To paraphrase Forrest Gump, adventure is as adventure does. It’s not about what you ride, it’s about getting out there, going places and experiencing the bounty of the world around us.
Right in our backyard is the Los Padres National Forest, nearly two million acres of public land filled with mountains, canyons, rivers and lakes, crisscrossed by some of the best paved and unpaved roads in Southern California. It’s our go-to place for testing bikes, camping and escaping from the daily grind. Recently I spent a full winter day, from sunrise to well after sunset, plying back roads in the Los Padres on the new Benelli TRK502X, and I could not have been happier. We were both in our element.
We took fast corners at speed and we dodged potholes in neglected pavement while going slow. We kicked up dust and we splashed through spring-fed creeks. We explored little-used and rutted dirt roads, scaring away deer munching on the few green leaves they could find at the end of a long dry season. What struck me most was how easygoing the Benelli is regardless of conditions. It steers obediently, responds predictably and stops authoritatively, though the right lever sometimes requires a firm pull. It’s comfortable whether seated or standing, though the flared edges on the back of the tank pressed into my thighs when up on the pegs.
If you’re looking for a solid, well-rounded motorcycle to explore blue highways and dirt byways, the Benelli TRK502X is worth a look. With a base price of $6,399, it’s within reach of any budget.
When I think of Benelli, what comes to mind are exotic, expensive Italian motorcycles like the Tornado Tre, an inline-triple sportbike from the early 2000s. But Benelli has a much longer history. Established in 1911, it built its first engine in 1919 and its first motorcycle in 1921. Over the years Benelli built racebikes and two-strokes and four-strokes of various sizes. In the 1960s its motorcycles were sold in the U.S. at Montgomery Ward under the Riverside brand. In 2005, Benelli became part of the Qianjiang Group. Although still headquartered in Pesaro, Italy, where some models are designed, Benelli motorcycles are manufactured in Wenling, China. California-based SSR Motorsports has been the exclusive U.S. importer since 2015, and there are currently more than 300 dealers.
Benelli makes two versions of the TRK502. Listing for just $5,999, the street-biased base model has 17-inch cast wheels and a short underbelly exhaust. For $400 more, the TRK502X adds spoked wheels with a 19-inch front, Metzeler Tourance 90/10 adventure tires (with tubes) and a high-mount side exhaust. Both models are well-equipped in standard trim, with ABS, hand guards, engine guards, a 12V outlet, a centerstand and LED turn signals and running lights. Another $999 gets you a full set of aluminum luggage.
Design-wise, the TRK502 draws inspiration from stalwarts in the ADV class. It has a beak with nostrils similar to the Ducati Multistrada. It has a fantastic windscreen like the one on the BMW R 1250 GS. And it has styling touches that remind me of Triumph Tigers. Although full size in terms of dimensions and scale — with luggage, our test bike tipped the scales at 589 pounds with a full tank — the TRK502 is powered by a midsize 500cc parallel twin. It made 38 horsepower at 8,900 rpm and 29 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm on Jett Tuning’s dyno. That’s not much power, but it’s enough. The Benelli cruises along smoothly and happily at 80 mph, and its 6-speed transmission shifts with ease. At certain rpm I felt engine buzz through the grips and pegs, but it was never bothersome.
Although built to meet a price point, nothing about the Benelli looks or feels cheap. Fit and finish are spot-on, and the tubular-steel trellis frame, swingarm and subframe are robust. The beefy 50mm inverted fork offers no adjustability, but the rear shock is fully adjustable. Working the locks to remove the luggage gave me fits, but the locks and latches on the boxes themselves work great, and they hold a ridiculous amount of gear.
Chinese-made motorcycles have not yet broken into the mainstream on-road market in the U.S., but bang-for-the-buck bikes like the Benelli TRK502X will change that. Some of the most sophisticated precision-made products (like the iPhone in my pocket) are made in China, and even BMW sources some of its engines from there. Backed by a solid warranty and a large dealer network, the TRK502X is a bike I’d buy with confidence. The only thing missing is a destination.
