Beta 290 EVO | First Ride

Stand and deliver!

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

If you have never seen a trials bike in action, it’s easy to make fun of them. Compared to other modern off-road bikes they don’t make much power, they look frail and slow, and somebody forgot the seat! But forget how they look. Ride one and you won't be laughing. Gasping is more likely!

Mototrials, formerly called observed trials, is a unique subset of the off-road realm that focuses on overcoming insane obstacles with a combination of balance, finesse and strategy. Horsepower isn’t discussed among trials guys; they're all about torque and traction. The bikes typically weigh about 150 lbs.—the same as a two-stroke 85cc mini-motocrosser. The biggest difference between a mototrials bike and other motorcycles is riding style. You don’t sit, and you should never put a foot down.

Several have tried to to push mototrials into the mainstream. The small, quiet and relatively slow machines don't threaten non-riders, and you can have fun on a fraction of the real estate required for motocross. Why do you think the tank holds less than a gallon?

Naturally, Beta would like nothing more than to see trials explode in popularity, figuring a trials bike would make an excellent addition to any rider’s stable. To put that plan into action, the Italian company invited the motorcycling press to the Motoventures (www.motoventures.com) off-road and mototrials training compound in Anza, California, to see just how much fun these funny-looking bikes can be.

Any rider can get on a mototrials bike like Beta’s Evo and have fun riding around. It starts easily, and the grunty power is relatively docile. But with a marked trail to follow, you soon realize how difficult and technical trials riding can be.

Control effort is superbly light, and the Evo defines the word nimble. The shocking thing is all those tricky-looking ledges, rocks and logs that you have trouble with on a regular dirtbike are easily tackled on the Evo. But negotiating tight turns while standing without putting a foot down? That is humbling. Vertical drops demand a lot of upper-body strength. The ride will be a workout, but you’ll enjoy every moment. Regardless of your current motorcycling discipline, the skills you develop riding mototrials will benefit you.

The two-stroke engine is mildly stressed and simple to work on, so maintenance is easy. The phenomenally grippy tires are on the pricey side, but for anything short of competitive riding they should last a while.

We see two obstacles holding back Beta’s plan to put a mototrials bike in every garage: First, the price isn’t cheap, even if the bike will last the casual rider many years. Second, you’ll need a friend to share the fun and cheer you on as your skills progress. So when your neighbor talks smack about your weird-looking bike, offer him a ride. Odds are he’ll change his mind in a hurry!

Tech Spec

Price $7399
Engine type l-c two-stroke single
Displacement 289cc
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Aluminum beam
Front suspension Paioli 38mm fork with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Grimeca four-piston caliper, 185mm disc
Rear brake Grimeca two-piston caliper, 160mm disc
Front tire 2.75-21 Michelin Trial
Rear tire 4.00-18 Michelin Trial
Seat height na
Wheelbase 51.4 in.
Fuel capacity 0.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 155 lbs.
Contact www.americanbeta.com
Verdict 4 out of 5 stars.

Have fun and improve your riding skills without upsetting the neighbors.

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