The 2015 model year brought many updates to Beta’s four-stroke off-road machines, making the bikes lighter and improving overall handling. The Italian marque also introduced four new engine sizes for 2015, all with different power characteristics aimed to please a wide range of riders. One 2015 engine update is adding fuel-injection to 350 RR (the remaining off-road Betas still drink through a Keihin carburetor), but the biggest changes were reduced engine displacement for the 430 RR Race Edition (previously a 450) and 480RR (previously a 498). Even though the new 430/480 models have less displacement, Beta assures us that the horsepower and torque is the same as the 2014 models they replace, thanks to new cam and exhaust designs. After a few months of riding these two bikes, we can attest that neither is lacking power!
Revisions and changes to the Beta RR four-stroke line start at the motor. Beta reduced rotating masses and the overall engine size. The main engine cases have been completely redesigned and made lighter via new die-castings. Internal changes include a new oil pump drive system, now simpler and more effective thanks to the elimination of a drive gear. The crankcase chamber is also new, minimizing pumping losses. Redesigned connecting rods are shorter and lighter. The piston is also lighter and more robust thanks to its Formula 1-derrived “box-in-box” structure, which also claims reduced vibrations and increased power. Revised camshaft profiles further improving performance, especially at low speeds. The 2015 cylinder heads have been completely redesigned in the ports and combustion chamber shape, and are also more compact externally. Redesigned water jackets in the cylinder improve heat dispersion and increase the efficiency of the entire cooling system. A new starter motor is lighter and more powerful than the previous models. According to Beta, the weight of the 430 RR and 480 RR engine has been reduced by 2.2 pounds when compared to the 2014 engines.
Beta 350/390/430/480 RR models come standard with Sachs 48mm forks. Close collaboration between Beta and Sachs’ engineers resulted in numerous improvements, including a redesigned compression piston with “three slot” geometry, aimed to improve oil flow and help absorb violent hits more progressively. The Sachs shock remains unchanged for 2015.
All About Displacement
(Above) The only difference between the 430 RR engine and the 480 RR is cylinder bore size. (Middle) All Beta RR models use a Sachs shock out back. (Below) Both the 430 RR and the 480 RR comes with a skid plate and it’s a good thing, off-road riding is hard on dirt bikes.
The only difference between the Beta 430 RR (including the Race Edition) and the 480 RR is engine displacement. The 480 RR gets its 50cc advantage via a 5mm larger bore, otherwise the 430 RR and the 480 RR bikes are exactly the same. MotoUSA compared the 430 RR Race Edition to the standard 480 RR, which differ in a few key areas. The Race Edition uses a slightly different frame, home to just a few small additional gussets. While the offset is the same on both bikes, black triple clamps on the Race Edition hold 48mm Marzocchi closed cartridge Factory forks. Standard Beta RR’s feature 48mm Sachs forks. The rear Sachs shock is exactly the same on both the Race Edition and the standard RR model. The Race Edition also comes with a lot of extras like a translucent fuel tank (still only 2 gallons), billet Beta Racing extra wide footpegs, a front axle pull, Beta handguards, and special Race Edition graphics and seat cover. Additional bling comes in the way of axle blocks and oil fill caps. A map switch also allows on-the-fly switching between aggressive or smoother, friendly power delivery on the Race Edition.
Beta vs Beta
Both bikes weigh 268 pounds on the MotoUSA scale with fuel tanks filled. While not exactly lightweights, the difference out on the trail would have any rider swearing the 430 was much lighter than the 480. Those 50cc don’t sound like a lot but they make a big difference in how light the bike feels when riding. The weight of the RR’s really becomes evident in the sand and in technical terrain that require a lot of quick direction changes. The Betas feel long, which helps stability but hurts quick direction changes. They are not twitchy handling bikes but aren’t lazy feeling either. The larger cockpit layout helps taller riders feel more comfortable on a Beta than many other brands. The flip side is that the larger ergos also make the RRs feel very big and long for smaller riders.
In the suspension department the Sachs fork on the 480 RR feels a little more plush on random small bumps but packs and falls into the mid stroke through consecutive hits, which sometimes creates a harsh feel and more of a nose down feeling. The Sachs fork also blows through the stroke and bottoms out much easier on big hits compared to the Marzocchi fork on the 430 RR Race Edition. The Marzocchi closed cartridge fork stays up in the stroke better, handling medium and bigger hits nicely, keeping the bike balanced and stable. Both bikes use the same Sachs shock with identical settings, highlighting the performance advantage of the Marzocchi fork over the Sachs unit, with the Marzocchi improving the overall handling performance of the 430. The Sachs shock does a decent job in most off-road trail riding conditions, soaking up small to medium hits well, staying planted and providing good traction. Big g-outs and high-speed whoops bottom out the shock and remind the rider these are trail bikes, not motocross racers. Overall both machines work great on single track and technical terrain, where the compliant suspension provides good traction and comfort.
