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Beta RR 498 Enduro
The Beta RR Enduro models have become well known for their immediate and genuine approach, for reliability, long maintenance intervals and, last but not least their 100% Italian style. Today, the third generation RR4T models are equipped with our own engine made in Rignano Sull’Arno and arrive on the market as the result of a continuous development for many different riding abilities. Many are the refinements and innovations, both on the frame and the engine, all designed to increase reliability and riding feeling. A wide range of displacements are now available, strengthened by the new 350cc engine, a first for Beta in the enduro market. For 2012 Beta has developed a complete range of enduro bikes to appeal to both the weekend hobbyist as well as the seasoned Pro.
Let's be clear: If you own a Beta off-road bike, you're not normal. We're not calling you a freak or an outcast, we're just saying you don't like being one of the masses. It also means you know your stuff. It's easy to have something weird if you don't care about how it works, but all of the bikes that Beta produces are right at the top of their respective categories—dirt bikes, dual-sport bikes, trials bikes. All of them are specialized, rare, expensive and very, very good. The Beta 498RR is a perfect example. It's a member of a club that's already very small. There aren't many over-450cc off-road bikes, and among them, the Beta stands apart. It looks different, it works different and it is different—all in a very good way.
On the chassis side, the Beta has a good old-fashioned steel frame. It doesn't have the trickness factor of the current crop of Japanese aluminum-framed offerings, but the properties of chromoly steel are pretty much spot-on for off-road riding, where a slight amount of frame flex adds to the comfort factor. This year the Beta uses a fork that is made by Sachs, a company that supplied only the shock in the past. The 498 has a number of Japanese parts, like the Nissin brakes and the Kokusan ignition, and are mixed in with Euro stuff, like the Brembo clutch master cylinder, a Supersprox aluminum sprocket and Michelin tires. It has a spark arrestor in a beautifully made stainless exhaust system.
Up front, all the things that made the RS so good still apply. The 498 has a sweetheart of a motor. It's a generous bike that relieves you of much of your workload. It has a long, long powerband so that you don't have to shift as much. It has great torque so you don't have to clutch it out of turns. It has nearly perfect carburetion so you don't have to worry about stalling out. It never coughs and dies or misbehaves in any way. The hydraulic clutch is easy to pull, the throttle response is quick, and the gearbox is light with six evenly spaced ratios. There's no term that applies better than "sweet."
If there's any flaw in the motor's credentials, it's the fact that it's no motocrosser. The Beta is so busy being Mr. Nice Guy, it forgets to get down and boogie. It has no real punch, just even-tempered pulling power. For the trail sections of the Glen Helen cross-country course, there's no real issue with that, but any off-road race bike in today's landscape of mixed venues has to be part motocross bike too. On the moto sections of the track, the Beta never really explodes out of the turns.
THE GOOD STUFF
As far as the suspension goes, we were pleased, but with some reservations. The Sachs fork can be harsh in some types of terrain. It doesn't like sharp edges or small, burdensome choppiness. In whoops and on jump landings, it's very good. In the rear, it was almost the opposite; in whoops, it seems to move too much and too quickly. We had very little setup time, but managed to stiffen up the rear end while the race was in progress. For out-of-the-crate settings, the Beta scores quite well.
As for the bike's overall attention to detail, we're big fans. We like the pop-off airbox side cover, levers, bars and rims. The Nissin brakes are strong, although not quite as powerful as the Brembos that come on other Euro bikes. We're just as impressed as ever with the rid-ing position and overall comfort. The RR has the same small glitches that we noticed on the RS last month. The electric starter struggles to light up the engine to the point that it's sometimes better to kick. The push-button system for removing the seat is great, but it can be difficult to reinstall. The tank is smallish, although that's becoming disturbingly normal. Beta sells a tank that carries 3.7 gallons, which we tried last month. It's great, but something in the middle would be nice. You can get that tank as well as about a million other options when you buy the bike under the Build-Your-Own Beta program. The BYOB program allows you to spec out the bike through the website before it's built. Beta airfreights each bike from Italy.
Thankfully, there's not much the bike needs. When you start off with a $9000 machine, you shouldn't have to spend much more. The upgrades that you get with the Factory Edition are definitely worthwhile—and of all the BYOB options, handguards are probably the best add-on option. But even if you add nothing, you don't have to worry about having an "ordinary" Beta. There's no such thing.