The Benelli TRK 502 is the Italian brand’s new middleweight adventure touring model, and we’re evaluating one in a long-term test before this year’s Overland Event.
Benelli prefer the name pronounced ‘TReK’ rather than ‘T-R-K’ but, whatever you call it, the 502 certainly looks like a lot of bike for only £4,999. Our test aims to find out if it lives up to expectations in terms of value for money, economy, handling, and overall practicality as a tarmac-dwelling adventure tourer. After twelve-hundred miles, first impressions are overwhelmingly positive.
The Story So Far…
Paddy and I first set eyes on the pre-production prototype in January 2017, and we were both keen to investigate its overlanding potential when the opportunity arose.
I took delivery of a new 18-plate model in the middle of March 2018, and have been merrily criss-crossing between the West Country and the Home Counties on it since then.
The bike’s first real outing was to a snowy Overland Adventure Day at the Ace Cafe in London on 18th March, where we had it on display for people to sit on, stand on, and generally inspect at close quarters.
Aside from comments about its BMW and even Ducati-esque looks, and surprise that it’s only a 499cc machine, the most striking reaction from people was prompted by the accessibility of the TRK 502 to a wide range of riders. You can ride one with an A2 licence, and the low seat height (only 800mm) means you don’t have to be lanky to get on it or have your feet down.
A fortnight and 700 miles after it arrived, the bike had it’s first oil and filter change at Weston Motorcycles, Benelli’s dealer in Weston-super-Mare. Mike Bell and his experienced team of mechanics are a really switched-on bunch, and I can recommend their quality of service and customer care.
The TRK 502 is a Euro 4 compliant 499cc, liquid cooled, fuel injected in-line twin, with six gears, a stubby exhaust, and a maximum power output of 47 horsepower. It boasts a generous 20-litre fuel tank, of which three litres is reserve.
Built around a rather elegant steel trellis frame, the form of which extends to the design of the swing arm, the standard bike has upside down forks (which are adjustable according to the spec, but don’t appear to be in practice), a preload adjustable monoshock at the rear, and 17″ alloy rims front and back (spoked rims and a 19″ front are available as options) fitted with Pirelli Road Angel tyres.
Stopping power comes from a pair of four-piston calipers acting on the twin front discs, a single disc and one-piston caliper at the rear, and ABS that can be switched off if required. There are a variety of errors and contradictions in Benelli’s online spec, including the description: “…the two front discs, 320 mm in diameter, and two-piston floating caliper. The rear disc is 260 mm in diameter, and is also gripped by a twin piston caliper.”
The rider and pillion seats are separate parts. The rider’s seat is bolted in place (over the battery), while the pillion seat (over the toolkit) is unlocked from the side with the ignition key.
The dashboard combines a conventional RPM dial with a digital display for everything else, including selected gear, fuel level, temperature, speed and trip distance. The brightness of the display’s backlight automatically adjusts. Metric and imperial are easily selectable.
There’s a USB power socket on the near-side fairing.
The test bike is fitted with a full set of Givi Trekker luggage that retails for around £600, which isn’t included in the base price of £4,999 (£5,199 on the road). However, the Givi ‘Monokey’ pannier rails and topbox mounting, engine bars, hand guards, rear hugger and rear bumper are all included. The removable rubber insert in the off-road styled footpegs is a nice touch too.
How’s The Ride?
Lots of fun would be the short answer. The Benelli TRK 502 is undeniably a real pleasure to ride.
It feels light and nimble even at low speeds, and being eager and torquey through the range it delivers responsive, satisfying acceleration. Let it run between 6,000 and 7,000 RPM in top gear and it’ll cruise along all day at a ‘progressing’ motorway pace without feeling like an effort.
I’ve yet to test what it’s like with a pillion on board, but with no adjustment to the suspension’s factory configuration the feeling of secure agility remains consistent when riding solo with or without a full load of luggage. Stable and planted are adjectives that fit the bill.
Braking is reassuringly smooth and capable. I’ve had neither the need nor the inclination to switch off the ABS so far, and fortunately a real-world opportunity to find out if the ABS works hasn’t cropped up. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll do a controlled braking test with ABS on and off to see how it performs.
The tall, faired screen (which isn’t adjustable) offers pretty good wind protection, though you probably need to be 5’10” or under to get the full benefit.
As for ergonomics, the riding position is superb in every respect. I’m 6’2 and often find that bikes with a low seat are too cramped. Not so with the TRK 502 though. The peg-to-seat distance means that my legs are comfortable for many hours at a stretch. The seat is really comfortable too.
With an 800mm seat height, you don’t have to be tall. On the left: my 5’6 niece. On the right: Paddy, who’s about 5’10.
The handlebars are high and wide, which enforces an upright, relaxed posture and amplifies handling control, but also means the ergonomics work well when you’re standing on the pegs (not that you’re likely to on this version of the bike). Another benefit of the height and width of the bars is the position of the mirrors, which give perfect visibility of the road behind rather than shoulders or elbows.
