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Pegged as a scrambler, the Benelli Leoncino 800 Trail can cover so much more ground...

The Benelli Leoncino 800 Trail was probably the biggest surprise of the finalists in this year’s AMCN Motorcycle of the Year (MOTY) presented by Shannons Insurance. Making the assumption it had made the cut based purely on its value for money proposition, I was surprised at how engaging I found it to be less than halfway around our test loop, not least because of the silly amount of feedback coming from that 19-inch spoked front wheel. 

Its 234kg (wet) weight can’t be ignored, especially since the Trail is taking on the lightweight scrambler market, but for one of the first in what’s a growing line of big-bore dual-sport machines coming from the marque the overall execution is a positive sign of things to come. 

Given its sub-$14K price tag, it’s pretty well equipped. Features like the LED lighting, five-inch TFT dash, 50mm fork and braided brake lines all point to a modern and well-thought-out machine and, while it lacks the bells and whistles (and traction control) of a lot of its rivals, its simplicity is all part of the experience. And for me, one of the things that made it such an engaging ride. 

The 754cc parallel-twin has a usable spread of power throughout the rev range, though it’s at its most responsive between 6500-9000rpm. And while our AMCN launch review spoke of the high-frequency vibrations causing discomfort after decent spells of highway riding, our particular test loop spared us of any such concerns.   

Being a retro bike, there’s nothing particularly innovative about it, but Benelli has responded to western market trends by producing a higher-capacity version of its popular Leoncino 500 and differentiated the Trail from the road-biased base model with more than just a larger front wheel and wire spokes. 

With its twin-outlet high-mounted exhaust and trick-looking appointments, the Trail’s styling is convincingly retro and is backed up by some high build quality across most of the bike – though there is the occasional messy weld. But that aside, the fit and finish is far higher than that price tag would certainly suggest. 

In terms of meeting its design brief, it probably needs a higher-mounted handlebar for those would-be owners who prefer to travel on gravel roads, and the weight could be an issue for some. However, the suspension travel of 140mm at both ends and 191mm of ground clearance means if you’re not in a massive hurry you could theoretically take this deeper into the bush than even Benelli intended.    

But the value for money really is the jewel in the Leoncino’s crown, even without traction control or the ability to switch off the rear ABS. It boasts more power than rivals like Triumph’s Scrambler 900 and Ducati’s Icon Scrambler but will set you back $5260 and $3010 less than those two respectively. 

It’s really a capable roadbike, despite its off-road intentions, and its upright and wide ergonomics make it a decent mile muncher, too. 

Test: Kel Buckley

Over the next few weeks we will reveal more about the eight MOTY finalists on the AMCN website and eventually announce the winner. If you can’t wait that long to find out which motorcycle has been awarded AMCN’s 2022 Motorcycle of the Year presented by Shannons Insurance, grab a copy of the AMCN Yearbook, which is on sale now at newsagents and select supermarkets.