Beta’s new frame sports more gusseting and larger-diameter lower frame tubes for increased
They say: “The ultimate single-track motorcycle.”
We say: “It revs like a chainsaw!”.”
As motorcyclists, we know there is always more than one way to get to a destination. That same concept applies to engine design. In the growing mid-size four-stroke off-road market, the big players are Beta, Husqvarna and KTM, and each took a different path to get to its end displacement. Husky started with a 250cc engine and used old-fashioned hot-rodding techniques to grow it to 310cc. KTM felt the class was worth a little more investment, so designed a 350cc engine from scratch. Beta based the 350 RR on the 400 to 498cc engines used in all of its four-stroke off-road models, downsized to 349cc. Oddly, the end result is within a tenth of a millimeter of the KTM’s bore and stroke.
The Beta pays a weight penalty due to cases robust enough to handle the power and torque of a 498cc motor, but also likely gains reliability. In Europe, where enduro machines are street-legal and see commuting wear in addition to weekend fun, this approach makes sense. In terms of long-term investment, reliability has value in our current economic climate as well.
One oft-touted benefit of a smaller factory is the ability to incorporate changes as needed, and Beta has made rapid and continuous improvement to its product line as the result of testing and owner feedback. For 2012 the Italian company has stiffened the frame, changed to a Sachs fork, fine-tuned the clutch action with a Brembo master cylinder and basket updates and stepped up to Braking rotors for the Nissin calipers to grab. The engine gets a new head as part of a host of small-but-important valvetrain upgrades intended to reduce noise and improve reliability.
No matter how good the 350 RR looks in the brochure—and the Beta is undeniably beautiful—what really counts is how it works in the dirt, and it does not disappoint. While it weighs the same as a 450, it feels much lighter—until you have to pick it up off the ground! The chassis displays Beta’s typical balance and stability, and has a super-roomy standing riding position and the lowest working seat height of any full-size dirtbike. Power delivery is supremely tractable, and directly proportional to revs. If you’re making time, the engine is making rpm. Thankfully it spins up quickly, so tapping into that top-end power is easy. Yet the 350 had plenty of grunt to handle all the climbs we threw at it.
The 350 RR positively devours trails, so whatever route Beta followed to arrive at its final product was a good one. Although it’s a bit heavier than other 350s, the Beta is plenty nimble. As long as you aren’t adverse to rpm, it’s one satisfying off-road ride.
||Steel semi-cradle with aluminum swingarm
||Sachs 48mm fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping
||Sacks shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Nissin two-piston caliper, 260mm disc
||Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc
||80/100-21 Michelin Competition
||110/100-18 Michelin Competition
|Claimed curb weight
|Verdict 4 out of 5 stars
|Capable, comfortable and rev-happy!