KTM 790 Duke review with a topping of the 1290 Superduke R in Dubai

799 / 1,301CC 103 / 174BHP 87 / 141NM

We drove quite a few vehicles during the PowerTour 2019, consisting of both motorcycles and cars. While all of them were fun and engaging machines, there was a pair which seemed rather ominous and we mean it in the best sense possible. We are talking about two Dukes; KTM 790 Duke and KTM 1290 Superduke R. While the 1290 Superduke R should have been the one to look out for because of its nickname- wheelie-king, it was the KTM 790 Duke that we had our focus on. Why’s that? Let us explain.

Ever since the rumour of an 800cc parallel-twin Duke flooded the internet, it has been tingling our motorcycle nerve incessantly. When it was unveiled at EICMA 2016, it had left us floored because of how compact it looked and the amount of power it made! And then there was the fact that while most KTMs employ single-cylinder engines or V-Twins, the parallel-twin on the KTM 790 Duke was a breakaway from that tradition. And since then, we have been waiting for its arrival in India. Just today we stumbled upon rumours that the KTM 790 Duke has reached the Indian shores and it may be priced at INR 8.5 lacs (Ex-Showroom). 

KTM 790 Duke

The APEX SHARKCO from Axor is one slick-looking helmet. The most standout feature is the graphics that make it look like it was meant for this menacing 790 Duke. Features like the Dual-visor, DOT and ECE certification, permanent anti-fog function are just a bonus!

KTM 790 Duke
KTM 790 Duke

While the motorcycle may be here by the end of 2019 (or God knows when), we could not wait anymore and therefore, we decided to swing a leg over this middleweight hooligan in Dubai. And what’s better, as a measuring scale, we also brought along the KTM 1290 Superduke R in order to gauge if the parallel-twin Duke is really ‘The Scalpel’ it is being made out to be.

Starting with the looks, we do not even have to say anything. All the Dukes look radical and that is not a bad thing, at least not when it comes to KTM’s radicals. But the best part, according to us, is the subtlety with which the KTM 790 Duke pulls its radical act off. Look at it from the front, and without any further ado, one can deem it as a pure-blood KTM because of the LED headlights in that mean-looking shroud. But explore it from other angles and it’s… so compact. It does not look intimidating at all. The blinkers on the front are an eyesore though.

The sculpted tank, that peculiar sub-frame, the high-slung exhaust etc just ease into your eyes and soul in a way that the motorcycle immediately endears itself to you. The colours, both Black and Orange are dual-tone and without being overly enthusiastic, are pleasing to the eyes. In addition to the design, the build quality is top-notch too and everything on the motorcycle, from the switchgear to the rubber on the pegs, feels premium. Now, according to us, the motorcycle looks fantastic but then, other people’s opinions may differ because everyone has their own perspective and ways to look at things.

KTM 790 Duke

On our trips to Dubai and on the multiple bikes that we have ridden there, one thing that has not changed is the heat. And it gets worse in India with the amount of dust in our air. These things have been troubling motorcyclists for a long time. This time around though, the elements did not bother us a lot because of this nifty piece of tech called BluSnap2 from BluArmor. It can be called an AC that you can snap on to your helmet and keep your head cool even in sweltering weather. This little device is battery-operated and creates a microclimate around you that is 6-15 degrees lower than the ambient temperature. In addition to that, the integrated filter blocks out the dust particles giving you access to clean and cool air inside your helmet. It also has a built-in defogging feature which keeps your visor and glasses fog-free in rainy or cold weather. You can snap it on in less than 10 seconds on your full-face helmet and a single charge will give you more than 10 hours of cool and dust-free air during your motorcycle rides! We have tested it in Dubai. We have tested it in India. And it works as expected. Kudos to the team at BluArmor for coming up with such a wonderful and easy-to-use device!

KTM 790 Duke
KTM 790 Duke
KTM 790 Duke

The parallel-twin dubbed as the LC8c is a first for a KTM. The folks at Mattighofen did consider a V-twin but the parallel-twin made for a more compact motor and with the KTM 790 Duke, the mission was to keep it as compact and lightweight as possible. The name of the motor, LC8c stands for Liquid-cooled 8-Valve compact! And what KTM was able to achieve is apparent even visually as the 790 Duke’s engine looks just a tad bigger than the single-cylinder unit employed on the 690 Duke.

