We ride the Benelli TRK 502 BS6 to see if it still is a relevant choice for someone who wants big bike thrills without the big bike price tag
Benelli India is updating its motorcycles to meet BS6 emissions norms and one of the newest offerings is the TRK 502. But apart from just meeting new emission norms, the TRK gets a few updates for 2021 including, knuckle guards reinforced with an aluminum bracket, a redesigned seat, wider mirrors, adjustable clutch and brake levers, backlit switchgear and some visual changes like a black aluminum handlebar and amber backlighting in the instrument cluster. Let’s see what these changes have done for the new TRK 502, shall we?
The Benelli TRK 502 is powered by the same 500cc parallel-twin mill, but it now runs cleaner courtesy a new catalytic converter to deal with the newer BS6 emission norms. The engine in its BS6 guise puts out 46.8bhp at 8500rpm and 46Nm of twist at 6000rpm. The engine is not particularly sprightly and that paired with its weight results in a bike that isn’t very quick. There isn’t much urgency in the way it delivers power and it picks up pace only after the needle on the tacho crosses the 7000rpm mark. So, making quick overtakes on the highway jaunt means staying in the meat of the power band or having to drop a gear or two. But you wouldn’t mind working the gearbox too much because the shifts are precise and tactile while at speed. That said, it can feel clunky when you are taking things slow.
When you decide you want to take it easy and smell the roses, or the smelly streets in our case, the motor is smooth and tractable and will happily do 50kmph in the sixth-cog and will continue to accelerate to its top speed comfortably and slowly. 100kmph comes around the 6000rpm mark and the bike can comfortably do 120-125kmph all-day long. In terms of riding the bike in traffic and at slow speeds, the engine does emit warm air towards your legs but it’s a non-issue if you are wearing boots. The exhaust note, this time around is not as loud or throaty, especially compared to what the smaller TNT’s would sound like. That being said, in true Benelli fashion, it does sound good.
The TRK502 continues to get the same steel tube trellis frame with those massive non-adjustable 50mm USD forks upfront and rebound and preload adjustable rear monoshock. In stock form, the suspension setup is tuned rather well for a single rider without luggage. It is slightly on the softer side but not uncomfortably so. I am a hefty rider and when I sat two up or with a lot of luggage, it did become a little floaty but this is something that can be easily addressed with tweaking the preload and rebound settings on the rear monoshock. The transition to BS6, luckily hasn’t added more heft to the already heavy TRK 502. It still tips the scales at 235kg with all fluids topped. And you do feel the weight until you get going. Taking U-turns is not the most pleasant of tasks and best of luck picking the bike up in the case of a spill. The BS6 TRK gets a redesigned seat that is said to enhance rider comfort but that never was an issue to begin with. The seat is plush with just the right amount of padding for long days in the saddle without a resentful butt. Like the bike in general, the seat is also pretty wide, making it slightly cumbersome for shorter riders to get their feet flat on the ground, despite the low for an ADV bike, seat height of 800mm.
In terms of handling, the bike is for obvious reasons not the most agile or light on its feet. But it's not a couch on cast wheels either. It doesn't have super-sport levels of precision but it does handle well. If you are graduating from a smaller bike, the weight will take some getting used to. It tips into corners without much drama and once tipped in, the TRK 502 stays planted and the Pirelli Angel GT’s offer good grip. You need to be a little wary of the throttle while exiting a corner hot because the rear has a tendency to step out if you gas it too hard and there aren’t any electronic nannies other than ABS, watching over you. The bike feels the most at home on the highways and is a great companion to munch miles on. And it should, considering that is the proposition Benelli sells you the bike with. And, to that end, the TRK 502 comes with carrier mounts and saddle bag mounts as standard. Take it off-road and the story changes, the bike can handle mild off-roading without much stress but anything more and it’s asking a lot of the bike and that’s for a few reasons. Firstly, the chassis isn’t really designed for it. This TRK 502 gets a 17-inch front wheel and alloy wheels, a clear road-biased setup. In addition to this, due to the placement of the tank recesses, the riding position while standing is very awkward, not offering enough grip to the rider to properly maneuver the bike. Add to that the fact that there’s not enough low-end grunt and the limited ground clearance is also not enough to go over trails without bottoming the bike out. So, if you are really keen on this bike and are looking to go off-road often it might be wiser to wait and see if Benelli plans to launch the TRK 502 X.
An impressive facet of the TRK are the brakes. They offer a good amount of bite and feedback evenly through the entire squeeze of the brake lever. The front-end dives only under extremely hard braking and with a bike of its proportions, it's expected. The ABS system is also calibrated to not be as intrusive as other systems, and the only times I felt the system engage was when I braked hard over loose or wet surfaces. This time around the ability to disengage ABS isn’t present but that isn’t a deal breaker considering how well the system is calibrated.
In terms of equipment, the BS6 Benelli TRK 502 isn’t one that’s filled to the brim with tech or features. It still uses the same analogue tachometer with a digital speedo which feels extremely dated now, especially in times where even 160-200cc bikes get fully digital clusters with a lot more information. You get a USB socket on the left shroud on the fuel tank. You get LED indicators and the placement of them on the rear feel like an after though with their wires fully exposed and easily prone to damage. Illumination on the bike is still provided by a conventional bulb lighting with LED DRL’s but they do a fairly good job at offering good visibility at night. The redesigned knuckle guards now come with an aluminum bracket reinforcing the entire structure and it definitely does feel sturdy and up to the task of keeping your mitts safe in the case of a crash. The switch gear on the BS6 TRK 502 is backlit and that definitely adds something in the sense of the bike feeling premium. When it comes to the quality of the switchgear itself, they aren't the best but they definitely do not feel cheap or tacky. They also get two dummy switches for when you add accessories to your motorcycle like aux lights or heated grips. The rear view mirrors are wider and I had no problem seeing things clearly on both sides, once set properly (which is something I struggle with on most other bikes) and even at speed your vision is not affected by vibrations. The new bike also addresses something we missed on the previous bike- adjustable levers. The levers offer four levels of adjustment but there isn’t a significant difference between the closest and the farthest setting. So that’s a bit of a hit and miss, in my opinion.
The Benelli TRK 502 was always a great proposition for those who wanted to travel long distances and do so in style and comfort. The bike has great road presence and it is an extremely capable tourer. It offers you with proper big bike proportions but has just the right amount of power to pull its weight and that makes it a great stepping stone for buyers who plan to eventually get something a lot more powerful like a Triumph Tiger 900 GT or a Ducati Multistrada 950 S. We rode the red TRK 502 which costs Rs 4.9 lakh ex-showroom but the grey finish costs Rs 4.8 lakh (ex-showroom) and at that price, it undercuts its predecessor by Rs 20,000 making it a much better offering. The rumour mill has it that Honda is bringing the CB500X to India and if it does, it will be a direct rival to the TRK, albeit it might cost more. And, other rivals either lie in a price bracket below or above including the KTM Adventure 390 or the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 or the Kawasaki Ninja 650 or Versys 650. The TRK 502 is a great bike for someone that has a budget in its ballpark and is looking for a machine that will take them across the length and breadth of the country in great comfort.