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2009 Benelli Cafe Racer Review

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Benelli TNT Café Racer invokes the rebellious spirit of the 1960s British counterculture that gave rise to the first stripped-down racing motorcycles that emphasised speed and handling over comfort, yet forgoes the utilitarian styling.  
Sitting on the fence is bound give you splinters. It’s never the most comfortable position, but sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to reach a conclusion. And I’m faced with such a dilemma when pondering the unique styling of Benelli’s TNT Café Racer. Is it bulky and bitty? Or stylishly sophisticated? I just can’t decide. Perhaps it’s both. One thing is quite clear though, this streetfighter is a pure joy to ride, whether you like the looks or not.

Let’s get the styling out of the way. It looks seriously over complicated at first glance. There’s a technical and mechanical appearance to the bike, with its stocky, heavy set shoulders and shimmering Mandarin paintwork. Every where you look, a new curve or angle catches your eye, from the kinked triple exhaust pipes to the tapered rear end. It’s all so obviously, painstakingly intricate.

So I’d expected the ride to be equally fussy. The mere description of the bike, a Café Racer, conjures images of hunching over a naked bike, desperately trying to avoid the windblast and struggling to get comfortable. The Benelli’s as naked as a newborn, with absolutely no wind protection. But despite these warning signs, a little red devil appeared by my shoulder and twisted my right wrist until I eventually succumbed to the inevitable. I chased triple figures of monstrous proportions until my neck muscles stiffened with cramp and my eyes wobbled involuntarily in their sockets. And no, I’m not exaggerating and yes, it was ridiculously huge fun.


A thrilling ride, the TNT Cafe Racer won't lull you to sleep with such creature comforts as  practical wind fairings.
However, when you’re not riding like a loon possessed, the Café Racer is actually a pretty comfortable bike. Despite the bars being low and outstretched, and the fairly long 55.9-inch wheelbase, it feels like a fine fit. No lower back ache and no undue pressure on the wrists. (Although I’m not entirely convinced a day’s commuting through a grey London city would be anywhere near as enjoyable.) However, I rode for two days in the South of France, on toll roads, mountain passes and villages and loved every single minute. The 30.7-inch seat is firm but not wooden, and the riding position feels surprisingly natural, rather like the mirrors. They protrude from either end of the handlebars and at first just seem very, very odd. But in no time at all, they become part of the experience. The steering lock is pitiful though. It shares the same restrictions that you’d expect from a MotoGP bike, or indeed anything that forces feet down, three point turn shuffles. It’s all forgiven the instant you’ve lined up straight and open the throttle though because the engine really is that good.

The Benelli motor has all the characteristics of a torquey triple; low down grunt with a fierce knock out punch and belching raspy baritones. The 1131cc, three-cylinder lump feels as brutal as the bikes looks, to the extent that it’s even a bit snatchy in the low revs. The same can be said of the ‘Adventurous’ Tre K Amazonas, but where the power delivery feels wholly inappropriate on that bike, on the Café Racer it’s less intrusive and almost suits the bike’s aggressive nature. Almost.

And if you do need to tame the beast beneath you, there’s a button designed to reduce the power output below 5000 rpm for safety reasons (it should also increase fuel consumption when cruising in the same rev range). The press blurb would have you believe it’s similar to Suzuki’s Drive Mode Selector switch on the B-King and GSX-R Superbikes, but in reality, that’s simply not the case. Opt for subdued power on the B-King and the bike barely feels regal, do the same on the Benelli and you’d be hard pushed to notice a difference at all – on the bike I rode at least. (It is Italian remember.) But why kill such heady power anyway? The claimed 129 hp feels far too impressive to castrate, even if the option is there.


It takes some coaxing to get the belligerent Benelli into and out of turns, but once there it won't stray from its path.
The energy the Benelli Cafe Racer emits pours over into the handling. The bike weighs a gnats whisker under 440 lbs, so don’t expect a light brush of the ‘bars to have an instant effect in dropping into corners. But whilst it takes some subtle persuading for the initial tip in, its size becomes a distinct advantage once it is leant over. It holds a line like it’s never going to let go and offers a great deal of confidence, especially from the weighted front end. Of course that means chopping direction requires you to be masterful, but it’s always good to remind yourself who’s really the boss. . .

