2016 Beta Off-Road Line - First Ride

Oil Injected Two-Strokes & Fuel Injected Four-Strokes!

As an off-road brand, Beta has gathered an impressive amount of momentum in recent years, and it’s looking like 2016 will be another positive growth opportunity for the Italian company. A series of strategic revisions to its already strong off-road lineup has put Beta in a great position to earn more of the off-road market, while the purpose-built CrossTrainer model will most likely be the best selling Beta of 2016. However, the news that is getting the most attention is Beta’s recent announcement that the two-stroke enduro models will receive something special in 2016: Beta’s very own electronic oil injection system.

Introduced in 2015 on the Xtrainer model, the oil injection system met Beta’s requirements as far as performance and durability, hence its decision to apply this design to the 250 and 300 RR models. Basically, there’s an oil tank located under the seat in the airbox that accepts 650cc premix oil (the very same stuff you currently use to mix your fuel, although Beta strongly recommends going with the highest quality oil you can find). Filling this tank full of oil will reportedly last for several tanks of straight gasoline that go through the bike via the fuel tank (of course, the mileage you get will depend upon the rider and the conditions). The way the system works is that oil is drawn from the under-seat tank and then fed through the oil injection system as required by the engine’s revs and load, both of which are measured by a Throttle Position System (TPS). In other words, the computer knows exactly how much oil to draw depending on where the throttle is at in order to provide a theoretically perfect fuel-oil mix. Other benefits include the fact that riders no longer have to pre-mix fuel, as well as the claim that 50% of the smoke from the exhaust is reduced. Just to clarify, this is NOT a fuel injection system; there’s still a Keihin PXK 36mm carburetor that feeds the cylinder. You still have to tune the jetting of this bike, but you no longer have to mix oil into the fuel. The Electronic Oil Injection System basically only takes care of lubrication and measuring how much oil is truly required at various RPM. To alert the rider of a low oil level, the instrument cluster has been updated and includes oil injection system diagnostic lights.

In addition to the oil injection system, the Beta’s ECU has been remapped for 2016 to give the 250/300 RRs better power at higher revs while optimizing the torque curve. The 250 RR’s powerplant got some extra attention by way of redesigned cylinder transfer ports, updated head geometry, and a newly calibrated exhaust power valve aimed at making the bike more linear. In the chassis department, both two-stroke motorcycles receive a stronger top shock mount, more efficient water drainage from the air box (as well as updated fasteners), and changes to the 48mm Sachs fork. Updated graphics and gold anodized fork tubes round out the list of changes to the two-stroke machines.

The two-stroke line was not the only segment of new Beta models to get attention; the 2016 four-stroke RR enduro range now features electronic fuel injection on all models (you may recall that the 350 RR was the only 2015 to come equipped with EFI). The obvious benefits of more consistent delivery, better tuning at various elevations, and increased efficiency are sure to accompany this change. Beta’s 42mm Synerject throttle body is joined by new intake ports on the 430 and 480 models, along with a new exhaust cam profile on the 480 to help smooth out the power delivery. The 350 RR’s rev limiter has been increased 500 rpm to 13,000 (possibly to make it more competitive with KTM’s high-revving 350 XC-F), while both the 350 and 390 Beta’s receive new DLC-treated piston rings for less friction. A handful of other minor changes were made for better durability or more performance. On the chassis, the Beta four-strokes now have plastic skid plates, slightly redesigned frames, a lower handlebar, and the updated air box/front fork changes similar to those found on the new two-strokes. The thumpers also have new graphics and translucent fuel tanks for easier filling.

The Ride

In America, Beta is a growing force in the off-road market, but the brand still has somewhat of a "small company" feel to it that keeps it highly mobile and very accessible. Because of this, Beta USA has opted to release the 2016 testbikes to the American media one by one, rather than doing a huge press launch. But over in Europe, Beta HQ opted to hold an international press launch for the European press that included none other than friend-of-Dirt Rider and notorious Irishman Geoff Walker. Following the world launch, we asked Geoff to provide us with his quick-hit testing of the new bikes after riding them for a few days in the Italian countryside. What follows is his opinion, minus a few colorful Irish phrases:

250/300 RR Two-Strokes

The two-stroke Betas are, simply put, off the scale as far as performance. The move to electronically controlled oil injection as well as the well proven electronic power valve is taking these bikes above the competition in technology to offer riders an optimum experience. Seeing this company advance with forward-thinking technology to make life easier for the everyday rider is a good thing, and the Beta brand as a whole seems to be maturing in its attitude towards the enduro and trail riding worlds. To keep things simple and in order to maintain quality control, Beta is limited in the amount of motorcycles that its factory can produce, so its market share can only reach so far. The Italians seem comfortable with this and they definitely appear to be pouring everything they have into making the Beta line as strong as possible.

The 2015 Betas lacked some feel from the Sachs front fork and, indeed, the Sachs shock as well, but the engineers have worked to improve the feel and usability of the chassis as a complete unit. With improved oil flow, the fork feels somewhat soft in stock form, but a few long days in the saddle could easily allow me to adapt to this comfort-oriented characteristic. The 2016 two-strokes offer plenty of stability and great traction, and riding the bikes for hours will make you grateful for the forgiving stock setup. But at race pace, extra support from the suspension would lead to a much higher level of total performance.

