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Can Foreign Markets Make Mid-Displacement Bikes Cool Again? (Updated with information from Benelli U.S.)

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Benelli TRK 502

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It has been a while since U.S. riders first became obsessed with large displacement, high horsepower motorcycles. Huge displacement and horsepower aren’t necessary to enjoy the motorcycling experience, as most recently demonstrated by Troy Corser. With few exceptions, however, manufacturers are reluctant to experiment with lower displacement bikes here in the U.S.

Things are different in many overseas markets, such as India. Pictured are a couple of Benelli models targeting, in part, the Indian market and displacing 499cc. The parallel twin powered bikes make just under 50 hp, but are considered a step up from the more commonplace, lower displacement bikes typically found in that country. They are just an example of model developments taking place in foreign markets where lower displacement models are the norm, rather than the exception.

Do you think manufacturers should bring more mid-displacement models to the U.S. market?  Weigh in with your thoughts below.

Update:  Mel Harris of SSR Motorsports, the U.S. distributor for Benelli Motorcycles, emailed yesterday with the following information concerning the models shown –

“You showed photos of 2 future Benelli Models, The 502 TRK and The Leoncino.  Both Of these models go into production late 2016 or spring of 2017 and will be available for the US market.  At AIMExpo we will introduce another Benelli model which we should have available spring in 2017.”

Those interested in purchasing a Benelli in the U.S. can find information about dealers at the SSR Motorsports web site.

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Benelli Leoncino


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106 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    I’ve been hoping for a 500ish twin adventure bike for a while now.
    After nearly 50 years of 2 wheeling, I’m enjoying adventure riding these days.
    My 800GS is a little heavy. I still like to get off road a little.
    I avoid interstates (very boring), the back way is the best way there!
    I don’t need BIG horsepower. Big bore singles are buzzy on high mileage days.
    Let’s see if this bike comes in at a reasonable weight….
    Just Rambling, Thanks…..

  2. oldjohn1951 says:

    That Benelli Leoncino is a nifty-looking bike. I can’t wait to see it in person. My only concern with it would be parts and workshop service manual availability. It would be nice if it came with a standard 16-pin OBD connector.

    • xLaYN says:

      +1000 on the OBD2 connector.
      Some bikes have a “dealer mode” that could help but the OBD2 port allows you to get a lot of information from what’s going on.

  3. The Spaceman says:

    That Benelli TRK 502 is nicely designed. They’ve out-GSed BMW. Having said that, if I were to ride it here, it’d have to be able to run 85+ mph for hours, in 95+ heat, to be a viable choice. Anyone who’s cruised the Turnpike and major Interstates in FLorida knows this; if you go the speed limit on these roads you’re blocking traffic and asking for trouble.

    I really don’t know if a 50-hp bike will work for me. I rode a 50 hp Harley Low-Rider years ago, and it couldn’t do the high-speed stuff without rattling apart. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I think a lot of it has to do with how much a bikes weighs as well. I have typically owned pretty powerful motorcycles, but I have no issues going everywhere on my 50hp dual sport. I can handle 85mph+ all day, day after day. 400-ish lbs or less, and 50 hp gets the job done just fine IMO. Acceleration won’t impress anyone on a 600 sport bike, but there is enough juice to squirt out of corners to the point that you can make just about any bike with a comparable rider work to hang with you on a twisty road.

      Physics being what they are, regardless of weight, 50hp isn’t going to get you much more than 115 mph, and the bike will stop accelerating with any authority by the 100 mph mark. So long as you can live with that, you should be golden.

  4. Kent says:

    “Just under 50 hp”, which will translate to 40-45 at the rear wheel.

    For my daily ride in the Bay Area, that’s not quite enough horsepower for me to feel safe. When I hit the throttle at 80, I want to accelerate *now*. If I lived in a rural area, I’d consider one – if there was a dealership…

    • WSHart says:

      “…not quite enough horsepower for me to feel safe.”

      Really?

      Reeeeeally? Surely you jest? This is but one reason such vehicles are not sold here. Silliness. No offence intended but that’s just silly.

      It’s more than enough except for our egos. Our egos. Not just yours. Ours. As in a collective. Like I stated, wants and needs…

      • esteban says:

        i dunno my 600 transalp has 45 or 50 hp and it can cruise at 65 without feeling strained, but it has no punch from there up so not the best for freeway commuting. I had various ktm twins which were better open road bikes but i ditched them as in the end i realized the lighter and better handling transalp was the keeper. That’s not a great example though as some of these mid displacement bikes now are fast as sin

    • todd says:

      I probably see you every day when I’m riding my Bay Area commute too. I’ve never felt the way you do about 50 hp, I think it’s perfectly fine for commuting – even a bit more than necessary. Have you ever commuted on anything with 50 horse or less? I see guys on 250s, 300s, Guzzi V7s, old BMWs, SR400s, DRZs, Honda XRs, Hawks, CB350s, KLRs, CB500s, and the occasional Harley – all of which would be scary to you yet, there they are.

  5. WSHart says:

    Nice bikes. Other than the tubes in the tires I wouldn’t mind owning one. In the 60s, Sears sold Benelli minibikes. They were pretty cool looking back then and these look just as sweet, especially so the red one.

    Make ’em affordable and reliable. Then give them a good sized tank with better than average mpg, run tubeless wheels, work hard to get a dealer network and these beauties could sell well enough to warrant more.

    If you build it they will come. If you make it affordable, they will not only show up, but buy them too.

