A quick history on the recent revival of the Beta dirt bike. The company restarted, in a full-size dirt bike sense, simply emerging out of the Trials and minibike market in Europe by building a chassis of their own design with the older KTM RFS motor in it. It was a smart move. They got an excellent performing and proven engine and Beta just had to worry about the chassis. They did a really good job, utilizing a linkage equipped suspension system at a time when KTM was still struggling with the PSD. They learned a lot about the chassis while developing their own engine which is the one you see in the bikes today. And if you didn’t know, Beta has been an engine building company since the early 1900′s.
Not surprisingly, the engine was a really solid performer right from the get-go. Designed to host a wide range of displacements the 350cc version is the latest rendition. It arrives with a unique bore and stroke of 88mm X 57.4mm which compares to the 450′s configuration of 95mm X 64.3mm. Interestingly enough the 400cc Beta has a slightly shorter stroke than even the 350 at 56.2mm. Improvements in durability in the cam bridge and some upgraded clutch components were learned during last year and have been included in the 2012 350cc engine. It has dual-compartment oil for the engine and transmission keeping oil contamination to a minimum. It is electric starting is nice but the bike is, at times, a little reluctant to fire as it acted a little lean, the starter a little slow to spin the engine, especially when it was cold.
The first thing you notice about any 350cc when compared to the bigger bikes is that there is a definite lack of power down on the bottom. Conversely, if you are moving up or comparing it to a 250cc four-stroke, you will be ultimately impressed with the bottom end torque and chug. What the 350, and this 350 RR specifically is great at is having a decent amount of power on the bottom and then having the ability to rev and run up top like a 250F, just with a lot of extra juice. It still feeds fuel through a carb but the jetting is excellent. Adding an adjustable fuel screw and an adjustable leak jet could make minor tuning so simple for altitude and temperature changes. We actually found that by going a step leaner on the needle helped at all altitudes above 3000 feet. The Beta has plenty of flywheel weight to keep it from stalling and then it pulls pretty seamlessly up to the top end. Up there is where the power of this bike is really good. It revs for so long without ever hitting a rev limiter, it will keep those that like to ride a bike in the upper ranges very happy. In fact the top end power is so good it really overshadows the bottom part of the power spread.The chassis on the Beta has a bigger feel to it and is well suited to the larger or taller rider as well. It is a roomy and spread out chassis and everything is very natural in position. The top triple clamp is adjustable and the gas tank and seat are slim without any bulges. The transition from sitting to standing is natural and it is a very easy bike to stand on.
This year the big news is an upgrade to a Sachs 48mm USD fork with new technology to give the stroke reduced friction, a complaint we had on some of the previous Sachs forks. We can say that it was a noticeable success since we had no complaints of the fork being harsh or sticky in any way. It, like the Sachs shock, is sprung with riders in the 180 pound range and does a really good job of being plush and not bottoming too much. For sure the setup is just fine to go trail riding on and can get with it up to a race pace, but it may just be on the soft side for faster or heavier riders. The nature of the handling is a bike that can take the tight turns and acts very flickable for its weight. It sort of see-saws to help the handling in the slower speeds in both stability and tight turning. It is plenty stable and can be plowed through stuff but there seems to be some of the trials bike building heritage of Beta snuck into the chassis. The steering is really light and at speed it can be a little twitchy even though the bike is really planted to the ground, like most bikes a steering stabilizer could go a long ways.
The bike is a finely finished and styled piece of Italian work. The air filter is tool-less access through the side panel, much like a KTM. The seat comes off with the push of a button. There is even a tool kit hidden under the side panel. One of the smaller issues is the 2.1-gallon fuel tank which can run dry in 40-miles if you are on the gas, and this 350 can be thirsty if you are on the throttle. There is a nice aluminum skid plate protecting the cases and we even tore it completely off when bottoming on a rock after a drop-off. It did its job. The brakes are decently strong and have plenty of control as well. Shifting is solid and the clutch is improved from last year’s that had a tendency to shudder or squeal when taxed. Being hydraulic, that just adds to the control feel.
Overall there is little to complain about with the Beta unless you get very picky. You can call it heavy because it is on a scale (275 lbs. with the tank full ready to ride) but it rides pretty light with the lower power level of the engine having that affect on the light feel when riding. You can say it is a bit confused with a chassis that seems set up for the tight trails and a motor that wants to go 100 MPH, yet it seems to span a wide duty call. And you can say the Beta is dated running on without FI. The company’s conservative history shows they don’t jump on technology until they have it dialed and they definitely have the carburetor at the top of its game. We suspect it is all part of the big-picture plan. The RR line is sold with a 30-day warranty and is Green Sticker legal in Californis. So if you are in the market for a 350, the $8899 Beta deserves a good looking at.
350 RR Key Features
2012 350 RR
Type: Beta-Built single cylinder, titanium 4-valve, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, electric start with back up kick starter.
Compression Ratio: 12.4:1
Ignition: DC-CDI with variable ignition timing, Kokusan.
Spark Plug: NGK LKAR 8A-9
Lubrication: Twin oil pumps with cartridge oil filter. Separate oil for engine and clutch .8 liter each
Carburetor: Keihin FCR-MX 39mm
Clutch: Wet multi-disc
Drive: O-ring chain
Frame: All New molybdenum steel with double cradle split above exhaust port. Air filter access from the side.
Seat Height: 36.8″
Ground Clearance: 12.6″
Footrest Height: 16.2″
Dry Weight: 240 lbs. dry
Fuel Tank Capacity: 2.1 US gallons
Front Suspension: All New 48 mm Sachs USD fork, adjustable compression and rebound, TFX technology.
Rear Suspension: Sachs shock w/adjustable rebound and hi/low speed compression
Front Wheel Travel: 11.4″
Rear Wheel Travel: 11.4″
Front Brake: 260mm floating rotor
Rear Brake: 240mm rotor
Front/Rear Rim: 21″ (Front) 18″ (Rear)
Front/Rear Tire: Michelin Enduro CompetitionWarranty: 6 month Limited Warranty