Things That Don’t Make Sense
As you’d expect, the front brake lever is adjustable. The clutch lever, however, is not. That in itself isn’t so unusual (silly though it is), but the reach needed to comfortably/safely grab the clutch on the TRK 502 means that anyone with modestly-sized hands is likely to find it problematic.
The lack of a centre stand (even as an option, as far as we’re aware) is a glaring omission for an adventure touring bike. Paddock stand bobbins are fitted as standard, which is handy in a workshop environment but entirely useless by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
The precariously exposed radiator hose (see the oil change photo above) and oil pressure sensor raised a few eyebrows when the bike was on display at the Ace Cafe. Perhaps not a major issue in the context of this being a road bike, but it certainly could be on gravel or anything rougher.
Is It Heavy?
At the time of writing, the TRK 502 specification on the Benelli website quotes an ‘unladen’ weight of 213kg. That’s the weight of the bike ready to ride, with its tank 90% full.
However, when Benelli launched the model at EICMA 2017 they were quoting an unladen weight of 235kg. That higher figure has prompted a lot of negativity elsewhere in the press and on social media about the TRK 502 being ‘incredibly heavy’.
So why the discrepancy? My guess is that ‘unladen’ and ‘dry’ have been mixed up somewhere along the way. Either someone in Italy added the weight of fuel and fluids to the unladen figure rather than the dry one, or the definition of unladen got lost in translation and the bike really does weigh in at 235kg. It’s evident from the contradictions and style of wording on the Benelli website (as with the brake caliper descriptions mentioned earlier), that translation accuracy is an issue for Benelli’s marketing team.
Whichever figure you believe (and to me 213kg makes more intuitive sense), it’s fair to say that the TRK 502 is a tad heavier than you might expect. But remember that, unlike most rival specs, it comes with hefty engine bars, a 20-litre tank, rear hugger and bumper, hand guards, and Givi mount and rails as part of the package.
Because social media discussions about the TRK 502 have tended to get rather hung-up on weight and unfair performance comparisons, indulge me for a moment and ponder the context of the machine.
We’re talking about an A2-compatible motorcycle intended for economical, on-road adventure touring. It’s not a skinny enduro, or a 1200cc tank, or a track-racing thoroughbred. It is, on the other hand, a modestly-priced bike with lots of extras, that’s going to be loaded up with luggage and possibly a pillion, and ridden (more often that not) by someone in their middle years who’s likely carrying a few extra pounds of their own. And given that the ease of picking up a dropped adventure bike is a sensible thing to consider, also bear in mind that (thanks to the laws of physics) you’ll only ever have to lift a maximum of 60% of its weight. In that respect, a few kilos here or there really makes very little practical difference.
Collating publicised manufacturer data, here’s a comparison of the Benelli TRK 502 to a range of 300 to 800cc machines. To level the playing field as far as weight is concerned, I’ve included estimated weights without any fuel in the tank.
* Unladen/Curb Weight = filled with all operating fluids and fuelled to at least 90% of usable tank capacity, as defined in EU directive 93/93/EEC.
In terms of physical proportions, weight, fuel capacity, and riding position, the TRK 502 is pretty similar to the Suzuki V-Strom DL650, though of course it has a smaller, less powerful engine.
The Benelli’s most obvious direct competitor is the Honda CB500X, which is a little less torquey and with a smaller tank doesn’t offer the same range. The Honda’s about a grand more expensive than the Benelli, and appears to be a lot lighter, though the base model doesn’t include all the extras found on the TRK 502.
At the time of its press launch at EICMA in 2017, Benelli were quoting a fuel consumption of 3.9 L per 100Km, which translates as 72.4 MPG.
During my first 1,200 miles with the TRK 502, it’s delivered an average economy of 58.8 MPG (low of 53.4 and high of 65.7). That’s on a mix of motorways, fast A roads, country lanes, and around town, with absolutely no attempt to ride economically and with a full complement of luggage.
Based on that, I’ve no doubt 72+ is realistic with a more intentionally (or unavoidable) economical style of riding, as would usually be the case on a long-distance journey.
An ‘X’ version of the TRK 502 is due to reach dealers around July this year. The price has yet to be confirmed.
Based on the information released to the press at EICMA 2017 (which may well have since been superseded), it looks as though the main differences from the standard 502 will be the upswept exhaust, 19″ front rim (still alloy rather than spoked), and the loss of the substantial engine bars. The radiator hose appears to remain exposed and there’s no sign of a bash plate.
The TRK 502 will be ridden on a daily basis during the next five months, hopefully including a trip down to the Pyrenees in May, so expect further ‘what it’s like to live with’ reviews between now and the bike being on show at the Overland Event at the end of August.
Benelli TRK 502 long-term testing and review by Iain Harper.