First test riding impressions of the 2020 Beta RR Enduro model range from the world launch in il Ciocco, Italy.
When Beta told us their 2020 RR Enduro range is “not just an update” they were not kidding. It’s a phrase that keeps playing out during the pre-ride press introduction and as we run swiftly through the changes to 2020 models, the changes grow ever-clearer.
Those changes include a new chassis for all eight models, complete re-styling, a new composite subframe, bigger fuel tank and engine upgrades particularly with the four strokes.
The new bodywork and shape of things is easy to spot – the 2020 models are looking quite different while retaining the distinctive Beta red and white colours. From tip to tail the new bodywork has a revised look and Beta claims added strength will help the plastics last better.
Under the surface the redesign has been thoughtful for the end user. All the bodywork bolts are now the same size now and if you want to pull the plug cap off there is more room to get your hands in there – despite the fuel tanks having greater capacity.
A new composite subframe is a big change for the 2020 Beta model range. Affecting not just weight and handling but engine performance and, again, user-friendliness: under the new, softer seat all the electrics are packed away neatly, either inside the airbox or under that seat. Integrated clips now train cables tidily and everything is more easily removed and replaced for strip downs.
On the inside the new airbox is, Beta claims, tighter, neater and seals better for better air intake and reduced water ingress. Look round the back where the airbox and rear fender locate like a tight jigsaw and clearly it has a much improved sealing helping protect the air filter.
The air filter now comes out dead easy too, more like other manufacturers which helps with the speed and ease with which you can work on the bike – Beta has clearly been listening to customers and their problems in this whole area of the bikes.
Take ‘em for a ride
Beta’s best-selling machines are the 300 two-stroke and 350 four stroke so I make a bee-line for them to get out on the il Ciocco test track in the Italian Tuscany hills (formerly home of the Hell’s Gate Extreme Enduro and location for the Beta launch in 2018 also).
Eight different models in the standard RR Enduro range splits equally between two and four stroke with something for every rider (upgraded Racing models will come later in the year, likely October time).
Onboard the new bodywork and overall shape is immediately different with the now lower (top) and larger fuel tank (9.5litre/2.55US Gal on the two-strokes, 9.1 litres/2.4US Gal 4T) in front of you and a clearly better view of the ground behind the fork legs.
The radiators now have a heap more room to breathe too which Beta says is helping the four stroke engine models to work more efficiently and run cooler.
The 2020 engines have significant upgrades and not least the 250 and 300 two-strokes now run a counter-balance shaft. The 250 also has a slight change to the cylinder head for improved low-rpm torque.
It is nothing new of course, other manufacturers have been running counter-balance shafts on 2T engines for a while to help smooth power delivery through the revs and reduce the vibes you feel through your hands and feet.
It works of course and you can feel that change on the new Betas, particularly at the end of the day after clocking up the hours riding and you find you haven’t got that numb feeling in your hands. I must admit however I could still feel some small vibes through my feet on a long road transfer.
One fact we learned was the 250/300 engine in its current form, first designed and introduced in 2013, always had the space for a counter-balancer. Beta held back introducing it until they could both properly measure inside the engine and engineer the change (they make their own engines don’t forget in a factory which houses just 170 staff in total). In their words, they wanted to “make it perfect” before introducing it.
Four stroke engine makeover
The four stroke engines get some big changes across the model range with a lot of effort focusing on the cooling system circuit, a shift of weight balance backwards by 20mm plus an overall 1.5kg weight reduction.
A redesigned cylinder head has water pipes feeding out the top straight into the frame and directly into the radiators. Beta says it reduce the running temperature which improves engine performance and consistency.
A new oil circuit is also working to reduce running temperatures plus improve the oil flow around the crank cases – some owners will be pleased to know this addresses an issue for the bottom bearing.
Sweeter gear changes
Perhaps the most noticeable changes for the 2020 models when you’re onboard is actually with the gearboxes. Sweeter and more positive gear changes on the 350, 390, 430 and 480cc four strokes improves the riding and a slightly shorter gear ratio also helps on the bigger models on this tight track where second and third gears pull the whole way.
A new gear shift mechanism with a lighter cam, new clutch plate material and shorter gearing help you access the power and feel a more positive throttle response.
Overall that’s the picture with the 2020 RRs: they deliver a more positive ride experience.
There is no doubt Beta’s standard ZF suspension raises debate whenever we write about the RR Enduro models.
