I normally have a good look around a bike before I load it on the back of my ute from the BikeReview.com.au HQ, but I was in a rush, so the first thing I noticed was the weight of the Benelli TRK 502 as we manhandled it up the ramp, which was a bit of a surprise as it’s only a 500cc inline twin, but weighs 213kg according to the specs.
Benelli’s TRK offers great styling for the price-point and looks like a much larger machine
When I finally got the opportunity to have a good look around the bike, I was slightly disappointed by the quality of finish, especially around the frame welds and the frame paint, something the Italians are normally great at, but this famous Italian marque is now built in China and comes in at a reasonable $8,790 on road, so I guess you can’t have it all, it is built to a cost well under ten grand.
One thing I did like is the styling, it’s very modern with its sharp angler lines and clean white bodywork that has a good painted finish on the plastic panels and the 20 litre fuel tank and the design on the tubular swingarm is a thing of beauty. The Benelli is a road bias adventure-touring bike not a full adventure bike, so it comes with 17inch alloy wheels. The alloy wheels are generally not as strong as spoked rims and the smaller wheels don’t handle the off road conditions as well as a bike with a 21 inch front and 18 inch rear, but the X version has the bigger rims, the the 17s work well on this model.
Sharp lines are joined by 20L fuel tank and eye-catching tubular swingarm
The dash is easy to read, with only a gear indicator, two trip meters and a fuel gauge, there is also a USB charger on the left side of the fairing, but I was unable to test it out.
Sitting on the bike is a pleasant experience, the seat is nowhere near as tall as it looks at only 800mm, so that may help with shorter legged people. The ergonomics are well thought out, with everything in the right place and easy to reach – the seat is also very comfy and nice and wide.
Overall ergonomics are well thought out, with rubber clad ‘pegs, with removable rubbers
The TRK 502 has been given wide alloy handlebars to help with maneuverability and are fitted with hand protectors to protect your fingers in the bush and deflect the cold air, they also have great usable mirrors with easy to use switch-gear.
Hitting the start button, you get a second or two of mechanical noise before the inline 500cc twin-cylinder engine quietly settles down, with a gentle pulse coming from the tidy underslung exhaust. The cable operated clutch is nice and light with a good action at the lever.
Wide ‘bars give maneuverability and feature hand guards
Selecting first gear I set off up the road, but with all that weight and only 47hp on tap, and I’m presuming that’s at the crank, it doesn’t exactly rip your arms off, saying that, this is a LAMS bike. The fuelling is well sorted and the power is smooth from tick-over to the 9000rpm redline with no dips or peaks throughout the torque curve.
However, once over 5000rpm there is a lot of vibration coming from the engine, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but freeway speeds are above this as gearing is so low, in fact, keeping up with traffic on the freeway the bike was revving high. Vibration through the rubber covered pegs and seat can become annoying, with the handlebars escaping the worst of it.
Vibrations are very noticeable at higher rpms, such as cruising speed on the highway
One thing I did like was the screen, on the freeway it just about deflected all the wind from me and did a good job of reducing wind buffering on my helmet without sacrificing visibility.
There is no denying that our Australian roads are rough, so a bike like this should be perfect for such conditions, but I found the suspension very harsh and unforgiving especially the rear shock. The front has no adjustment at all on the massive 50mm forks, while the back can be adjusted for rebound and preload only, this meant that on average road conditions I didn’t want to push the bike too hard in the corners, as it just wouldn’t absolve the bumps and ruts and to be honest, it was unpleasant to ride.
Massive 50mm USD forks don’t provide the expected performance, with brakes taking real pressure for power
Once on the smoother road though, the Benelli handled pretty well and I really had some fun through the twisty bits, the bikes heavy weight at standstill felt more reduced on the move and it felt nowhere near its 213kg, you still have to use a fair bit of body input to get the best out of it on change of direction, but it was pretty planted and offered a fair bit of lean angle once in the corner.
To get the most out of the Benelli TRK 502 you do need to be in the right gear and keep the engine revs and corner speed up, as it’s not the sort of bike that’s going to get your juices flowing powering out of corners.
