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Benelli TRK502 | BIKE TESTS

Cos there’s no better way to make use of a set of new panniers than to go camping

One of the best things about owning an inexpensive motorcycle is the money you’ve potentially saved helps you justify spending a bit more on tailoring the machine specifically to your needs. And in the case of me and the long-term Benelli TRK 502, that meant a set of panniers.

Of course there are plenty of hard and soft pannier options on the market, but Benelli Australia offers a couple of high-quality options from well-known Italian luggage specialists Givi. And you only need to have ever spent one trip away fiddling with a pair of dicky, unreliable inexpensive units to know that money spent on decent luggage is money well spent.

It was a long weekend, a mate of mine was flying down from Sydney and she wanted to go camping. And since camping is probably my second favourite pastime, I agreed. But I agreed before it occurred to me that since she was flying down, not only would I need to supply and carry most of her gear to the campsite, but I’d need to ferry her there, too.

The Benelli and her shiny new pair of 33-litre panniers laughed at the request. Two tents, two sleeping bags, two bed rolls, a camping stove, pillows, my mate and more than a few bottles of wine packed easily in and on the bike – and there was still room left for some extra jackets and few other bits and pieces my partner and brother decided to lump on me, too.   

Not surprising, the panniers are a clever bit of kit. Easy to mount and remove, actually some of the easiest I’ve used (and I’ve used a lot). The sides open completely like a conventional set of bags, allowing you to add or remove larger items, but the clever bit is on the inside, where you can flip a latch which will mean only the top quarter will open, instead of the entire side. It’s a really handy feature, in a whole host of situations, making for quick and hassle-free access for smaller items like warmer gloves or a clear visor. The only thing I’m not enamoured with is the fact that a key is required to open them each and every time, unlike some other units which allow you to lock or unlock them with a key, leaving only latches to open or close them when they’re unlocked.

Once we arrived at the campsite, the Benelli continued to pull its weight. It started by dragging a few large branches closer to where the fire was going to be lit later on in the evening. It proved to be the perfect tie-off point for a late-arrival who needed somewhere to tether her swag. It let me charge my phone via the handy USB outlet on the left-hand side of the fairing. And it even ended up saving the evening when the meat took longer than expected to cook, which left us all scrambling around in the dark trying to work out our Pepperjack Shiraz from the pepper grinder.

Positioned behind our makeshift dining table, I started the Benelli so as to turn the headlight on, but then hit the kill switch with the ignition still on so the engine noise didn’t upset the evening’s serenity. With both the LED daytime running lights activated and the single-sided low-beam headlight illuminating the whole shebang, we managed to slice up and serve dinner.

Cleverly, if the ignition is still on and the killswitch is off, the headlight will only stay illuminated for 60 seconds before switching itself off. But by then it didn’t matter, and we polished off our tucker under the watchful LED eye of my new little mate. Paradise.

Luggage options- Givi top box, mounting plate included $626.25 Pannier mounting kit $200.47 (free until 31 July) Pannier set (33L) $1079.28 (free until 31 July) Entire kit $1931.75

What’s next?

With a new set of panniers as my wingmen, literally, the Benelli and I embarked on a 2000km journey through northeastern Victoria and southern New South Wales.

There’s plenty to learn from 2000km in the saddle of a 500cc parallel-twin motorcycle – especially when your travelling companion is riding one of its fiercest rivals, a Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT. They’re both learner legal, they’re both twins (albeit different configurations), one is very new to the market and one more or less owns it. So the XT ’Strom isn’t a direct competitor to the base-model TRK, but how they stacked up against each other on the trip is both intriguing and surprising.

I’ll go into detail about how I set it up for the ride, a quick and easy modification which vastly improved my all-day comfort levels.

Set of 33-litre panniers with every new TRK 502

Between now and the end of the month, Benelli Australia will throw in a set of 33-litre panniers with every new TRK 502 purchase. That’s a motorcycle on the road, with Givi luggage and roadside assist for less than $9K!

By Kel Buckley