The supposed demise of the two-stroke in the ’00s has turned out to be quite premature. With motorcycles such as the 2014 Beta 250 RR 2-Stroke, it is clear that the powerplant configuration that ruled the roost from the 1970s to the 1990s still has some life left in it.
Sporting Italian red graphics and a distinctively southern European style, the 2014 Beta 250 RR 2-Stroke has some serious charisma. The chromoly frame is racing red with a semi-trellis. It’s not all about looks, of course, and behind the appearance is a substantial body of experience and engineering.
Hop on the seat at a dealer and it may seem too hard. However, it works on long rides. Even when putting on a couple hundred miles in a day, the saddle does not induce monkey butt. While many modern dirt bikes have sky-high seats that can be intimidating and/or awkward, the Beta 250 RR’s 36.6-inch seat height is about an inch down from typical.
Enhancing the value of the comfortable seat is a larger fuel tank this year – the 2.5-gallon capacity means you can do a 40-mile enduro work on the RR without worrying about running it dry.
Suspension is another vital component to riding hard for long periods of time. Sachs is called on for the suspension, with 48mm inverted forks complemented by a linkage-assisted aluminum rear shock. The forks are specially designed for the Beta RR and have compression and rebound damping, plus anti-stiction treatment. The Sachs shock ups the ante by allowing independent high- and low-speed compression adjustment. At both ends, the travel is 11.4 inches, but keep in mind that lower seat height – you can work your way through the nasties easier, as your feet can more easily dab when needed.
Right out of the box, the suspension is outstanding, read for both faster off-road riding, as well as aggressive single-track assaults. Both ends are highly compliant, yet still manage to ride near the top of their strokes. There’s no packing of the RR’s suspension, so you have plenty of travel at your disposal at all times. Plus, this gives a consistency to the ride height, which improves confidence – you know how the bike is going to feel.
The Michelin Enduro Competition MS front tire and IIIe rear tire weren’t exactly to our liking, however. They’re a bit on the hard side, especially the front. That, of course, is an easy fix. Just put on a pair of your favorite tires for your locale, and store away the Michelins to slip back on when it comes time to sell the bike, or pick different tires with the BYOB system (more on that later).
That aside, the handling of the (claimed, dry) 223-pound bike is fantastic, with much of the credit going to the torquey undersquare two-stroke motor. The Beta 250 RR engine is fully up to speed. It has the expected adjustable power valve system (Beta Progressive Valve) to personalize the power, and the extra features such as electric start (with kick backup) and a Moto Tassinari VForce 4 reed valve.
Tight, twisting single track remind you of Beta’s trials pedigree of the Beta. The motor has precise hydraulic clutch actuation and a near perfect delivery of the fuel/air mixture by the Keihin PXK 36 carburetor. Use straight lines to attack nasty obstacles at a right angle, and timed weighting and un-weighting of the suspension to hop over rocky steps and ledges. This helps avoids the deflection we have come to expect with two-strokes when an oblique approach is taken. When hitting the single track, steer with the back end when you can, as the steering lock is a bit limited (we see that on Italian street bikes, too – must be a cultural thing).
Weighting the foot pegs and steering with the rear end of the bike works well for maneuvering at high speeds and setting up for big sweepers. Skimming atop deep, winding sand washes is thrilling exercise in levitation as quick flick of the clutch is all that is needed for 250 RR to show its power. Twist the throttle wide open and the front-end skips across the top of the whoops with the rear wheel knifing through anything in its path. There are a few awkward gaps in the six cogs and shifting smoothness could be improved a tad, so shifting earlier rather than later is a winning strategy.
Transitioning to the premium Brembo binders at near top speed, the 2014 Beta 250 RR remains fairly planted. Headshake is minimal when hitting choppy deceleration bumps – this reduces fatigue, which is essential for riders who suffer from arm pump.
As great as the Beta-built motor and FMF exhaust system is, the muffler lacks a USFS-approved spark arrestor, which curtailed much of our testing activities here in Southern California. We’d love to see the quieter FMF Q Stealth as standard equipment (it is an option), as it has a spark arrestor and is AMA and FIM enduro legal (the standard trip computer adds to the Beta 250 RR’s enduro readiness) not to mention having a longer interval between servicing.
Speaking of servicing, we’re big fans of the Beta’s no-tool access to the air filter. A large foam unit, you can replace it in seconds, whether you’re in your garage or at a fast pit stop. Handguards are not included, but you can fit your favorite brand easily – that’s probably a better way to go, as people have different needs in this department.
Factory Beta rider Cody Webb has been enhancing the reputation of the Beta RR two-stroke series. Aboard a 300 (he’s a big guy), he has been winning Endurocross races, as well as prestigious outdoor events such as the King of the Motos. Plus, he has acquitted the Beta and himself well at Extreme Enduros in Europe. For 2014, Cory Buttrick will be riding the AMA/Rekluse National Enduro Series on a Beta two-stroke. Beta may seem like an Italian exotic, but it is proving itself to be a competitive machine on American soil.
One very cool feature that American Beta offers is the BYOB (Build Your Own Beta) feature on its website. This allows you to fully customize your bike in five categories—Wheels and Tires (pretty much any brand), Gearing and Chains, Suspension (Fox, Marzocchi, and Stillwell), Chassis Parts (carbon fiber and controls), and Engine Add-ons (exhaust, Rekluse, and more). There are so many options, if you dig in, you’re unlikely to run across another 2014 Beta 250 RR configured exactly the same as yours.
Without a doubt, the 2014 Beta 250 RR 2-Stroke is the real deal. It is competitive with any two-stroke available, and Beta is poised to be a major enduro player, rather than a curiosity from Italy. You may think “trials bike” when the name Beta comes up – and Cody Webb still wins National MotoTrials events on a Beta trials bike – but the Italian company is making itself a strong name in the wider world of off-road racing.
Photography by Don Williams
Photo rider: Jess McKinley
Helmet: Bell Moto-9
Goggles: Smith Optics
Jersey and pants: Axo Keith Haring
Boots: Sidi Crossfire TA
2014 Beta 250 RR 2-Stroke Specifications
Type…Beta single cylinder, 2-stroke, liquid cooled, with BPV power valve system and electric start with back up kick-starter.
Bore x stroke…66.4mm x 72mm
Exhaust Valve…Beta Progressive Valve (BPV)
Spark Plug…NGK BR7ES
Carburetor…Keihin PXK 36mm
Final Drive…O-ring chain
Frame…Molybdenum steel/double cradle w/quick air filter access
Seat Height…36.6 inches
Ground Clearance…12.6 inches
Footpeg Height…16 inches
Steering Rake/Offset…27 degrees/20mm
Dry Weight…223 lbs.
Fuel Tank Capacity…2.5 gallons
Front Suspension…48 mm Sachs USD fork, adjustable compression and rebound, TFX technology.
Rear Suspension…Aluminum Body Sachs shock w/ adjustable rebound and high/low speed compression
Front Wheel Travel…11.4 inches
Rear Wheel Travel…11.4 inches
Front Brake…260mm floating rotor
Rear Brake…240mm rotor
Tires…Michelin Enduro Competition
Warranty…6 month Limited Warranty
2014 Beta 250 RR Two-Stroke MSRP: $7999