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When two motorcycles enter a corner together, both trying to get the perfect line, they end up touching and once in a while taking each other out. Motorcycle racing at such times does become a contact sport. Here, the DSK Benelli 302R is figuratively fairing bashing with the competition in India, as it tries to dive up the inside of the corner to take the lead. Will it come out tops or scuttle the competition?
The 302 is a bike seemingly tailor made for the Indian market, it looks bigger than a quarter litre, sounds better than most and oozes chutzpah. From a distance the bike looks bigger than it actually is. Multiple people asked me if it was a 600cc motorcycle as I roamed the streets of Delhi, and that was with the engine shut off! Once in motion, onlookers were convinced that it is indeed a 600 and I am misinformed. Oh well, that’s a confusion that no owner would mind!
We rode one in the silver and green paint which does a good job of reminding one of the magnificent Tornado 1130. The silver top half with the green tail and grey black bottom fairing are pleasing to the eye. On closer inspection the sculpted tank and exhaust really grab your attention; along with the twin discs up front (not something you usually see on a bike this size) the Benelli emblem embossed just below the tank and the shiny engine casing makes for a sweet looking package. Overall fit and finish along with the paintwork is satisfactory. The bike looks good, but does it do the business?
Throw a leg onto the motorcycle; settle into the saddle and two things are apparent. One, you nestle into the bike; you are sitting in the bike and not on the bike. Two, this is perfect for riders who aren’t tall; the majority will be able to flat foot the bike with ease. The bike’s ergonomics are skewered in favour of comfort rather than outright sportiness.
Turn the key and thumb the starter and the 302 settles into a lovely thrum, as the engine idles steadily without any hiccups on a cold start. Pull in the tad heavier weighed clutch, slot the bike into first and let loose the in-line twin as you immediately feel the Benelli genes. The company has got the aural pitch spot on with the 302 as it has with all its other motorcycles sold here. As you wind up the throttle it sounds like a million bucks and pulls cleanly through the gears.
The 38 odd bhp of power and 27 Nm of torque does not launch you fiercely through the air, but it does have sufficient grunt as long as you are throttle happy. A gentle right wrist or a pillion on board and the fun is substantially diminished. The 190 kg weight is what plays spoilsport here and in the handling department as well.
Once in motion, you will enjoy the stability of the bike at higher speeds in a straight line. Corners are no problem as the bike tips into a turn with a firm nudge on the handlebars. The steel trellis frame does its job well of getting you through the turn without any fuss. The Metzelers play a pivotal role in keeping the 302 glued as if on rails. The one place it is lacking in is the slow speed manoeuvrability in traffic. It isn’t easy to throw around and change direction as you filter through traffic. It doesn’t feel intuitive. An effort needs to be made and once again the culprit here seems to be the weight and longer wheelbase.
Braking on the 302 is good, not exceptional. The twin 260mm floating discs upfront and 240mm single at the rear will get the bike stopped in a hurry without any drama, but it isn’t razor sharp as you would want from a sports bike. This is a good thing for newer riders who tend to be wary of disc brakes which bite hard! ABS is switchable, so you can have fun without the interference of nosy electronics! The safety net is always there if you so need it. The ABS was setup nicely as it wasn’t intrusive when braking hard and thus chances are you won’t ever bother switching it off. Even though there is a nice big button standing out on the handlebar tempting you to push it!
Suspension on the motorcycle is perfect for our urban roads. It doesn’t keep the rider in suspense when going over broken and patchy asphalt. The 41mm USD forks and 45mm mono-shock keep the rider grounded at all times. Bumps and undulations are absorbed with aplomb and you cannot help but be appreciative of your happy bum, aided in no small measure by the firm yet comfortable saddle. The suspension is setup for comfort and might feel a bit soft on a track, but to be honest, there are not a lot of buyers who are going to ride it on a racetrack.
The gearbox on the bike is very smooth and you can shift quickly and smoothly through the gears even when you are revving it up to glory. Downshifts are precise as well and at no point did we hit any false neutrals. The gearbox is one of the nicest bits on this motorcycle. Even in 5th gear one can chug along in the 30s without the engine knocking, but you do need to downshift to accelerate.
Working the clutch will tire out the rider in heavy traffic but feels nice when moving swiftly. There is engine buzz at higher revs but not so much to take away from the pleasure of the ride.
The console is simple and clear. No frills, but gets the job done. The analogue tachometer is coupled with a digital display indicating the speed, clock, odo, gear indicator, temperature and the other tell-tale lights. Switchgear on the 302 is satisfactory and smooth, falling to hand naturally. The front brake lever is adjustable, so those with short stubby fingers will have no problem with reach. The RVMs are okay, showing a decent amount of action behind you. Another happy note is that the bike doesn’t heat up in traffic. Though to be honest we didn’t quite encounter peak hour traffic, but the little first gear traffic we did face was a breeze.
So who should go for the 302R? Someone who wants to enjoy the joy of a quarter litre in-line twin packaged in a nice big fairing! Someone who isn’t looking for outright performance, but a bike which will look the part and still be comfortable enough to be used on a daily basis. The only downside being the excessive weight.
Right now with the BS IV Yamaha R3 not yet launched and Kawasaki finding its feet after the break away from Bajaj, the opportunity is ripe for DSK Benelli to seize the moment in this niche market. That depends a lot on how the company handles after sales support, one of the biggest challenges across manufacturers here. The 302R faces stiff competition from the Ninja 300 and R3 as both models have diehard fans as customers, but the Benelli is plenty different from the other two so as to attract its own set of riders.
Photos: Thulashi Dharan J & Mohit Gena
Read owners reviews on the xBhp Forums: Benelli 302 Ownership Thread