Freedom, adventure, passion without any limitations. That’s what TRK stands for, according to Benelli, but in reality the TRK is far from limitless.
The main limitation is the lack of power from the 500cc parallel twin and the colossal weight. 235kg, just 9kg less than the top spec BMW R1200GS Exclusive TE. The bike makes 47bhp so it’s A2 licence friendly, but coughs and wheezes as it struggles to pull the hefty machine. There’s no character or powerband either, just a huge spread of not very much power trying its best to pull a lot of weight. Overtakes hav to be planned meticulously, and can only be performed when you're completely certain you have enough room.
The TRK's main competition is the Honda CB500X, which coincidentally is also a 500cc parallel twin making 47bhp. But unlike the Benelli it weighs 196kg, certainly not a lightweight but much lighter than the TRK. The TRK has the weight of Butterbean and the punching power of a small dog.
Try coming to a stop and you’ll almost be thankful for the lack of power. The two 320mm front discs feel dated. Very dated. They feel incredibly spongey for most of the travel on the front ever, only biting when the lever is almost touching my other knuckles. The brake lever is span adjustable, but I found it almost impossible to feel any difference between the four settings.
On one occasion the lever came all the way back to the bar without the calipers biting the discs at all – a terrifying moment that required a moment at the side of the road to calm down. ABS is provided by Bosch, so at least that should be good, right? Err, no. Perform an emergency stop – or as close to one as you can with the spongey brakes – and the front locks, a loud chirp coming from the Pirelli Angel in protest, before the ABS system releases the brakes, resulting in a single huge pulse at the lever which almost brings it fully back out again. It feels 10 years behind the ABS of most 2017 bikes.
The handling also fails to impress. Granted the incredibly bumpy and inconsistently surfaced roads we tested the bike on in northern Italy would put most suspension through its paces, but I’d like to know what the front end was doing while cornering. As we rode the bikes, I never had any idea what was going on – the front end felt distant and failed to instill any confidence.
What’s good about the Benelli? The screen is well positioned, and despite wearing a peaked helmet I never experienced any buffeting. It would be even better if it was adjustable. It’s also great for those who find most adventure bikes too big. The seat height is only 800mm, which means getting both feet on the floor shouldn’t be a problem. The seat is comfy, too. There’s plenty of room to move about and there’s plenty of padding to cradle even the skinniest of bottoms. It’s a nice seat to spend a day in, but with a gutless engine, heavy weight, vague front end and inconsistent brakes, it’s not anywhere I’d want to be.
No matter how enthusiastic Benelli are about the new TRK, it fails to live up to the hype. The engine hasn’t got enough gusto to provide decent acceleration, and the brakes feel like drum brakes. It doesn’t feel like a bike built in 2017.
Benelli TRK 502 specifications
Engine: 500cc 4v parallel twin, liquid-cooled
Frame: Steel trellis
Seat height: 800mm
Suspension: 50mm upside down forks, single rear shock, preload adjustable
Brakes: Two front 320mm discs with four piston calipers, single 260mm rear disc with single piston caliper. ABS as standard.
Colours: Red, White, Black
Tank capacity: 20 litres