KTM did not want the 790 Duke to lose the characteristics of its bigger V-twin siblings and that is why the forged crankshaft of the engine has the pins offset by 75° with a 435° firing order. That helps the engine mimic the sound and character of its bigger and rowdier siblings. Also, the LC8c unit has two counter-balancers; the primary one located down by the crank and another smaller one gear-driven off of the exhaust cam. This was done in order to make the engine as smooth and refined as possible as the engine is the stressed member of the frame.

KTM 790 Duke gets a slipper-clutch (PASC or Power Assist Slipper Clutch in KTM speak) which reduces the clutch effort in addition to preventing the wheel-hop caused by the reverse torque during aggressive downshifts. A special addition though is the Quickshifter+ which allows clutchless upshifts and downshifts! An inherent addition because of the above is a ride-by-wire system with 4 modes namely Rain, Street, Sport, and Track.

The electronics suite on the KTM 790 Duke is quite comprehensive too. An inertial measurement unit, traction control, cornering ABS, and Supermoto ABS, all coming together to provide the rider with the maximum amount of riding fun without compromising on the safety front.

The chassis is a tubular, chrome-moly steel frame that, as mentioned before, uses the engine as the stressed member. There is a bolt-on subframe too which is just… bare. KTM has stated that the above setup ensures the right amount of flex and feedback from the chassis. Among all the exquisite components on duty, the suspension is rather lacklustre (only relatively though). 43 mm forks at the front are not adjustable and the rear shock is preload adjustable. 300 mm dual-discs up-front, grabbed by radially-mounted, 4-piston KTM branded callipers manufactured by J.Juan, and the 240 mm disc at the rear, grabbed by a single-piston calliper, handle the braking duties.

Pushing the starter on the KTM 790 Duke is such a joy and it leaves one in such disbelief over the fact that the motor that just came to life, is a parallel-twin! It sounds so beautifully brutish and yet, mild. Blipping the throttle gives one an idea that this is one quick-revving motor. Clutch modulation requires minimal effort and it’s almost ironical that it is not used a lot after the launch because of the quickshifter.

Slotting into the first gear is crisp and it’s all Wunderbar afterwards. The motorcycle gets moving quickly and skimming through the gears is pure joy, be it upshifting or downshifting, because of the quickshifter. The noise from the exhaust and the engine remind one of some amazing oxymorons such as a beautiful racket. And if that isn’t enough, downshift quickly enough and you are greeted with that oh-so-loved patta-pat-pat-patt. We are in motorcycle heaven!

Coming to the performance from the engine, the LC8c makes 103 bhp of power and 87 Nm of torque. While the numbers may not seem all that impressive, it’s the realization of those numbers on the road that matters. And the 790 Duke does that beautifully. The torque is available from down low and motorcycle lunges forward with eagerness. The revs build up quickly and the power band of the 790 Duke is very linear. It pulls almost relentlessly to its 9000 rpm redline. We can just imagine how engaging a motorcycle it will be on the racetrack in Track Mode… Especially because it weighs just 169 kg dry!

The fueling is also spot-on and that stands true in all the modes. There is no hint of any jerkiness during throttle transitions no matter how abruptly you try to do that. That said, the motorcycle does feel a bit… edgy below the 2000 rpm redline but it’s all meadows and sunshine afterwards.

The best part? All the efforts from the engineers to keep this motorcycle as light and compact as possible pay off the most in the handling department. Because of being lightweight and possessing a sharp-ish rake, directional changes on the KTM 790 Duke are lightning-fast. Putting it into corners is deceptively quick and so is correcting or adjusting lines mid-corner. The poise and stability with which it goes around a bend is nothing short of magical. This motorcycle is immensely easy and fun to ride hard!

Many people might complain about the suspensions’ lack of adjustability but it is almost never felt. The factory settings on the KTM 790 Duke are so good that it never lets one feel the lack of adjustability. The suspension is very… progressive. It’s soft initially to absorb the undulations of the road and then gets stiffer to facilitate its fantastic handling mannerisms. With that, we’d like to add that if you want to do some stupid-fast laps around a racetrack, the adjustable suspension might be needed.

Brakes are generally good but because of the high standards set by the bike in all the other departments, they could use a little improvement. The only issue is the initial bite. There’s no lack of power in the brakes but it’s just that you need to grab a handful to unleash that power. The progressiveness and feel and feedback are admirable though. A reason for this could be to not intimidate new riders but still, a little more initial bite would have been welcome.