Helmet: Arai XD4
Gloves: Aerostich Elkskin Roper
Jacket & pants: Aether Divide
Boots: Alpinestars Corozal
2021 Benelli TRK502X Specs:
Base Price: $6,399
Price as Tested: $7,398 (luggage)
Warranty: 1 yr. or 12,000 miles
Website: Benelli Motorcycles USA
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled parallel twin, DOHC w/ 2 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 69 x 66.8mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 60 in.
Rake/Trail: 26 degrees/4.7 in.
Seat Height: 33 in.
Wet Weight: 589 lbs. (as tested)
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 41.1 mpg
Wow only 38 horsepower? I thought they were supposed to have 48 hp. How does it compare to the
CB500X on the dyno?
I think the Honda has about 5 more than that
Looked it up. The CB500X makes 36-37hp at the rear wheel, depending on the rag. So same power, but the CB500X is a light, agile, small bike well suited to mild adventure riding… and the Benelli is a physically enormous road-going touring machine that might take on a dirt road from time to time.
Cant help but feel like its too similar to BMW’s version…..design wise it could have been a little different.
We need a standard weight so we can compare . You list wet weight and that is unfair to bikes with big tanks and log range .
Weight should be ready to ride but no accesorios or fuel .
How is ready to ride without fuel. I might be odd, but I never go anyplace without fuel.
Maybe we should list it without seats. Some bike have smaller seats. Or maybe without tires. Some bike have bigger tires.
I don’t know what this Sebastian is thinking. We are supposed to ride it with a full tank of gasoline and of course the engine oil, hence with the wet weight.
Because fuel weight is not constant. It changes as we burn through it. A wet weight “with two gallons of fuel” would still be ready to ride and give a far more even playing field when comparing bikes with small tanks and those with extended range tanks.
Anyone heard anything on servicing needs? Sounds aning in all reviews, built in China, not sure of longer term happiness.
Compared to the CB500X this falls short. 589lbs, 38hp ad 41mpg. CB500X 434lbs, 50hp and rated at 65mpg.
Not to mention the dealer network and Honda quality, for $600 more.
benelli has 48hp
Rider dynoed the CB500X at 40 hp at the rear wheel. You also forget that the Benelli comes with crash bars, center stand, hand guards, and rear rack stock. The CB500X comes with none of that, and those are not zero-weight items.
But I digress, the Benelli is not trying to compete with the CB500X. The CB500X is a micro-machine compared to the Benelli, the Benelli is BIG. It’s BMW GS sized. It’s two “American-sized” adults and a weeks’ worth of luggage big. They’re competing with the big touring machines, not with a CB500X. The Benelli is heavy because it’s physically larger than anything else in its “class”, it has more fuel capacity, and because it comes with accessories that other brands make you pay for.
uhhh – It’s really heavy. Maybe the crash bars are made from gravitanium.
I see a 2021 group test in the making. Add the CSC RX4 and KTM 390 to the mix also.
I’ve been looking at that RX4 for a few years now. I don’t know about a shoot out though. The author of this article mentions the fact that Chinese bikes have yet to break into the U.S. market in any significant way, but what publications are working to change that narrative?
I’m glad the author of this article made reference to his Chinese-made cell phone. I get a kick out of all the keyboard warriors on social media, who bash the hell out of anything made in China, from tools to motorcycles, all while typing their diatribes on a Chinese phone or Chinese laptop. As far as this thing goes, I’ve looked at a couple of Benellis over the past few years, but I’ve really had my eye on a CSC TT250 or RX4. I just need to dig up $4,000 from somewhere.
I bought the Benelli. The Honda just felt too small. The Benelli felt right and performs well. It has plenty of power and looks way better in my opinion. The Benelli is a great bike for the money. Out performs the KLR 650!
RSR, I completely agree with you, I bought my TRK 502X, identical to the bike pictured, in late August and I really rate it. I’ve put on 2000 miles in just under 5 weeks. It’s very comfortable to ride over long distances. Granted, it’s no lightweight, but you simply don’t notice it, particularly a highway speeds. It’s got good fuel economy and can get just shy of 280 miles out of the 5.3 gallon tank. 🙂
IPhones are assembled in China. The parts come from all over the world. big difference.
