The new Benelli TRK 502 X will be arriving in the UK this summer. To find out how it compares with the standard model, Iain Harper went along to the press launch in Italy.
The standard model TRK 502 I’m long-term testing has just passed the 6,000-mile mark, so it’s fair to say that riding it has become second nature. I was interested to see how different the ‘X’ version would feel, and happily allowed my arm to be twisted into a trip to Italy last week to join the press launch test ride. Benelli hosted the event at Relais Palazzo Viviani in Montegridolfo, Rimini, which overlooks the impossibly picturesque hills of the Valconca valley.
Rather than getting bogged down with every single design feature of this new ‘crossover’ model, most of which are identical to the standard bike (engine, chassis, transmission, etc.), I’m going to concentrate on what’s changed and how those important changes impact handling. I’ll also highlight a few things that we might have expected to be revised, but haven’t been.
The Benelli TRK 502 X comes with a 19″ spoked rim at the front and a 17″ at the rear (instead of 17″ alloys front and rear), fitted with Metzler Tourance tyres instead of Pirelli Road Angels. To account for that larger front wheel, and the intended off-road ability of the bike, the X version’s suspension is preset differently to the standard model to give a softer ride. At 220mm, ground clearance is significantly improved.
Unlike the low, stubby exhaust of the basic TRK, the X is equipped with a more conventional upswept unit that’s better suited to a much wider range of situations (like river crossings, for instance).
Seat height is 850mm, which is 50mm more than the standard model. 825mm and 875mm seat options are also going to be available.
The rear brake lever spring mechanism is dramatically stronger than on the base TRK 502. It’s anticipated this will migrate its way to the standard model in time.
A bashplate that might be described as ‘discrete’ is fitted, however the oil filter remains exposed. A larger, more robust bashplate is apparently going to be available as an option.
GIVI Monokey compatible pannier rails aren’t part of the package (unlike on the standard version), but Benelli are intending to offer specially-designed ones that will accommodate the location of the exhaust while maintaining symmetry.
And, hurray, it has a centre stand!
What’s the same?
After gaining some things and losing others, the manufacturer’s official statement said the overall weight of the TRK 502 X remains the same as the standard model at 235kg (with the 20-litre tank at least 90% full).
The windshield isn’t adjustable, but I’m reliably informed that two other screen sizes are available.
The clutch lever still isn’t adjustable either, though Benelli said this is something they plan to resolve soon.
The same protruding engine bars featured on the standard model had been expected to be absent from the X, but they’re still included.
The handy, but troublesome, USB socket remains located in an exposed position on the left side of the fairing. I suspect this will change in a future version.
What’s the TRK 502 X like to ride?
To answer that question I took part in a group test ride on an endlessly twisty 55-mile loop of the surrounding hills, which included several long, and occasionally technical, gravel sections.
The difference in riding position, courtesy of the higher seat, and the influence of the 19″ front and revised suspension were immediately obvious. It’s the same bike, only better.
For context here, bear in mind that the standard TRK 502 is already really good. I’ve said previously that it, “…feels light and nimble even at low speeds,” and, “…the feeling of secure agility remains consistent… Stable and planted are adjectives that fit the bill.”
All the same things can be said of the new model, just more so. Steep hairpin bends and fast, flowing hillside curves were a perfect way to acclimatise to the X’s front-end handling, which is very noticeably improved compared to its tarmac-oriented sibling. The bike feels more balanced and capable, and that in turn makes for an even more enjoyable and confident riding experience.
The gravel sections provided the opportunity for the bike to really show what’s it’s made of. I don’t mind admitting that the riding skills of the French and Italian journalists in the group far surpassed my own, but in their hands the TRK 502 X demonstrated its off-road credentials faultlessly. The video below shows a few of the riders experimenting with the ABS switched off.
When it arrives at UK dealers, the Benelli TRK 502 X is expected to retail at £5,499. That’s only five hundred quid more than the standard model (though doesn’t include pannier rails), and a small extra price to pay for what’s a much more versatile, go-anywhere bike.
The word on the castle terrace was that an 800cc version of the TRK is pencilled in for launch at EICMA 2019. Did I hear someone say ‘long-term test’?