Learner approved – Benelli Leoncino | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
The gap between the technology haves and have-nots for AMCN Motorcycle of the Year 2018 is the widest it’s been in the long history of the annual shootout. At one end of the scale is Ducati’s Panigale V4 S, and way down the other is Benelli’s twin-cylinder Leoncino – the little bike that could.
As bikes become more technologically advanced, there’s a growing groundswell of enthusiasts harking back to the days when motorcycling riding delivered simple pleasures. Benelli’s stylish new 500cc parallel-twin Leoncino may just be what they are yearning for.
The Leoncino is available in two guises, the standard model used for MoTY, and a soft-roader called the Leoncino Trail. Alan Cathcart attended the world launch of the Leoncino and returned raving that the company was on the cusp of mid-capacity greatness with its new twin-cylinder range. All those who have sampled the mid-capacity naked since have agreed.
The tubular steel trellis frame is paired with a 50mm upside-down front fork adjustable for rebound. The rear shock has a nifty hydraulic preload adjuster. Braking up front is handled by twin 320mm discs clamped by four-piston radial calipers, and the ABS can be deactivated via a button on the bar.
At its heart is a willing 500cc engine with four valves per cylinder, making 35kW and 45Nm of torque. Josh Evans formed a special bond with the Leoncino during the test.
“I like this bike for all the same reasons I liked the Suzuki SV650 we had on the nakedbike test,” he said. “Its simple and enjoyable, I don’t miss anything when I ride it. I wasn’t riding along looking for extra stuff, or trying to switch things off and on. Possibly the only extra I’d really like is extra braking performance.”
Alex Penklis said he was a fan of the wide ’bars and how well the bike corners. “The chassis is lovely – and even though it’s the least expensive bike here, it’s got adjustable suspension. The only negatives from me are the seat, which is a bit hard, and the dash which is hard to read in bright sunlight.”
Our resident LAMS expert, Paul Andrews, also scored the Leoncino highly.
“Its fit and finish is top quality, it looks and rides every bit its 100-year-old European badge and none of its Chinese ownership.”
The voting revealed the level of the Benelli’s build quality impressed many, posting the highest average score in that criteria, based on its price tag. It also scored highly for value for money, as well as the level of confidence it offers the rider. Even the way the engine delivers its 35kW and 46Nm impressed the judges enough to score well above the five-point sweet spot for power.
As the test team began to tally up their MoTY voting cards, there was a real chance that the Leoncino could become the first learner-legal bike to claim the AMCN MoTY trophy.
Second opinion – Paul Andrews
Being the only LAMS bike on MoTY 2018, I was curious to see how the Benelli would stack up against the more powerful and more expensive rides out there on the road.
It’s a seriously cool looking motorcycle. The styling of the bike is all class, Benelli has given it an expensive look without the price tag. Any learner or licensed rider would be happy to park it in front of their local cafe. It screams style – as well as being very functional – but most importantly, it is fun to ride.
The first thing I noticed when sitting on it is its comfortable ride position. The high-set seat was excellent for my 183cm frame, and the wide handlebar made it easy over three long days of riding.
Being a LAMS bike, I wasn’t expecting it to keep up with the rest, but the parallel-twin engine impressed, possibly because the engine has been designed, developed and built as is, it’s not a higher-capacity engine which has then restricted for LAMS purposes. I may have struggled to keep up on the straights, but through twisty bits, the Benelli is a heap lot of fun. The clutch is light, the gearbox super smooth and the brakes are strong and with great feel.
Considering the sub $8K price tag, you get a lot of bike for your dollar. It’s even got LED lights and indicators.
Full Test of the Benelli Leoncino Trail
Full Test of the Benelli Leoncino
Total 204.05kg (wet)
Pirelli Angel GT
Power 35kW (claimed)
Torque 46 Nm (claimed)
12-month fully comprehensive
Estimated based on a 50-year old Sydney CBD resident who has held a motorcycle licence for longer than five years, has had zero at-fault claims and has completed an accredited riding course.
A Seat height: 815mm
B Peg to seat: 510mm
C Peg to bar: 910mm
D Bar to seat: 640mm
One of these machines has been crowned the 2018 Motorcycle of the Year!