Ergonomically the KTM 790 Duke is very well set up and offers a good blend of comfortable yet sporty riding position. The icing on the cake is the adjustable handlebar which provides 4 different bar locations depending on the rider’s preference. The footpegs are also not too rear-set and overall the 790 Duke stays comfortable even after long hours in the saddle. The windblast due to the lack of a windscreen, inherent to naked roadsters, can be a bit of a bother on highways. 

KTM 790 Duke
KTM 790 Duke
KTM 790 Duke

The rear camera module on the OnePlus 6T is capable of recording 1080P videos at 240 fps and 720p videos at 480 fps! Our weapon of choice for posting those fantastic super slo-mo videos. In addition to that, it can shoot 4K videos too at either 30 or 60 fps!

KTM 790 Duke

The Carbonado GT backpack that we used is one cool made-in-India backpack. Features like waterproof zippers, an insulated pouch for water or refreshments, and antitheft retractable cable lock make it an ideal companion for motorcyclists.

Overall, the KTM 790 Duke is a fantastic package and despite some stark differences from the rest of the Duke lineup, it is still everything a Duke should be. It’s powerful, nimble, handles like a dream and looks menacing. Now only if KTM is kind enough to let it loose on Indian roads…

Are we forgetting something? No, we are not because one does not simply forget the riding experience of a KTM 1290 Superduke R. Afterall, riding a motorcycle with 174 bhp of power, 141 Nm of torque and 195 kg of dry weight makes for a rather unforgettable experience. Like it is a tradition with all KTMs, the Superduke R has a sorted chassis, a comprehensive suite of electronics that make it a heck of tool on a racetrack. Its ability to go around a bend rivals one of the best handling motorcycles in the world.

The best part of a Superduke R is its… dual-nature. What we mean is that it is rather tame below 6,000-6,500 rpm but goes ballistic afterwards i.e. a sedate machine on the street and a beast when let loose. The only real gripe we have with it is the rather low ground clearance which sees one scraping pegs and the hard parts rather early.

KTM 790 Duke

The KTM 790 Duke is a really capable motorcycle and it is very well equipped to deal with the many rivals it has in the segment. We cannot wait to have our hands on it again but this time, we’d like it to be in India. The Superduke 1290 R, however, is a different beast altogether and though it already has a rival (and one is on its way), it is still one of the craziest naked you can get your hands on.

tags
1290 Superduke
1290 Superduke R
790 Duke
KTM 1290 Superduke
KTM 1290 Superduke R
KTM 790 Duke

Benelli TRK 502X Review: A little (too) big adventure!

500CC 46.9BHP 46NM

Australia is like our second home but despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, we always end up doing something- anything but vacationing. We went around the vast continent riding for 20,000 km on a Ninja H2 and a Ducati Panigale 1299 (2017). We have traversed the terrain of the continent aboard a Ducati Multistrada (2013) and a Hyosung GT650 (2007) and then some… So why should this time be any different? The steed this time around is a Benelli TRK 502X, though it seems just like a run to the cafe compared to our mammoth 20000 km plus trip in Australia on a Ninja H2 and a Ducati Panigale in 2017!

Benelli has an abundance of history when it comes to making motorcycles. It has a history in India too and of course, with xBhp as well.

Benelli is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturing companies which was founded in 1911 in Pesaro, Italy by Teresa Benelli. Teresa became a widow and decided to invest all her savings into a small garage to secure the future of her 6 sons – Giuseppe, Giovanni, Filippo, Francesco, Domenico and Antonio “Tonino” Benelli. The workshop repaired bicycles and motorcycles and also produced spares for cars/bikes. They also produced guns for the Italian military during the First World War. Benelli produced their first motorcycle engine, a single-cylinder 2-stroke 75 cc machine, and it was put into a bicycle frame but it didn’t work that well. They built their first proper motorcycle in 1921 and have never looked back since. Benelli won many racing championships in Italy and Europe, thanks to Tonino Benelli, who was a gifted rider. The company went on to produce many different motorcycles for civilian and military use, including some groundbreaking models like a 250cc supercharged engine in 1940. Over its 100+ year history, Benelli has seen many ups and downs, the most prominent of them being the complete destruction of its factories during World War II and then shut down in 1988 due to declining sales. But each time, the company has risen up from the ashes like a phoenix and has given us some really desirable machines. Associated with one of the best looking (and best-sounding) motorcycles in history, Benelli has not seen the best of days in recent times. Now, a part of the Chinese group, Qianjiang, Benelli forayed in the Indian motorcycle market with the DSK Group but that did not go as well as Benelli would have expected. And since then, in India at least, Benelli has been, more or less, dormant. But when you have 108 years of heritage on the line, backing down is not an option. So, Benelli came back to India with Adishwar Auto Ride International (AARI), a subsidiary of Mahavir Group. DSK, in the hands of very abled and august, Mr.Shirish Kulkarni, had done amazing work in creating a solid foundation for the brand in India. And we are sure the new parents will take this rich brand ahead in India with the same fervour.

