The Torture Test - 2009 Beta 540 RX Prototype - Dirt Rider Magazine

Tall riders didn't notice, but shorter, more aggressive riders felt the Beta dropped into tight trail turns.

Editor's Note
This year's Dirt Rider Torture Test was set up like a screening for a reality TV show: Bring what you have and prepare for whatever happens. The idea was to show up at the Torture Test with the best all-around, one-bike-does-it-all off-road dirt bike, with no guidelines or requirements from our side. It was wide open, but everyone knew going in that it would be tough to make the cut to get into the final group of bikes you see in the magazine. Of course, they didn't all make it to the pages of Dirt Rider. Some missed out ever so slightly, some by a longer ways. This is a full test of one of the bikes that missed the final cut. The competition was tough but lurking in this field of bikes you can likely find an example of the perfect bike that fits your needs, or learn what other riders or people in the industry think is the best bike in the whole world. For the people and companies that built each of these bikes, it was the best bike they could deliver. -Jimmy Lewis, Editor Dirt Rider MagazineAbout the bike:
Based off of our popular 525 RR, the 540 RX was designed to meet the needs of off-road, MX, and enduro riding with just one bike. Race an enduro or cross-country one weekend, remove the lights and meter, install the front number plate, and you are ready to moto the next! Aimed at the "Vet" racer, the bike's power is everywhere without being abrupt. American Beta has developed this model so that the veteran racer will appreciate the amazing power and handling while the young guys will be stoked that it will get them up the nastiest hill climbs that make their 250Fs cry like a baby! Keeping with the tradition of "There's no replacement for displacement" the Beta 540RX is only for those who fantasize about being on top!Parts and modifications:****Beta Racing; www.americanbeta.com;
540cc Big Bore Kit: $899.99
50mm Marzocchi Factory Shiver Forks: $2350.00
Long Shock Shaft $64.95
Adjustable Billet Triple Clamps: (Included with Fork Kit)
Boano Race team Graphics and Seat Cover: $199.99
Titanium fastener kits: $549.00
Carbon Fiber Skid Plate: $191.99
Carbon Fiber Air Scoop: $105.99
Beta "flyswatter" Hand guards $54.95
Billet Oil Plug: $28.99
Carburetor Mixture Adjuster: $25.99
Factory Rear Sprocket: $59.95
Clutch Cylinder Guard: $44.99
Factory Beta Footpegs: $234.99Leo Vince: www.leovinceusa.com; 510-232-4040
** Full Titanium Exhaust: $899.00
Precision Concepts: www.precisionconcepts.net 877-976-3486**
Suspension valving and set up: $ (varies per rider and set up)Dirt Rider Post Torture Evaluation: The best all-around bike because:
This is the best big-bore four-stroke motor around. It has mega-usable, but gigantic, boost in the maintenance-friendly KTM 525 package. That means that you adjust the valves with a 10mm wrench and a screwdriver. How sweet is that?Not the best all-around bike because:
The feel of the Beta is a little top-heavy, and that makes it feel like it wants to fall into turns. For those who think that all a KTM needs to be perfect is a linkage, we offer the Beta as exhibit B.Before the Torture Test each company that submitted a bike sent a detailed list of the modifications to its entry, and a description of why it chose those mods. None of us test riders ever saw the list until our testing was completed. Since I hadn't seen the reasoning behind the Beta 540 RX, I was struck by a couple of things after the test. Ace tester Dave Donatoni turned some of his fastest moto-test laps on the Beta, and I found that interesting that an off-road bike like the Beta could hammer on the track like that. Now that I look at the parts list and bike description it makes perfect sense. The stock 45mm Marzocchi Shiver fork is not one of my favorites, and it just doesn't feel solid enough for a semi-heavy, mega-powerful bike like the stock Beta 525RR let alone a 540. This bike has an extended shock and a 50mm Marzocchi Shiver motocross fork. Both ends are modified for combination track and trail by Precision Concepts. For sure that explains why the Beta performed so well on the track.The next observation concerned the engine. My team of five test guys hit the trails with five bikes, found a good, repeatable loop and rode the same section with every bike. When I got to the Beta, I thought, "No wonder I always loved that KTM 525 RFS engine. The power is so stinkin' great!"

It doesn't take this many guys to keep the Beta going in a torture test, but it says a lot that this many guys are enthused about the brand.