The Cafe Racer suspension is equally compliant. The 43mm upside down Marzocchi forks are fully adjustable and the rear monoshock offers adjustable preload. But I felt no need to touch the standard suspension settings at all. Even when faced with the most gorgeous downhill, slightly bumpy hairpins with a view that beggars belief, my knee slider dug firmly into the ground and the bike didn’t move an inch. No bouncing from the backside, just a steady, proper grin-factor lean angle. And when hauling on the strong Brembo brakes, the front remains reassuringly calm too. That’s not to say you can’t unruffle the bike, but it’d need a fair amount of provoking.

I on the other hand, could do with some provocation to persuade me off my fence. And after reminiscing about such fun fuelled trip, I’m finally ready to conclude that the TNT Café Racer’s looks are as handsome as the ride after all.
Benelli TNT Cafe Racer Photo Gallery
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Benelli TNT Cafe Racer Specs
Model: 2009 Benelli TNT Café Racer
Engine: 1131cc, Triple
Power: 129 hp @ 9250 rpm
Compression Ratio: 11.2:1
Torque: 86.3 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm
Top speed: 155 mph est
Transmission: 6-speed
Suspension front: fully adjustable 50mm inverted Marzocchi forks, w/ 4.72 inches travel
Suspension back: Extreme Technology single shock with adjustable rebound damping and pring pre-load w/ 4.72 inches travel.
Weight: 440 lbs
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallon
MSRP: $16,299

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Comments
TNT EVO -Style VS Riding  March 25, 2010 02:58 PM
I'm italian and I have a TNT SPORT EVO. It's axactly as Janie says, if you don't test you can't belive. The riding and the performances are exactly as the style. If you like the style you will enjoy the riding.
ROBFM -AWESOME !  October 8, 2009 03:35 AM
As a past owner of Two Benelli Tornado TRE's, I just Love the Benelli Cafe Racer almost as much as I Love Janie ! lol
Yes I'm British, well English actually !!!, and have read Janie's acticles regulary in one of our National Newspapers for a while now and have always found her writing Excellent ! Like a previous post said, She IS Passionate about motorcycles like most on here, and Yes, I doubt many on here would give her a run for their money in the riding stakes !

My next bike WILL be a Benelli Cafe Racer !


