One look at the 2012 Beta 520 RS and you can tell it was made to excel in the dirt, with little or no regard to the street part of the dual-sport equation. For basic intents and purposes, it is a dirt bike with the running gear required to make it street legal. Turn signals, mirrors and a license plate holder are about the only addition to the RS model from the dirt-only RR model. Beta developed the RS just for the U.S. market as dual sport sales continue to rise.
With all its red anodized parts and billet bits the Beta is one trick looking machine, and our young test rider Frankie Garcia found the looks of the RS the most appealing between the two machines tested.
“The Beta comes off the crate looking like a full factory race bike with a red anodized shock chamber, red anodized triple clamps, black forks, a bright red frame, and billet hubs. The thing is TRICK!” says ‘Full Factory for Life’ Garcia.
The 2012 Beta 520 RS make no bones about being a dirtbike with the required-by-law equipment bolted on.
I, on the other hand, think the angular radiator shrouds looked dated and a bit out of place on the bike. Also, I would have liked to have seen the sweet red plastics of the RR carried over to the 520 RS.
Looks are vital, but nothing is more important than the ride for the hardcore shredders at MotoUSA – and that’s where the Beta shines. In the dirt the Beta is top dog in the comparison as it spits out full on dirt bike performance that allows you to roll right past Johnny Law and smile. (Although we did get stopped, anyway)
The punch from the 497.4cc mill pulls strong down low and continues to build power all the way to the top end. Although it feels stronger than the Husky, the numbers from our DynoJet 250i reveal it slightly trails it’s Swedish, uh, German, competition with 39.17hp and 25.50ft-lbs of torque. The 15-pound lighter curb weight of 276 pounds and better Michelin Enduro Competition tires obviously impart a better power feeling when on the trail. From 0-60 mph the Beta just edges out the Husky by a quarter of a second with a 4.76s run.
Surprisingly, Beta still chooses to run carburetors on both the RR and RS models. Even so, the throttle response is crisp and there is no sign of bogging from being too rich or lean. However, starting the Beta is where we miss fuel injection. Once hot, the 520 RS was finicky when the starter button was pushed. The Beta just doesn’t jump to life like it’s FI equipped rival, and it takes some cranking to get it to light up. After two days of stopping and starting for photos and video passes, the battery was weak and we even had to kick start it a few times.
Once running, blasting through the six-speed gearbox was precise and solid. Never once did we miss a shift on the Beta. The Brembo hydraulic clutch offered excellent feel and was buttery smooth.
On the brakes, the Beta’s Nissin calipers and Braking rotors are an excellent combination. The 260mm front rotor was strong with excellent feedback, without any grabbiness. Out back the 240mm rotor and single-piston caliper compliment the front perfectly.
Suspension duties on the 520RS are handled by a Sachs rear shock and a 45mm Marzocchi fork on the front. On the street the Beta was a bit stiffer than the Husky, as we expected, but on the dirt the springy bits were more suited to aggressive riding. The fork was a complaint in the rocks but was still stiff enough to really pound through the whoops and g-outs strewn throughout the Southern California desert. The rear shock handled everything we threw at it with composure, and tracked straight and true through even the gnarliest of sections. Whoever was piloting the Beta was always out in front when the terrain got nasty.
Handling on the RS was exceptional in the dirt with quick steering and a lighter side-to-side feel. The only time the front end was unsettled was in slow speed sand washes where the rear end traction would cause some serious pushing. On hard pack surfaces, however, the package was neutral and confidence inspiring. Once on the street, the 520 wasn’t as composed in the corners as the Husky, which really boils down to tire selection. We would gladly give up the stability on the street for dirt domination, but that’s just us.
Doing work behind the bars of the Beta is more hard edged than the TE511. The seat is narrower and stiff, making long street
Street duty on the 2012 Beta 520 RS is a bit more uncomfortable than the Husky due to its narrow seat.
sections an uncomfortable affair. However, the push button seat release is so trick I would click the button just for fun. Just like the Husky, the Beta’s controls are top of the line with dual density grips that should be the industry standard. One gripe from both of us was that the mirrors are cheap and not up to the standards of the rest of the bike’s high quality components.
When all the numbers are added up the 2012 Beta RS and Husqvarna TE511 are locked in a dead heat with both machines scoring the same amount of points. Both mounts are great choices for the aggressive dual sport rider. But draws are disappointing, and there must be a winner! The Beta scored more points in the subjective categories, and so we are inclined to give it the nod as our winner. With better performance in the dirt the 520 RS just barely edges out the TE511 for hardcore dual-sport supremacy; it was just more fun to ride, plain and simple.