The 250’s motor is fully controllable and although it is way off the pace of the fastest motor out there, its usable nature will appeal to true enduro riders. This bike hooks up but can lack a little finesse in its transfer from low range to mid where the light nature of the machine will cause it to break free from the ultimate grip of the Michelin tires. This, of course, should be the case with any 250 two-stroke, and control is easily found again with a little throttle control. Last year’s 250 felt slightly more meaty in its power delivery and this could point to the oil injection system working almost too well to provide the perfect mixture at all throttle openings—sometimes, premix will give a 'fatter' feel to the jetting when rolling on the power in aggressive situations, and the new design just doesn’t have the same feel.

The 300 motor is sublime in its delivery and although it gives a similar feel to the 250 in its transfer through the power range at speed, this is dulled down as the level of added torque from the 300 allows the bike to avoid the 250’s tendency to break loose. Both two-strokes will run approximately three full tanks of fuel with a full oil tank and the dashboard indicator light warns you when you are on your final tank full. If the oil pump system fails there is a warning light on the dash that will alert you of a pump failure, and at this point you would have to block off the injector pipe and pre mix your fuel. Naturally, this is another thing that could go wrong out on the trail, but we were assured at the test that Beta has not had a failure, and the system has run without any major problems on the X Trail 300 model for over a year.

Both two-strokes feel comfortable and although there is a definite feeling of sitting tall on the bike due to the firm seat foam, the ergonomics are still pleasing for both average and big-sized riders. The Nissin brakes are almost a throwback when sitting on a European manufacturer’s bike, as the Brembo systems have been the boss when it comes to supply. The progressive feel from the Nissin units bring a great level of rear wheel control and the feel for the front brake allows for very aggressive braking even on off camber, slippery dust turns. Overall, faults are difficult to find with the Beta RR 2T models, as they are well-balanced and totally fun machines to ride.

350/390/430/480RR Four-Strokes

The baby in the Beta bunch—the 350 RR—offers a bike for everyone to ride and take on the world. The power delivery with the second year fuel injection is on tap at all times, and with a rev happy bike such this there is a lot of fun to be had. This bike is fast but at no time does the power become too much; it does exactly as it should with no fuss and an easy-to-handle chassis feeling. As with all the four-strokes, the suspension goes through its stroke on the fork quite quickly but with a lot more control than last year. The rear shock lacks hold up in the middle of the stroke, so to remedy this I closed the fork rebound five clicks to successfully address the balance across the entire chassis. This worked well as I found the fork to be more supportive with this slight increase in damping force.

With the chassis on all the Betas working well it was the motors and their separate characteristics that made the difference on various parts of the test loop with its unpredictable terrain, from flat and off cambers special test turns[?] into the technical wooded and hillside sections. I discovered that the 390 is a displacement that likes to be bossed to get the best results. The extra torque over the 350 allows a level of control when the going gets loose, and the drivability when exiting uphill off cambered turns was fantastic thanks to the the smooth delivery from this motor.

Although the 430 RR works incredibly well, as you would expect this was what I felt to be the least controllable motor. The aggressive pick-up through the range made the silky control of the other Betas seem light-years away. There was a slightly more aggressive nature in the 430 just between the low and mid range that would cause some extra work to find traction. This would become less noticeable in faster/flowing terrain with good grip, but as with all tests we must report as we find—when your siblings are performing almost perfectly, it is easy to find slight imperfections.

The 480 is a big motor with fantastic manners. This bike is a great package, and dare I say that the large powerplant would work for almost everyone. The smooth delivery and the way it not only accelerates but decelerates is very, very friendly to the rider. I chose this bike to do my longest ride aboard in sweltering 107-degree heat, and the 480 looked after my body, hands, and everything else during the ride. There is a smoothness to this machine which will make it a favorite in the hands of any rider who is looking for a bike to get them from A to B across any terrain on their weekend or midweek rides.

Coming Soon

We had hoped that getting a quick scoop on the 2016 Beta’s via the world press launch would hold us over for longer, but it seems that Walker’s impression only made us want to ride these bikes more than ever! Fortunately, Beta USA has assured us that we’ll be getting our mitts on some 2016 RR test units before the summer is over. But even without riding these bikes, we can confidently say that it’s nice to see manufacturers continuing to apply changes to their two-strokes, and we hope that Beta’s actions inspire some of the other brands to continue to think outside of the proverbial box.

The new Beta two-strokes—the 250 and 300 RR, as well as the CrossTrainer model—will all feature oil injection in 2016.Photo courtesy of Beta
Geoff Walker puts the Beta 250 RR through its paces at the world press launch. Walker reports a smoother throttle opening with oil injection compared to last year.Photo Courtesy of Beta
For 2016, the Beta two-strokes still come with a Keihin carburetor, but the computer knows exactly how much oil to draw depending on where the throttle is at in order to provide a theoretically perfect fuel-oil mix.Photo Courtesy of Beta
All of the new Beta four-strokes are now fuel injected.Photo Courtesy of Beta
All of the Betas have slightly redesigned frames and updated front fork settings to the 48mm Sachs front fork, among other changes.Photo Courtesy of Beta
Walker’s favorite thumper of the bunch was the big Beta 480 RR, which he described as a large machine with “fantastic manners”.Photo Courtesy of Beta