I am a little bit over due for bringing you the test results from our Beta 390rr. Blame it on riding, the Beta is so much fun to be on it is hard to slow down for something as mundane as sitting in front of the computer. As we have covered many of the 2015 Beta Model Basics and 2015 430RR Review, this will be more of just the 390 highlights. Much like the previous 430rr, fun is the key word. The Beta may not be the end all of motorcycles. In many ways it falls right in the middle of the road in terms of specifications, but riding brings out many high points that would never be found on the spec sheet.
The long stroke motor is to thank for much of that. At 88 x 63.4, it is essentially a stroked 350 and nearly identical in bore and stroke to an older 400 KTM. The power is ultra smooth and predictable. It is virtually impossible to stall. It builds very little heat, the coolant refuses to boil and the clutch never gets fussy. I guess smooth could also be a euphemism for slow. The revs come on a bit slow at low rpm’s. Maybe that isn’t the best way to put it. The 390 is anything but slow, let’s just say it reacts at a more gentle pace.
For the most part, any lack of outright power is completely overshadowed by how incredibly easy the 390 is to ride. The motor, like nearly everything else on the bike, requires very little effort. This is particularly clear on the motocross track. The laps just go on and on without ever getting tired. It is very similar to the KTM 350xcw in this manner. Overall the KTM 350 is the benchmark for performance in this class and the closest competitor to the 390rr.
The idea of smooth extends to every part of the Beta, especially the frame. The chassis is very much designed just to be an enduro bike. There are no Supercross aspirations here. That may seem like a common sense statement, but think about it. Is not practically every other dirt bike frame in the world intended to be stiff enough for SX racing? Along with motor and suspension, the frame gives a tiny bit of extra flex that makes it super plush and forgiving to ride.
Where the Sachs suspension on our 430rr test bike required a long break in period to get smooth, the 390 was good to go right out of the box. It too has gotten better as the miles added up, but the change was not near as drastic. A ride at the local Vet track is where it really shines. It is stiff enough for real world jumps and whoops. It is also very confidence inspiring; hitting a jump face wrong or over shooting a landing is no cause for concern.
On the trail the suspension is nearly as good. The Sachs open chamber fork shows a few rough spots in slow terrain. It encourages aggressive riding to smooth the ride out a bit. Like our 430rr, the shock is fine everywhere. Spring rates are stiff enough for just about everyone. As delivered the Beta is a bit stiffer than the WP components on a KTM, but the overall action of the WP 48mm open chamber fork is slightly better. I give the Beta the nod for a better shock.
Overall fit and finish is very high. The quality of all the components is quite good, including the brakes. We have yet to break anything and trust me, we have tried. At 50 hours the Beta is still purring like new. There have only been two minor issues arise on this test bike.
The odometer seems to have a problem picking up the signal from the magnet regularly, so our mileage is off. Some times it does not read at all, at others it reads too slow. There is a small fitment issue with the air filter cover and body work. There is a gap at the back of the cover and we have pulled the cover off with a boot on the mx track. I tried to loosen all the parts to see if they would fit together better, but no luck. Our 430 did not have this issue.
I chose the 390 with the Tecate Enduro specifically in mind. With 100 ground miles of pure single track, it was a challenging day of racing. For the most part, the Beta was nearly ideal. The friendly motor and chassis made a hard day of riding much easier. The power was just about perfect for me. I like to keep the revs low and the feel of the long stroke motor is spot on.
In technical single track this bike is just what you would expect it to be, a bridge between 350 and 450. It is feels lighter and more nimble than a 450. It has better torque than a 350. It is almost perfect. But, there are a few caveats. Yes, it feels lighter than a 450, but the scales say they are about even. The 390rr is 269lbs full of fuel, the 430 came in at 270, so practically even. The lighter 350 still has a small handling edge. The 390 has more torque than the 350, but it also makes power a bit slower and doesn’t spin quite as free.
Interestingly, for race day I lined up with my buddy Sam Bird and he was riding a 2013 KTM 350exc. All day we were dead even on speed. We swapped the lead a few times but neither had an advantage. There did not seem to be a distinct advantage for either bike, both worked very well. Sam and I finished together, I edged him by one point, he must have missed the flip somewhere during the day. Our overall scores were not what we had hoped for, but we both felt we had a great day of riding.
The one issue that was very obvious in the race was the lack of ground clearance. For trail riding it is easy enough to judge clearance and ride accordingly, but in a race it is a different story. Walking through the shop and measuring the bikes, the Beta is about 1″ lower than everything else, about 12″ versus 13″. The front of the frame is a bit more square too and that exaggerates the hits. The underside of our 390 is looking pretty rough.
We have played with a few parts and set up items on the Beta. The Clarke 3.8 gallon tank has helped to give us a respectable range for Baja trail riding. Fuel mileage seems to hover about 35-40 per gallon. Seat Concepts sent us their Cody Webb replica seat. It looks awesome and far more comfortable than stock. The gripper material is a bit rough for trail riding, next time I will go with a standard cover. For protection we have added a BRP chain guide and Fastway handguards. Flexxbars round out the modifications. I hope to try a FMF exhaust if they can ever get around to shipping me something.
Used and Abused
I walk a fine line with test bikes. I want to use them to their fullest. As much as anything, I want to see what might go wrong or break. But I try not to be careless about how I handle someone’s machinery, no abuse for the sake of it. I confess the Beta has seen a bit of abuse. Besides Tecate and some Baja riding, it participated in a couple of days of Graham Jarvis Extreme Enduro school. In defense of my testing methods, it was all in a days work. Or should I say, this is really how people ride their motorcycles.
The Beta shined for motor and clutch control. It gets great traction and is always easy to handle. In one desert hill climb, it was the only bike to make it to the top. Once with me on it and once with another rider who could not do it on his own bike. But it struggled with weight and slugglish reaction time. Trying to lift the front wheel to place it in a specific spot takes a bit of practice. The front feels heavy and languid in this type of drill. The 390rr also took a couple of spectacular tumbles. It is a bit scratched and dented, but nothing broken. It just keeps chugging along.
As I stated before, the Beta is probably more of a purpose built enduro bike than anything else on the market. None of which comes by accident, it is all very focused and well executed. It might give up an once of performance for those looking to compete at the highest levels, but for the rest of us the Italian bikes offer a pound of real world benefits. Not the fastest, not the lightest, but maybe the easiest to ride bikes out there. It is a bike that helps you ride better. Nearly everyone who rode the bike had something good to say, particularly the novice and intermediate riders. It is a kind of all around package that has few equals.
I have made multiple references to how the Betas remind me of older KTM 400’s. It got me thinking about the subject so much that I went out and bought one. I scooped a very clean, low mile 2004 KTM 400exc. It will be part of the fleet of Baja tour bikes. But I also intend to spend some time riding it back to back with the 390. It will be interesting to see what a decade of progress adds up to on the trail. Stay tuned for my thoughts.