With a massive 10cc increase to 135cc and 13hp, we knew we needed an experienced superbike, endurance and 500cc GP rider on the TnT 135 launch, so we sent Steve Martin... Pics: Mark Dadswell

The 125 version of Benelli’s TnT went on sale Down Under back in 2017 and according to Benelli the model was one of their top selling bikes. But a little more performance without jeopardising LAMS status is always welcome – and that’s why the bigger, more fun, 135cc version is now here. What a hoot – I’m still smiling!

The cost of these three TnT 135s, combined, on the road, is less than the cost of some single LAMS bikes. You could buy in bulk and get your mates riding!

Bigger is better as they say, and that was the theory behind the TnT capacity increase, implemented in Europe over a year ago. It’s hard to believe that an extra 10cc can make such a big difference in the real world but small differences count on bikes of this size, a lot more than on the big ones.

When Jeff gave me the call to ride the TnT 135 I was genuinely excited. I wanted to know first-hand what all the fuss was about. Surely motorcyclists wouldn’t want a tiny bike like this with 12-inch wheels… Is it a fad that the teenagers of today will grow out of? Would there be any advantages and would it be possible to live day-to-day with a machine like this?

I only had one day to find out but what a day it would be. Starting off in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne, we would make our way through the traffic and a little bit of freeway riding (with plenty of coffee stops) and then finish the day having a blast racing each other at Oakleigh Go Kart Track.

THE BASE
The 135 is heavily modelled on the 125, in fact, they share virtually everything apart from the longer stroke that the new model has. You can check out our 125 review here.
The TnT has a single-cylinder air-cooled motor with a wet clutch. It’s specifically designed for the model and is quite well put together. It has a five-speed gearbox and an oil-cooler to keep engine temperature stable. It has a 7.5L fuel tank and the range, depending on how the bike is ridden, is claimed to be about 300km. That’s pretty good economy for a motorcycle and less time will be spent at the servo, which has to be a positive. Fuel is metered by way of fuel injection and the mapping is pretty spot on. The simple motor is slotted into a trellis frame with 41mm forks up front. The forks are the biggest in class and I guess the most rigid (for those cutting edge runs to the milk bar).

The monoshock rear end has preload adjustment only, on what appears to be a well-made rear shock sporting alloy upper and lowers that give the bike that extra touch of Italian-style and quality. The tacho is analogue, speedo digital and there’s a fuel gauge plus a couple of trip meters to play with. It’s a good-looking unit similar to the units used on bigger model Benelli’s.

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Aesthetically, I like the look. Sure, looks are subjective, but the way the pipes sweep up matched to the floating rear plate holder give the bike a certain style. The 12-inch scooter sized wheels are fitted with 120/70-12 Cordial (what’s your flavour?) brand tyres and they were acceptable in their grip but there are higher quality options for the sportier rider out there.

The bike is surprisingly roomy and comfortable for its physical size, which means it is feasible to use it for commuting. It’s made in China but developed and designed in Italy, which keeps the price down tremendously. Good for us, not so good for the workers in Italy – but that’s another debate…

CITY CRUISING
Once our breakfast had settled, we soon found ourselves confronted with heavy traffic on Mount Alexander road. It was my first experience riding the TnT and I was duly impressed. There is ample power to keep up with and pass cars. A tight steering lock makes easy work of slow-moving traffic splitting and making room for your mates at the lights. The control feel is the same as a bike worth five times as much, so I would say a lot of thought has gone into this bike.

The TnT 135 has great city manners, with a smooth clutch and gearbox, enough acceleration on tap and a tight steering lock/turning circle.

The TnT 135 has great city manners, with a smooth clutch and gearbox, enough acceleration on tap and a tight steering lock/turning circle.

Like all of these small capacity single-cylinder bikes the 135 is buzzy and sits at about 5000rpm at 60km/h and 7000rpm at 80km/h. The TnT will, however, do 110km/h-plus, so riding on the freeway is not out of the question at all.

The gearing is good for the City, making take-offs from the lights a cinch and that certainly allowed me to spend more time looking at the traffic situation around me. The clutch is light, and the positive bite of the brakes made me very relaxed as it’s a bike that gives no surprises, just what you want. The throttle connection is smooth and the bike never once stalled or even came close. I wish a lot of the bigger bikes had the attributes of the TnT because whoever designed it knew what the important things are to give to the everyday rider and they made it happen.