Getting the most out of the twin powerplant is a matter of carefully managing gears
Stopping the TRK 502 is not as easy as it should be, the front brakes work reasonably well, but require a fair amount of squeeze at the lever and are not as strong as you’d expect on twin four-piston calipers gripping 320mm rotors and the rear brake feels really weak and spongy. You do get ABS, but I still managed to lock up the front for a few meters or so during my ‘hammer the brakes on as hard as I could test’ so whether that was an issue only with this bike we will wait and see.
The super firm suspension isn’t suited for the rougher off-road sections and can struggle on poor Australian road surfaces
I also did a bit of light gravel road touring, because a bike like this should take it in its stride, but with the firm suspension and weight its not great on this type of terrain, not helping matters was the more road oriented Pirelli Angel tyres, which are good on the tar, but offer little grip or confidence off road, so I’d be swapping them if you plan to get a bit more adventurous, and softening the suspension.
After my time on the Benelli I wasn’t too upset to hand it back, and I look forward to re-testing it, as Benelli Australia have contacted us and feel we had a few issues with this bike. For me, it just didn’t fit the design brief of what an adventure-touring bike should be, even with the LAMS rating, and the weight would be a bit of a handful for younger riders and for a famous Italian brand, the bike just didn’t quite hit the mark for a Benelli, but did so for an under ten grand bike out of China.
The 2018 Benelli TRK 502 doesn’t quite live up to its design brief
Benelli TRK 502 Tech Talk
The 499.6cc liquid-cooled in-line twin-cylinder has double overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, it has a bore of 69mm with a 66.8mm stroke giving a compression ratio of 11.5:1. This results in a power output of 35kw or 47.6hp in the old scale at 8500rpm, but will comfortably rev to 9000rpm. The torque figures are 45nm, which is 33ft-lbs at 5000rpm, giving the bike a usable midrange.
The TRK 502 features a in-line twin-cylinder engine and is LAMS legal
The fuelling is pumped in through an electronic injected 37mm throttle-body, while the timing is sorted with a Delphi MT05 ignition system. Dealing with the Euro4 emissions is an underslung exhaust, fitted with a catalytic convertor and oxygen sensors.
Suspension is impressive sounding 50mm USD forks, although 135mm travel does belay the bikes’ more adventure-touring styled theme, with a central rear monoshock. Forks are listed as adjustable on the Benelli Australia website, but this didn’t seem to be the case.
Brakes aren’t the most inspiring but won’t catch out a Learner with their power
Brakes are twin 320mm rotors, with dual four-piston Benelli calipers, while the rear is a 260mm rotor, with single-piston caliper. ABS is fitted as standard and an ABS switch is found on the ‘bars. Pressing this button gave no visual signal whether the ABS had been activated or deactivated.
This bike was fitted with the aluminium alloy 17in wheels, while optional aluminium rim, spoked wheels are also available and come as a 3.00 x 19in front (as tested was a 3.50 x 17in front). The rear is a 4.50 x 17in as standard, with the spoked option a 4.25 x 17in version. Pirelli Angel rubber was fitted to this test machine.
2018 Benelli TRK 502 (LAMS)
2018 Benelli TRK 502 Specifications
Price: $8,790 On Road
Warranty: Two years, unlimited kilometres, two years roadside assist
Colours: Benelli Red, Benelli White, Benelli Grey
Claimed power: 35kW(47.6 hp)@8500rpm
Claimed torque: 45Nm(33ft-lbs)@5000rpm
Wet weight: 213kg
Fuel capacity: 20L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, In-line two-cylinder, four-stroke, four-valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft, 499.6cc
Clutch: Multiplate wet
Final drive: Sealed chain
Chassis: Steel trellis tube frame, Steel swingarm
Suspension: 50mm USD fork, coil spring, oil damped, rear shock, adjustable rebound and pre-load
Brakes: Twin four-piston calipers, 300mm Disc, rear single-piston caliper, 260mm Disc
Tyres: 120/70-17, (f) and 160/60-17, (r)
Seat height: 800mm