History shows that Beta, an Italian company running under various names, has been in existence since 1904. And if you are pretty old, you’ve likely heard of Moto Beta, making MX and enduro bikes in the 1970s, switching gears to trials, and winning a slew of World Championships. Since then Beta has predominantly produced trials machines, aside from a lot of smaller Italian-market bikes. Most recently the company decided to get back into the real dirt bike game. Using KTM motors, the Racing Four-Stroke engine specifically, they wrapped it with a chassis of their own design and began working on their own all-new motor. Beta is no stranger to building engines, but it wasn’t looking to cause a revolution; it was set on using convention and making it good.The influence from the trials bikes, which it still produces, is very much along for the ride. Combined with an Italian flair for design, the bike we have in front of us is, in fact, a very finished piece. The standout features of this bike are its chassis (designed to yield a low seat height while not becoming too cramped) and the motor; claimed to weigh 69 pounds and visibly more compact than the previous KTM RFS motors. They add up to a bike that weighs in at 256 pounds without gas, which is totally competitive, and with a seat height at a low 36 inches-a nice touch for those shorter of inseam or for any rider in technical conditions.The motor is as feature-packed as anything with electric starting, a six-speed gearbox, hydraulic clutch and a DLC-coated valve train. Missing is fuel injection, but we have a feeling that will be coming soon. The Beta website is looking for engineers with FI experience.When riding the new 2010 it does not take long to see that Beta was not messing around when designing or building the RR. It starts right up and the carburetion is crisp and clean. The bike (ours with the still-Euro-spec quiet muffler and not containing the spark arrestor) is quiet and sounds tight even though it comes with an aluminum skid plate. Those usually resonates extra engine noise. It doesn’t shake or shimmy and has minimal vibration. It has a very light feeling through its handling, especially in turning the handlebar. Right away a rider gets the sensation that the suspension is set up correctly. It isn’t too soft or too stiff. And the layout, especially considering that the seat height is low, is not cramped too much for riders all the way to six feet.Power delivery is designed around being very ridable. The engine has a light flywheel feel right at idle-the bike is a little more prone to stalling when the throttle is shut compared to the average bike. Adding a bit of idle can tame that. But when the throttle is cracked, the bike has a very smooth and linear pull to the upper midrange. Here, there isn’t much in the way of snap, it just pulls, smooth and strong without ever producing a hit that would suddenly break traction, make the bike get out of control or hinder you in wanting to go fast. It isn’t too exciting, really, since it is just getting down to business. It does not feel fast either. But it is. And if it isn’t fast enough for you at zero to 75 percent throttle, then why don’t you just turn it farther, tough guy? In the last 25 percent of twist the Beta takes on a whole new aggression and the bike rips to life and revs forever. It is fast, very fast. Aggressively so. It feels like it is making 500cc of power. This engine is not nearly as snappy as the KTM 450 or as smooth as the FI bikes. But it is as smooth as anything with a carb and we’re pretty sure it will take anything its size on top-end power.Any time, even in the lower revs or lesser throttle openings, the hydraulic clutch can give the snap or burst you need and it never faded or got hot on us, though it can be grabby when cold. Some riders thought the gear ratios were a little spread out, but those riders tended to weigh more than 200 pounds and were not hard on the throttle. The final drive could be lowered to make first gear a true crawler; sixth gear has plenty of legs. Shifting was a little stiffer than most Japanese bikes but was getting better with the miles we put on it, similar to KTM boxes.It seems Beta has placed the motor a little lower in the chassis. This allows the seat and tank to be a bit lower and only a few felt the footpegs were lower. The payoff is in the light feeling. It acts more like a 250F in its nimble ability. Plus the steering is extremely light, too. It is like older Suzukis were and has the sensation that the bars are wider, giving extra leverage. When you package this with suspension that isn’t one bit mushy, yet still very compliant, you have a bike that feels light on its wheels and actually dances, in a good way, through most anything. Factor in the controllable motor and a rider can hop, pop, stick and jib the bike, much like trials, into positions or onto lines on the trail. The bike responds to inputs from your feet and through the bars equally well.