Cameron Donald gets the holeshot on Steve in superpole...

Cameron Donald gets the holeshot on Steve in superpole…

I enjoyed riding on the road and I found the TnT 135 not only fun – but practical. The pocket rocket also put a smile on the faces of the punters in cars around me, such is the nature of the TnT.

If there is a weak point, I think it’s the lack of ABS. the 135 doesn’t legally need it due to being sub-250cc but it is always good to have a safety system like that in the background, particularly in the LAMS segment.

PACK RIDING
There were six brand new TnT 135s at our disposal, which meant riding with a group was going to increase the fun factor, and after riding in a bunch I can see groups of people buying these things. We were having a ball at the lights, riding together and laughing together…

An interesting fact that sprang to mind was that the on-road cost of those six bikes (including the purchase price of the bikes) is about the same as one modern sportsbike, so in terms of fun and value for money, these mini Benelli’s are right up there. Maybe there’s a cult forming!

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GETTING SERIOUS
We did have fun on the road but I knew secretly everybody was keen to get to Oakleigh and let loose on the track. It doesn’t make sense to test a bike like this on a track but in another breath, it makes perfect sense. The track is a place that shows mechanical weakness so it could have been very foolhardy to let a bunch of journos loose on a bike not made for the track if these bikes weren’t up to par. Benelli need not have feared because they all came through with flying colours.

The Oakleigh track is tight and technical, a little bumpy in places too, but it was the ideal place to put the TnT through its paces.

After just a few laps the TnT proved its capabilities. Things like the frame being over engineered, for example, and way above the power of the bike meant flex, or stiffness, is not an issue (good thing). The suspension is up to the task as well but the rear is soft and that meant the 135 ran wide on some of the tighter corners. In saying that, all it needed was more rear preleod and the good news is that is possible on the TnT. The bike handled itself well on the track and it went well too.

I was most impressed by the engine as it is quite (in context) fast and very reliable. The TnT 135 was bouncing off the rev limiter for a couple of hours non-stop – without one of the six bikes being wheeled away. In fact, not even a spanner was pulled out. The five-speed gearbox is great and the clutch handled all the abuse it was given. The oil-cooler did its job at keeping the air-cooled single at an even temperature and I’m sure that also helped with the 100 per cent reliability outcome.

SUMMING UP
The 135 does cost a little more than last year’s 125 and the on road costs will be more expensive due to the extra capacity but for that cost I would personally say that it’s well worth it. Honda started this craze with the Grom, which was a loose copy of its monkey bikes from the 1970s, and now there’s no turning back. Kawasaki (Z125 Review) and Benelli have joined the party and with a five-speed box, fuel injection and an Italian pedigree, the TnT really is a dynamite little machine. I started my day off with a lot of questions but finished with a positive summation, The TnT135 is a great bike that can be used day-to-day, it’s reliable, attractive and creates a stir wherever you go…

Steve ‘just waiting for a mate’…

Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

2019 Benelli TnT 135 Specifications

benelli.com.au

Price: $3,990 Ride Away
Claimed Power: 9.5kW(13hp)@9000rpm
Claimed Torque: 10Nm@7000rpm
Dry Weight: 121kg
Fuel capacity: 7.2L

ENGINE
Air-cooled, four-stroke four-valve, SOHC single-cylinder, double spark, 135cc, 54 x 58.8mm bore x stroke, 9.8:1 compression ratio, electronic fuel injection with 28mm throttle-body
Lubrication: Wet sump
Clutch: Wet clutch
Gearbox: Five-speed

CHASSIS
Frame: Steel trellis
Front suspension: 41 mm upside down forks
Rear suspension: Rear swing arm with lateral shock absorber with spring pre-load adjustment
Brakes: Single 220mm front rotor, radial mount two-piston caliper, single 190mm rear rotor, single piston caliper
Wheels and Tyres: Aluminium alloy 12” x MT 3.0 DOT, 120/70 – ZR12, 130/70 – ZR12

DIMENSIONS
Length: 1750mm
Width (excl. mirrors): 755mm
Height (excl. mirrors): 1025mm
Seat height: 780mm
Wheelbase: 1215mm

*$18.63 per week based on 5 year terms with UMF 7.99% estimate only, please refer to the loan calculator here

Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

2019 Benelli TnT 135 Gallery

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