Our first brush with Benelli in India, you can read more about that encounter here 

Coming down to xBhp, we had the pleasure of racing a Benelli 1130 TNT in the 2015 JKChamponship and also decking up our Benelli 899 in VR46 livery and taking it to the track. We have to admit that even today, the design of the naked TNT blows most motorcycles out of the water, and that’s more than a decade old design!

That’s us, racing a Benelli TNT 1130 in the JK Tyre Championship Superbike Cup, this was the only naked motorcycle against all the race-prepped sports bikes there…and yet we managed to get a respectable place in the final score sheet!

Our Benelli 899 draped in VR46 livery – Forza Vale!


The most exotic Benelli – Benelli Tornado 1130 – that we rode during our #100Motorcycles project. You can read more about it here!

A brief history of time

When a brand manages to live for almost 110 years and still shows renewed promise, then reliving it is nothing short of being in a time capsule. Here we look at Benelli from 1911 till today, briefly.

historya
historyb

First things first: Chinese? Err, Is that a problem?

In today’s day of a connected world where everything is vetted and cross-examined in the blink of an eye by armchair enthusiasts, we feel that a certain resistance to Chinese products remains. The fact is that this kind of reservation is shared by the developed countries for products made in India. Aren’t they? In fact, we are the biggest critics of our own Indian made products, riding gears for example. How is a company like Axor and Rynox supposed to rise up to the quality and prestige of brands like AGV and Dainese in a matter of a few months or years? But our brands are doing well!

Drawing an analogy to the Chinese, as creative guys, we have seen the best of the products being ‘Made in China’. And not only ‘made’, the world’s best camera drones and similar equipment, DJI, is entirely a Chinese venture from the ground up. It came as a shocking revelation. Similarly, Pirelli and Metzeler now have a new technical owner, ChemChina, with almost 46% stake in the company. Surprised?

It would have been more shocking if a brand like Benelli would have shut down due to lack of money, and dwindling interest and marketing prowess for the brand. Now owned by the Qianjiang Motorcycle Company it still continues to churn out fantastic looking bikes like the 502.

Sure there will be some niggles here and there, but the world is looking east and the future lies here in India and China.

Let’s start with the Looks

Everything automotive that has even the slightest touch of Italy, turns out to be a looker. With Benelli though, the scenario has been a bit… different. Their motorcycles are beautiful but take some time to grow on one. In some cases, they don’t at all. But the TRK 502X looks to break that tradition as the motorcycle looks fantastic. The familiar ADV beak, somewhat dual-purpose tyres, bigger front wheel and the generous use of metal in the build make for a motorcycle the presence (and weight) of which cannot be missed. But the biggest factor contributing to the attention-magnet personality of the TRK 502X is the size. Damn this thing is litre-class ADV big! If someone isn’t very well-versed with the motorcycle or if they aren’t carrying the brochure, they cannot say with confidence that this motorcycle is a middleweight.

The attention to detail is very Italian in some places and then very non-Italian in some places. The front fascia looks very good with the beak and the aggressive headlamps. The 19” wheel at the front reaffirms the off-roading intent of the TRK 502X. The wheels at both the ends (17” at the rear) are spoked and are shod with Metzeler Tourance tyres making the intent of the motorcycle clear. It is undeniable that it looks similar to the Ducati Multistrada, but then is it a fantastic compliment or not? That’s something for each one of us to decide! But there is no denying – it is a beautiful bike.

