Benelli go big for 2017

Benelli’s big-bike revival under Chinese ownership is about to gain pace with new large capacity bikes in the pipeline.

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Benelli aren’t a brand you might instantly consider as an alternative to established Japanese or European rivals, but a new-model onslaught could change all that.

Some of the small-capacity machines already revealed by the firm have proved impressive and now it seems the firm is ready to lift the lid on some bigger bikes. The Leoncino Scrambler, Tornado 302 and TRK 502 revealed last year promise to elevate the firm’s small and mid-sized range, while the BN251 MCN tested recently also impressed. And now we’ve got scoop pictures of two large-capacity bikes that promise to revive Benelli’s fortunes at the larger end of the market. Benelli’s Chinese owners, Qianjiang, told MCN last month that having concentrated on Asian markets for the last few years, they now plan to extend the range with a view to appealing to European tastes. And that means making large-capacity ‘leisure’ bikes.

The most extensive new project is a 750cc parallel-twin, code-named BJ750GS, that promises to rival machines like the BMW F800R and KTM’s forthcoming 800cc parallel-twin Duke.

It’s an entirely new model. The engine is unlike anything else in the firm’s range and appears to be a neatly packaged and straightforward design. A parallel-twin with two chain-driven overhead camshafts should be ideal when it comes to powering a whole range of machines from adventure models to sportsbikes. But the first incarnation appears to be this naked roadster. It’s hard to second-guess its performance potential, but given that Benelli already have an 82bhp 600cc engine and a 121bhp 899cc triple, it makes sense that they’ll be targeting something in the region of 100bhp.

Like the engine, the bike itself reveals a bold and uncluttered design. Drawing very much on bikes like the Ducati Monster and Kawasaki ER-6n, it steps away from the current trend for angular bodywork and sharp edges in favour of an appealing, rounded look. It’s neither self-consciously retro nor futuristic, just clean and uncomplicated.

The chassis is a conventional steel trellis, reinforced with a cast-aluminium section that acts as a lower engine bracket and incorporates the footpeg hangers. The fork looks like a Marzocchi unit – or a very close copy – while the brake calipers are Benelli-branded ‘can’t-believe-they’re-not-Brembo’ radials.

The twin-tube swingarm, curved on the right-hand side to clear the exhaust, is becoming a Benelli signature, a similar design appearing on the Leoncino and TRK 502 as well as the BN302 and Tornado 302. It does without a rising-rate linkage and acts straight on the single rear shock. The design leaves plenty of space for an exhaust collector box and catalytic converter behind the transmission, leaving just a small silencer that’s neatly tucked close to the rear wheel.

The swingarm-mounted numberplate hanger allows for a short tail unit while still meeting Euro regulations that demand bodywork must extend beyond the rear edge of the back tyre. LED indicators are also mounted on the same hanger, while the tail light is conventionally positioned. A bespoke single LCD screen provides all the instrumentation, including what appears to be rpm, speed, fuel, temperature, gear indicator, clock and various trips.

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Ben Purvis

By Ben Purvis