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Living with Benelli TRK 502 | BIKE TESTS | GASSIT GARAGE

Three ways to turn a 2000km dash over a (very) long weekend from good to great

Nothing beats a multi-day, long-distance jaunt on a motorcycle with mates. You cover the same roads, often at the same pace, but the ride, stories and experiences are your own. And the evenings are spent regaling tales to one another about the day’s kays. It’s about as good as motorcycling gets.

I was readying myself for what I thought was going to be three-day ride from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula to New South Wales’ Alpine Region, via northeastern Victoria’s best motorcycle roads and back again. And to ensure I was going to make the very most of the opportunity which, for all of us, comes along fewer and farther between these days, there were three quick mods I made to the Benelli TRK502 ahead of setting off.

The Benelli is a physically large and comfortable bike, beaut for covering long distances. It boasts roomy ergonomics and excellent wind and weather protection. But because I’m shorter and smaller than average, I would develop the all-too familiar ache in the middle of my shoulder blades after any an hour or so on the bike. The fix was to loosen the ’bar clamps and rotate the handlebar towards me by, in this case, 3mm, which equated to around a 10mm drop at the bar ends. It was enough reduce the fatigue on my arms and to stop the back pain, but not enough to require me to readjust the levers or the switchblocks – perfect.

That was comfort covered off, safety was the next item on my list. Looking at how many kays we had to cover and how many days we had to do it in, night-time riding on unfamiliar roads was inevitable. And because I had added some hefty aluminium panniers which I planned to stuff with a vast array of objects I may or may not have needed, my headlights were going to be great for bird watching, but probably not ideal for spotting roos. The Benelli boasts a couple of easy-to-reach headlight adjusters, which after a couple of turns in a clockwise direction, meant I could lower the beam to where it needed to be for both spotting wildlife and keeping oncoming traffic happy.

Before loosening the ’bar clamps, mark the original setting with lead pencil

The third and final thing I did was fit a GPS unit. Not for directions or maps, primarily – though a handy byproduct if I needed it – but as an accurate speedo reading. Long days on amazing roads greatly increases your risk of copping a speeding fine, and because I had one of TomTom’s beaut motorcycle-specific Rider units sitting in the shed, I thought it a smart idea to throw it on. Although there is a perfectly placed USB outlet, I opted to hard-wire the unit to the battery to keep the cockpit neater and free of wires. The unit turns itself off with the ignition, so it wasn’t going to drain the battery if I left it on.

The TRK’s headlight adjusters are tool-free and easy to get to

According to the satellite, the Benelli’s speedo is out by bang-on 10 per cent – which is generally the expected discrepancy from the factory. By knowing this, it meant that we could sit on the speed limit without worrying about being pinged, but still use our time efficiently. Ten kays an hour over a 10-hour day could mean the difference between running the last 100km in daylight or in darkness, so accuracy is a must.

The three mods took me no more than 30 minutes to complete, but all three made a vast difference to my time on the road, which ended up pushing out to five fabulous days.

In real-world terms, it’s hard to justify the $4500 difference between these two

Retail price
  • $8790 (rideaway)
Distance covered
  • 1998kms
Fuel Economy
  • 4.3L/100km
  • 1000km/3000km intervals
Options added
  • 33L Panniers
  • TomTom Rider

The latest map software was downloaded before we left, but I opted for the reliable paper variety

Head to head

The Benelli and the ’Strom were as perfect travelling companions as myself and Andy. They both like a strop, both more or less evenly matched in terms of capability and, while I’m not sure about the bike’s respective senses of humour, they both have a deep appreciation for the remote parts of this big brown land. 

On paper, the Suzuki V-Strom XT’s 52kW and 62Nm verses the Benelli’s 35kW and 45Nm seems vastly different. But in reality, the bikes were well matched. Admittedly, I had to ride the parallel-twin Benelli pretty hard to stay with the 146cc-bigger V-twin, but I could do it. It helped that the majority of our riding was sub-100km/h twisty stuff, but I expected the Benelli to lose out on acceleration out of corners. It absolutely didn’t. The only time the ’Strom rode away from me was over the fast, flowing Snowy Mountains Highway where the TRK’s top-speed deficit lost out. 

By Kel Buckley