2019 Benelli TRK 502, TRK 502X Review: First Ride
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Benelli certainly has priced their latest adventure tourers to grace our roads, the TRK 502 and TRK 502X, well, but is that enough for either of these to find a place into your garage?
Say what you may, but Benelli deserves credit for doing the right thing at the right time. They came in with the TNT 600i in 2015 when middleweight streetfighters were all the rage and achieved a fair bit of success with it. Now, times have changed and adventure touring bikes are the latest fad. So you have the Italian brand acknowledging the demand and starting its second innings in India with the TRK 502 and TRK 502X.
We spent the last week riding the TRK 502X around some nasty trails in the coffee capital of India, and then over 800km astride its road-biased sibling, the TRK 502. Both of them occupy a niche market space, promising to bridge the gap between ADV touring bikes on either sides of the price spectrum. But is occupying a sweet spot in terms of pricing enough for these to win the hearts and minds of ADV bike fans in India?
1. Imposing styling and the right underpinnings for an adventure touring bike
2. Docile engine is perfect for those upgrading from small-capacity bikes
3. Very comfortable
1. Incredibly heavy, which make them a handful to manage on trails
2. Needs more power
1. Comfortable ergonomics and plush seat
2. Powerful headlamp and abundant space to strap on luggage
3. Feels stable at high speeds
Adventure-touring motorcycles are behemoths, designed to look capable of conquering the most treacherous terrain. And in that aspect, the Benelli TRKs tick all the right boxes. Both the 502 and 502X boast of a high-riding stance and muscular semi-fairing with a beak-like extension at the front.
On top is a high windscreen, well capable of shielding you from the windblast, as long as you are under six feet. The exposed frame gives it an exotic undertone, while the minimalistic and raised tail section gives it a rugged appeal. You can even spec the TRK with luggage mounts and a tail rack to improve its practicality.
The handlebar is raised, footpegs are set neutrally and the seat is nothing short of a sofa set. You wouldn’t mind spending hours at end riding the TRK. But that’s only a part of an adventure touring bike’s job, it needs to be perfect for standing up and riding as well. And that’s where the TRK 502 and 502X fall a bit short.
The muscular fuel tank might look marvellous, but the sharp edge don’t allow you to grab onto it when you stand up and ride. Instead, you are forced to latch onto the seat to get a hold of the bike. Apart from this, the handlebar and footpegs are perfectly positioned and you even get a clear view of the instrument console when you’re standing up and riding.
Technology & Features
The dual-headlamp setup is one of the biggest highlights of the TRK, it has an intensely powerful beam and a good throw. The instrument console feels a little old school though. It gets an analogue tachometer paired to a digital display, but misses out on a trip computer. The crash guards are offered as standard, which is a necessary addition considering that you might be venturing out into the woods.
The TRK 502 is a road-biased model and rides on 17-inch wheels with Pirelli Angel ST tyres. The TRK 502X on the other hand, is meant to go off-road more often. As such, it boasts of a 19-inch wheel at the front, spoke wheels and Metzeler Tourance dual-sport tyres. It also gets knuckle guards and a metal bash plate.
The suspension on the 502X also gets longer travel. And it has higher ground clearance too. The downside is that the seat height has gone up from 800mm to 840mm, which makes it difficult to manage for shorter riders. The 502X also gets an upswept exhaust to improve its water wading capability in place of the underbelly unit on the 502.
Engine & Performance
Enclosed in the TRK’s trellis frame is a 500cc twin-cylinder engine that develops 47.5PS at 8500rpm and 46Nm of torque at 6000rpm. The torque delivery is linear and makes the power easily accessible, even for someone who is not used to riding high-capacity bikes.
Although there is enough torque in the bottom-end to pull from low speeds in high gears (it can easily move from 40kmph in sixth gear), we would have liked to see a punchier power delivery to make it more exciting. When you are riding over dirt and loose surfaces, good bottom-end torque makes it easy to power out of tricky situations, which you unfortunately can’t do on the TRK 502X. Benelli has tried to compensate for this by giving the X a bigger 44-tooth rear sprocket (compared to 40 teeth on the 502) to give it a better initial throttle response, but it’s still not enough to provide enough torque to get the rear wheel spinning in the dirt.
The downside of the bigger sprocket on TRK 502X is evident on the highways. The 502X is less fuel efficient than the 502. Slot it into sixth and the TRK 502 will manage 100kmph at around 5,000rpm and 120kmph at around 6,000rpm. The TRK 502X, meanwhile, has to sit at 250rpm higher than the 502, which again has a marginal effect on the vibrations.
Yes, the TRK does have vibrations on the footpegs, tank and the handlebar, although these creep in only post 6,000rpm. This isn’t a huge problem, as you experience them only during occasional overtakes. Benelli has also smartly included lots of rubber in the footpegs and handlebars to reduce the amount of vibes that reach the rider. The engine feels refined and vibe-free when you are riding in the city or cruising at lower triple-digit speeds on highways.
The brake setup on the TRK 502 consists of radially-mounted callipers at the front with dual 320mm discs. The TRK 502X, on the other hand, gets axially mounted callipers, although there is hardly any difference in the braking performance or the brake feel. Both setups have a decent initial bite and stopping power, although they miss out on progression or feel. Furthermore, the front dive under hard braking is more evident in the 502X, which is down to the longer suspension travel.
The long suspension travel on the 502X translates into a plush ride, even through the most terrible bumps and potholes. Despite the soft setup, the 502X doesn’t feel bouncy or out of place on tarmac.
The 502, meanwhile, feels completely at home on tarmac. Despite the smaller front wheel, the 502 doesn’t feel out of its element while off-roading. The lower seat height and lesser weight means that you feel almost as confident riding the 502 on (easy) trails as you would on the 502X.
As you already know by now, the Benelli TRK is offered in two variants – the TRK 502 and TRK 502X. The TRK 502 is the standard variant which costs Rs 5.0 lakh, while the TRK 502X is priced at Rs 5.4 lakh (both ex-showroom and introductory).
Lack of any direct competition is far from the only reason why I would recommend someone to go for the TRK 502 or the 502X. They boast of an imposing stance and will ensure that the spotlight is on you everywhere you go. The engine feels refined at city speeds and at lower triple-digit speeds for cruising on highways, the power delivery is docile making them apt for those stepping up from small capacity bikes. And then there is the ride quality, which will take care of the worst that Indian roads can throw at you with aplomb.
But then, the TRKs do have an Achilles heel, and it’s a big one - their weight. It will make you dread simple tasks like pushing the bike around in a parking lot or taking a U-turn on trails. And it gets worse if you are running on a full tank of fuel. But this is something that you can learn or get used to over time. What you cannot get used to, however, is the pure lack of punch. This is something that again boils down to the TRKs being too heavy - a lighter bike and better power-to-weight ratio would have made them undoubtedly more exciting to ride. As things stand though, for long distance highway touring in comfort and on (somewhat of) a budget, we certainly don’t mind recommending the TRK 502. And if you’re someone who would want to travel far on dirt or broken roads for a majority of the time, the TRK 502X is a sensible choice.
Words: Ranjan Bhatt
Photography: Eshan Shetty/Vikrant Date