We have lots of new stuff to talk about with our 2015 Beta 430RR test bike. I confess it took a while for the 430 to show its real colors. Part of this was the long break in period for both motor and suspension. Neither really started to come alive until we reached the 200 mile mark. On top of that, the motor characteristics of this new displacement are quite unique. Some of the true benefits are very subtle. This isn’t hit you over the head kind of power. But it is power that works when you need it. The 430RR doesn’t easily fit into any chategory, it is not a 450, nor is it a 350. It creates a new category of its own.
For a bike that looks remarkably similar to its predecessors, there is a plenty of new inside the 2015 Beta line. Most notable are the substantially changed motors and choices of displacement; 390, 430 and 480.
Here is look at some of what is new in the motor
That is a quite a bit to take in for one model year. The 430 displacement is created by keeping the traditional 450cc 95mm bore and using a shorter 60.8mm connecting rod. Beta claims that the new motor allows the smaller displacement to keep the same power as the previous 450RR while gaining the added benefit of the shorter stroke for slower piston speeds and reduced inertia.
While the new 350RR gets fuel injection, the rest of the line up sticks with the carburetor. The 430 has a Keihin FCR-MX 39.
Chassis changes are minimal for 2015. The 48mm open chamber Sachs fork gets reworked to reduce friction. Improved oil flow is aimed at helping absorb sharp impacts more progressively. The shock remains substantially the same. The seat gets softer foam and new graphics all around.
Make no mistake about it, the Beta is a nice bike. The fit and finish are superb. During testing, I could not ever find anything to detract from that sense of quality. The Beta is not quite like anything else. With the new change in displacement, that fact becomes even more obvious. It refuses to fit into an one category.
Now about that motor. While it likes to go fast, it loves to go slow. Equally, at times it feels fast and at others it feels slow. I am not saying it is slow, it just feels that way some times.
So where does that leave the 430RR? For play bike kind of power it is awesome. It is super easy to ride. For race bike power, it needs a bit of help, maybe nothing more than an exhaust. The key to riding fast is to keep the power in the sweet mid range. Let the revs drop and it takes a strong dose of clutch to get it back spinning again. Try to over rev and it simply goes nowhere.
This is why the 430 is a challenge to categorize. It does not have the power spread of a typical 450. Neither is it very much like a 350 that will come to life with just a stab of the clutch and then rev to the moon. So those must be bad things right? Yet our day at the mx track shed new light on the issue.
At the Cahuilla Creek vet track we found the Beta to be just as fast and easier to ride than the 450xcw. The 430 is not particularly light on the scales, but once we started to throw it around on the track, the lightweight feel came to life. The tiny 2 gallon fuel tank makes it feel like a motocrosser. With the relative lack of big bike punch, you ride it around the track with the throttle pinned open, just make sure to get the shifts right.
The 430 motor certainly has its points. But if we had gone to a power robbing location such as Glen Helen, the results probably would have been different. Our test track did not challenge the suspension very much either.
We previously have not had much success testing Sachs suspension components. The Beta was particularly harsh for the first couple of days riding. But things did get better with more break in time. Ultimately the suspension performed better than expected, acceptable but without any distinctive positive feature. The fork always felt just a tiny bit sloppy. Both compression and rebound seemed to lack a bit of control. Playing with the clickers would change small details, but didn’t add any real benefit.
The shock was better in that is seemed completely neutral. Each tester had comments for the fork and none for the shock. During our track day it did demonstrate one advantage. One particular jump developed a lip on the take off and the Beta would consistently absorb it while the PDS KTM would always kick just bit on take off. This is one situation where the PDS KTM always suffers.
While the Beta should have been under sprung for my weight, it never showed any excessive bottoming or dive. More often it exhibited a decent overall ride quality, but felt harsh in rocks or other rough terrain. It was not bad for a play bike, but not really a ready to race feel.
As for the rest of the chassis, everything was pretty nice on the Beta. The small fuel tank would never suit me. In our initial break in riding, the 430 would only net 25 mpg trail riding. The lack of range significantly hampered our riding. The seat is spartan, not encouraging long days. We were fortunate to get a chance to try the new Seat Concepts replacement and it is a huge improvement. It does not look any larger, but is far more comfortable.
More Tester Notes
So that is what I have to report on the Beta. It is a nice bike. It is not quite a full race bike as delivered, but fantastic for trails. It reminds me a lot of the old 400cc class bikes that were so popular because of their easy of use and versatility. As much as anything, it perhaps makes me think of extreme enduro where finding traction is a premium and top end power is secondary. The race part of the power band is fairly narrow, a bit of a challenge for me.
Regardless, this is a riders bike. It will make the average rider better. The power is super usable and often seems just right when you need it most. It just isn’t a muscle bike kind of feel. For those of you who are already Beta fans, I am sure you were sold way back early in the article. If you are looking at a Beta for the first time, give it its due, this is a quality package that is worth a look.