Beta RR 450 - Dirt Rider Magazine Online

Have you ever ridden a motorcycle and wondered what it would be like if you could take some of the best parts or traits of that bike and mix them with other dirt bikes you've liked? A Yamaha motor in a Honda chassis, for instance. Well, Beta may have just done that sort of thing for a lot of KTM owners who have thought about what it would be like to ride a KTM with a shock linkage. Since the Italian company has been making a number of the small-displacement motors for KTM, such as the 65 and 85cc sizes, somehow it earned the right to purchase complete four-stroke engines from the Austrian company and plant them inside a frame of its own design.Beta is most famous for its trials bikes, but it also produces a large number of scooters for the European market. And it looks as if it has taken a baby step into the serious dirt bike market with the RR 450. It's a safe move in that it hasn't spent millions developing its own motor, instead starting with one of the best with a full-featured six-speed, E-start, hydraulic-clutch KTM powerplant. In baseball parlance, the first hit in this game was blasted out of the park for a home run.So the real question is about the chassis and suspension and of course-it is Italian-the style. Wrapped in a tubular chrome-moly frame with a perimeter-type design, the Beta's big standout is the addition of a shock linkage as opposed to KTM's PDS linkageless system. The Beta uses a swingarm that looks very similar to the KTM's, yet a Sachs shock rides in the center of the bike. Up front, suspension chores are handled by a 45mm Marzocchi Shiver fork. Stylewise, the bike looks sharp and sexy, as you'd expect from an Italian company. The actual plastic is minimalist, but it covers everything.Start the bike, and it sounds just like a KTM with an FMF Q on it-because that's what it is. Put it in gear and take off, and you'll find out why the crate comes with another chain and set of sprockets; the gearing is for the street and a super-high top speed-somewhere around 140 mph, we'd guess, if the motor could pull it. First gear is really tall, and we'd lower it. But then the bike pulls and acts mostly like a KTM 450 EXC does. The Beta felt a little less responsive off the bottom, which could have been due to the gearing, the fact that the bike was brand new or that the airbox is a little different. But it wasn't lacking power at all. It is linear and robust all the way through and again on top; it was just a tad off what our KTM produced, most likely for the same reasons mentioned above.The handling department is where the Beta shined for most who rode it. The light front wheel feel and vague front end steering that some riders notice on the KTM aren't traits of the RR. It feels slightly stiffer and more planted, and it gives a little more feedback to the rider, taking just a bit more effort through the handlebar in the turns. The suspension complemented this characteristic with a supple feel that was, front and rear, quite progressive. Again, some riders thought it was better than a KTM-especially the rear. It felt as if the back end didn't move around as much, particularly in the upper and midstroke. And it didn't get as far into the travel as a linkageless setup would on the same bump. But KTM fans weren't as impressed, saying the Beta felt too harsh and wasn't as loose in the stroke, especially the front. Even they didn't fault the chassis, it is perhaps the "Euro" settings of the Sachs/Marzocchi components that are to blame. Beta also made the rider compartment tighter than a KTM; if you're taller than six feet, it may feel a little cramped.In the real world, KTMs rule the tight and technical where a bike is turned without leaning over. They are supple and grab traction by being a bit loose in the suspension. This Beta was more comfortable leaning over yet grabbed some decent traction, just like a KTM. It felt just a bit heavier and a little less flexy.Is This A Better KTM?It is definitely different. For those who have had issues with their KTM's handling, the Beta might be the solution if they cannot live without the Austrian motor. But there is one thing to consider: You absolutely can't ignore the price, in this case a shocking $8945 (thank the weak dollar for that). In reality, that high sticker is a sign of things to come sooner than you think. Parts, enginewise, are only a KTM dealer away, and the U.S. Beta importer has always been on top of parts supply for the trials bikes, so growing with the dirt bike shouldn't be too hard. But we welcome another player into the game, even if sharing the winning team's star player is how you get noticed.OpinionsI owned a Beta trials bike for a few years, so I was familiar with the company. That bike was aluminum-framed with a 250cc engine, all built by Beta. It was the most-friendly trials bike I'd ever ridden, so I was really interested to see what those Italians would do with the bitchen KTM engine. I'm the first guy to say I'm a little picky about the way KTM EXCs handle, so call me predisposed; but I really liked the Beta. In our short time with the RR 450, I found it turned and steered more effectively and the suspension was just as good, if not a little better for me, without much fiddling. Everything on the Beta seemed built with the same high quality that you'd find on a KTM, and I can't remember breaking anything besides plastic and a few consumable engine parts on my KTM anyway, so I wouldn't be too worried about parts availability. And every time I needed something for my Beta trials bike, it was in stock and sent out the next day. Is Beta going to take over the off-road world? Not likely, but it is off to a really good start.Jimmy Lewis 5'1O"/18O lb/A riderI don't have many complaints with the KTM chassis, and it has one of the better standing riding positions for a tall rider. I found the Beta felt remarkably similar to the Sherco 450 we tortured at our 24-Hour test (May '05). As with the Sherco, the riding position felt compact, yet there doesn't seem to be any advantage in seat height gained for shorter riders. I do like the "linkage" feel of the Beta. It absorbs G-outs well and is plush initially, too. I enjoy the low-stiction feel of the Zoke fork, but the midstroke action still jolts me a little in rocks. Beta is a small company without the resources of KTM, and (again) as with the Sherco and Gas Gas tested at the 24-Hour, the RR is street-legal in Europe. KTM spends the time and money to make a competition-only U.S. model, while Beta cannot justify it. The little added weight of the powerful headlight, keyed ignition and other parts are enough to notice. For me, KTM still makes the better KTM.Karel Kramer6'1"/2O5 lb/B rider