We tested out the more adventure oriented Benelli TRK 502X in Pesaro Italy, the birthplace and spiritual home of the brand. Review: Kris Hodgson Images by: Giacomo Terracciano, Orazio Truglio
Benelli is a brand steeped in a rich Italian history, aptly demonstrated by the TRK 502X launch in Pesaro, where it all began, with the motorcycling marque playing an important role in the town’s history and economy, and continuing to house Benelli’s Museum and Italian HQ today.
Benelli are now produced in China, however the Italian passion (and design flair) is still a driving force behind their TRK 502 and Leoncino, with the TRK 502X adding a new dimension to the line-up, along with the Leoncino Trail.
The TRK 502 line is actually a big success for the brand in Italy, holding the number four motorcycle sales position – albeit with scooters being the most common form of two wheeled transport, by a significant margin – probably similar to the difference between motorcycles and scooters in Australia, but reversed.
The Leoncino also sits within the top 10, and if I’m honest I saw more of these models on the road in the areas we visited around the popular tourist jaunt that is Pesaro, than the TRK. With this said, having been told that around 10 per cent of Pesaro’s tourism is driven by the Benelli museum, it’s easy to see there’s still a strong fascination and loyalty to the brand.
On to the TRK 502X however. Here we have a model boasting a variety of changes to make for a more focused light adventure touring bike, with long travel suspension, high exhaust, small sump guard, spoked tubeless wheels with a 19in front and Tourance tyres.
Other changes from the standard TRK include totally different brakes, with larger 320mm rotors now matched to twin-piston calipers, while there’s also ABS, which is switchable at the rear via a ‘bar mounted toggle.
The emphasis was certainly on the ‘light’ adventure in adventure-touring, which aligns with this machine’s LAMS compliance and likely target market, with a fair bit more off-road prowess than your regular naked bike. 220mm ground clearance is of assistance here, while standard hand guards, reasonable screen protection and a deep seat also make for a well specced touring machine.
Having briefly tested the regular TRK 502, the X version feels significantly stronger too, from the parallel twin engine, through to the suspension and particularly the brakes, with the heritage to the Leoncino’s powerplant much more recognisable in this offering.
35kW, the European A2 licence requirement (48hp), ensures the TRK 502X is learner legal in Australia, and while the extra weight over the Leoncino brings performance down, it’s still a fun characterful engine, with a great intake growl.
That weight is also the one area that the TRK 502X (and standard edition) stand out, the X at 235kg is not a light machine. For the price point I wouldn’t expect Benelli to be able to shave a significant portion of that weight off, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder what the TRK would be like if they did.
Ergonomics are also a strong point on the TRK, the deep seat leaves you feeling in instead of on the bike, with an easy reach to the ‘pegs, and I could get both feet down on flat terrain, or an easy single foot down in most circumstances. You just wouldn’t want to get the 502X past tipping point, as there’ll be no recovery.
The seating position is upright, with a reasonable stretch to the ‘bars that you can easily convert into a racier crouch when having a go, and there’s clear vision of the road ahead, with the dash just needing a glance down but a little susceptible to the high contrast when you’ve got the sun directly in your eyes and are trying to look down – even with an internal sun visor. Overall at 180cm tall I found the 502X a great fit.
The brake lever is adjustable, but not so the clutch, the ‘pegs include rubbers, there’s a power outlet on the top of the fairing for 12v charging, LED indicators and LED DRL (Daytime Running Lights) are also a nice more premium feature.
Mirrors are simple and serviceable, offering good adjustability and vision, with good overall build quality, particularly on the bodywork and paint, while not including integrated indicators in the hand guards is a smart move in my opinion.
BENELLI TRK 502X – THE RIDE
Jumping onto the TRK 502X that parallel twin growls into life, and while it is quiet, there’s a bit of character here. The TRK is a cool looking machine too, with that sporty adventure style front end really standing out, especially for a LAMS category machine.
Knock the bike into gear and you’re off, with the twin offering super smooth performance with claimed peak power at 8000rpm, which comes around surprisingly quickly.
Exploring the sights of Italy around Pesaro gave a good idea of how the bike will handle Australian road conditions, with road surfaces both good and bad, plus plenty of switchback type corners which offer a great opportunity to test the bike’s handling and cornering capabilities.
Gear shifts are smooth and light through the gearbox, and I’m happy to report the bike pulls from quite low rpm, even when I was lazy and lugging the engine, while by 8000rpm I was ready to upshift. There was no real drop off either up to this point, and you’d never really need to leave fourth gear if you’re a stickler for Australian speed limits, although knocking it up a few more gears for fuel efficiency would no doubt help the hip pocket.
For my 70kg or so in gear the suspension was also good, with a fully adjustable shock and big 50mm Marzocchi forks (non adjustable) on the front. There’s revised fork internals and the shock is new, with the front feeling a little soft at times, but proving well supported on the road, even when hard on the brakes into the corners.
