Living with the Benelli TRK502 | Gassit Garage | Long Term
Benelli has been churning out good quality small- to mid-capacity motorcycles by the trailer load of late, among them its first parallel-twin, long-legged touring machine. But what adventure touring might mean to the old-but-new Eurasion brand would surely translate to something very different in this vast brown land of ours, something a bit ho-hum? That’s exactly what we wanted to find out.
We asked for the one with the most kays on it and a model that had bounced around the boondocks of Tasmania, chasing a couple of intrepid Royal Enfield Himalayan riders, had my name on it. A bit beaten up and a little bit unloved, it was perfect for us to find out if the TRK had the mettle to go the distance.
It didn’t start well. A couple of days in I was familiarising myself with the bike on the steep and twisty Arthurs Seat Road when the engine light came on. The thing rode and sounded fine, the temperature remained stable, so I felt completely confident to ride it home before alerting the distributor.
And I was right; it turned out it was water in the oxygen sensor, thanks to a misguided pressure washer – hardly the bike’s fault. Nor was the time I turned the (added) GPS unit on long after the day’s ride was done and didn’t switch it off, my absent-mindedness leaving me with a well-deserved flat battery.
But, after 4500km of commuting, touring, errand-running and even largely inappropriate off-roading, it came out the other end with a glowing report card. Its big-bike ergonomics are the one thing that may turn some new or returning riders away from the TRK502, but for me – and there’s nothing long-legged about me – it was its roomy ergonomics which set this bike apart from every one of its competitors. It looks, feels and covers kays like a bike twice its size, which means you’ll arrive at your (further) destination far less fatigued, and with significantly more money in your fuel kitty.
When I begrudgingly gave the bike back, it had just shy of 7000km on clock, which I know is probably too few to reveal a lot about its long-term longevity, but I’ve been around the block enough times to feel when a bike has hallmarks of unreliability – and this thing has none.
There was the five-day blast through northeastern Victoria and New South Wales’ Alpine region, where I asked a hell of a lot from the 499cc parallel-twin on a swathe of amazingly twisty roads, and it responded. There was the time it effortlessly ferried me, my mate and our equipment to a campsite. Or the time I bounced over tree roots, between rocks and through ruts on our search for the remote hut on the banks of the Snowy River.
Then I spent two days riding it around Licola in Victoria’s high country when it lashed down with rain for 650 of the 700-odd kilometres we covered. It went head-to-head with a Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT for a good majority of those rides and it damn well held its own. And even moreso when you start crunching the corresponding numbers of the two LAMS-approved twins.
We took the Benelli under our wing to find out if an Italian-designed, sub-$9K machine could really hack it in harsh Aussie conditions over a decent period of time. And it not only hacked it, it excelled. And once I was even asked – by an adventure rider no less – how I was enjoying
my new Ducati Multistrada?
“I love it,” I grinned.
$8790 (ride away)
What it cost us
I didn’t do a lot to the Benelli because, honestly, despite it being a thoroughly basic and tech-free motorcycle, there was nothing I felt it was really lacking – the sign of a really well thought-out motorcycle. But we did do a handful of things over the time, this is what it owes me.
Sourced from one of the best luggage makers in the business, the two 33-litre waterproof pannier kit is made by Givi and offers two innovative and hugely practical opening options.
The TomTom Rider wasn’t added to offer GPS-guided maps as much as it was to work out the accuracy of the speedo. The TRK’s speedo reads exactly 10 per cent slower than its actual speed.
With some gravel roads on the horizon, I opted for Bridgestone’s newly released A41 adventure hoops, which did heaps for my confidence. Full review coming soon.
My nearest dealer offered fixed-price servicing. It got a belly full of new oil, a new oil filter and all of its fluid levels, cables and chain tension checked.
It is what it is
As thoroughly over used as the term is, it’s important to see and use the Benelli TRK502 for exactly what it is. If you’re expecting big-bike performance from its big-bike looks, then you’ll be bitterly disappointed with its 35kW and 45Nm offering. It’s more than lively enough to cover all sorts of riding, and on the thousands of kilometres I rode with the 52kW/52Nm 645cc Suzuki V-Strom it was only once or twice, in really fast open sweepers, that the Suzuki was able to ride away from the Benelli. On the other side of the coin, in terms of the no-more-to-pay ride away price, the Benelli is a whopping $4500 less expensive.
By Kel Buckley