Last month we tested the 2021 Benelli TRK502X adventure motorcycle and came away impressed. At first glance, the standard TRK502 doesn’t seem that much different from the X version. However, there are distinctions, and they are significant. The two motorcycles aren’t in the same category. As it turns out, the standard 2021 Benelli TRK502 is a motorcycle with a much broader appeal, and at a lower price. We went on some long rides on the TRK502, and here’s what we found out.
Although it shares the same Italian styling, the 2021 Benelli TRK502 differs from the X in essential ways. The TRK502 has 17-inch aluminum wheels with sport-touring Pirelli Angel ST tires, compared to the wire-spoked wheels on the X, which uses Metzeler Tourance ADV tires and a 19-inch front wheel. The X has an exhaust-can positioned out of the way of off-road obstacles, while the standard 502 has a compact under-frame muffler designed for street duty. The suspension travel is longer on the 502X, though we can’t tell you by exactly how much—Benelli is mum on that. Regardless, the seat height of the 502 is over 1.5 inches lower than the 502X.
These differences take the TRK502 out of the X’s ADV category and positions the standard 502 as a sport-touring motorcycle. As there are plenty of ADV motorcycles out there and fewer sport-tourers, we welcome the market separation of the two TRKs.
The 31.5-inch seat height opens the door to more riders. When it comes to seat heights, an inch and a half can make a huge difference, especially on a bike that tips the scales at 518 pounds with its 5.3-gallon fuel tank topped off with premium—that’s heavier than a BMW F 850 GS. While I could manage the TRK502X on my tiptoes with my 30.5-inch inseam, I was 100 percent more comfortable on the 1.6-inch shorter TRK502. From the moment I swung a leg over the seat and found I could flat-foot it, I knew I was going to have a good time on the 502.
Adventure ergonomics are nicely upright and instill confidence. Although the TRK502 is a physically large motorcycle, the upright seating and wide bars keep the bike from feeling like a handful. The reach to the tall-bend handlebar is slightly long for me—an unusual problem for me—so we pivoted them toward the saddle to bring them a tad closer and more naturally at-hand. The footpegs are neutrally placed, and high enough to retain a sporty feel and have plenty of cornering clearance. There’s plenty of room to move about on the wide, thickly padded seat, so it’s a secure and comfortable perch for sport-touring. The seated-in riding position creates a connected, secure feeling, and with my legs tucked comfortably under the tank, I feel in command.
Instead of the high-mounted, massive muffler on the 502X, the 502 has a compact unit tucked in below the rider’s right heel. This allows the addition of optional full-sized after-market panniers on both sides of the 502, while the 502X makes do with a modified right-side box. Happily, the exhaust’s snug placement does not come into conflict with my right heel, even when riding on the balls of my feet. Plus, it looks great.
The liquid-cooled DOHC 500cc parallel twin is torquey, friendly, and satisfying. Getting off idle is drama free with the smooth and easy power delivery of the just-oversquare powerplant. Maximum torque comes at 5000 rpm—1000 rpm sooner than the 502X—and the pull is pretty consistent all the way to the redline of 9000 rpm. This makes the TRK502 a very agreeable ride.
Impressively, the 2021 Benelli TRK502 handles fast-moving freeways quite well. It’s not a quick revver—it is a 500 pushing quite a bit of weight and frontal resistance. So, you will have to downshift and twist the throttle hard if you only have a short opening for an overtake. However, once the 502 is moving, there’s a freight-train like quality to the momentum it carries. While chasing a larger bike up a long upgrade at 80 mph, the TRK502 was able to keep pace handily. Sure, it’s revving up into the 8000+ rpm range, but it does so without screaming. The redline is at 9000, and the rev limiter kicks in at some point past that.
Spins through the canyons and backroads are a blast, as the torque and suspension combine for nimble handling on the rangy bike. The TRK502 has both a pleasingly substantial feel on the road, and an athletic character. With its sporty 17-inch front wheel and Angel ST rubber, versus the 19-inch ADV tire on the X, the 502 is responsive and surprisingly light on its feet. Its weight is carried low and, once underway, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to maneuver the TRK502. With a massive 50mm inverted fork, you can push the TRK502 hard in turns, and it feels inspiringly secure.
Whether you’re riding briskly through the esses or just loping through long sweepers, the broad powerband means you don’t need to do a lot of gear shifting. For those who like to roll off the throttle into turns, the TRK502 has a useful amount of engine braking. The dropping revs don’t present a problem, as there is plenty of torque to pull it out of corners at lower speeds in a higher gear. When you do have to shift, shifting on the six-speed transmission is smooth and deliberate, and the clutch action is appropriately tuned. The only flaw is that sometimes when not downshifting from a higher gear to neutral at a stop, the shifter doesn’t respond.
The brakes on the 2021 Benelli TRK502 appropriately match the bike’s capabilities. The good news is no one will get in trouble grabbing too much front brake, and a very healthy squeeze on the lever will get you slowed down quickly if conditions dictate. The dual 320mm discs and Benelli-branded radially mounted calipers up front are adequate to slow the 500+ pound bike, and the linear engagement keeps the delivery predictable. The rear brake is also well-tempered with good feel. ABS is standard, and it took deliberate provocation to activate the ABS. I rate that as nicely non-intrusive.
Although the action of the clutch and brake are as they should be, the positioning of the levers is not. I wear women’s large gloves (about a medium men’s) and rarely come across levers that overstretch my reach. The TRK502’s got my attention—even at the closest adjustment setting, the levers are too far from the grips. If this were my motorcycle, I would find a way to get the levers closer. This problem is shared by the 502X.
While switchgear has a plasticky look, it functions well. After dark, it is backlit—a premium touch on a budget motorcycle.
The suspension keeps urban rides comfortable, and the upright ergonomics allow easy monitoring of the busy environment. With 5.3 inches of fork travel and a wide, thickly padded saddle, the under-maintained streets are taken in stride. The fork has no adjustment, while the shock has spring-preload and rebound damping adjustments. I am fully satisfied with the stock settings. Oddly, Benelli doesn’t quote rear-wheel travel—only shock travel.
With a 5.3-gallon tank and a spacious saddle, you may not stop until your stomach starts grumbling. There’s plenty of room to shift around on the plush seat, and the neutral riding position won’t fatigue any of your limbs. High-speed drones on the freeway will elicit a bit of vibration in the bars, but you didn’t buy the TRK502 for that. For sport-touring on scenic backroads, it’s perfect.
As a sport-tourer, there’s nothing quite like the 2021 Benelli TRK502. With its ADV roots, it is a comfortable upright sport-touring motorcycle. There’s plenty of wind protection, and it gives off the sexy adventure vibe wherever you go. The $6k price is enticingly low and results from having an Italian design and a parent company—Qianjiang Group—taking care of the manufacturing in China. The Benelli TRK502 doesn’t have a cheap look or feel, and its performance is impressive. Fun to ride, stylish, and offering a touch of Italian exotica, the 2021 Benelli TRK502 feels like a motorcycle I could put a zillion miles on.
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!