We mentioned generous use of metal while introducing the motorcycle and it starts right from the front. The tall and wide windscreen is mounted on a metal bracket. Then we have the crash guards on the sides and the muscular tank adds to dem big bike feels. On the rear, we have mounts for panniers and a bolt-on carrier for luggage or a top box. The engine cover is classic

Benelli which has an appeal of its own and features a small metal bash plate for the off-the-tarmac shenanigans. The beefy upswept exhaust end-can looks really cool with twin rectangular exit-holes. And like every other Benelli, it sounds like a million bucks and we seriously want to ask the folks at Benelli about how they do it.

The switchgear is alright although the ABS button on the mirror stalks is a bit… quirky, for the lack of a better word. Now, the instrument cluster is an analogue-digital unit and in this age of fully digital consoles, it just seems a tad outdated. We don’t really complain because an analogue tachometer has a charm of its own. In the digital part of the screen, we have a temperature gauge, a fuel-level indicator, a gear position indicator, trip meters and such. Nothing fancy here. What is fancy (or functional) is the inclusion of a centre stand as standard. That is very thoughtful of Benelli. The overall fit and finish are pretty darn good except for a few weld marks here and there.

Here’s how the Benelli TRK 502x fares size wise against some of the other motorcycles in its family, and outside! 

The BMW F 750 GS and the TRK 502X side by side

With the KTM 1190 Adventure

And with our Ninja H2…

Performance

The TRK 502X is propelled by a 500cc, DOHC, Liquid-cooled, 8-valve inline-twin engine that makes around 47 Bhp of power at 8500rpm and 46 Nm of torque at 6000rpm. The power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a 6-speed gearbox. Nothing spectacular here and the ordinary-ness, of the engine and its technical aspects, is even more pronounced when one considers the weight of the motorcycle. But the TRK 502X’s performance asks for some time to let it grow on you. The power delivery is very linear, the refinements levels are really good and noticeable vibrations creep in only after around 6000rpm.

The TRK 502X is a highway hero. It does not excite the rider like a sportbike but then, the TRK 502X is not supposed to be one. For munching miles, there are not a lot of machines out there which are better than it. The engine is very tractable too. It can do 120-130 km/h all day without breaking a sweat and there’s still enough grunt left for overtaking other vehicles. Not that you will find many doing those speeds consistently, at least in India. The fueling is also on point but we would have liked just a tad bit more grunt in the lower rev-range.

As we stated earlier, the vibrations are there but only in the higher rev-range and this is not the type of motorcycle that you’d want to wring to the moon. Even if you do, the vibrations are not enough to discourage a buying decision. One of the things that deserve a special mention is the gearbox. It is so slick and smooth that even the process of slotting into the first gear after neutral is devoid of the clunk. The clutch action is also rather effortless and it does not strain the rider even in stop-and-go traffic conditions. The heat management also deserves a special mention because the heat from the engine does not bother the rider while strutting around in the city.

For shooting videos on the go we use the Sony FDR-X3000 Action Camera. The image stabilization on these cameras is simply unparalleled! As far as we know, the Sony action cameras the only action cameras with optical stabilization. It can shoot at 4K and 120/100 FPS and has the Carl-Zeiss lens for that extra crisp image quality. The camera body itself is splash-proof, freeze-proof, shock-proof and waterproof (up to 60 m) casing in addition to the 16 GB memory card that came bundled with the camera.

Using a hefty camera is not possible in every scenario and therefore, a quick camera is the need of the hour for people like us. The 16/20 MP dual camera setup on the OnePlus 6T coupled with the Snapdragon 845 processor and up to 10 GB of LPDDR4X RAM in addition to up to 256 GB of internal storage works wonderfully even when you are using it in the burst mode. And it can take up to 20 images of approximately 16 MP each in a single burst so that you can take a crisp photo even in those blink-and-miss situations.

Handling and Ergonomics

The TRK 502X is big and it is hefty. But more than anything, it is quite tall. The seat height is 840mm which makes it a task to saddle up. But once you do, the ergonomics are very accommodating. The seat is big and the cushioning is perfectly balanced to make sure that long hours in the saddle do not turn into a saddle-sore. The reach to the handlebars is comfortable and the overall rider’s triangle shows that this motorcycle is meant to go long distances and get you a lot of attention as well. The big windscreen is deft at keeping the headwinds at bay and thus, enhancing the overall comfort of riding on the highways at triple-digits.