Picked one up in western NC in July and have been really happy with the ride and performance in the 1000+ miles I’ve put on it. Ridden pavement, dirt, mountain twisties, etc with zero issues or concerns. Build quality easily rivals most bikes out there and it’s really comfortable. We’ll see how it performs with higher miles and some beat downs, but based on my experience so far, it’ll handle it. For the China haters: lighted up. Don’t knock it til you try it. Take a look for sure if you’re in the market.
nearly 600 pounds for an Adventure (supposed to be able to go off road), who are you kidding? a lot of weight to push with only 38 hp…nuff said.
Is it “nuff said”? It actually has 48 hp and comes with crash bars, pannier racks, skid plate and is large enough for two “American-sized” adults to fit on.
So I finally got to see one of these in person. It’s enormous. A fat guy and his fat girlfriend would be quite comfortable. It’s a full-sized touring machine with a midsized engine. Everything about it is refined and the fit and finish is great. However… the X model is hugely tall. I’ve only got a 30″ inseam and I was on tiptoes in street shoes. That’d be a little better with my adventure boots on, but I’d need a lowering kit to even consider it.
However, the street version has tubeless tires and a 2″ lower seat height. I just wish it also had a 19″ front, but it’s running a 17″ instead.
Also… I bought the Benelli Leoncino back in February, and I’m thrilled with it. It’s the most go-anywhere, do-anything bike I’ve ever owned. It’s constantly surprising me with how capable it is off-road. Especially for a big heavy street bike. The suspension just soaks up the bumps and it’s fully adjustable too.
Dynos read all over the place and one will say 38hp and one will say 45hp and the only real thing you can do is compare bikes that were run on the same dyno. That said, it does feel a bit less than 50hp. The Leoncino motor (same one in the TRK502) is tuned for low end torque and midrange. It makes best power around 6000rpm, and I find it’s much more fun (and fast) to short shift at 7k than to wind it out to the 9500rpm rev limiter.
Off-road, and on twisty paved roads, the torque and midrange is amazing. It’s got considerably more torque than the CB500X at low rpm. Stall speed in first going up steep inclines is 7mph. That means almost no clutchwork is needed to go slow and pick your way through a rocky, washed out and rutted trail. With proper big-block 50/50 tires it’s a downright goat. On the highway is a different story. 80mph is 7000 rpm, which is fine, but as rpm increases power drops off. And as speed increases the wind pressure on the bike increases by a square of the speed. So with my fat butt on the bike, it’s got a true top speed somewhere near 96mph. It may go faster downhill, with a tailwind, or in a full tuck, but generally speaking I can get it to 96mph pretty reliably. (GPS speeds mind you, as the stock speedo off by quite a bit)
The TRK502 is supposed to get better gas mileage and have a higher top speed than the Leoncino. I’m betting that’s due to aerodynamics of the bike vs the lack of any on the Leoncino.
Just FYI guys I’ve got 6500 miles on my Leoncino Trail, I’ve been the tar out of it in the woods, and except for a bent brake pedal after a tipover on a supremely muddy trail, I’ve not had to fix or replace anything. It’s been stone reliable since day one, and it might very well be the best bike I’ve ever owned. Brakes are great, suspension is great, it looks good, it’s predictable when goosing it and power-sliding in gravel or dirt, and it’s just FUN.
Next time I’m in the market for an adventure bike I will very seriously consider the TRK502. I bought three bikes in the last year though so I need to cut back in 2022!
Ok here we go with some fun. HD are assembled in the USA and most parts come from other countries. The USA makes several Honda motorcycles. The USA HAS BEEN MAKING Kawasaki’s for several decades, longer than many of you have been alive. Long before Toyota or any of the others have been doing it. The point is in this global economy no one product is produced entirely within the borders of the parent company, with exception of the Chinese motorcycles. However most other brands get many of their parts and motors from China. So being made in China, not a big deal. Most stuff I own has ties to China.
I think I might go take a close look at one. I got several grand burning a whole in my pocket.
A high quality bike made by humans. I really like this bike. I have a cabin in the mountains of Colorado and I put this bike through the ringer. Not light adventure stuff. Drove out from Madison WI. Highway comfort at long distance is really unmatched. As far as weight compared to other bikes I would say pull off the Included stand and role bar and also consider the massive forks that perform so well its silly to talk about. If your a good rider its not even an issue. I’ve had more people show interest in this motorcycle then any other bike I have owned. Want more bike, most likely to much bike for most riders spend a bunch more money.