As a motorcycle tour operator, I’d like to think that our marketing material makes it clear what we do, nevertheless, over the years I’ve operated I’ve had many unusual requests. Although loosely related to motorcycle touring, the common thread of these non-standard requests is, they are invariably from people who don’t have a motorcycle license; something that should be a foregone conclusion as being a prerequisite for participating in a motorcycle tour.
An example of these requests was “Granny will be 90 on her birthday and she has never been on a motorcycle but we want to make it a special day for her, so, can you take her pillion on a tour”. Declining any business is always a difficult decision although we try to do so in a polite manner and make some sensible suggestions for an alternative gift.
Although it is rare we have had requests from riders who hold an A2 license. We have to advise these riders to bring their own bike. However, the practicalities of this can be too great a challenge for the inexperienced rider as they might need to ride a thousand miles just to reach the tour start and perhaps another thousand miles home at the end. Naturally we would rather not put a rider at potential risk asking them to side so far especially with a deadline to meet but few can afford or justify several weeks off for a biking holiday and so attempt to cover high mileages each day between home and tour location arriving invariably exhausted before the real trip has even begun.
I had recent spate of unfortunate incidents that began whilst travelling to Fort Augustus to research a tour when I incurred a rear puncture. Roadside attempts at a repair had proven ineffective and so I called the RAC who collected the bike and took it to Inverness where a new tyre was fitted. The following day when returning to Ft Augustus from the Isle of Skye my gear change leaver snapped off! I can only speculate that when strapped into the van on its journey to Inverness that a strap must have been placing pressure on the leaver and perhaps weakened it. Anyway, a bit of road side emergency repair with some gaffer tape (always carry some!) soon got the gear changer working again enough to complete the research trip and get back to Glasgow.
On my return, I ordered a new changer through a local family run Benelli, Kawasaki, Royal Enfield and Sym dealership albeit my ride is a Triumph but I use them because they also service, maintain and MOT all brands of motorcycle. A few days later they advised that the part was in stock and when I arrived they offered to fit it for me. Whilst in the shop I was drawn to the Benelli TRK502 an adventure bike specifically targeted towards the A2 license holder and daily commuters. Brand new out the box it can be on the road for just £5,699 which seems excellent value for the money. They suggested I take it for a test ride whilst my repair was being undertaken.
I am well accustomed to hopping on and off different bikes but with my short legs, 29″, many adventure bikes are a stretch for me. I often have to slide part way off the saddle just to reach the ground but the Benelli with a saddle height at 815mm was a comfortable reach for me. I’m sure this would prove reassuring to new riders even those with longer legs.
I felt immediately at ease with the bike. The saddle is very comfortable and the upright riding position is very relaxed. The windshield is effective although depending on your height it may benefit an additional deflector to divert air over the helmet. Although the bike with a full tank of fuel is quoted about 250kg it didn’t feel so heavy to me, it’s very well balanced with the weight lying low in the frame, so, I wonder if those quoted weights include the full luggage set because the bike I was riding had a full Givi pannier rack with only the top box on that day. Note that the Givi rear and side racks, screen winglets, crash bars and USB accessory power point all come as standard equipment.
For the technical minded the Benelli TRK 502 is chain driven twin cylinder with a displacement of 499.6cc and 6 speed gearbox. Remember that this bike is addressing the A2 market and so the maximum power is 47BHP (35 kW) at 8500 rpm and the torque is of 45 Nm (4.6 kgm) at 4500 rpm. There are twin disks front and a single at the rear. The front wheel is 110/80 R19 and the rear 150/70 R17.
I have to say that my first impressing was that the engine was rather lacklustre but I’ll try not to be critical of that because it only produces about a third of what I’m used to and apart from riding a Suzuki Bandit that had been mapped to 47BHP I’ve got little experience of riding bikes with that low output. I’m sure if this is all you are licensed to ride you will find it not only comparable with others A2 restricted engines but also preferable. I’d certainly far prefer to ride the Benelli than that restricted Suzuki. The TRK502 pulls well in all gears with smooth progression throughout the rev range. The brakes felt a little spongy at first but I soon adjusted to their feel by applying a bit more pressure. This is not a bad thing for inexperienced riders who might otherwise lockup a disk by braking too harshly. Although another pint of note is that being Euro4 rated it also has ABS as standard.
If Benelli made the TRK with a bigger engine I’d consider one because I think it would be a contender for the BMW F700/F800GS, Kawasaki Versys 650, Suzuki VStrom 650, Triumph Tiger 800, Yamaha Tracer 700, etc. I can also foresee it being utilised abroad for fleet hire touring due to its ease of handling, luggage capacity and economy. The Benelli TRK502 should not only be considered by younger riders with restricted licenses, it will also appeal to those who have a full license but uninterested in high speeds or want to keep the points off their licence as well as those who want a comfortable economic very well handling commuter because the Benelli TRK502 ticks all the boxes.