Yep, the Beta uses a KTM engine, and every rider took the time to say something positive about the power. Much of the test trail was quite tight with turns that called for first gear on most bikes. But the Beta is no longer "most bikes" with the 540 kit. It has massive torque, but it never feels anything but electric and controllable. As a result this big boy could rail the turns in second for much of the trail. There is a touch of vibration, but not significantly more than the 525. Perhaps if you revved it there would be shakes, but why bother? You don't hear the engineer revving a locomotive do you? Shifting? Not much of that, either, but it seemed fine, and the juice clutch handled the added grunt with no issues.As far as handling, the Beta drew mixed comments. None of my group was less than 5'10", and most were taller, so where other riders found that the Beta felt top heavy, most of my guys thought the Big B dropped into turns nicely. The suspension that aided the Beta in the speed-oriented tests was not as impressive on tight, choppy and technical trails, and the overall feedback from the fork was too harsh. It wasn't bad, but of our five bikes, two made the top six, so the Beta had tough company.Honestly, the only real complaint my group had was with the seat. The foam was shot, and we all felt like we were sitting on the seat base. Sure, some people don't even notice seats, but we did, and this isn't a good one. All told, that is a pretty small flaw in a bike with one of the best off-road motors ever and a chassis that can do it all.
--Karel KramerI have hundreds of hours on the two KTM 525s I owned, and this 540 felt the same, but better. It never runs out of power, but it never runs out of control, either. Unlike some monster motors, this one never gets away from you. The chassis felt like it rode high in the front (or low in the rear), so the front didn't compress into tight slow corners like an off-road suspension set-up. The Beta doesn't really feel heavy for a big off-road four-stroke, and it is fun, but I recently felt the need for a lighter, more nimble bike. I ride a 300 two-stroke now, and as nimble as the Beta is, it isn't as active and light feeling as my two-stroke, and that is the feeling I'm looking for these days.
--Don Kelley: 5'11"/200 lb./B riderI was working the motocross test, and the Beta was one of my favorite bikes on the track, and I turned a fast time on it. It was just so easy to ride with so much power and torque available. The course had some tight, awkward turns, but I didn't have to downshift on the Beta, just lug it way down, and it would pull right back up to speed without abusing or even using the clutch. My experience on the track motivated me to take it on the trail later in the day, since I thought it was a contender for a top spot. On the more open trail, and even on the tight sections with some flow and rhythm the Beta was still a winner. In the real tight, survival section, though, it felt a bit too big. I know some guys didn't like the seat, but I never even noticed it one way or the other. I liked the whole bike, but the motor is the real jewel.
--Dave Donatoni: 5'8"/160 lb./ExpertI was totally surprised by how much snap and power this bike had down low. Off the line it really lurches and wants to wheelie because it has so much hit. The bars felt super wide and the bike kind of under-steered like the front end was pushing out. You could sit up front and put your weight over the tank which helped a little bit, but overall it still didn't turn exactly right for me. I rode the escargot course in both first and second on this bike, but with the snap and the torque I definitely think it could have pulled a gear high had I tried second the whole time.
Chris Denison/5'10"/155 lbs./Tetris MasterThe Beta is a unique bike. In my opinion it is set up for a taller rider, which made it a little more difficult for me to get used to. The suspension is ok for smooth trails, but seemed to blow through the stroke easily on the rough motocross track. The bike's power is great; it has a controllable bottom end and a smooth mid-to-top, which was a major plus. One negative about the bike would be its seat, after a day of riding it was softer than a loaf of bread, and left me with sub-frame imprints on my behind.
Chris Dvoracek 6'/170 lb./Expert

Our Escargot test was another area the Beta shined. The massive torque let the rider run a tall gear.

This is the first of the five bikes that I rode, and to be honest I didn't think it would be any kind of a bike at all. I did however feel quite comfortable sitting on it. I started out on a tight section of the trail and to my surprise it was doing everything I wanted it to do. Keep in mind that this was a very slow section of trail. As the trail opened up a bit I got a chance to move around more on the bike. Only to discover that as you move back on the seat you start to feel the frame under your butt. That's not really what you want to be feeling on a brand new bike. I thought. "What's this going to feel like after a few months of use?" As I made my way out onto the track for a little moto, I was haunted by the feel of the frame under the seat again. Other than the seat issue, the Beta is not a bad ride.
Dana BergBeta's 540 is a very interesting machine with a great (KTM RFS) motor that I'm already very familiar with and fond of and excellent trail handling. With this much torque on hand, who needs an auto-clutch? The seat felt like a loaf of Wonder Bread, and it wasn't flat enough from the rear to the front (felt like you were sitting "in" the bike). This may have actually helped for railing turns in the really tight stuff, but it made the transition from sitting to standing difficult. On the moto track the Beta had a very nervous front end. Despite being fitted with a 50mm Marzocchi fork in place of the stock 45mm, the fork felt undersized for a bike this powerful - it deflected significantly under side-loading (like jumps in turns) and I never felt all that comfortable at speed.
Nate Evans: 6'1"/215 lb./Vet AThe Beta 540 has a great motor that is strong from mid-top. The low-rpm response was a little sluggish feeling, and that made the bike feel heavy in tight conditions. The fork was way too soft with the shock riding too high in the back. On flat corners this bike would grab and bite with lots of traction. Still, I felt a little weird on the bike.
Kris Keefer 6'0"/175/ProI've been a fan of the KTM RFS engine since I find rode the factory prototypes in the Czech Republic. On my first ride I was thinking that either the version in the Beta is the best ever or I just forgot how much I liked the 525. Oops, 540, I guess that would explain the magic motor. There is vibration, and enough has been said about the seat, but this is a solid, strong and effective big-bore four-stroke.
Karel Kramer: 6'1"/225 lb./B riderIf you liked the KTM 525 but have become lost with KTM's newer motors, then the Beta might just be what you are looking for. It has more of the big bike chug and a torque feel that works it way through the bike, more like an XR600 than a hyper 450cc MXer. For sure it was better as the speeds increased. The chassis works well with the engine and it is like a really good older style KTM SX. And it has a shock linkage for all those out there that would like a KTM with a linkage! But the one thing I really liked about the Beta was how it looked and the fact that it is very unique. But in being different it is playing with a very proven and durable set of parts.
-Jimmy Lewis 5'10"/185 lb./Vet Pro.