TESTED – 2015 BETA 350 RR
Enduro21.com ride and rate the 2015 Beta 350 RR…
Words: Llewellyn Pavey
Beta put themselves on the map three years ago when they introduced dynamic and extremely capable two stroke models. But four-stroke enduro machines are where, for most, their woods weapon story started. The Italian manufacturer has been quietly producing a 350 four banger for a few years now, but next to the KTM, Husqvarna and Sherco 350cc offerings it never grabbed the headlines.
For a while Beta avoided the fuel injection craze, sticking with a trusty carburettor. The Italians are definitely not afraid to do their own thing and so seeing EFI introduced for 2015 was a swipe from left field. It’s only the 350 RR that’s gained EFI and true to form Beta have avoided heading down the ‘normal’ Keihin EFI route by opting to use the almost unknown Synerject system.
But don’t be alarmed. The Synerject unit is a pretty trick piece of kit. It does all the same tricks and magic that Keihin units do, but it’s also got a clever bypass valve that means the tuner (That’ll be the rider in most cases) can actually alter the amount of engine braking the bike has. That’s right, you can add or take away the engine braking. That’s some mighty snazzy stuff as standard.
But what’s more impressive with the new EFI system is that it’s great to ride with. Beta have clearly put time and effort into developing a really great engine and fuelling combination. The ride doesn’t feel hugely different in power and delivery to the big dog of the class – the KTM EXC 350.
It’s a little smoother, the power is good, it’s got plenty of torque and much like its class rivals you can either pull gears or rev it. The 350 RR is happy doing both till the proverbial cows come home and it’s awesome to ride. The fuelling set up is spot on too – it’s the most ‘carburettor like’ EFI system we’ve used and is much smoother on the initial throttle opening than its rivals.
Taking away engine braking from a four-stroke is an odd feeling, one that definitely took a little while to figure out. The amount of engine braking the Beta gives is somewhere between a ‘normal’ four banger and a two-stroke. While some people like the engine braking of four-stroke there are big upsides to having less. It rolls quickly and it’s easier to carry corner speed. It pushes the front wheel less and flowing through the woods is exponentially better. The set up of the engine and handling on the Beta is as good as anything out there and the 350 RR makes riding fast easy – you’ll easily be as quick on this as any other bike or brand.
But we have to talk about suspension. The Sachs front and rear units on the Beta don’t come set up for riding at ANY sort of speed and in reality it lets the whole bike down. It’s not that you can’t get the Sachs units to work, just that the internal settings lack damping on compression and definitely lack any bottoming resistance, to the point that it holds you back a lot out on the trail.
The standard settings are low on compression damping, low on rebound damping and despite having been improved bit-by-bit over the last three years still give the feel of being like a trials bike to ride – soft. The forks deflect noticeably off every little rock, and the whole bike pushes through the stroke too much under braking, accelerating and even small hits. It’s far too easy to bottom out heavily and it makes for nervous riding at any kind of speed. We’d say it’s something Beta need to fix because it’s simply way too soft.
Luckily the rest of the bike is seriously, seriously good and could easily challenge the Austrian powerhouse. The ergos are great, the clutch is good, the bars are a lovely bend and Nissin brakes work very well. So if you are happy to put some cash into improving the suspension set-up you’ll have a fantastic bike for trail riding or racing.