The Beta Xtrainer 300 has been an interesting model in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer’s lineup. It is a bit difficult to categorize the Xtrainer 300, yet Beta has had enough success with it to upgrade the 293cc two-stroke powerplant for the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300.We put the Beta through its paces—with an accessory FMF muffler with a USFS-approved spark arrester installed—in an attempt to clearly define this unique off-road motorcycle.
1. The top end of the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300 motor is all-new. Still based on the Beta 300 RR off-road competition motorcycle, the Xtrainer 300’s engine gets a new cylinder with closer tolerances for the power valve, along with a new cylinder head and domed piston for a higher compression ratio. Beta claims more power across the rev range, with a focus on improved running down low. Certainly, the liquid-cooled two-stroke runs cleanly from idle until it taps out on top. Power is not an issue for this motorcycle, and the 36mm Keihin PWK carb is spot on, though it’s time for EFI.2. Beta didn’t neglect the bottom end of motor, as it gets extensive internal upgrades. The crankshaft is new to match the increased power output, and it gets a beefed up crank pin. Plus, the connecting rod is strengthened at the bearing area for increased reliability and performance. We didn’t ride it long enough to test long-term reliability, but from a functional standpoint, the motor felt good.3. There’s also a new clutch and shifting setup, and they’re flawless. We’ve always liked Beta’s two-stroke clutches and transmissions, so we weren’t surprised that the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300 has a great clutch/tranny combo. It shifts intuitively, and the hydraulically actuated clutch has a light and predictable pull. Beta also changed the clutch cover to give the Xtrainer 300 a more contemporary look.4. The 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300’s raison d’être remains its lighter weight and lower seat height compared to the two-stroke RR racebikes. Beta drops the seat height for the Xtrainer by about an inch—mostly due to correspondingly shorter suspension—and because it is a lighter duty machine, it is 13 pounds lighter than the 300 RR. In practice, the Xtrainer is certainly easier to ride than an RR, especially for a shorter or lower-skilled rider.5. Although it is difficult to turn down more power, we felt the Xtrainer 300 was in need of improved suspension. To get the price down to a $7499 MSRP—compared to $8499 for the 300 RR—Beta swapped out the RR’s German Sachs suspension for Spanish Ollé R16V units. Although we don’t mind the inch-shorter travel in exchange for a lower seat height, we were not pleased with the action of the suspension, and the R16V forks in particular. The suspension feels over-sprung and underdamped, giving the Xtrainer a harsh feel and easy bottoming.6. The more technical trail, the more you’ll like the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300. On tight, rocky trails you won’t notice the suspension issues as much, and you’ll certainly be happy with the torquey nature of the two-stroke. Here, of course, the added power bequeathed to the motor isn’t of much use. Still, the gearing, clutch, and more manageable seat height make the Xtrainer enjoyable on consumer-level Hard Enduro trails. Handling is excellent at lower speeds—the Xtrainer goes where you want it to go, and the lack of weight reduces fatigue.7. There are two power modes on the Beta Xtrainer—Rain and Sun. You might expect the Rain mode to offer more traction. Instead, it increases the hit off the bottom, though it slows revving. That makes the Xtrainer a bit trickier in low traction conditions. The Sun mode has a smooth bottom end, and then revs out nicely. Both modes are useful, though you have to select them with the knowledge of what they do, rather than the pictogram selected to illustrate them.8. If you let the motor sing, you won’t want to be in rugged terrain. On rocky roads, the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300 simply did not feel settled. It bounced around and the front end was easily deflected, and riders with a wide range of skill levels felt this. Whoops are not a forte of the Ollé suspension, so you don’t want to get caught out at speed. Despite being a 293cc two-stroke, the Xtrainer 300 is not a great desert bike and it much more comfortable on forest single-track.9. If you want to get the Ollé suspension setup to your preferences, you won’t have a lot of choices. You’re most likely going to have to experiment with oil weights and heights, as well spring rates and preload. The suspension is adjustable, but the range of damping adjustment is limited. The reality is that these are inexpensive suspension units matched to a high-end motor and chassis.10. The 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300 feels like it was designed by a committee with members who didn’t have quite the same goals. The original Xtrainer had a great motor and mediocre suspension. To upgrade it with a more powerful motor and not give it a huge increase in suspension quality was not a good decision. Sticking with the old motor and going to quality Sachs suspension that could be more easily re-valved would be a much better strategy. As it is, the results of the 2018 upgrade satisfied neither our fast nor our persistent riders.11. We think the Beta Xtrainer 300 concept is a good one, but Beta hasn’t gone far enough in the trail bike direction. With the RR bikes taking care of aggressive riders and racers, we would love to see Beta shorten the suspension another half-inch or so, while improving the action and adjustability of the suspension. That would make it even more functional as a technical trail bike, especially for shorter riders. Further, tame down the motor even more and give it a trials-bike like power delivery. We realize the Beta Evo 300 SS trials bike motor probably isn’t up to the rigors of a 229-pound bike, so we’ll accept the heavier-duty RR-based motor.12. There are plenty of details we like about the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300. The motorcycle is still easy to maintain, as you can get to the generous air filter sans tools, adjust the chain quickly, and change the transmission oil without drama. Shinko 216MX tires have replaced GoldenTyre rubber, but the difference is negligible—both are eco-friendly FIM-approved tires. They’re fine, but we’d pull them off and save them for resale time—you can do better if you don’t care about the FIM’s blessing. The brakes also work quite well, though four-stroke riders will have to adapt to the lack of engine compression braking. Plus, the plastic skidplate has good coverage.13. The electronic oil injection system and electric start are great conveniences. You don’t have to worry about premix—just make sure you use a quality, injection-compatible oil such as Bel-Ray Si-7 Synthetic 2T or Motul 710 Synthetic. A full tank of two-stoke oil should last through about five tanks of ethyl, but be on the safe side and top it off every couple of refuelings. Electric start is always welcome, and Beta has enough confidence in it that a kickstarter is optional. Really, you won’t stall it that often, but the button is still nice to have.14. We want to love the 2018 Beta Xtrainer 300, but it needs to meet us halfway. The Beta RRs are fantastic motorcycles, as are the RS dual sport bikes and Evo trials bikes. With the Beta Xtrainer 300, we feel like the go-fast guys had a bit too much input on the design. We’d like to see an Xtrainer that is more friendly to shorter and the less experienced riders. Give the Beta Xtrainer 300 a true focus on single-track supremacy and suspension to exploit its lower height, lighter weight, and tractable power.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!