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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 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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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, 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.