Crossover multi-purpose motorcycles are not unusual in the world of street bikes, but dirt bikes tend to be more clearly focused and categorized. The 2015 Beta Xtrainer is part of a new generation of off-road-only machines that focus on agility rather than purely ease-of-use or speed – a bridge dirt bike between casual trail bikes and competitive enduro bikes.Beta, an Italian company known for its observed trials motorcycles and enduro-racing bikes (with some competition-based dual sport bikes thrown in), didn’t take the obvious route of trying to combine its trials and enduro bikes for the Xtrainer. Instead, the Beta Xtrainer 300 is a scaled down – 10-percent according to Beta – enduro bike that has little in common with Beta’s trials bikes.
Starting with the motor, the Xtrainer shares the same powerplant with the potent 300 RR, though in a tamer state of tune to give it a smoother power delivery. The engine itself is a 293cc two-stroke, with a reed valve intake and Beta Progressive Valve adjustable powervalve. Compared to the RR, the Xtrainer has a lower compression (11.3:1 rather than 12:1) and a more torque-friend expansion chamber.The convenience of an electric starter carries over from the 300 RR, but the Xtrainer has another trick up its sleeve that you don’t often see on 21st century dirt bikes – a two-stroke oil tank and injection system. This means that you don’t have to mix gas in a can, which is great if the other bikes in your arsenal are the more common four-strokes. All you have to do is make sure you keep oil-injector friendly oil in the plastic tank that is filled under the seat (accessible without tools).The big difference is in the chassis, which is unique to the 2015 Beta Xtrainer. The Xtrainer’s 35.8-inch seat is a full inch lower than the RR, and the Xtrainer weighs in at a claimed 218 pounds wet (no fuel), which shaves 11 pounds off the RR. Rake is unchanged from the RR, being set at 27 degrees with 20mm of offset.The Xtrainer is fitted with much more basic Ollé suspension than the high-end Sachs units found on the RR. Wheel travel is 0.8 inches shorter on the Xtrainer than the RR, which alone will account for much of the lowering of the seat height. Also, the Xtrainer gets GoldenTyre FIM-legal Enduro Competition knobbies, rather than the RR’s Michelin equivalents.Poking around on the bike, it’s clear that Beta has worked to save a few dollars here and there, as it builds a bike that it calls “Definition of Fun!” in its brochure. That’s fair enough, as you’re getting a playbike that is far beyond anything in Honda’s CRF-F line or Yamaha’s TT-R line, though at a premium of thousands of dollars. At $6999 for the 2015 Beta Xtrainer, it is also priced for serious fun (the 2016 Yamaha YZ250X two-stroke cross-country racer is just $400 more).Come time to ride, that one-inch lower seat height is pretty noticeable. Swinging a leg over the hard, narrow saddle is easier and, once aboard, the ground feels considerably closer. Some riders go from being on their toes to nearly flat-footed, while those on tippy toes all of a sudden feel secure at rest. One inch doesn’t sound like much, but it is a big difference.With the Xtrainer’s lower, lighter weight, you gain a lot of confidence just sitting on the bike and acclimating to the slightly unusual controls. Most things are where you’d expect, though the kill switch is where the passing-beam switch would be on a street bike, and there’s also a horn! If you live in the right jurisdiction, that feature will make it a bit easier to get a street plate for the Xtrainer.Electric start makes getting underway impossibly simple. Sure, EFI would be even better, as you wouldn’t have to reach down and pull up the choke plunger on the 36mm Keihin PWK carb, but that’s a minor quibble, as it’s easily accessible. Regardless of the weather, the two-stroke motor warms up quickly and it’s time to ride.On the first ride, I was able to pick through some seriously nasty rocks and rutted out trails, courtesy of a flash flood through Hungry Valley SVRA a few days earlier. This gave me a chance to test both the agility and suspension limits of the Beta Xtrainer, and it impressed.Washed out gulleys were much more easily attacked than I expected, and on the trickiest trails, the Xtrainer shined. On trail was a dead end, and I was able to turn the Xtrainer around with a one-foot floater like I do on a trials bike – very convenient!Don’t resist the obvious temptation to take the Beta Xtrainer on the most challenging and technical trails you can find – that is why it exists. It’s no trials bike, but few trails require a trials bike to transverse, unless you’ve found yourself on the Last Man Standing course.On normal tough trails, the Xtrainer makes things easy with all the attributes you’d expect to help you through. The lower seat height adds confidence, and that means you can attack obstacles more aggressively. The torquey motor allows you to go slow when needed, and get on the gas when you choose to.The transmission ratios are the same as on the RR, but the rear sprocket has two more teeth on the Xtrainer for gearing about four-percent lower overall — good choice. The six-speed transmission itself is an extremely easy shifter. I could change gears without even feeling a thing through my Sidi Crossfire boots. False neutrals have yet to appear, and I haven’t had any problems with unexpected gear changes.While not a trials bike motor, the two-stroke engine allows you to lift the front end with great precision. Should you find a nasty rock obstacle on the trail, lean back and blip, and the front end rises right up. Although the GoldenTyre Enduro Competition tires would not have been our first choice, that is due to our inexperience with the brand. The GoldenTyre rubber acquitted itself impressively.The steering lock is generous, which makes it easier to work your way through tricky trails. The steering is light, in part thanks to the low weight of the bike. The shorter suspension also is a great aid in steering, as you feel much more in contact with the terrain.The Ollé forks and shock are valved properly for lower speed riding – the available adjustments are for rebound damping and spring preload in the forks, and compression/rebound damping in the remote reservoir shock. Outliers will wish for fork compression damping adjustments for harder riding, but if you find you want to go fast, the Xtrainer won’t be your first choice – an RR will.Faster trails continue to feel good, as long as you don’t have any demands such as skipping whoops or doing double jumps. The Beta Xtrainer is not a racebike, but it is a solidly performing trail bike. In the lower-skilled cross-country classes, however, it would be a viable choice, and a better performer than an RR in many circumstances that don’t rely on speed or airtime.Ripping down a sand-on-hardpack dirt road, the limitations of the Beta Xtrainer are present. The front end does not feel secure over about 40 mph, unless the road is perfectly smooth. If you ride lots of technical trails and have a few high-speed transfer sections, a speed-sensitive steering damper would be a great addition.The 2015 Beta Xtrainer is controllable, but much more like an enduro bike than a trails bike. This makes the Xtrainer a bit more aggressive than everyone might be comfortable with, based on the focus of the chassis. Harder riders will like the enduro-based motor, but I’d love to try an Xtrainer with the Evo 300 trials motor — two-stroke, or four-, now that you mention it.As a rider of both trials and enduro bikes, the Beta Xtrainer truly is between the two, but with far more attributes of the latter. I wouldn’t enter a trials event on the Xtrainer, but I would tackle a technical enduro on it, for instance.This is only a first-ride test, but the 2015 Beta Xtrainer 300 feels quite good out of the box. Learning its strengths and weaknesses is definitely part of the experience of riding a hybrid motorcycle that doesn’t fit into previously existing categories. It wasn’t quite what I expected, though that’s my error in prognostication, but what the 2015 Beta Xtrainer is, is quite compelling.Photography by Kelly Callan2015 Beta Xtrainer Review Riding Style
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