The handling of the TRK 502X is what surprised us the most. Not that we did not expect it to be a good handler but with the 19” front wheel, dual-purpose tyres and 235 kg of net weight do tend to limit one’s expectations. But the TRK 502X surprised us by the way it goes through corners. Straight-line stability was a given with the long wheelbase and the 19” front wheel but the TRK 502X is surprisingly adept when the going gets curved considering the kind of bike it is. While we may not know how all the Benellis sound the way they do, we may know how the TRK 502X handles the way it does. It is probably the sharp-ish rake…

Handling of the TRK 502X also comes down to the chunky 50mm forks at the front. The rear suspension is a Hydraulic Monoshock unit with adjustable rebound & preload. The setup is supple and tackles the imperfections on the tarmac with aplomb on the factory settings (for the average rider). Though for hardcore fun in the corners, the suspension may be a bit too soft. But then if someone tries that with a bulky ADV-tourer, the motorcycle should turn into a sentient being, take their helmet off and slap them!

The Metzeler Tourance rubber deserves a special mention because, despite the chunky-blocky tread, the suckers provide a lot of grip on the tarmac! Coming to the brakes, the TRK 502X gets twin 320mm petal discs up front and a single 260mm disc at the rear. The brakes are in-house and they perform decently with enough power to bring the bike to a halt without a lot of drama. Progression and feel at the lever are the departments where things could have been a tad bit better. ABS is standard and of course… switchable.

With great ‘capturing’ power, comes great ‘editing’ responsibility. With that, comes the need for some serious processing power coupled with easy portability. Lenovo ThinkPad P1  is what we rely on when it comes to editing high-quality pictures and videos on the go. With 8th gen Intel Core-i7 processor, Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM and 512 GB of storage space in the form of a PCIe SSD, this laptop packs as much grunt as most motorcycles while weighing just a bit more than 1.5 kg! 

Off the tarmac

Before we start this section, we would like to write it on the wall that ADV-tourers are not meant to be serious off-roading motorcycles. And a couple of slides with a disengaged rear ABS is not off-roading either.  There, we said it. So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk TRK 502X. If mild trails are your thing, the TRK 502X will be fine. If you want to go dune bashing, get a dirt-bike. The TRK 502X’s long-travel suspension, 220mm of ground clearance and the Metzeler Tourance tyres can handle mild off-roading but not the serious stuff. At least not unless you have some serious training under your belt.

The TRK 502X has a bigger front wheel which is spoked, a wide handlebar for leverage and the beak to make it seem like something that is meant to go off-road. Even the footpegs have removable rubber paddings to facilitate off-road riding. But… it is a bit difficult to stand up on the footpegs and hold the motorcycle because of the sharp protrusions on the fuel tank. Off the tarmac is where the heft and size of this motorcycle are the most apparent. And then dropping this 235 kg motorcycle is not a good idea because with the crash guards, the bike may not get seriously hurt but picking it up might just leave the rider in a bad state of tune physically!

Little things

So, little things that matter- the mileage; the TRK 502X will probably be able to manage around 25 km/l and 28 km/l in city riding and on the highways, respectively. This gives the TRK 502X a good range between full tanks with the massive 20L fuel tank. The headlights offer decent visibility when the sun is down and the TRK 502X will make for a not-so-difficult riding experience in the night. The rear-view mirrors offer good visibility and the refined engine makes sure that the view isn’t fuzzy. Like we mentioned before, the build quality is decent overall with a few niggles like some weld marks here and there. And finally, the exhaust note… do we even need to say anything here? It’s bassy, raspy and the symphony just gets better as the revs build up.

Differences between the 502 and the 502X

Now, as we stated earlier, the Benelli TRK comes in two flavours; the plain-jane 502 and the ambitious 502X. There’s not a lot that differentiates the two but the first visual cue is the graphics. While the 502 is rather plain with solid colours, the 502X tries its hand on some funk with graphics on the fairing and so. But what really tells the two apart, is the exhaust. The 502 has an underbelly exhaust while the 502X sports an upswept exhaust.

Another noticeable difference shows itself when one swings a leg over both the bikes. The seat height of the 502 is 800mm and the 502X sits much higher at 840mm. Also, the ground clearance of the 502 is 190mm while the 502X sports a ground clearance of 220mm.

The 502 features 17” alloy wheels on both the ends wrapped in Pirelli Angel GT tyres (Front – 120/70 | Rear – 160/60) while the 502X sports more off-road-oriented setup with spoked wheels, 19” on the front and 17” rear wrapped in Metzeler Tourance rubber (Front – 110/80 | Rear – 150/70).

