tank.