On a cold and soggy Saturday, Beta invited MotoUSA to join a ride day for its US dealerships. Despite the threat of snow and hail, I stood in line with about 50 dealer staff members for a first crack at riding the 2013 Betas. On hand was every model produced by the Italian manufacturer, including its trials machines. With my time being limited by nasty weather on the horizon, I concentrated on the 2-Stoke and 4-Stroke RR off-road racers.
We enjoyed our quick ride on the 2-stroke 2013 Beta 300 RR.
We only had around 10 minutes on each model as we circulated the six-mile single-track course that had been laid out for us on MotoVentures’ property. This doesn’t give much time to evaluate, so these impressions are abbreviated to say the least. Take note however, Beta has committed to getting us test units very soon. We already have a 2-Stroke 250 Enduro Shootout in the works that will include the 250 RR and a First Ride of the 2013 400 RR is also on the calendar.
300 RR 2-Stroke
I knew the 2-Stroke models were going to be popular with the dealers as they were all drawn to them as the bikes were unloaded and staged for the day’s activities. So planning ahead I slowly crept my way over to a 2013 Beta 300 RR as the rider’s meeting seemed to wind down. And good thing I did. Soon as Tim Pilg from Beta turned the dealers loose it was like a land rush start to the 250 and 300 smokers. But I would be first!
Thumbing an electric start button just doesn’t feel right on a 2-Stroke, but I have to say it’s a nice touch. The 300 RR springs to life quickly, even using the old-fashion method of kicking. Impressive considering the mercury never saw the 40-degree mark all day. A pull on the super light hydraulic clutch (standard on all 2013 Betas) and the RR slips into gear with just the slightest pressure on the shift lever. On the trail the 300 RR was, in short, a blast! Tossing the 223-pound (claimed) 2-stroke is easy with immediate response from rider inputs. The brakes are strong yet not grabby, and the suspension seems supple without being under-sprung. My only gripe is the jetting was a bit fat transitioning from the pilot jet to the needle. Once past that initial blubbery feel, the power was snappy with a grunty hit.
Bigger isn’t always better in the dirt bike world as more power can exacerbate a motorcycle’s flaws, but with the 2013 Beta 498 RR that is absolutely not the case. Sharing the same chassis with the 350 RR, 400 RR and 450 RR, the 498 gets more low-end grunt and shoulder-yanking horsepower thanks to a longer stroke than the 450 model. What struck me right off the bat on the big-bore Beta was how much torque was available with a twist of the wrist. In tight trails, it is entirely possible to leave the 498 in second or third gear and forget about the shift lever. Grabbing a handful when the trail opens up delivers acceleration that eclipses any other model in the Beta line-up.
Handling is just as good as the 450 or 350 despite the extra juice on tap and to be honest it’s easier to ride because of the wonderful engine character. Just like the 300 RR, the 498 brakes are excellent and have a feel and modulation that can’t be matched by much out there. If you are just a trail rider and not a racer that has to fit into a certain displacement class, this is the Beta to buy.
Last year this model took the win in our 2012 Husqvarna TE511 vs 2012 Beta 520 RS showdown, and for 2013 it’s basically unchanged except for the color of the plastic. When we did our test we focused on desert performance, so this would be a great opportunity to see how the RS would fare when the trails are tight. As expected the 520 RS did not disappoint, with performance that is well above most dual-sports.
The 2013 Beta 520 RS is one of the best dual-sports we’ve ever ridden in the desert, and now on the trails.
The suspension package isn’t as impressive as the RR line, but the 45mm Marzocchi forks are up for just about anything you can throw at them. I even over-jumped a moderately sized tabletop on the small MX section of the course; the Beta didn’t suffer any ill effect, nor did I. The rear shock soaks up the big hits with ease but does suffer when the smacking into curb-sized acceleration bumps. Even so, this is a dual-sport bike and the average user will not beat on the RS as hard as I did. For even the most extreme DS riders the 520 RS is an excellent mount. Just think of it as a slightly heavier RR with turn signals and a horn.
After my short taste of the latest from Beta, I’m itching for more seat time. I’m very impressed with what it has to offer in the dirt bike segment, but I’m also impressed with its dealers. It was good to see those that sell Betas actually riding them, and riding them hard. Beta’s dealers are a hardcore lot, braving some very miserable weather to experience the newest models available.