The 2017 Beta RR 350 – More Than Enough
Words: Chris Pics: Paul
Yeah, 350cc engines are by no means new to the market. Just take a look at a certain Austrian brand and their very extensive range of dirt bike capacities, including their own 350cc varieties. But that’s about it for the mid-capacity four-strokes, unless you drop down 50cc to say the Sherco or Gas Gas 300. Okay, 50ccs doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s strapped to a 110kg hunk of metal, in reality, it can make a big difference.
In fact, it’s clear that Beta like the beat of their own drum a lot when you see that their range of four-stroke bikes consist of the 350, 390, 430 and 490cc capacities. Not at all your typical engine sizes, but then again, Beta isn’t your typical manufacture either.
Having been in the motorcycle game since 1948, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Beta actually started focusing on off-road motorcycles. Setting out in the trials community where they gained a reputation of producing some of the best trials bikes in the world, more recent times have seen Beta launch an aggressive enduro bike range. Starting in 2005 and utilising KTM engines from previous years to get the ball rolling, they eventually brought everything in house in 2010 when the new RR models were launched.
Well, not the chassis, as that remains virtually the same as the 2016 model. But in the suspension department, the Sachs forks have been increased by 5mm from last year to provide longer travel, while some factory fork oil has been used to reduce heat build-up and friction inside. Out back, the Sachs shock has a new high and low speed compression adjustment system designed to give a more accurate and independent feel/change from each other meaning your adjustments to the clickers should be much more noticeable. The newly designed triple clamps are lighter while also being more rigid giving the front-end a solid, planted feeling. And for the aesthetics, silver rims supplied by Excel complete with silver nipples, black spokes and black rim tape are not only lighter but they make the wheel sets look bad-ass, too.
Keeping on the looks theme, Moto1 had supplied the 350 in a custom graphics kit with white plastics. It certainly made the Beta standout, although the regular red is also distinctive. There is a really cool digital meter with a new layout and design, while also having plenty of features perfect for the enduro rider in all of us and even features a battery voltage meter which is a nice touch.
In the power department, the 350cc engine is a DOHC, 249cc single, using a 6-speed transmission and hydraulic clutch. Other cool touches that come stock are wavy discs, a cool black swingarm and anodised cases, push-button seat release, a bashplate and factory aluminium footpegs. It’s a pretty good looking machine with plenty of fruit to back up the look. Another aspect about owning a Beta will mean you’ll probably be the only one in the pits with a 350 RR… for now that is.
No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t really need a 450. This couldn’t be any truer right now with the newly crowned overall NZ Enduro Champion riding a 300cc four-stroke, beating out all the 450s and the big bore two-strokes. The Beta 350 is a very smooth ride from the initial twist of the throttle, right through to the limiter. The engine doesn’t have a big punch to it and can feel like it’s taking a while to get up to speed. But it is also quite deceptive in that regard, too, as ground speed does increase pretty quickly – you just can’t really feel it. The speed comes more from revving the bike as opposed to lugging it. It has some good torque, but if you want to really rip you’ll be on the pipe like a 250F.
First gear is super low, and making it excellent for feet-up slow riding like when you’re negotiating tight trails or tricky obstacles. Anything above that and the gear becomes obsolete. The remaining five more ratios up are very well spaced out and you shouldn’t be left wanting for a good selection in any situation. Top gear is quite tall and as such doesn’t do a lot of hard pulling. You’ll cruise like a champion though in quite low revs, and even though it is very smooth, it is still very responsive off the throttle. The EFi system matched to the Beta powerplant works in perfect harmony, making you feel connected to every aspect of the engine’s reactions to your input. Smooth and steady can win the race as they say, and this engine has the potential to make you as smooth as glass, despite your best efforts to upset it.
In the feel department, the Beta 350 had a real ‘sit-in’ riding positioning to me. I think it’s largely due to the plush, enduro style suspension and the positioning of the handlebars and levers. I adjusted the ’bars to get a roomier feel, but compared to the Beta 300 2T, it still didn’t feel as ‘on top’. The four-stroke is only 5kilos heavier than the 300, but it feels like a lot more when taking it off the stand and manoeuvring it around the pits. Once you’re on the track though, and the 350 loses that larger feeling as you throw it into a sand berm and power out comfortably and in control.
The balance of the chassis and the response from the steering is fantastic – you can flick it from left to right at a decent clip and it will comfortably do what you tell it to without too much disagreement. The bike feels tight underneath you and the frame is easy to grip with both your ankles and knees. It seems to feel right at home in the meat of the power and winding back and forward through single trail and fire breaks at about three quarter pace. The front forks are sublime and eat up the track in front of you, creating a smooth ride and very little feedback through the ’bars. The rear-end follows seamlessly and never did I get the back popping out of a rut, or wanting to come around on me. When you really wind the bike out however, the suspension which has been doing a great job until now, starts to show a little chink in its damping ability. On high speed G-outs both the front and rear will blow through the stroke, telling me that I needed heavier springs for my weight and ability. The rebound and damping settings seem to work well at lower speeds, so some springs will most likely alleviate that issue and lighter riders will probably never experience an issue at all. At the end of the day, every bike needs a certain amount of tinkering to suit the rider, speed and conditions and the Beta is no different. What was really impressive about the Beta is that it felt comfortable pretty much right away. That seems to be the norm for steel framed bikes, with the added flex over an aluminium style frame making the ride more comfortable and less rigid.
For a bike that doesn’t have a specific capacity design and doesn’t fit into the norm, for me, the 350 is where it’s at. There’s plenty more poke than a 250 but nowhere near the bark of a 450, which can quite often get you into trouble. But you’ve heard that already from previous 350 tests no doubt. What you might not have heard is that the Beta is a solid, well-developed machine and worthy of a look in, should you be after a 350 specifically. Especially this model, the RR racing version where you get all the fruit that makes this bike what it is, compared to the stock RR 350. And if you are someone who likes the beat of their own drum, don’t get what everyone else has – go your own way. Beta might be that way if you give it a chance. This bike is more than enough for any off-road rider.
2017 Beta RR 350 Specifications
Engine: 349cc single cylinder, 4-valve, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, electric start with back up kick starter.
Bore x stroke: 88mm x 57.4mm
Ignition: DC-CDI with variable ignition timing
Lubrication: Twin oil pumps with cartridge oil filter. Separate oil for engine and clutch
Fuel System: 42mm Electronic fuel injection
Final Drive: O-ring chain Frame: Molybdenum steel/double cradle with quick air filter access
Front Suspension: 48 mm Sachs closed cartridge fork, adjustable compression and rebound
Rear Suspension: Aluminium body Sachs shock w/adjustable rebound and hi/low speed compression
Seat Height: 934mm
Ground Clearance: 320mm
Footrest Height: 411mm
Steering Rake/Offset: 26.5degree rake/23mm
Offset Dry Weight: 106kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 7.5 litres