MCUSA is once again entering a foreign exchange program of sorts with our buddies over at the UK's
Motor Cycle News Seems that a Vulcan 900 Custom test across the pond is as rare as a Benelli test over here, so we pulled an international swap. As for Benelli's plans for America, we'll bring you that story in the near future.
The three-cylinder Benelli Tre 1130 K impressed our cohorts overseas at Motor Cycle News
so much that they judged it as Benelli's finest.
It's not the fastest or the sexiest, but the new Tre-K is without doubt the best Benelli yet.
The Tre-K is Benelli's take on the do-anything, go-anywhere road bike. With its comfy riding position, punchy triple-cylinder motor and fine handling chassis, the Tre-K is as at home trundling along the motorway down to the south of France as it is scratching down the mountain roads when you get there.
But, Benelli's finest, surely not?
Since the rebirth of Benelli in 2002, the Italian bike makers have been best known for their performance bikes: the clinically insane TnT super naked and the Tornado, which they campaigned in World Superbike. So, with such focused, single-minded machines in their stable, why is this jack-of-all-trades all-rounder the best Benelli yet?
Well, up until now Benelli has struggled. The first 900cc Tornado never ran properly when it was first released, and then it lacked the power to keep up with its rivals when they finally sorted it. The TnT had all sorts of quality control issues making this a flawed motorcycle too. But now, flushed with cash from its new Chinese owners and with new management in place, they've finally produced a bike that does exactly what it's been designed to do. It doesn't just do everything well, it does it brilliantly.
The great thing about the Tre-K is just so how easy it is to get on with. Sometimes Italian machines are described as 'quirky' or 'full of character' when you have to make allowances for them not working properly, but the Tre-K is thankfully the opposite as feels like a well-sorted Japanese machine.
The Tre 1300 K has a three-way manually adjustable screen. Neeves was also impressed with the placement of the high, wide bars that complement the natural riding position.
The riding position is exceedingly natural. High, wide bars are placed just where you want them to be, the sculptured seat is comfy and the low-set footpegs give your legs the sort of stretched-out treat that budget airline customers would kill for. The capacious 21-litre (5.5 gal) fuel tank tapers in at the bottom so knees are only a few inches apart when riding, giving you a good feeling of control. A three-way manually adjustable screen helps direct away the windblast on motorway cruises. Optional luggage and a sat-nav system will also be available.
Although the 50mm upside Marzocchi forks and Extreme Technology rear shock (all fully adjustable) scream 'racetrack' they are of course set supple enough for everyday riding but still retain good enough damping control to prevent the Tre-K from pogo-ing like Zebedee (a character in the BBC children's program The Magic Roundabout
) with a drinking problem. Twin four-piston Brembo calipers offer up loads of feel and decent stopping power for the bike's claimed dry weight of 452 lbs. Around town, a generous steering lock makes three-point turns easy.
How easy the Tre-K is to ride was highlighted beautifully when we rode it on the same stretch of road as a tuned, stiffly-suspended TnT 'special' a few hours before. The soft, predictable user-friendly nature of the Tre-K and big wide bars made it easier to deal with the constant, bump-strewn switchbacks on the coast road between Riccione and Pesaro, just down the road from Benelli's factory. If you were able to race yourself on both of these bikes, the Tre-K, ironically, would win hands down.
Like the Multistrada, BMW R1200GS and Buell Ulysses, the Tre-K comes with dual-purpose tires, in this case Dunlop D270s. Although they do give good grip and warm up quickly, they can be provoked to let go early. It's doubtful you're going to take the Benelli off-road (the exhaust running beneath the motor and tire-hugging front mudguard would prevent any serious mud-plugging anyway) so you're best off just fitting some road sports tires.
The Tre-K's structure is made up of red-anodized steel tubes of the frame and swingarm joined by an aluminum casting. A 50mm inverted fork is set at a moderately sporting 25-degree rake angle with 4.29 inches of trail.
Okay, so the Tre-K is plush, roomy, and comfortable, and on a tight, twisty, bumpy road is easier to chuck about than a sportsbike. But you could easy say this about any of Benelli's rivals on their day. What makes the Tre-K really stand out is its rasping three-cylinder engine; it turns what could be perceived as a pretty normal motorcycle on paper into a full-on 3-D, cinema surround sound, Technicolor experience.
When you need to be pottering around town or threading through traffic, the Tre-K's motor purrs along and is nice and docile. Throttle response is smooth and there's plenty of grunt at low revs to render the gearbox obsolete if you just fancy sticking it in sixth all day and cruise along.