The state of tune of the suspension is different between the two and the 502X’s rear suspension has 5mm extra travel. In the braking department, the bikes differ slightly in the sense that the 502 has regular discs while the 502X gets petal discs and the callipers are also mounted in a different manner.

The biggest (and the one that matters the most) difference is the price. The Benelli TRK 502 retails at INR 5.1 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom) and the Benelli TRK 502X retails at INR 5.5 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom).

Verdict

Verdict, eh? This is always the hardest part but one of the most important too since it might help a fellow rider make a decision. So, the Benelli TRK 502X ticks a lot of right boxes. It looks fantastic. The sheer size of it is enough to attract a lot of eyeballs which, we must say, is something everyone would want when they spend more than INR 5 Lakhs on a motorcycle. INR 5.5 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom, India) to be precise. Also, a lot depends on the after-sales service and spares availability, but let us tell you that unless you are going for a mass selling bike like the Bajaj Dominar, these things are always going to be a bit of an issue, at least for a few years to come with any big bike brand.

Since it is the first ADV-tourer from the house of Benelli, the TRK 502X is not devoid of scope for improvement. But do we have a better option for a middleweight ADV-tourer in this price bracket? We came up with a list of a few possible competitors for the TRK 502X, none of which are a direct competition of course. The two closest ones in terms of engine size and the number of cylinders would be the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT. While the Versys may be considered by a few to be a tad bit better, it is pricier and that too by almost 1.3 Lakhs. The Suzuki V-Strom XT, praised the world over for being a fantastic motorcycle, is undercut by the TRK 502X by almost 2 Lakhs!

The next one in line would be the SWM Superdual T, which has been hailed as a very capable motorcycle off the tarmac. But it is a single-cylinder motorcycle and a bit too off-road biased to make it as capable a tourer as the TRK 502X and yet, the TRK 502X is 1.1 Lakhs cheaper. Though the comparison of the BMW G 310 GS, Kawasaki Versys X 300 and Royal Enfield Himalayan with the TRK 502X may not seem very logical, the Benelli still makes a very strong case for itself. All said and done, give or take a few lakhs, for the asking price, the Benelli TRK 502X will make sure that the money is well spent. And even more so for the ones who are in it for the long-haul.

tags
Benelli
Benelli TRK 502X
TRK 502X

Bavarian Track Tools: Our Race-Spec S1000RR vs the 2019 S1000RR

999 / 999CC 209 / 207BHP 114 / 113NM

We all know what the Indian summer is like. But how about a track day in the peak of summer and that too on a full-blown litre-class race-prepped motorcycle? The heat from the sun, the heat from the sweltering tarmac, the heat from the 1000cc 4-cylinder racebike (like our BMW S1000RR)… full leathers and a full-face helmet. Not the most comfortable state a man can be in, to say the least. But what about the engine that we just mentioned? Let’s talk about it.

All of you may already know that our BMW S1000RR is a race-prepped motorcycle. Race-fairings, lighter weight, and performance mods to churn out more power out of that engine. The result is better acceleration, better top speed, better handling and better braking. Talking about the performance, it takes more than just mods to get the best out of an engine. It needs the engine to be running in optimum condition. And finally, that needs one to take care of two of the biggest enemies of an engine; friction and heat.

While building an engine may be rocket-science, understanding why friction and heat are not good for an engine is not. Countless moving parts, from the tiny ones like valves and cam-lobes to big ones like pistons, all work in tandem to make the engine work. This movement, or should we say rapid movement, causes wear and tear because of the friction. This friction, in addition to the wear and tear, produces heat. In layman terms, heat causes expansion. And since most of the parts sit flush against each other for maximum efficiency, expansion, even of the slightest degree, can cause a whole lot of damage.

While these engineering marvels are designed considering all the above factors and have safeguards in place, conditions, like we mentioned in the beginning, are enough to penetrate those. Engine oil, or more appropriately good engine oil, can neutralise that and alleviate the harm caused by friction and heat. We have been using Castrol POWER1 RACING for as long as we can remember. It helped take care of our Ninja H2 during the PowerTrip360, one of our most arduous trips, so it was a no-brainer that we employed its services for keeping our race-prepped BMW S1000RR cool and safe.