The shock also offered good performance and support, with only a few larger bumps kicking me up out of the seat, and I was really looking for the rough sections of road to see how the bike handled it all. We only did a small section of gravel off-road for some pictures sadly, which the 502X handled easily, but wouldn’t have fazed most motorcycles, so we will have to reserve our opinion until we properly test the bike here in Australia.
Getting up over gutters once or twice also revealed how soft the front suspension was and how much travel you’ve got, something less noticeable for me on the road.
With 145/170mm travel front/rear I think it’s safe to say the 502X is optimised for taking on the rougher stuff, but like I said I’d need to do some more riding in these conditions to say much more, and I imagine the bike will, for many riders, mainly be a road machine.
Brakes are also a strong point, without as much bite as found on the Leoncino, and with floating front rotors but two-piston non-radial calipers, which Benelli explained was for off-road performance. Bite was not extreme, however there was good stopping power from the dual 320mm rotor, two-piston caliper setup, and I could really trail the front brakes deep into those tight switchbacks before rolling on the throttle out of the corners.
Considering the bike’s hefty weight I was impressed, with really good stability off the brakes and transitioning back onto the power, and the ABS had a few opportunities to do its stuff, without fuss, and with minimal kickback at the lever or pedal.
Handling was also good, although front end feel with that 19in wheel was a little different to what I’m used to, with good stability once you had the bike leaned over, and clear warning as you reached the edges of the tyre. There was only a few times where I was perhaps getting a bit too enthusiastic about leaning the bike over that the front felt a little flighty, but still within control, and I have to say I was impressed with how easy it was to hustle the bike along at a good pace.
The induction growl in particular, when you were pushing the pace a little and accelerating aggressively was much appreciated, giving a great sound track to the riding, and doing so without needing to be going ridiculously fast.
BENELLI TRK 502X CONCLUSION
The Benelli TRK 502X is undeniably an interesting machine, feeling considerably sharper and better specced than the standard TRK I had a quick ride on a few months ago – it felt nothing like that machine, to the extent of being a matter of chalk and cheese – and I feel like this is the pick of the two by that comparison.
Specifications on paper aren’t the most impressive, with the weight as mentioned being a big factor in that, and the LAMS legal factor offering its own limitations. However for $9390 ride-away the TRK 502X offers exceptional value for money.
I’m no off road guru, but I’d happily take this bike down the sections just that little bit too rough for a regular road bike, giving a bit more freedom than a regular road machine.
Features like those standard crash bars make sure a drop isn’t the end of the world, while the centre-stand, sump guard, rear rack and spoked wheels are thoughtful inclusions. The rear rack is also topbox ready, while Givi will be producing panniers and spotlights for the 502X.
I keep coming back to the price point here, because that’s the big point of difference. The TRK 502X also has great styling, Benelli have done an exceptional job making it standout in this regard and the parallel twin is also a real gem, which is why the Leoncino is also such a great offering.
Overall I see the TRK 502X as the everyday ride, it’s cheap, characterful and has good standard fittings. It’s a great tourer in reality, with comfort a strong point, and enough off road cred to provide a point of difference from your standard road bikes. How the 502X handles the years and miles will be interesting to see, but at this stage it seems like an option well worth exploring.
If the new Benelli TRK 502X has tickled your fancy, definitely give one a test ride. There’s no doubt many riders who spend $18-25K+ on an adventurer-tourer could probably do it all on one of these machines. It doesn’t mean they all should, but like I said, it’s worth considering.
For the full technical run down on the new Benelli TRK 502X, check out our Video Review, which will be published shortly.
2018 Benelli TRK 502X (LAMS) Specifications
Price: $9,390 RRP On Road
Warranty: Two years, unlimited kilometres, two years roadside assist
Colours: Benelli Red, Benelli White, Benelli Grey
Claimed power: 35kW(47.6 hp)@8500rpm
Claimed torque: 46Nm@6000rpm
Wet weight: 235kg
Fuel capacity: 20L (3.8L per 100km claimed)
Engine: Liquid-cooled, In-line two-cylinder, four-stroke, four-valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft, 499.6cc, 69 x 66.8mm bore x stroke, 11.5:1 compression, 37mm dual throttle-body
Clutch: Multiplate wet
Final drive: Sealed chain
Chassis: Steel trellis tube frame, Steel swingarm
Suspension: 50mm USD Marzocchi forks, 145mm travel, fully adjustable rear shock, 170mm travel
Brakes: Twin two-piston calipers, 320mm rotors, rear single-piston caliper, 260mm rotor
Wheels & Tyres: Henly Racing aluminium tubeless cross spoked wheels, 3.00 x 19in, 4.25 x 17in, Metzeler Tourance tyres, 110/80-19, 150/70-17
Seat height: 850mm
Ground Clearance: 220mm
2018 Benelli TRK 502X (LAMS) Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2018 Benelli TRK 502X World Launch
Benelli’s TRK 502X offers a more dedicated adventure option, with spoked wheels clad in Tourance rubber, optimised long travel suspension, revised brakes, killer styling and ideal touring ergonomics, all powered by a fun LAMS legal parallel-twin powerplant.