Five months on and 3500km later, our Benelli Leoncino is muscling way above its capacity as a daily rider and weekend scratcher... Review: Jeff Pics: Kris, Heather

We have had our BikeReview long term Benelli Leoncino 500 in Steel Grey for just on five months now. In that time, Jeff has covered around 3500km using the bike as a daily rider plus as his main transport for the past month. The bike has not missed a beat and Jeff is really impressed with it. Here is a vid with a good update on the bike so far and what it has been like to live with it…

We have had our Benelli Leoncino for just over five trouble free months now.

We have had our Benelli Leoncino for just over five trouble free months now.

We got the bike back in mid-July bang in the middle of Winter. Luckily most of our Aussie Winter is sunny, just cold, but that didn’t stop me from riding the Leoncino, or Simba as I like to call our bike, as often as possible. With a busy reviewing schedule of around 60-bikes for us to get through this year, much of the travel on Leoncino has been between the Central Coast of NSW and Sydney to swap for press bikes or to attend various meetings as an Editor constantly does.

It was during these peak periods that I really bonded with the Leoncino and to be honest, if I didn’t have so many kids to feed, I would be buying this Leoncino, I like it that much. Sure, it’s not top Japanese or top Euro quality, it is made in China, but it is a really characterful and engaging bike that oozes personality and fun. Every ride is enjoyable, even when I’m at my shittiest the Leoncino makes me grin. It’s amazing what a bike can do and it doesn’t always need 200-horsepower and a quickshifter.

Carving up the corners on our proving ground has been fun on the Leoncino, we've been up there three or four times on it so far.

Carving up the corners on our proving ground has been fun on the Leoncino, we’ve been up there three or four times on it so far.

The thing that I find so engaging is the rawness of the DOHC parallel twin, the exhaust note now that I have drilled the rivets out, gutted, then re-riveted the muffler, the acceleration is great, the power curve is fun and the handling is excellent on the smooth stuff.

The Leoncino is super good on fuel. Over the 3500km, the average was 25km/L over all types of riding. Fuel consumption on the open motorway is no less than urban, I put this down to the upright riding position and wind resistance along with rpm, which sits at around 6200rpm at traffic flow pace. The fuel light always comes on and the digital fuel gauge flashes empty at between 195 and 205km and it always takes 8 – 8.5L to fill back up.

Around town or really cruising sees 220km to fuel light and 8L. It has a 13.5L fuel tank and potential range of 330km but due to the paranoia the flashing E causes I’ve never pushed it past 300km. There has always been some fuel left. I have been running it on 95 octane the entire time with no dramas.

The forks are firm and the shock can easily be firmed up on the preload thanks to the remote preload adjuster. The bike handles fantastically on smooth surfaces but needs setup for bumpy real life riding.

The forks are firm and the shock can easily be firmed up on the preload thanks to the remote preload adjuster. The bike handles fantastically on smooth surfaces but needs setup for bumpy real life riding.

Comfort is good for me for two-hours at a time, after that period of time I usually need a stretch and have a bit of a sore butt, however, overall it is super comfy and the ergonomics are really good with a comfy but commanding rider triangle thanks to the positioning of the tapered ‘bars, low seat, wide ‘pegs and well positioned levers. The footpegs are wide and rubber capped and the tank is narrow.

In the twist hills and country roads, I generally back the rear spring and front rebound off. The bike is heavy and so are the wheels, so the rear suspension lacks control over the unsprung weight when things get serious, resulting in a jolting ride and often the shock packs down over a series of bumps.

The Leoncino

The Leoncino

Firming it up with the available range doesn’t help, it just makes the initial hit hurt more and the shock collapses through its stroke too fast once loaded up, it has no linkage or progression. The forks are the same. In my opinion they are too big at 50mm. The initial force needed to get them to move through their stroke is a lot, meaning instead of soaking up sharp high speed bumps, they don’t move, they just transmit that force up through the steering-head, you can see it flexing actually!

However, under hard braking the forks will collapse and bottom, so it is all wrong in there. I will be stripping them down over Christmas to see what I can do as the bike would be even better if we can get the suspension more compliant.

Commuting rain, hail or shine is still fun on the Leoncino. Jeff can't get enough of the little 500.

Commuting rain, hail or shine is still fun on the Leoncino. Jeff can’t get enough of the little 500.

The speedo is out around 5km/h at high speed, which is quite normal, and the gearbox is clunky but I put that down to a badly designed and sloppy gearlever linkage setup, which has come loose a few times, so I will be modifying that too and I reckon the bike will shift as smooth as silk afterwards. I am also going to pull the clutch down and see what I can do to make it smoother in take up.

There are some niggles with a bike like a Benelli, plus this is made in China, but it is so easy to ignore it all and forgive the bike as it rewards you with a huge grin on your dial as soon as you fire it up and ride off. It’s impossible to not to like the Leoncino…

The brakes are sensational, loads of power and good feel. Pillioning is easy and comfy for both bodies, strapping luggage on is easy as the two large old school pillion grab rails act as perfect luggage hooks.

The dash is easy to read and features a clock, ambient temp, engine temp (always around 80ºC), fuel, ODO, dual trip, speed and rpm. The headlight, well, it’s poor and I will be looking at improving that also.

Life's good cruising around on the Benelli.

Life’s good cruising around on the Benelli.

Servicing and maintenance has been easy. The 5000km check over is my next job. You can read about the run in and service here. The chain has been lubed every 200km and only adjusted the once, at 3300km, so it is a good chain. The brakes and tyres are showing no signs of wear and it is easy to wash the bike. All I’ve lost off it are the exhaust mid chamber and link pipe sheet metal covers. The mounting brackets snapped off the pipe and the lot fell off. Looks better without them anyway!

The bike starts first go every go and has never missed a beat. I’m really impressed with it and have been enjoying using it and I’m looking forward to some non work related riding over the Christmas period. My brother Nick Ware will also be racking up some miles now that he finally has his Ls.

We will update you again in a month or so. In the meantime, if you are in the market for an affordable LAMS bike that would keep a fully licenced and experienced rider happy as well, with a neat style difference and loads of character, find yourself a Benelli dealer here and go book a test ride.

2018 BENELLI LEONCINO GALLERY

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