The 430 RR Race Edition is a blast to ride and when ridden a little more aggressive doesn’t give much up to the 480RR, only in extreme horsepower robbing situations. On top speed runs the 480 RR only pulled the 430 RR by a few miles an hour, topping out at 88 mph on a dirt road. In a straight up drag race the two machines are closely matched. The 480 RR did out climb the 430 RR Race Edition on massive hill climbs but if the climb requires more technique than sheer horsepower the two machines are close to equal. Both bikes have an impressive ability to lug down low without flaming out, creating tons of traction when the terrain is slippery. The 480 RR requires a little less clutch work when using the motor down near idle and thanks to the Brembo hydraulic clutch, modulating the power to the ground is smooth and consistent.
The 480 displacement number might scare some riders away who think that is just too much engine, but the Beta 480 RR (and 430RR) delivers very friendly power that is usable by all rider abilities. A lot of that controllable, friendly and traction making power can be credited to the carburetor. Fuel-injected bikes are typically snappy and instant with throttle response, not always a trait wanted by the off-road trail riding crowd. Both the 430 RR and 480 RR deliver incredibly smooth off idle power that rolls into a strong mid-range and a meaty top end. A feature on the 430 RR Race Edition is the ignition map switch on the handlebars, which makes more of a difference in the power delivery than we expected. Map 1 is more aggressive and fun when traction is abundant but if the terrain gets slippery or technical a quick switch to Map 2 mellows out the power throughout the rpm range. On loose rocky climbs we used Map 2 to reduce wheel spin and increase traction. It is a cool feature of the Race Edition.
We ran Kenda tires during the 200 miles of our testing, as it took place in the desert and mountains of Nevada. Tire choice is often a matter of personal preference, but some tires suit different riding styles and terrain better than others. I found the Kendas hooked up nicely in the sandier conditions, especially when compared to the Michelin Enduro Competition tires that come stock on the RRs. The Michelin tires hook up well in rocky and hard pack but the knob height is too low to work well in super soft terrain, especially the rear tire.
The RR computers are both easy to read and display time, speed and mileage. However, there is not a race mode or a way to adjust mileage if using it for a time keeping enduro. Another feature we enjoyed on both models is the electric start, which fires up the Betas easily, even when in gear.
- Fun, easy-to-use power
- Great looking dirt bike
- Stable overall handling
- Small gas tank
- Kickstand too small
- Hard seat
The biggest issue with the off-road RR models is the small gas tanks, which seriously limits riding distances. As a test on the Nevada 200 trail ride, under moderate riding conditions (not race pace) we ran completely dry at 42.7 miles. The 2-gallon tank does not cut it, especially on a carbureted bike. Next on the gripe list is the kickstands, they are too short and only effective on hard pack level ground. Also adding a larger footprint to the kickstand would help. The current dirt end of the kickstand resembles a harpoon more than a shape designed to hold a dirt bike from falling over. If your nickname is “iron ass” you’ll love the seat on the Beta RR. If not learn to sit less, stand more or buy some padded riding shorts, because the seats are extremely stiff. In our opinion, every off-road bike should have a
- Very torquey, smooth engine with plenty of power on tap
- Great cockpit for large riders
- Powerful brakes
- Small gas tank
- Kickstand too short
- Sachs fork lacking compared to the Marzocchi unit
cooling fan. Both bikes spit a little steam in tight slow conditions, especially trails that required heavy clutch work to make traction. We’d also love to see the RR models drop at least another five pounds. As an owner losing three pounds is as easy as buying an aftermarket lithium battery, replacing the stock battery/anchor.
Standard or Race Edition
If you going to buy an RR, spend the extra $500 and go with the Race Edition. The Marzocchi forks alone are well worth the extra dough, as they substantially improve the overall balance and feel. Plus the Race Edition is one sweet looking ride. If you feel you want more horsepower than the 430 RR delivers, Beta offers the 480 RR in a Race Edition as well. And don’t forget, the Build Your Own Beta program allows you to trick out your Beta before it ever gets to your door. Almost every test rider gravitated towards the 430 RR Race Edition and we fully credit that to the improved handling, thanks to the Marzocchi forks.. Don’t forget, Beta also offers street legal, dual-sport versions of the RR models, so if a license plate is part of your off-road requirements, look into Beta’s RS models.