Keep it Up Janie !
Agusta Allan -Benelli  August 19, 2009 03:27 PM
It's a good bike but overpriced. The review was good--the nit picking borders on the sissy side. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to understand the review--that is the point isn't it. I own a few benellis and the build quality is not on par with price. That said they perform very well and yes i own one of the cafe racers--its a tremendous ride. That said if i could only afford one bike this would not be it.
dren -sweet  August 19, 2009 11:19 AM
i love cafe racer im only 13 but my cousin owns 1, i really enjoyed this artical, very nice writing
Big Ron -Jimbolaya  June 9, 2009 09:40 PM
Jimbo, I think it would benefit you to start with The Cat in the Hat or perhaps Green Eggs and Ham, you could then work your way up to comic books. Life is short, try to enjoy it, perhaps you should go ride your scooter and feel your anger flow out of your body as the miles pass you by. Jamie, your writing style is very entertaining, keep it up. Nice to see a jock with a brain. Cheers
JoneZ -Zzzzz  June 4, 2009 10:46 AM
It sounds like ONE guy. Not a bunch.
mack -what is wrong with you people?  May 16, 2009 10:04 AM
It sounds like a bunch of guys jealous of a woman who gets to ride motorcycles for a living and tell about it. This article was a breath of fresh air. A new voice telling me about the things I already have a passion for. You can tell that she has a real passion for motorcycles of all types and loves the opportunity that she gets to ride each and every one. Ok so there are no grunts and snorts in this article, does there always have to be? This article was a pleasant surprise. Thank you MCUSA and Jamie. By the way, why does someone always have to bring up the old "you can get a suzwayamda for way less" arguement?
SideTrac -Cafe' Racer  May 12, 2009 12:07 AM
Me again.I wanted to say keep up the good work Janie it is not a perfect or bad structure of writing.But you will get it.Pictures need more of a 360* look at the bike itself that you are writing about.Us riders want to see the components and how they mold with the skeleton of the bike.A few pictures of you on them is great but your review is about the bike.Just a bike lover.Hang in there.We all had to crawl at one time.You will run with it like riding your motocycle full throttle.Happy twisting.Peace. :)
SideTrac -Benelli Versus MMMMM??????  May 11, 2009 11:23 PM
Alot of what you guies had to say I agree with.Janie is Hot just for riding the Cafe'Racer.Women on bikes thats just Hot.The bike has well for me.Just a stripped down Tornado.Its not my choice bike for the low $16,ooo range.You can own a Kawa ZX-14 with inline-4 or a SuZi GSX-R1000 for a low $12,000.I would buy a Triumph Speed Triple that has 131hp w/less cc's of 1050.Its in the mid $11,000 range.I am not a triple guy due to balance of the engines.I ride a sexy Red-Hot Modified '07 SV650 thats right.She is a mid weight but gives some of the larger street sport bikes run for there money.She is Well respected where I live.I love the handling of this sportbike.Suspension all stock with Minor adjustments.SuZi would out turn that Cafe'Racer with ease.Basically I own three outstanding Benelli's.They are not motorcycles.Hint.I would not put my nuts on anything that said cafe'.Unless that was her name.Get it.Later riders.Wear your equipment and be smart on your decision making it could save your butt.Peace
Whitehawk -The calm before the criticism.  May 11, 2009 03:32 PM
Geeze.... You guys should calm down! Just sit bac and accept the fact that not every reviewer is capable of delivering a competent review of the subject, along with the fact that most of them don't have a thorough command of "American English" and you've got the whole thing in a nutshell. I didnt get anything out of the review and therefore, Benelli is unable to persuade me that thier bike is any better than a used Honda, plus MCUSA is unable to convince me that thier reviewers are worth listening to!Hey... Where can you get a Benelli serviced? (Serviced? Where can you BUY one? Loll!!) Don't worry. I'll still read this when it arrives in my emailbox but I'll be skipping anything that carries the Janie Omorogbe byline.
hAnKbOt -Jimbolaya is a moron....  May 8, 2009 01:28 PM
This guy obviously doesn't understand anything. Everyone should just stop responding to him. If he doesn't understand the regal reference to B-King, or the reference to reminding yourself who is boss(as in it has a slow turn in, so you have to be more forceful than you would normally be to get it to change direction) he obviously won't understand anything any of us have to say. Great article Janie, do try and get more "all around the bike" shots next time and I think everyone but Jimbolaya will be pleased.
Russ -Give it a rest  May 5, 2009 11:37 PM
Jimbolaya, that was your seventh post whining about the writing in this review. We get it - you don't like Janie's style. How about posting some comments about the bike?
jimbolaya -I love Janie but my Vulcan mind meld is malfunctioning  May 5, 2009 09:13 PM
"Of course that means chopping direction requires you to be masterful, but it’s always good to remind yourself who’s really the boss. . ." What is meant by this collection of words? What is the subject? Define "boss"? Define "that" (the third word)? Thank you.
hardcore666 -What is a jewish skullcap?  May 4, 2009 12:39 PM
