Benelli TRK 251 first ride review | New benchmark in the quarter-litre ADV segment?
Benelli’s TRK 502 series has always been our recommendation for anyone looking for an adventure touring motorcycle that has moderate amounts of performance, kit and lends you the feeling of owning a proper big bike but without breaking the bank. Apart from this, Benelli has been largely uncontested in that segment and that definitely bodes well for the company. But now, it has launched the TRK 251, their smallest ADV to date in a market that’s populated with some rather established motorcycles, read the Royal Enfield Himalayan, KTM 250 Adventure and even the BMW G310 GS. So the question is to find out if Benelli has done enough to make its newest member a worthy contender in a rather heated segment. Let’s get right into it.
Benelli TRK 251 design
Right of the bat, the ADV is distinctly Benelli. The lines, the design, the cuts and creases are all pretty uniform to the design language that we have come to associate with Benelli over the years. And in fact, as the name suggests the TRK 251 aptly looks just like a TRK 502 that has been sliced in half, with a bunch of the meat taken out from the centre and then joined back together. Unlike the bigger 502, you won’t mistake it for a higher displacement bike. The front end in typical ADV fashion has a raised beak, a split LED headlamp setup which could do with a bit more intensity in terms of light throw at night, a relatively tall visor behind which sits a healthy 18-litre fuel tank. The seats are nice and plush and not too soft. So, riding that 18-litre tank from brimmed up to empty shouldn’t be a hassle, comfort-wise. The proportions on the Benelli TRK 251 are well balanced and all in all the bike looks rather handsome, especially in the black and red colour scheme which is one of the three colourways available the other two being our white review unit and one that is finished in grey with red accents. Even in terms of build quality, the bike seems significantly better built than the Benellis from a few years ago.
Benelli TRK 251 engine
The Benelli TRK 251 is powered by a new 249c, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine. So, a fairly modern mill, this. In terms of outputs, the single is good for 25.4bhp at 9250rpm and 21.1Nm at 8000rpm. Now on paper, this seems adequate for a beginner touring motorcycle. But out in the real world, the power just doesn’t feel enough. Performance feels more on par with a 200cc motorcycle than a 250cc one. This is not particularly helped by the fact that the way the motor delivers its power is rather peaky. This translates to not a particularly tractable motor meaning you need to work that gearbox. You only really get a move-on once the tacho needle crosses the 5500rpm threshold. By, the time you cross around 7000rpm there are a fair bit of vibrations seeping into the pegs, the handlebar and even the seats. So if comfortable cruising is what you’re looking to do you’d best cruise around the 100-110kmph mark. Which in all honesty is fine for our unpredictable Indian conditions but a little more oomph would have made for a much better ride. However, credit where it's due, in typical Benelli fashion, the company has managed to engineer a sublime exhaust note that will definitely leave you wondering that the bike displaces more cee’cees than the number on the name says.
Benelli TRK 251 ride and handling
Moving on to the chassis front, this is where the TRK 251 starts to really shine. The bike is underpinned by a tubular steel trellis frame which is suspended on USDs upfront and a monoshock at the rear. On the whole, the suspension setup is set up to be a bit on the stiffer side and this is even with my large frame. My featherweight colleague Mandar said it was stiffer than I found it. But once you pick up the pace the damping becomes significantly better and the bike does a much better job of ironing out the undulations on the road surface. You sit upright on the bike in a rather commanding stance and you feel like the saddle is a lot taller than the 800mm that it actually is. In terms of handling the TRK is a hoot to ride. It is extremely agile and nimble and surprisingly for a Benelli, it has a rather light, 164kg kerb weight. What this means is that you can chuck the bike into corners without a lot of effort and pick it up just the same. This is helped massively by the rubber that this bike is running — Metzeler Sportec M5s. These tyres do a good job of inspiring confidence even under slightly loose surfaces. The handlebar too, offers decent leverage entering a corner. A good mix of comfort and sporty. My only gripe with the entire setup is the design of the tank recesses. The way they protrude obstructed my knee a fair bit not allowing me to grip the tank as much as I would have liked. Taller riders will find this a bit annoying. Braking performance is acceptable with adequate bite and feedback from both ends. My only complaint with the braking system is the ABS system which is rather quick to intrude. Now, this is an ADV, so you’re bound to take it off-road. To that end, the lightweight nature, and the healthy 170mm of ground clearance are good and it can handle a bit of soft roading. But the 17-inch road-focused wheels and the tank protrusions which don’t really allow you to grip the bike properly when standing won’t really allow you to go tackle some hardcore trails. But Benelli never claimed that this is meant for that so maybe wait for an ‘X’ variant if that is what you intend to do with your bike.
Benelli TRK 251 features
Now in terms of features, this is a rather bare-bones motorcycle. You get an instrument cluster that displays everything you’d need but looks rather dated as against the TFT screens you get to see on most bikes these days. Other features include a USB slot on the fuel tank for all your charging needs, a tail rack for mounting your luggage and that’s pretty much it. In terms of safety, you get dual-channel ABS as standard.
Benelli TRK 251 verdict
To sum up, the Benelli TRK 251 is a road-focused bike that will munch the miles comfortably as long as you’re not in a hurry and is a good companion for those weekend jaunts in the twisties. Now for the ex-showroom price tag of Rs 2.51 lakh, you get a well-built bike that handles well, looks good, is well built and is an overall simple bike. But has Benelli done enough to justify the price tag? Well if that’s all you’re looking for from your motorcycle and you’re willing to live with some of its shortcomings, then yes. But if you want a more versatile do anything go anywhere too on a budget, I think the Royal Enfield Himalayan is still the benchmark to beat and if you’re willing to shell out a bit extra over the Himalayan, the KTM 250 Adventure is another solid option.