Accelerating out of a corner is almost always the deciding factor in who gains the upper hand in the race. Castrol claims the NEW Castrol POWER1 RACING is proven to stay strong and deliver acceleration in race track conditions thereby providing ultimate acceleration – 2.2 seconds quicker* than key competition. Therefore, Castrol POWER1 RACING is our engine oil of choice for our race track exploits. Disclaimer: *New Castrol POWER1 RACING 4T 10W-50 completed a 5.2 km test cycle 2.2 seconds quicker than a competitor 10W-40, in a 3-stage acceleration test conducted by Castrol, using a 4-cylinder supersport engine.

After topping up our steed with Castrol POWER1 RACING 10W-50, we went out on the track. After a warm-up lap, we really let it loose. Accelerating hard from the start line, braking hard (coupled with engine braking) for a turn, and accelerating hard out of a corner, the stress on the engine is more than palpable. But the effects of the engine oil are also palpable. No degradation in performance, no drop in acceleration, and no excess stress on the engine. And therefore, we can safely say that Castrol POWER1 RACING delivers on its promise of ultimate acceleration!

A fortunate happenstance as it may be, but not long after the performance test of our race-prepped BMW S1000RR, BMW Motorrad India announced the launch of the new BMW S1000RR. And where? The Buddh International Circuit; the place where we were testing our own previous-gen Race-prepped S1000RR. We are not ones to draw comparisons but this… this was just too opportune to miss out on that. Knowing that right from the first-gen, the BMW S1000RR has been a formidable machine, we wanted to know if the Bavarians actually made it significantly better and so, here it goes- the first ride-review of the 2019 BMW S1000RR.

We’ll talk about the design first because right from the unveiling to this day, the design has been the biggest talking point of the 2019 BMW S1000RR. The reason is that the asymmetrical headlights are gone and are replaced by slimmer and sharper LED headlamps. But even in this new avatar, it is a looker. It is slimmer, sharper and looks pretty darn good, especially in the M-Sport livery.

While the looks of the motorcycle are debatable (like they are in case of every motorcycle), one thing that’s undisputed is the performance of the motorcycle. Starting with the engine, it makes more power than before and weighs less. The sorcery involved in achieving this feat is beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. But an example can be that the titanium intake valves are hollow-bored!

The exhaust has lost more than a kilogram of weight. Overall, the engine alone has lost around 4 kg of weight! It now makes 207 bhp of power and 113 Nm of torque. 8 Bhp is a significant increase but the star of the show is the BMW ShiftCam technology. Because of this, the motorcycle now boasts of a solid midrange and without losing out on the screaming top-end that it had before.

The result of all this is that the motorcycle accelerates harder and you are almost always in the powerband around the track. Charge out of the corners with the throttle wide open and the power delivery leaves you spellbound. The gearbox is slick and with the quickshifter, you can just skim through the gears as you race to chase the redline in every gear and see everything around you morph into nothing but a blur.

The weight-loss journey continues as we move to the chassis as the perimeter frame has also lost more than a kilogram! The engine now has more load as the stressed member of the frame and that has enabled the engineers to make the frame thinner and thus exhibit better flex characteristics. The geometry has been revised as well and the motorcycle has a sharper rake and a longer wheelbase which make the motorcycle more receptive to inputs. In the ergonomics department as well, the bars are wider and a bit higher to make for a relatively comfortable riding position considering that it is a full-blown superbike.

All that has contributed to making the 2019 BMW S1000RR more agile and poised when compared to the older model. The motorcycle changes direction quickly and sticks to the desired line like it is on rails. Even mid-corner corrections do not unsettle the bike as there’s loads of feedback from the chassis. The suspension is very well sorted and the brakes, though slightly devoid of initial bite, possess enough power to bring the motorcycle to a halt once to grab a handful of brake.

With electronic aids like ABS Pro (cornering ABS), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Hill Start Control (HSC), Launch Control and Pit Lane Limiter, the 2019 BMW S1000RR’s ferocious power, is easily accessible and safely exploitable. Add to that a super-nifty and connected 6.5-inch TFT display serving as your command centre and it makes the motorcycle into a complete package on the electronics front.

The 2019 BMW S1000RR is a very capable motorcycle and it is evident from the fact that this is its first year in WSBK (with Shaun Muir Racing Team, and riders Tom Sykes and Markus Reiterberger) and it already has a podium. The time we got aboard the 2019 BMW S1000RR was not nearly enough to test it out fully and considering what a lasting first impression it had on us, we can’t wait to get more of it.

tags
2019 BMW S1000RR
2019 S1000RR