When you want to get a move on, though, the motor rewards not just with a guttural growl through its airbox and a howl through the underseat exhaust when you twist the throttle, it lets the Tre-K get a serious shift on, too. The engine's character is similar to that of the new 1100 Multistrada in terms of how it makes its low- and mid-range power, with torque peaking at 6,250 rpm with 85 lb-ft of claimed twist. But where the mute-sounding Ducati disappointingly stops way short of delivering any top-end shove to speak of, the Tre-K carries on and revs harder, stronger and louder. And the result, an alleged 123 horsepower at 9,000 rpm, is 10 times more exciting.
Power delivery is not brutal, though, and that's one of the pleasures of riding a bike like this - you don't want to have your arms pulled off under acceleration at every opportunity. The Tre-K is fast 'n' swift not vicious 'n' scary like a super naked. What you get is a smooth, progressive spread of power and a typical soul-stirring Italian soundtrack from tickover all the way to the 9,500-rpm redline that doesn't leave you wanting more. Gearing in the higher ratios are tall, so the engine purrs on the motorway.
The bump-strewn switchbacks on the coast road between Riccione and Pesaro, just down the road from Benelli's factory, provided Neeves solid testing grounds where he discovered how easy the Tre-K is to ride.
What you get with the Benelli is a practical, user-friendly motorcycle brought to life by a huge injection of Italian charm, speed and handling.
The £8349 Tre-K is the natural rival to Ducati's new £7750 Multistrada 1100 , the new £7049 Triumph Tiger, the £9095 BMW R1200GS and the £8195 Buell Ulysses. That's not cheap, but you do get a lot of machine for your money, not to mention the added exclusivity factor.
Not only is the Tre-K funkily styled, quality components are present throughout, from its Brembo wheels and brake calipers to the Marzocchi fork and Extreme Technology rear shock, braided-steel brake hoses, beautifully sculptured bodywork and tubular steel chassis.
Now, it's fair to say that for some owners living with a Benelli over the last few years could've been fraught with disappointment. Some Benellis have been unreliable, and getting hold of spares difficult. It's little wonder, really, since the factory has been going through financial problems resulting in its closure for a whole eight months last year.
But all the signs are that things have now changed for the better. With the new Chinese money and a new management structure, the Italian firm seems to be back on track. They are addressing the spares situation, are working hard to consolidate a UK dealer network, and most importantly making their bikes more reliable by sourcing better quality electric and mechanical components. They're now assembling engines in house to keep an eye on quality rather than buy them wholesale from an outside supplier.
Unlike more sporting motorcycles, the Tre-K doesn't punish its rider while tooling about in town.
Benelli's so confident of the Tre-K's dependability that one of their South American dealers is doing a 9,000-mile trek across Brazil next month to showcase its reliability. The thought of breaking down in one of Rio's dangerous Favela areas doesn't bear thinking about so he'd better hope the old girl keeps on running.
It's ironic that the Tre-K is the best bike to roll out of Benelli's factory gates. I'm sure they had rather it been one of their performance bikes, since Benelli and racing are inextricably linked, but I guess it's a question of timing. Benelli finally seems to have sorted themselves out. This is the first new bike to come from the resurgent company and it's very good.
The wonderful-sounding Tre-K can be practical and workman-like when you need it to be, but will also let its hair down and boogie when you're in the mood too. It's nicely put together, looks the part and is a deal more exciting than its rivals.
Benelli Tre 1130 K Specifications
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 1130cc (88 x 62mm), 12-valve, DOHC, inline Triple. Fuel injection. Six gears.
Horsepower (claimed): 123 hp @ 9000 rpm
Torque (claimed): 85 lb-ft @ 6250 rpm
Chassis: Tubular steel trellis/cast aluminium mix frame. 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, fully adjustable. Extreme Technology shock, fully adjustable.
Trail: 109mm (4.29 inches)
Wheelbase: 1514mm (59.6 inches)
Weight (claimed, dry): 452 lbs
Fuel capacity: 5.55 gal
Seat height: 31.9 inches
Brakes: Brembo, 2 x 320mm front discs with four-piston radially mounted calipers. 240mm rear disc with twin-piston caliper.
Tires: 120/70 x 17 front; 180/55 x 17 rear.
Benelli motorcycles can now be bought in the U.S.
To find out more, go to: www.benelli-america.com
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