2016 Beta 300 Xtrainer Test | Trail Bike Review
For non-competing dirt bike riders, the gulf between racing enduro bikes and trail bikes is a large one. Playbikes tend to be slow, heavy, and indifferently suspended, while race bikes are tall, highly responsive, and maintenance-intensive. For instance, Yamaha’s TT-R and Honda’s CRF-F trail bikes are not even close in performance or specification to the WR-F and CRF-X enduro machines.
Beta, a 112-year-old boutique manufacturer, is best known for its enduro and observed trials competition machines built in Rignano sull’Arno, southwest of Florence, Italy. Less familiar to Americans are its Alp trail bikes—sporadically imported into this country—which have always been much lower performing, following the Japanese-style separation of the model lines. That has changed with the Beta 300 Xtrainer.
When news of the Xtrainer first arrived, many thought that it would incorporate aspects of the Beta trials and enduro bikes into a hybrid trail bike. Instead, Beta took an enduro bike and made it more compact, lighter, and user-friendly. With a chassis 15-percent smaller than Beta’s RR racers, the Xtrainer 300 weighs in at a claimed 218 pounds dry—six pounds less than the 300 RR—and has a seat height nearly an inch closer to the ground than the RR. That may not seem like a huge difference, but the lowering of the entire motorcycle enhances handling greatly at non-competitive speeds.
Although the Xtrainer is downsized from the RRs, it does not feel cramped. Pleasantly compact is the best way to put it, unless you are over six-feet tall. The bar/peg/seat relationship is perfect; the seat has the typically firm European foam and the chromoly perimeter is superbly narrow.
Not just satisfied with making the Xtrainer smaller, Beta gave it two features that trail riders will love—electric start for the RR-sourced 293cc two-stroke motor, and electronic oil injection to eliminate the need to bring a can of premix. You pour straight premium fuel from the pump into the tank and injection-friendly synthetic oil into the generous 22-ounce oil tank—Beta recommends Motul—and you’re good to go.
As far as where you go on the Xtrainer is, well, up to you. Realistically, you can take this bike on trails of any difficulty, up to a Hard Enduro course. The limiting factor is always going to be you, as the torquey motor, manageable seat height, and sticky Enduro Competition rubber from Italy’s GoldenTyre are up to any task.
To challenge the Xtrainer, and our- selves, we headed toward Snowy Trail in the Los Padres National Forest. This is not a route for the faint of heart; the descent into, and ascent out of, Piru Creek is a nasty one. An unforgiving narrow single-track, it has switchbacks that exceed full- lock turn capabilities, large rocks blocking the way, and sheer drop-offs that demand the ultimate in respect. Experts Only just hints at Snowy’s severity.
Taking along a pair of highly skilled and experienced riders with me, we put the Xtrainer through its paces. Both Tom Materna, who helped build the trail, and Hugh Warren were as impressed as I was. We had two 250cc four-stroke enduro bikes along for the ride, and there was never any hesitation for the riders when their turns on the Xtrainer came up. In fact, eyes lit up!
The magic of the Xtrainer is the combination of light weight and low seat height. It allows a rider to aggressively attack a difficult obstacle on the trail, knowing that he can get his boots to the ground if necessary. Plus, the Xtrainer has the exactness of a scalpel, with both wheels going where intended.
It is also worth mentioning that even though the Xtrainer has a lower seat height, it still has over a foot of ground clearance for the plastic skidplate—an essential spec for those taking extreme routes. When we did have to dismount to reposition the bike, the built-in grab handles are indispensable.
“Without question, the Xtrainer is the best technical trail bike I’ve ever ridden,” Warren said later. “I felt like I could have done laps on Snowy on it.”
Nice and sweet at the bottom, the Beta motor keeps traction in loose terrain with minimal effort, and with great help from the tires. Whenever it is necessary to blip the throttle and lift the front end over something, there is a snap provided by the power-valved engine. Beta tells us they had considered the lighter Evo trials bike motor for the Xtrainer, but factory testers felt it was “boring.” The RR enduro motor is a brilliant choice.
On faster, yet still challenging trails, the Xtrainer shows that it can also be extremely fun, and not just a mountain goat capable of scaling unrideable trails. The same attributes of weight, size, and power allow anyone riding the Xtrainer to go faster and with less effort, as long as he isn’t interested in full-race speeds.
With a modest price tag of $7299, Beta did save a few bucks on suspension. However, keep in mind that this is not a race bike—that’s what the RR series is for. For trail bike duties, the Spanish Ollé suspension is pleasingly plush. Yes, those who push hard will send the 43mm inverted forks and linkage-assisted shock out for personalized revalving; the less demanding will be fully satisfied with the stock units, which allow for damping and preload adjustments.
For a trail bike that is so responsive in its handling when you want it to be, the Xtrainer is also extraordinarily forgiving. Again, the light weight and low center-of- gravity make you into a hero. If something goes wrong, just give the throttle a bit of a twist and point the Beta where you want to go. In almost all cases, it will take you there.
Not once did the Xtrainer spit some- one off, leaving him to wonder what happened. Instead, it bails you out, and you continue on your way, thinking about how lucky you were to not hit the dirt. As a bike between Beta’s novice-friendly Alp series and racing RR machines, the Xtrainer is not a bike for an absolute newcomer. The seat height can still intimidate newer riders, and the motor is fairly potent if you get it up into the higher rev ranges. Its propensity for forgiveness is still dependent upon a rider who knows what he’s doing.
The only time we were not impressed with the Xtrainer was on fast dirt roads and in the open desert. The bike wandered, and it vibrates fairly noticeably at higher rpm— not an issue for short bursts, but tiring on longer runs; a steering damper would undoubtedly help calm things down, and would even be welcome on faster trails.
As Warren pointed out, the 2016 Beta 300 Xtrainer is an amazing trail bike that has a bonus of extraordinarily easy maintenance. For experienced riders who take their off-roading seriously, but aren’t running at race speeds on the local single tracks, you won’t find a more welcoming bike to take on the most intimidating trails, while never forgetting that dirt bikes are all about fun.
Helmet: Fly Racing C2 Carbon
Goggles: Fly Racing Zone
Jersey and pants: Fly Racing Evolution 2 Switchback
Gloves: Fly Racing Evolution
Knee Brace: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
Boots, Fly Racing Sector
Photography by Kelly Callan