Over the last few years, we’ve noticed more and more Betas showing up on race results sheets from EnduroCross to National Enduro to Extreme Enduro races. The Italian off-road bikes have been gaining ground and for 2018 Beta has made quite a few changes to its entire lineup. Here we are going to take a closer look at the 2018 Beta 300 RR two-stroke. This is our first ride impression and there will be a full test, with multiple days and multiple riding locations, in the print magazine.
First off, the 300 RR is a claimed 10 pounds lighter than last year’s model, which is quite an impressive feat. That being said, Beta models in the past haven’t been necessarily lightweights. How did the company do it? Beta doesn’t explain where the weight loss came from, but one area, most likely, could be the all-new frame for 2018. Additionally, the bike has an updated, smoother-operating clutch and all-new cylinder that Beta says is aimed at even smoother power.
What Stays The Same
One of the unique features that stays the same is the 300 RR’s oil injection. No premixing need with this machine; straight gas goes in the tank and premix two-stroke oil goes in the oil tank found under the seat next to the air filter and battery. With our previous Beta two-stroke testbikes we got about three tanks of fuel to one tank of oil, which is way less oil used while premixing. The reason for this is that the computer changes the oil amount per the rpm and throttle opening. That means at idle and low rpm/small throttle openings it can be as little oil as 100 to 1 while wide open at high rpm it can add more oil to get to the 32 or 40 to 1 we are more used to. The suspension stays the same this year as well; a Sachs 48mm USD fork and Sachs shock.
Out In The Wild
After letting the bike warm up at the office, we noticed a little bit of a bog right off idle when you get hard on the gas. We turned in the air screw to half turn out and that got it pretty close. Since we were going to be riding at 3,000 feet and up, we left it with the slight bog that went away when we got to our riding destination the next day.
Primarily because we’ve been spoiled by the modern, counterbalanced KTMs and Husqvarnas of 2017 and 2018, we immediately noticed a lot of vibration coming from the RR, mostly through the pegs but a little through the bar. Once you get riding and/or if you don’t have any other reference, the vibration isn’t an issue.
The first thing we noticed was actually the suspension or, more specifically, its stiffness. Betas (and most European off-road bikes, for that matter) often have a very comfort-oriented setup that doesn’t make us think, “race ready.” But the ’18 300 RR is definitely set up more on the performance side. In fact, one of our testers felt that the suspension was overall too stiff for casual trail riding. The fork has sort of a linear, non-progressive feel that makes it feel resistant to start to move but stays stiff throughout the stroke. But we also know that this suspension takes some break-in to get it feeling as it should. Our hunch is that this machine had zero break-in time (some manufacturers pre-ride bikes before they go to the media) and that our day of riding was the very first time this bike saw action. As we ride this machine more, we expect the fork to free up and gain comfort. Also, it could be that the engineers at Beta were tired of hearing American motojournalists calling their bikes “too soft” and “not race-able.” We would much rather have this bike this way, wait until we get five to 10 hours on the bike, and then decide if we want to go softer.
The shock was also on the stiffer side but didn’t have the super-bouncy, high-reboundy feel that past Betas have had. It sounds like we are being harsh on the 300’s suspension but 1) we know that the suspension needs time to break in and 2) the stiffer overall setup is more aligned with serious riders and racers which is a good thing in our opinion.
The RR’s new cylinder doesn’t give the ’18 bike a drastically different feel, but we would say that we feel more meat/grunt throughout the power. It likes to be short-shifted since it makes most of its power in the low-to-mid rpm range. On our butt-dyno sand hill we use to test a lot of bikes’ engines, the Beta did moderately good but it didn’t fly up the hill with ease. But, and this is a big but, we are more suspect of the FIM small-knobbied tire as the weak link in the hill climb, not the power coming from the engine. Throttle response was excellent despite the hesitation we felt at the office, which disappeared on our testing day. Also, especially for a two-stroke, the power curve is very linear and easy to modulate. There isn’t a surprising hit to catch you off-guard, just a smooth increase in power up through the mid. It could use a little bit more power at the very low-end and very top-end to be a really incredible motor.
Straight up, this 300 RR handles better than last year’s machine. We can’t really say if it’s the new frame or the lighter weight (or a combination thereof), but we dig it for sure. As we know from other bikes that went on a diet to get a beach bod, losing weight can really help a bike respond to rider input and this 300 RR is no different. Combined with a slim overall feel and the new chassis, this Beta is even more attuned to tight, technical trail.
Overall, this is a better 300 RR than we’ve ridden in the past and we are excited to put more time on this machine and to put it head to head with all the other 300 two-strokes on the market. For now we are going to get a bunch more seat time and you’ll get regular updates on the progress of our testing.
Tristen Morts, Age: 22, 6'2”, 185 lb, Expert Moto/off-road
This bike has a smooth clutch and shifts through the gears well. The first gear is short; there is a big jump from first to second gear. The first gear was responsive and made it easy to slow and get over an obstacle. I would say the overall power is right in the middle, not too aggressive and not too mellow. The bike had a short gear range keeping most of the power in the bottom-end though it pulled better through the higher gears. You can feel the vibration through the bike. I felt it most on the pegs but after some time on the bike I forgot about it. This bike rips through the trails, but I would probably stay away from rough hill climbs.
I found this bike’s suspension to be on the stiff side. I felt comfortable entering a set of rollers as it balanced well and wanted to stay on top and not dive in or kick back. Although through high-speed sections and wanting to lean the bike into a turn, the front end kept wanting to tuck on me. It worked great through tight single-track as it has a light feel and could really put the bike where I wanted it. It had a shaky feel in fast-choppy sections, but worked surprisingly well over the slow rocky sections, something I'm not very experienced with and was able to use the bike’s agility to my advantage.
I found this bike to handle better in the low-speed sections. The light weight makes the bike easy to maneuver. The 300 has a thin feel to it and sits pretty balanced. Definitely a fun bike to ride though the front end tucked on me a few times in faster-speed flat corners. The traction of the bike wasn’t something I felt comfortable to rely on.
- Lighter, better-handling machine
- No mixing oil and gas = more refueling options
- Linear power is easy to modulate
- FIM tire hurts overall performance
- Vibration is starting to be more noticeable
- Suspension needs some time to break in
- MSRP: $8,499
- Seat Height: 36.8 in.
- Ground Clearance: 12.25 in.
- Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gal. (650cc oil tank)
- Weight, Tank Full: 242 lb