Janie Omgogre ain't no Alan Cathcart..that's for sure.
gaj -A few important details missing...  May 3, 2009 09:29 AM
Available in the US? Range? Tranny and braking performance? Why buy an ugly Italian when there are beauties out there that perform wonderfully for the same money. Price, styling combined with no turning radius would take it off my "naked" bike list.
jim -like the dead said  May 2, 2009 09:58 AM
please don't dominate the rap jack, if you got nothing new to say
Dr. Bombay -Jimbolaya  May 2, 2009 07:02 AM
Actually, I've been getting paid to write and edit for about 13 years. I've found that the worst critics are usually frustrated pedants who lack imagination and aren't capable of anything approaching original thought.
Ronnie -Jimbolaya  May 1, 2009 10:31 AM
Dear God, you sound frustrated, did ur girfriend dump you or you were just kicked out of a job you couldn't do.. LOSER IN LIFE!
Bart - MCUSA Editor -Posting policy  May 1, 2009 08:41 AM
Geesh, I wish you guys would tell us what you really think... :) Jimbolaya, you're not into Janie O's style, that's your prerogative. But MCUSA finds it a fresh perspective, and come on B-King/regal, you don't get it? Nathan, sorry my friend, you must have been looking at an older cached version of the page. We do our best to wipe profanities and vulgar/offensive terms, like the one you mentioned, off the board ASAP. But since you mentioned the word again, your comment’s gone again... Remember MCUSA is a site for riders of all ages, so the language needs to be civil. Like I said in another article comment section, language should be network TV not HBO, otherwise, it may get the boot.
Racer1 -C'mon guys - get over yourselves  May 1, 2009 06:46 AM
She was a gladiator on TV, she's beautiful, she loves motorcycles, she is clearly a very capable rider, she brings a female perspective to aesthetics and style, yet I'm sure could beat many of you on the race track. Why not embrace a new writer with a new outlook? Why not be welcoming and supportive instead of posturing, whiney little know it alls? I sense a huge dollop of little man syndrome here - too insecure to learn about a motorcycle from a woman... As a Brit, I get what she's saying - this isn't the Literary Review - give the girl a chance, she is finding her voice, she has stepped up to the plate and I for one welcome her input and perspective.
Jay in McMinneville -jimbolaya-if you are such an expert how come no one is asking you to write articles?  April 30, 2009 10:56 PM
I'm not sure why you take such offense to Janie's writing- it seemed like a reasonable article to me. I'm sorry you feel it should have been sent to you prior to publishing so you could edit the content so it would meet your high standards. I mean if anyone gave a damn about your literary skills maybe you could write some articles, and then get to read some jack hole run his keyboard about how you suck. Sorry you are so narrow minded you can't grasp even a basic statement like "Opt for subdued power on the B-King and the bike barely feels regal..." You know, the bike's name has "king" in it and Kings are generally regarded as being regal, but if you stole a kings pants maybe he wouldn't seem quite so regal anymore. I know it's hard to wrap your simple mind around and next time when you smell the smoke coming from your ears you may want to just stop.
Jimbolaya -more trash  April 30, 2009 06:28 PM
"Opt for subdued power on the B-King and the bike barely feels regal, do the same on the Benelli and you’d be hard pushed to notice a difference at all – on the bike I rode at least." As opposed to the bike she did NOT ride "at most", on which the author noticed a huge difference "at all". There are indeed many levels of acceptable writing that fall between this article & Faulkner. This, & the lack of useful pics, brings this blog down to or below that of Tor Sagen's blog (not a good thing).
Jimbolaya -I double dare you....  April 30, 2009 06:22 PM
I double triple dare anyone reading this, esp the editor of this blog, to post a link to another supposed "professional" blog w/ such an illiterate trash heap masquerading as readable text. If the person in charge of this ridiculous blog had one iota of sense, this "article" would be immediately deleted & the person who authorized its posting needs a serious tongue lashing. Am I blocking? Readers: you got less than what you paid for this article. I place the writing capability of anyone defending this article at a level equal to Janie. I doubt very much such defenders are paid to ever write anything. The fact she is British is no defense of anything.
benroe -chinese italian  April 30, 2009 06:44 AM
I have to agree with jon matz on this one. I would love to have a benelli if I didn't question its pedigree and the build quality at that price point. If I am going to give that much for a bike I would like to know its not chinese.
Nathan -overly zealous nit pickers  April 30, 2009 05:49 AM
Have any of you read a british bike mag? I'd have to guess not. The writer is British and even though we share a common language often times their version seems to be a bit foreign to us Yanks. If you are looking for literary work reminiscent of "The Great Gatsby" then you shouldn't be searching through a motorcycle website. The article does its intended job, it relays the writers impression/opinion regarding the bike. I have to wonder as to the real reasoning behind some of this criticism. I will agree that there needs to be more pictures from different angles.
