For 2020, Beta has completely redesigned its off-road lineup. The entire range of RR and RR-S machines get a completely new, stiffer chassis with updated geometry and a new composite sub-frame. We loved this chassis in the Beta 500 RR-S dual sport motorcycle, and now we get to give it rip in the form of the 300 RR two-stroke off-road bike.But wait, there’s more—the new 250cc and 300cc Betas have a counterbalanced crankshaft to reduce engine vibration. We’re a huge fan of the fatigue-lessening effects of counterbalancing, so this is big news.
However, riding a two-stroke, Red Sticker machine in California during the COVID-19 quarantine proved a bit challenging. Still, we were happy to adapt, improvise, and overcome, all the while having a blast and throwing big roost behind us. Here’s what you need to know about the all-new 2020 Beta 300 RR.1. The 2020 Beta 300 RR is new from the ground up. With a completely redesigned chromoly steel frame and composite sub-frame with fresh geometry, plus the new engine, bodywork, radiators, and exhaust system, this is not an evolution of an existing platform—it is a new generation.2. The electric-start 293cc two-stroke powerplant is lively and fun, but still a workhorse on the trail. With a bore and stroke both measuring 72mm, the Beta 300 RR’s perfectly square engine provides a generous span of off-idle pull and mid-range torque, before gradually flattening out on the top-end. This provides positive hook-up and acceleration from turn-to-turn on tight forest trails, as well as the ability to lug the motor down-low over slippery river rock.3. On-the-fly, push-button engine mapping delays the hit of the powerband. With a blue LED indicator for Sun mode and white for Rain, there’s never a question of which mode you’re in. The Rain mode delays the hit of the powerband just a bit compared to the Sun mode, which is useful on tricky terrain. Although we found that riding a gear high with the Sun setting (no pun intended) for nasty stuff became our preferred technique. Remember, the Beta 300 RR is carbureted, so the power modes aren’t as sophisticated as on a fuel-injected motor.4. Counterbalancing a two-stroke motor makes a world of difference. There’s no real comparison to riding an open-class two-stroke motorcycle—it’s about as close to internal-combustion godliness as one can ever hope to attain. Reducing the engine vibration adds another dimension of comfort, which helps to extend the feeling of immortality for those extra-long days in the saddle.5. With a half-turn on the air screw, the carburetion is spot on. This minor adjustment richened up the 36mm Keihin PWK’s slow circuit to prevent stalling and also provided crisp throttle response from closed to full tilt.6. Electronic oil injection beats premix, hands down. We never had more than a light brown powdered donut of two-stroke oil on the end-cap of the muffler. Plus, it consumes less two-stroke oil thanks to precise oil delivery.7. We tested with an FMF Turbine Core spark arrestor. Being a brand-new model, we waited a few weeks while FMF designed a spark arrestor to fit the mounting requirements on the new composite sub-frame for the Beta 300 RR. We loved the sub-96 dB sound of the FMF muffler, the fit was spot on, and it did not impact performance one iota from the stock muffler, perhaps even boosting the low-end a bit. All of this and USFS compliance, too.8. The six-speed gearbox is evenly spaced, with first gear great for pulling through the nasties. From paddling through rutted hill climbs to running 70+ mph through desert sand washes, the transmission does a great job of using all the 300 RR’s power and getting it to the rear wheel. Second gear is the way to go for live-engine race starts with your weight all the way forward, and there are no noticeable gaps as you bang your way up the cogs.9. The feel of the hydraulic clutch is superb for articulating your way through technical terrain. We’re really getting spoiled with the hydraulic clutch feel on European off-road racers. For those of us who like to ride virgin terrain, we must be prepared to go into trials-riding mode at any time, which requires the precision of a hydraulic clutch. We forget how well they work until we go back to a Japanese bike fitted with a cable clutch and it feels like a trip down memory lane.10. The Sachs ZF fork needs a lot of break-in time. Right out of the box, the 48mm suspenders have a stiff feeling in the initial stroke, with quite a bit of deflection over sharp hits. However, after a few hours of break-in time, the front suspension settled right in, and our preferred settings were close to stock. One full turn of additional spring preload, plus two clicks of additional compression and rebound damping, were perfect for race-paced off-road riding. One advantage of having each fork leg functioning separately—compression damping in one leg and rebound in the other—is that it allows for all of these adjustments to be made on the top of the fork tubes without any tools and without crawling on the ground! A downside is that if you blow a seal, you lose either all of your compression or rebound damping control.11. We found that 106mm of rear sag is the right number. In fact, other than adjusting race-sag, we found the stock Sachs ZF shock settings worked well for rocky and whooped out off-road conditions. For regular trips to the moto track, we’d look for stiffer springs, front and rear.12. The 2020 Beta 300 RR handles high-speed sections with newfound confidence. This is a quantum leap over previous editions. Not only does the Beta retain all of its knife-like handling from its trials pedigree, but now you can wick up the throttle and mob through whoops and g-outs, and it’s stable and communicative, all the way through. There is no wonky or unbalanced feeling at high speeds—this chassis rips!13. Nissin brake calipers and Galfer rotors deliver ultra-powerful stopping performance, yet also give steady and consistent progression. With the light and quick handling bike, precise braking is even more important. The Nissin/Galfer combination makes it easy to dissect technical trails and put the contact patch of the tire exactly where you want it.14. Maintenance is a breeze. Air filter access is completely tool-less, and the new high-quality Twin Air filter and ‘spear-n-snap’ filter cage system virtually eliminate the chance of incorrectly seating the filter. The push-button seat removal provides access to the battery and the two-stroke oil tank–again, without having to use any tools!15. The Michelin Enduro Mediums proved to be grippy, but wear fast. The soft compound and spaced out knobs grip well, but they are essentially single-use. After about 80 miles of railing hard, the rear is toast and the sidewalls on the front are pretty broken down, too.16. The Beta 300 RR dashboard is simple and effective. We typically don’t think of a two-stoke fitted with an LCD display, but the 300 RR has a small, lightweight display with an hour meter, overall odometer, two trip odometers, current speed, average speed, maximum speed, battery voltage, and a two-stroke oil level fill light.17. With a claimed curb weight of 243 pounds with the 2.55-gallon fuel tank full, the 2020 model is the lightest Beta 300 RR ever produced. It feels light throwing it onto the stand. Visually, it looks light with all of the open see-through spaces around the frame and engine. Most importantly, the frame and motor combination gives it a lightweight feeling while riding, especially turning.18. Wider foot-pegs and rear fender grab-handles are nice additions for an off-road racer. We also love the more aggressive bar-bend, and the three-position handlebar mount integrated into the top triple-clamp. The halogen headlight has low and high beam settings, but by far, our favorite accouterment was the horn–it’s the perfect audible companion to the screaming two-stroke engine!19. The aesthetics of the Beta 300 RR are simply stunning. Blacked out Excel Takasago rims and minimalistic bodywork make the Beta look as racy and light as it feels. It’s covered in cool stickers, that, unfortunately, don’t get along too well with our pressure washer. Sublimated graphics may be a bit much to ask, but that would really put it over the top!20. The 2020 Beta 300 RR is a serious competitor, and seriously fun on the trail. We are going to see a lot more of these Italian beauties on the trail and at our local races. Beta has engineered a chassis and motor platform that elevates it to a top-level competitor-and it just happens to look as good as it performs.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.