I was fortunate enough to get invited out to the Beta Dealer ride in Anza a couple of weeks ago. Having just finished up our ride time on the 2015 Beta 430rr, I was anxious for a turn on the other models for comparison.
It is very seldom that we get to do this type of testing; all the models back to back on a set course. Like any testing, it is just a snapshot of one situation. But having the ability to go from model to model to model is a very unique experience and is the only way to really understand some of the subtle differences between bikes. It was a nearly ideal control test as all the bikes are running the same same tires, fuel and suspension settings. As the Beta line shows up with all new displacements and engine configurations this year, this type of testing is even more crucial.
While I got seat time on all the models, including the two strokes, I focused my time on the four stroke models; 350, 390, 430 and 480.
430RR – Beta had a new 430rr on hand, so my first task was to try it against my own 430 test bike. As you might recall we found the 430 to have a long break in time for both motor and suspension, particularly the Sachs 48mm fork. As it turned out, the new bike felt nearly identical to our higher mileage test bike. So that leads me to believe that the long break in on the test bike was not indicative of the models in general. I have talked extensively about the 430rr, so I won’t go into too much detail. It is smooth and makes very nice, practical use, power. It lacks a super distinctive personality, it just works so darn good that it is hard to find fault.
480RR – As a desert racer I will always have a soft spot for the big bikes, even if they can be a handful at times. The first thing that hit me about the 480 is the fact that it does have lots of personality. It is like that feeling, the one where something has been missing in your life but it was so subtle you have forgotten exactly what. The 480 has a bit of that old school personality that allows you to light up the rear wheel with just a twist of the throttle. Thank a big 100mm bore for that. It is all about steering with the rear wheel while still maintaining precise control. What a fun way to ride a motorcycle. I think it is also the elusive something that I have been missing in other contemporary big bores where the power seems more prone to simply pushing the front around. I felt instantly at home on the 480rr. Covering the 10 minute single track loop, I could feel that perhaps it would be a bit more work overall to ride in tight confines, but the smile factor more than made up for it.
390RR – The boys at Beta had given me carte blanc to have my pick of the lot to return home with. My choice was the 480rr…. that was, until I got on the 390RR. In a completely unexpected turn, the 390 stole the hearts of nearly everyone at the ride day. How, I am not quite sure, but in some way everything seems to align just perfect on this bike. It is almost as if everything was originally designed for the 390, then adapted to the other models.
The motor is easily as fast as the 430 and actually revs quicker. Curiously, the 390 has a longer stroke than the 430. Overall bore and stroke dimensions are nearly identical to a 400 KTM, It is also the same piston size as the new 350RR. It might lack a little bit of the big mellow chug of the 430, but quickly makes up for it in revs. What I noticed most was the seemingly complete lack of effort the 390 required. Ride all day, never get tired. It was only minutes before I was thinking this should be my weapon of choice for the upcoming Tecate Enduro. It feels light. It reacts to the clutch very well. The suspension felt the most balanced, over all the other Beta models. Think of it as a long stroke 350.
350RR – It took well over an hour of standing in the queue to get my time on the all new fuel injected 350 and it was at the very end of the day. Took multiple turns on the 480 and 390 while hoping the line would end. Where the other fourstroke models feel like variations on the same theme, the 350 felt distinctly unique. Perhaps the motor was still a bit tight, but the throttle feel was a bit more on/off. Similarly, there was more of a compression braking feel too.
If found the forks a bit harsh on just this bike. This is similar to how our 430 test bike was originally. For the ride day, the 350 was the only one of the bikes with the similar feel. But we did no set up or clicker adjustments either, so it could have been an anomaly too.
My short ride time left me thinking that the 350 could be a very potent package, more race focused than the other models. But I would need to do more set up to get comfortable with it also. It wanted a more aggressive hand than the 390 to make a fast pace. As I saw it, for making an “as is” choice, the 390 topped the 350.
250RR & 300 Race – Spending the day so completely focused on the nuances of the four stroke line up, I found it difficult to switch to two stroke mode. It is just one of my own shortcomings I guess. I found both two strokes to be just about as expected, good solid bikes with the kind of feel and performance that is more or less on par with competing brands. In the rough silty course I was a bit slower than on the other bikes and my timing was just a bit off too.
The 250RR had the 48mm Sachs fork, where the 300 Race ran the Marzocchi 48mm Red PFP fork. The Sachs comes with a light 4.2 spring and was somewhat prone to dive under braking. But, that is not an entirely bad thing either. As the fork compresses, the steering geometry sharpens and the bike turns very precisely. But the overall feel was softer than on the four strokes.
The PFP ‘Zoke is a stiffer set up. It will handle big hits far better. At times it feels very good. But it also tends to ride higher in the turns and makes the steering feel lazy. I am slowly becoming more of a fan off the newest Sachs forks. They are certainly a step better than any of the previous versions we have tested. Stiffer fork springs may be in order for heavier riders. Faster racers will probably gravitate to the PFP fork, but I am not sure the average level rider will see a significant ride benefit.
I have not talked much about the shock on any of the bikes. Frankly they work so well, there is very little to ever consider. In all of our testing, I have found very few situations where the rear ever gets upset on the Beta.
Beyond suspension, the 300 Race model is a collection of shiny bits. All nice stuff and makes a very sharp looking bike. But there is not much that has any real performance benefit.
So there you have it. The Beta line up is looking very strong. For their size, the Italian company offers a very complete line up of bikes. I did not even get a chance to ride the 500RS dual sport model, or the new entry level 125RS. They certainly offer the most displacement choices for enduro models. I look forward to putting more miles on the 390RR. I have just one track day completed right now and it was a very positive day of riding. So stay tuned for more complete reviews.
Here is a quick look at how the new displacements are achieved:
Here is quick bit of track time on the Beta 390RR. Somehow I ended up with the camera pointed a bit too low. But we were having a great time out there. You might notice that I am riding the entire track without ever shifting.