Most of the time Marzocchi and Sachs are considered a second-rate suspension setup. That is going to have to stop here and now. For riders in the proper weight range (we’d call it 160 to 200 pounds) Beta has nailed it. The bike isn’t mushy or soft but it is compliant. It doesn’t use its stroke too quickly and had really good bottoming resistance. It is sensitive to ride height and the clickers do make a difference, especially the rebound on the shock. At first we were feeling a bit of headshake in higher speeds. This was cured with less spring preload (from 100 to 105mm) and slightly more (+3) clicks of rebound damping on the shock. Overall, the suspension is soft enough to be trail ridden (especially with the comfy seat) all day and could even take the starting line at a GNCC or a GP. We lined up in the expert class at our local SRA GP and won a competitive Senior class.Beta has the details covered all the way down to the brakes. Steel braided lines with Nissin components, they are strong and controlled. The airbox door is a pop-off design, just like a KTM: no tools required. And the seat features push-button access to the battery and fuses. Molded grab handles are properly placed on the all-composite subframe. It comes stock with an oversize handlebar, the lights are good enough to intentionally go riding at night and there is an aluminum skid plate standard. The engine even has dual compartments for the oils. Overall, it isn’t as simple as working on a KTM, but it isn’t that far off.At $8499 the price is right there with anything in its class. Unique enough to set you apart from the crowd, there isn’t any of the usual suffering that can typically come with that. And there are 400cc and 520cc versions available, too. With a 35-member and growing U.S. dealer network, Beta is looking to expand slowly and stand behind its products. And after our short time with this bike and the other times we have run the machines at our Torture Tests and 24-hour events, we have no reason to believe that there would be any abnormal durability concerns. Beta is here, complete and competitive. Welcome to the game!
|2010 BETA 450RR|
|Claimed weight (dry)||251 lb|
|Actual weight (tank full)||269 lb|
|Seat height||36.3 in.|
|Seat-to-footpeg distance||15.9 in.|
|Ground clearance||12.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity||2.1 gal.|
Weight: 175 lb
B riderAfter seeing the video that Jimmy posted on www.dirtrider.com, I told him that I really wanted to try the new Beta 450RR. The Beta is really refined and does not have any weird idiosyncrasies that you might expect from a small manufacturer competing with the Goliaths from Japan and Austria. The motor runs great with very clean carburetion and nice bottom-end. One of the more amazing things about the motor is that it seems to pull forever and kicks into overdrive when you realize there is still another quarter turn of throttle left. The suspension worked well and did not do anything unexpected. The comparatively low seat height is appreciated and for my relatively average size, the ergonomics are very comfortable for both sitting and standing. The front end is very planted and seems like it would be great on technical trails but was a little nervous for the high-speed conditions I rode it in. Overall, my first impression is that this is a really good off-road bike that I would have a lot of fun with.Karel Kramer
Weight: 210 lb
B riderThis is the best Beta that I have ever ridden, and that surprises me a little. I thought that Beta was so smart to use the KTM RFS engine family, because I like riding and working on them, but in its first try Beta has produced an engine that is better than the KTM-sourced power plant in several ways. It runs a lot harder on top, is quieter mechanically and it vibrates far less, much like current KTM engines. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to vibrate in any offensive way. The boost comes on as smoothly or smoother than any modern 450, so it excels in nasty, technical rides with low traction and a lot of off-cambers. For my favored sort of riding, I’d give up some smoothness for more fun in the mid. I’d even trade some top rpm power for it. Shifting is no better than the RFS engine, and the gear spacing is just as wide. It feels gappy to me. Perhaps lower overall gearing would help. The Beta has a remarkably low seat height for a big bike, and in the past that was an annoyance to me, since the seat-to-footpeg reach was cramped and I’m tall so I don’t need a short seat. The problem was amplified by poor seat foam density. Now Beta has a seat I could happily spend time on, and it has remarkable butt traction in the wet. The suspension has a planted feel with a good balance front to rear, and the linkage allows the bike to have a more “normal” feel than a KTM, but the travel feels shorter, less active and too easy to bottom. Every Beta I have ridden has a sharp initial impact feel in the front and the rear. It doesn’t really beat you or deflect, but isn’t as plush as I’d like. One side effect of the low seat height is somewhat reduced ground clearance and low pegs. My size 13s felt vulnerable at times, and more so than other bikes. After jumping back and forth between the Beta and a KTM 450, I noticed how nice and flat the riding position is on the Beta. What I thought was a flat perch on the KTM felt dipped and tilted forward in comparison. In the end, I miss the fun factor of the KTM or Yamaha WR450F engine, and I still prefer the stock suspension on those bikes as well, but with gearing and a revalve the Beta is a serious contender in the class.