The bare facts are some manufacturers fit suspension ready to go racing out the crate while others opt for suspension more suitable for a broad range of riders which basically means limited in actual adjustment and certainly too soft for many.
You’d easily come away from a first test ride thinking the Beta ZF suspension is also like that: tailored for an easier ride, too soft, springy and lacking control on the bumps.
I speak as I find and treat every new bike test with a clean sheet and on this test each bike sure needed a clean sheet. Stepping from one bike to the next through the Beta RR range
I found one felt ok, the next way too springy, the next too soft and in the end it was confusing to know what to trust.
The strong and consistent Nissin brakes clamping down on Galfer discs don’t help the situation by being so good the forks can’t hold up and quickly dive. In short the standard setting doesn’t work very well for me.
Turning the clickers delivers
These issues I felt were all about the standard suspension setting and not really a fair reflection of the ZF suspension’s capabilities. The fact is there is a range of adjustment which Beta’s Enduro Racing Team boss, Fabrizio Dini helps me understand better.
I needed convincing I must admit but Dini, a former EnduroGP level racer himself, asked me what was wrong, made some changes to control the high-speed damping, slow down the compression and set the preload – the result was a bike transformed.
I tried the same changes on the 300 2T and 350 4T for good measure and in both cases it improved the handling significantly. More accurate into turns but also better control across the bumps to keep the wheels on the ground and for me to also boost confidence.
Stronger and narrower chassis
The big chassis change for 2020 is that new main frame fitted to all models. Microcast technology was the buzz phrase in the presentation which has allowed Beta to employ more precision in developing a frame with improved rigidity for 15 per cent more torsional stiffness.
On the two-strokes the frame might be new but the geometry is exactly the same. The four strokes have a change however with a steeper steering angle (off-set closes a degree to 22°) yet a 20mm longer swingarm pivot point to rear axle length.
The wheelbase measurement remains the same and in fact the swingarm is the same part across all bikes but simply on the 4T machines the axle position is set 20mm back.
It is all linked to the crankshaft sitting 20mm further back and the centre of gravity being closer to the middle of the bike, according to Dini. “The bike feels lighter and with less weight in the front. When we applied this change we saw that the bike was feeling much lighter and much longer so we closed the head angle moving the forks closer to the back wheel.” Explains Fabrizio.
The new frame then is a change for the better feeling more positive overall the impression is of a tighter bike between your legs.
The 350 four stroke zipped to the top of my want list as I found new lines and a better ability to carry the front over chopped-out holes to ride smoother. That tighter steering angel helps but when you’re on the pegs and fighting to hit lines the whole bike felt more positive.
Mixed with the new shape bodywork it would be possible to jump blindfolded from the 2019 Beta to a 2020 model and think it was a different bike altogether. They feel (and look) more robust, the riding position is positive and once the suspension was dialled in I felt more like the boss on the bikes – which is what it is all about.
Smaller detail changes around the bike include the map switch sitting nearly out the way just in front of the fuel filler cap, a stronger rear brake lever, new precision cast footpegs which clear dirt more easily and an extra lug on the frame just in front of the footpeg mounting point to stop dirt so readily getting in the pivot point and spring.
All-in the 2020 Beta’s have made a significant step forward. Across the range of bikes surely there is something for everyone whether your 18 and wanting to pull the pin on a 125 two-stroke, take on an event like Romaniacs with a two-stroke or hit the long trails on a big thumper four stroke.
Most impressive perhaps are the bikes sitting in the middle which can seem just as happy letting you ape World Enduro Champion Steve Holcombe as much as they can carry you through really technical terrain worthy of any extreme event.
Personally I loved ripping round on the tweaked 350 four stroke – having a factory race manager sort your suspension helped a lot of course but it made easy work of a badly worn-out track.
The fizzing 200 two-stroke is a real peach of a bike too and a real confidence booster while being pretty damn capable in the extreme terrain the Hell’s Gate venue has lurking in the trees.
You get all this for a good price of course and though the prices will be set differently depending where in the world you are reading this, the fact is they are going to a good chunk less than major competitors.
We’ll follow this first ride up with a “your questions answered” feature post where Beta answered some of the best questions sent in by Enduro21 readers. Stay tuned.
More information including technical specifications: BetaMotor.com
Photo credit: Marco Campelli + Cristiano Morello Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.email@example.com