Nathan -overly zealous nit pickers  April 30, 2009 05:49 AM
Have any of you read a british bike mag? I'd have to guess not. The writer is British and even though we share a common language often times their version seems to be a bit foreign to us Yanks. If you are looking for literary work reminiscent of "The Great Gatsby" then you shouldn't be searching through a motorcycle website. The article does its intended job, it relays the writers impression/opinion regarding the bike. I have to wonder as to the real reasoning behind some of this criticism. I will agree that there needs to be more pictures from different angles.
Tim -what S***tastic pictures  April 30, 2009 04:54 AM
5 pictures (two of which are duplicates, so 4 pictures), ALL of them are frontal or front quarter shots!!! WTF, does the bike not have a back end? how about a side? It does have those things you say? THEN LETS SEE IT. Why would I want to see 4 pictures of the headlight?
Dr. Bombay -To the literary critics  April 30, 2009 04:50 AM
My God, people. MC-USA is good at many things, but the usual level of prose here is not its finest feature. "Workmanlike" is about the best way to describe it. I don't have any expectation of finding great writing when I come here. However, Janie's style is just fine and, at the very least, not totally riddled with the moto-cliches. I think some of you also haven't noticed that she's British, which might account for your discomfort. As for the Benelli, I like its lines and the way it sits, but it seems to be a bit over-styled. I'm sure I wouldn't mind one, though.
James -All is well Janie.. ignore idiots here  April 29, 2009 11:22 PM
We crib about poor writing skills.. when most of us don't even know what we should complain about.. looks like some just wanna take their frustration out & enjoy an easy picking!! The bike looks good & rides well too.. better than rattling hogs!
BMW Bill -A keeper  April 29, 2009 06:21 PM
I like Jane's writing style. You want technically perfect read Kevin Cameron. She is beautiful (I know, shouldn't matter) rides, and has a passion for bikes. Enough said.
Jimboalay -Grammar to avoid in your college class:  April 29, 2009 06:21 PM
"I on the other hand, could do with some provocation to persuade me off my fence." Maybe: I on either one hand or the other or maybe your hand, could do or not do eith w/ or w/o some type of potential provocation that might nor might not ever persuade me or you off my fence if I ever get a fence or don't because IT'S ALL GOOD.
Ben -Benelli versus Buell  April 29, 2009 05:45 PM
I would put my money down on an Buell 1125 CR. It has a better engine, is better looking, and there are more dealers/mechanics available than the Benelli.
Gdsila -Benelli review  April 29, 2009 04:59 PM
I thought the review was good. some criticisms, some praise and overall a conclusion. Remember the tester is probably a fledgling writer and may need some time to perfect her style. And she is GOOD looking. I am a little disappointed there was no mention of the transmission (which others have said is clunky). But I would be interested to read whatever she writes next.
Jimbolaya -Another gem  April 29, 2009 04:08 PM
From the author's English grammar graduate thesis? Doubtful. "The claimed 129 hp feels far too impressive to castrate, even if the option is there." I patiently wait for this one to be diagramed. "Castrate" describing hp? Really? (%&$#!+(**0????
Jimbolaya -More nonsense! Have mercy please! Fire her!  April 29, 2009 04:02 PM
C'mon, how can you publish such trash? "The energy the Benelli Cafe Racer emits pours over into the handling." Please explain "emits pours". How does something "pour" "emit"ed energy? Is it emitting or pouring or both simultaneously? How, exactly, does emitted energy pour into the handling? To be worthy of being published more is required than good looks & the ability to ride a motorcyle. Surely you aren't paying money for this text?
jimbolaya -Please no meaningless text  April 29, 2009 03:53 PM
What the hell does "regal" mean in the following quote? Me thinks the editor is asleep at the keyboard. "Opt for subdued power on the B-King and the bike barely feels regal..." Please enough of this kindergarten text. M-USA is starting to sound like Motorcyclist Magazine, not a good thing.
Drunkula -I can't decide either  April 29, 2009 09:52 AM
I have mixed feelings about the look. I'm leaning more towards liking it (it IS different). The naming isn't quite right, though. Cafe Racer? No. Street Fighter, yes...
Jon Matz -TNT  April 29, 2009 09:43 AM
Sex doesn't have much to do with anything as far as bike design goes. You either fit or you don't. They are neat bikes, but at that level of purchase people are ussually informed. The point being, you will have to explain your way out of it being more Chinese than Italian. A shame.
Kirk -Benilli  April 29, 2009 07:37 AM
Mike!- Benelli- a girls bike???? Dead Racing Italians are spinning in their graves. Benelli's have (like Bimota) traditionally been about fine handling. Never a top end bike. Always a point and shoot type of ride.
milwaukee mike -benelli review  April 29, 2009 05:06 AM
It seems to me that this bike is just another girls bike,.......why bother?