STILL GOOD: Benelli bikes might be under Chinese ownership, but they're still top quality says bike guru Dries van der Walt. Image: Dries van der Walt
Johannesburg - Tracing its roots back to 1911, Benelli is one of the oldest still-operating bike manufacturers in the world.
Currently under Chinese ownership, the question immediately arises whether Benelli motorcycles are still worth looking at.
We asked the Puzey Motor Corporation, local distributors of Benelli bikes, to allow us to test the 1130cm³ TreK adventure tourer.
Italian flair, Chinese funding…
My first glimmer of hope was seeing the bike’s identification plate – it states that the TreK is made in Pesaro, Italy, home of the Benelli factory since day one. My reasoning is that combining the mechanical flair of the Italian staff with the abundant Chinese funds is more likely to result in better bikes than worse ones.
Image gallery: Benelli 1130 TreK
The TreK has a liquid-cooled three cylinder DOHC engine based on the design used in the Tornado Naked Tre 1130, or TnT, Benelli’s current flagship. Styling seems to be about halfway between a standard bike and a duallie, although it sports the latter’s high stance.
Seating position is typical of the breed: upright and relaxed, affording you a commanding view over the surrounding traffic.
'Throwback to a bygone era'
In terms of electronics, the bike is a throwback to a bygone era – it doesn’t offer riding modes, traction control or even ABS. Therein, in my opinion, lies a great deal of the bike’s charm: it is so simple that it stops just short of feeling rough and unrefined.
The engine idles with a diesel-like clatter, and the handle bars are rarely free a slight vibration, but these aren’t bad things – the Benelli has that hard-to-define Italian-ness that gives bikes from the land of pizza and pasta their unmistakable character.
'Oodles of grip'
The engine performs just as you would expect, with a linear torque curve that lets it pull strongly from about 4 000rpm right up to the red line. With the adjustable screen in the highest of its three positions it was easy to explore the upper end of the power curve at speeds well in excess of 200km/h, which the bike reaches without batting an eyelid.
Once you get over the slightly tall feeling of the bike, you realise that it handles remarkably well, with oodles of grip from the Pirelli tyres.
Like many adventure tourers, the TreK is not really an off-road machine: the footpegs are a bit slippery when they get wet, the bash plate under the engine looks like it won’t stand up to much bashing, and (for me at least) the handlebars are too low to allow for comfortable stand-up riding. That said, it handled gravel roads with ease – as long as you don’t want to go beyond where the road ends, you’re still well within the bikes capability limits.
So, has the Chinese ownership hurt Benelli? Judging by the TreK, I don’t think so. It’s an Italian bike in body and soul, with no evident skimping on build quality or character. As far as I am concerned, the TreK’s Oriental connection is as incidental as the fact that Ducati is ultimately owned by Volkswagen.
The only thing Chinese about this bike is its price tag – at R99 990 it is an absolute steal.
Model: TreK 1130
Type: 3 cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC
Displacement: 1 131 cm³
Maximum Power: 92 kW @ 8 500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 112Nm @ 5 250 rpm
Fuel supply system: EFI
Fuel type: Unleaded 95 Octane RON
Fuel consumption: 7.0 L/100 km
Type: 6-Speed sequential
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2 200 x 850 x 1 370
Fuel tank: 22 L
Front: Twin 320mm petal discs with four-piston calipers.
Rear: 240mm petal disc with twin-piston caliper
Front: 50mm upside-down fork, fully adjustable, travel 175 mm.
Rear: Link-type monoshock, preload adjustable, 180mm travel
WHEELS & TYRES
Tyre, front: 120-70/17
Tyre, rear: 180-55/17
PRICE: R99 990