    As for the spate of HUGE bikes? Bigger isn’t always better. It’s just bigger. Big deal. We don’t need bigger. There’s wants and needs. Toss aside the wants and you will find that it all boils down to you really want what you need. Motorcycling used to be fun.

    “It’s not a big motorcycle just a groovy little motorbike…”

    • Bob says:

      “It’s not a big motorcycle just a groovy little motorbike…”

      “It climbs the hills like a Matchless
      Cause my Honda’s built really light.”

      That “light” part — The older I get the more important that becomes.

  6. mike says:

    One of my long time, favorite motorcycles is my old 1978 Kawasaki KZ200 street bike. 18HP at the crank. For a two hour low speed tour around farmland and upstate NY scenery on an early Sunday morning it is great. Lower and mid displacement bikes are absolutely wonderful for those of us who are not a hulking 6’2″ tall.

  7. mickey says:

    One of the magazines just featured a 250cc full dressed adventure bike that looks just like the Beneli pictured above, that could be had for under $4000 brand new with a 2 year warranty , delivered right to your door.

  8. redbirds says:

    In 1973 I had a BMW R/75, about 45HP and reliable as a hammer. With the addition of a Windjammer I toured all over the country on that bike and never felt the need for any more power. Always averaged better than 50MPG and never needed anything other than routine maintenance. If such a bike is offered now it is hammered in the press and on sites like this for being “under powered”. I now have a CB1100 on which I have done many 400 mile plus days in comfort; a “modern” bike despised by many as “under powered”. Nothing sells in America like big displacement and power.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Considering how many cruisers I see on the road, I’d say under-powered bikes are the top selling variety here in the US.

  9. Artem says:

    I have to reprogram some things to html5 because of yakhnich

  10. todd says:

    Why do you think used bikes are so popular. Not everyone wants a gigantic bike and all the farkles. Try to find a mid-capacity touring bike nowadays. I ended up buying a super clean, low mileage K75S because you can’t get anything like it new these days. It’s a little big and heavy with more than ample performance for its intended use though. Maybe a Guzzi V7 Norge would target me. I think the 650 Deauville was on the mark but way over priced. Versys was close but I can’t stand the styling.

    There’s not any unlocked fire trails in the Bay Area to make a KLR enjoyable, I ended up turning my XR650L into a street motard because there was no place to ride off road so I’m not sure where I’d ride the Benelli TRK.

    • John says:

      I would also like a V7 Norge. And I’m also looking at the idea of a K75S for the same reasons.

      • todd says:

        I REALLY love my K75S. I can ride it comfortably all day long (and have on a number of occasions). The engine is the smoothest running engine I’ve ever experienced by far. 5th gear is pretty low so passing and acceleration to and beyond 80 is surprisingly strong. The narrow tires are inexpensive and last a long time even though I push them hard to the edges – still outpacing my buddies on their wide-tired sport bikes through the twisties. The rear shock could be a tad more firm though.

        Just make sure the K75 you get has had a well maintained drive shaft though. I had to have mine welded up with stronger splines after only 50,000 miles. My old R75/5 drive shaft lasted well over a hundred thousand ill maintained miles before I sold it.

        • mickey says:

          lol it’s a wonder anybody buys sport bikes seeing as how nearly everyone can embarrass their buddies on sport bikes through the twisties with everything from a grom to an old brick motor BMW on 45 year old suspension.

          Kinda makes you wonder why they build sport bikes in the first place.

        • billy says:

          I think some of you ate a bad batch of sauerkraut or something.

          If you’re “outpacing” anyone on that thing it’s because you are a much superior rider who’s also willing to push a little closer to your bikes performance edge. I’ve got a well setup RC51 that I’m very comfortable riding fast on the road or track. I wouldn’t even call that a modern sportbike and it would take Eddie Lawson on a K75s to outpace me.

  11. Butch says:

    The GS500 Suzuki Twin has been around for years.
    About 50hp and reliable as a stone ax.
    Suzuki could slap it into a steel tube frame add a long travel suspension (DR400).
    Spoon some DOT knobbies on spoked aluminum rims (DR650).
    High exhaust and a wide seat.
    Presto
    Suzuki Scrambler, Urban Assault, Grocery Getter, Vertical Twin.

    • Selecter says:

      The GS500 has been gone, in the North American market at least, since after the 2009 model year. Carburetors and a really old engine architecture guaranteed emissions non-compliance. Output is closer to 40HP at the wheel, and it would struggle to outrun any of the super-competitive 300-class bikes that started appearing.

      They’d definitely need to do a lot of work to that old beast (with its roots in the early 1980s…) to be able to sell it anywhere these days. Especially given the amount of work they just gave the reintroduced SV650 engine, I’d guess if they wanted to do anything like the above, a reworked (‘tuned for torque’?) SV engine would probably be a more realistic scenario.

      • DCE says:

        How about stripping off the fairing and plastic panels/fenders from a DL650 and adding styling similar to the XSR or Leoncino? Instant scrambler with a decent fuel tank range!

        • Selecter says:

          Not sure if the V-Strom platform itself would lend itself to that, but I’d like to see it done! There are lots of things about that bike to like. I’m not a “scrambler” styling guy (I’d actually prefer the plain old V-Strom!), but I’m sure lots of other folks would dig it.

    • xLaYN says:

      I have one… and it’s gutless… I has really bad suspension… paint is bad…
      Of course that’s compare to double RR specs and behavior… after some time you readjust expectations and enjoy it for being a cheap, nice low maintenance bike.

      As below link mention…. “Let’s be honest… is only as fast as a ninja 250”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaOBzTJB7yc