Benelli TRK 502 Test & Review – Touring on a Budget

  • The Benelli TRK 502 was launched as a budget option for those who seek a simple, midrange sport-tourer.

  • Simple as it is, the Benelli TRK 502 is prettily designed with Italian flair.

  • It was comfortable and frugal on fuel.

We Malaysian motorcyclists love to tour and we’d do it on any sort of bikes. I had an ex-colleague who along with his friends, rode 135cc kapchais all the way to Chiang Mai, Thailand and back. There are those who completed the Thousand Corners at Mae Hong Son on classic Vespas. Another group rode the Ducati Scrambler to the Chinese border. I’ve joined cross-border where the participants rode sportbikes. Also, consider the fact that the record holder for the longest continuous motorcycle ride at 5,600km was a Malaysian, who rode non-stop without sleep for four-and-half days.

It’s for this very reason that Malaysia is also a hotbed for sport-touring and adventure-touring motorcycles.

However, these 650cc and above machines cost from just below RM 40,000 and up, putting them out of the reach of a large number of enthusiasts.

Well, that’s changed with the addition of Benelli TRK 502. Priced from RM 30,621, it’s a price point that’ll appeal to a few.

The Benelli TRK 502 is certainly pretty when viewed. It has that aggressive signature Benelli dual headlights, swooping lines and large diameter brakes. The long “snout” reminded us of another Italian sport-tourer.

Getting on was easy as the seat was low, so both feet touched ground. But the reach to the handlebar was a bit “different.” At 167cm tall, I found the wide handlebar was further in front than most bikes. But that wasn’t the whole story. It was also high up, therefore lifting both my elbows and the shoulders up in the air. Adjusting the handlbar backwards by just a smudge had the control housings banging on top of the fuel tank, so it may as well be fixed. The footpegs were set to the front which meant the knees almost didn’t fold at all.

The combination of footpegs set low and forward, low seat and high handlebar way up front, made me felt like I was riding a bagger with lowrise ape-hangers. On the other hand, taller riders should find it alright. That said, your body will get used to its riding position in no time.

It was also due to this that the bike felt heavier than it really was when lifting it off the sidestand, riding and idling at the stoplights.

The engine started up within a few revolutions most of the time. I said most because there were a few times when it just cranked and cranked without catching, and only to start after calling it a few choice words. Good thing the battery was new and strong otherwise I’d be stuck. I even got laughed at by a couple, “Hahaha, the guy’s big bike couldn’t start,” they said in Chinese, not realizing that I understood them.

I came across the same issue when I tested the TRK 1190 and TnT 302 years before. Hope Benelli fixes this issue. The TnT 600 I reviewed didn’t have this issue.

But when the bike ran, it was comfortable. The large-sized windscreen and bodywork kept windblast off the face and torso.

The handling was commendable, although it wasn’t that agile. It was stable due to its long wheelbase and low seat height, however. The rear shock pumped up and down when slamming the bike through fast corners, but the bike maintained its line. Both front and rear suspension coped well to road bumps by clunking loudly over them.

Did someone abuse this demo bike before we tested it?

The brakes were really good, without a fault. I rode it in pouring rain a few times and they grabbed hard without sending the bike into a death wobble. The ABS worked as advertised when brakes are applied hard over wet speedbreaker lines.

The engine accompanies you with the combination of a roar and howl. It revved slowly but it held its speed effortlessly at higher speeds. Torque was good too, given the capacity. Passing other vehicles was done briskly with the right amount of revs.

However, I couldn’t escape the fact that finding NEUTRAL while the engine idled was like trying to find a billion ringgit without resorting to breaking the law. Against, this was just like the previous models, except for the TnT 600

What I truly welcomed was the addition of the large Coocase panniers and top case. What I didn’t appreciate, though, was rain leaking through the top case and inundating the contents inside which included my camera. To fair, it seemed that someone had dropped the bike on box or the box on the ground before. But for a complete peace-of-mind, just opt for those from GIVI.

All in all, the Benelli TRK 502 was alright. I did what it meant to do, despite the few niggles we mentioned. It’s priced to offer Italian styling and some performance at an accessible value, so that you could take it on an extended trip. Being a 500cc bike, it’s touring on a budget for everyone.

Wahid's lust for motorcycles was spurred on by his late-Dad's love for his Lambretta on which he courted, married his mother, and took baby Wahid riding on it. He has since worked in the motorcycle and automotive industry for many years, before taking up riding courses and testing many, many motorcycles since becoming a motojournalist. Wahid likes to see things differently. What can you say about a guy who sees a road safety message in AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."

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