Benelli BN302 first ride
The Benelli BN302 is the bike the Italian company hopes will kickstart their worldwide resurgence, 10 years after they were purhcased by the Qianjiang Group.
From a distance you'd be forgiven for mistaking the new bike for a Kawasaki ER-6n - it certainly looks the part, although up close some details are lacking - there's no lacquer over the Benelli decals, for example.
The seating position is aggressive - pegs surprisingly far back, tipping you forward into an aggresive stance - but over the course of the ride it never became uncomfortable. The 300cc parallel twin needed to be revved to get the best out of it, which added a real sense of excitment to riding the 302.
The BN comes fitted with 41mm upside down forks, which coped well with the rough, cracked roads of northern Italy. The strokes felt controlled, and the bike didn't crash over bumps like other Chinese bikes.
Pirelli Angel GT tyres are fittedas standard, which helped immensely on the rain-soaked hills surrounding Benelli's base in Pesaro and will no doubt help in the UK.
The partnership between Benelli and the Qianjiang Group seems like a good match judging by this first ride. Although no price has been announced, Benelli's estimates place it below its rivals, which make it excellent value for money without cutting corners on quality.
Price: £3100 - £3400 (estimate)
Engine: 300cc, 4v parallel twin
Power: 38bhp @ 10000rpm
Torque: 20.2ftlb@ 9000rpm
Tank size: 16 litres
Seat height: 795mm
Frame: Steel trellis
Kawasaki Z300, £4,349, 39bhp
With a 300cc parallel twin engine, the Kawasaki is the closest competition for Benelli. On paper the Benelli should be the better bike, with double discs and upside down forks.
KTM Duke 390, £4,499, 43bhp
The single cylinder 390 is currently the class leader thanks to the pokey single cylinder, lightweight and excellent handling. Exceeds the power-to-weight ratio for A2 licence requirements so needs to be restricted.
Suzuki Inazuma, £3,599, 24bhp
Another parallel twin from the Japanese, the Inazuma is down on power compared to the competition and feels much more like a commuter motorcycle than a bike you could have fun on in the twisties.