Test: Jeff Ware Photography: Mark Dadswell
The Benelli 502C arrives at a time when a new LAMS approved affordable cruiser is much needed in the market. Powered by the 500cc parallel twin engine that drives the popular Leoncino and the TRK models, the 502C costs $9,790 Ride Away…
We kinda knew that if Benelli gave the 502C a sporty edge it’d be one hell of a cool little cruiser to fang around on. And we were right. After spending a day riding the 502C over a range of conditions we came away impressed.
Not only is the 502C a capable cruiser, it is also something that many cruisers are not – it is engaging and fun. In fact, the 502C is the best handling cruiser I have ridden, hands down, and definitely one of the most enjoyable and exciting middleweight bikes I’ve tested. From the engine note to the cornering capabilities, the 502C is a real surprise package…
The 502C has a number of cool features. It has adjustable forward mounted foot controls, wide cruiser handlebars, a low 750mm seat and a digital display LCD dash, although the latter is very hard to see with direct sunlight on it. The headlight is LED and ABS is featured. The front brakes are twin four-piston radial-mount calipers with 280mm rotors, while a single piston floating caliper and 240mm rotor is featured at the back. Tyre sizes are Pirelli Angel GT 120/70 – 17 and a fat 160/60 – 17 both on neat cast machined alloy wheels. The trellis-styled frame with steel side plates emphasise the 502C’s cruiser design and the suspension is high-spec with 50mm inverted forks and rear monoshock…
Producing 35kW@8500rpm and 45Nm@5000rpm, the 502C runs a six-speed gearbox and with a 21L tank and claimed fuel consumption of 4.2L/100km, the Euro-4 bike has a potential range of 500km! That is an insane fuel range, one fuel stop between Sydney and Melbourne… Aside from offering the ride distance between petrol stations, the large tank is the main styling point of the bike, at least in my opinion… The only issue? Only one of the riders present on this test could fit their knees into the cutaway. Anyone over around 170cm had the upper edge of the tank digging into the inside of their knee, me included…
My test on the 502C starts in St Kilda, Melbourne, just after peak hour. It is still super busy heading off on the ride, a good opportunity to sample the machine in a daily grind situation. So, after a quick coffee and a chat to the Benelli Australia & NZ team, I fire up the 502C and gear up. It sounds tough, with a raspy note just like the Leoncino, and blipping the throttle has the barely oversquare twin responding with a rapidly climbing digital tacho graphic. Revs drop as quickly as they rise, adding to the sporty growl from the bike… Sounds like fun to me…
With a 750mm seat height, large and tall tank and mega-wide ‘bars the 502C is different to sit on than any bike I can think of, because it is still so narrow, so the ‘bars feel a bit out of place at first. And as I mentioned, the tank cutaways are all wrong, but aside from that even at 187cm I fit the bike OK. Shorter riders will really appreciate it, particularly in heavy traffic. Controls are all standard and fall easily to hand… there’s no room to move forward or back on the seat, the ride position locks you in.
I settle in on the 502C and I’m feeling at home within a few kilometres. Lane filtering starts immediately and the ‘bar width is fine. The sound of the twin, both the exhaust and the induction, is putting a grin on my dial and I’m hooning already as I weave through the Melbourne traffic following our lead rider. Heat coming off the motor is minimal and the clutch is smooth, brakes too, overall a nice CBD ride…
Off the lights the acceleration of the 502C is impressive. I can tell it is quicker than the Leoncino by a fair amount through the first two gears. The shorter gearing, dual throttle-bodies and Delphi ignition changes have made a difference. Add to that the exaggerated sense of acceleration from the cruiser riding position and you have one very fun package to play with off the lights in town. It’d make the daily commute a fun experience rather than one to dread…
Out on the open highway sitting on a dollar-twenty-plus as I try to keep up with the lead rider, things are not as good. The firm rear suspension is a tad over-damped on the high speed comp, smashing the kidneys over the joins in the concrete. The front forks equally stiff, sending shocks through the ‘bars, while the wind deflection off the headlight is smacking me fair in the face causing neck strain. Throw in the seat getting rock hard and the 40-odd minutes on the open motorway became a painful experience. On a few occasions I slow down to 110km/h and drop back from the pack, at which point the 502C becomes much more pleasant to ride with less vibrations as well. However, at any pace above legal on the open road, the 502C could be nicer to ride, particularly with a head wind…
Within three corners on the climb to Arthur’s Seat, I’ve completely forgotten the motorway pain and I’m having a bloody good time chasing a few other journalists. In fact, we are going nuts on the 502C as we battle all the way to the top and the bike just isn’t putting a foot wrong, from braking performance to grip, steering to suspension, the sweet chassis is loving the smooth twisties. Throw in the well mapped fuelling/smooth throttle and the slick gearbox and clutch and the entire package is working like a treat.
Ground clearance is the only limitation but even that is good for a cruiser. The engine is a gem and loves to rev but at the same time pulls from low rpm, has a good mid-range and did I mention that howling induction roar? Man it is bloody addictive. A few more runs up and down the mountain, well at least 10, and I still hadn’t had enough of this fun little bike… The brakes are fantastic, despite a drop to 280mm rotors versus the Leoncino’s 320mm itiem, they just need a bigger squeeze.
The ride back to base is an easy cruise along the Mornington Peninsula, with a stop off for a pub lunch, then all the way along the coast back to St Kilda. At the low speeds on main roads, 60km/h-80km/h, cruising on the 502C is a pleasant experience. The bike is in its element here as much as it is on the smooth twisties, meaning owners will get a true Jeckyll & Hyde experience with the 502C – capable, exciting sports riding or placid, enjoyable suburban cruising, making the machine a real Urban Sports Cruiser, LAMS or not, it it’s own right… It definitely punches above its capacity.
If you are in the market for a cruiser that does more than just cruise, more than just commute and more than simply look cool, then the Benelli 502C should not be overlooked. It does a lot right and very little wrong. The suspension could easily be set-up for a plusher ride if required and as long as you don’t try and tackle high speed open road touring, the bike will do everything a bigger cruiser can and a lot of it better at that… Visit Benelli Australia for more info and to find a dealership near you…
2020 Benelli 502C (LAMS) Specifications
Price: $9,790 On-Road (Ride-Away)
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Black Glossy, Matt Black Metallic, Metallic Matte Cognac Red
Claimed power: 35kW(47.6hp)@8500rpm
Claimed torque: 45Nm@5000rpm
Wet weight: 217kg
Fuel capacity: 21L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, in-line two-cylinder, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valves per cylinder, 499.6cc, 69 x 66.8mm bore x stroke, 37mm dual throttle-bodies, 11.5:1 compression ratio, Delphi MT05 ignition, NGK CR8E spark plugs
Chassis: Steel tube trellis frame, steel tube swingarm
Suspension: 41mm USD forks, preload adjustable, 125mm travel – mono rear shock, preload & rebound adjustable, 50mm travel
Brakes: Bosch ABS, dual semi-floating 280mm rotors, radial four-piston calipers, single 240mm rear rotor, single piston floating caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Aluminum alloy, 3.50 x 17in, 4.50 x 17in, 120/70 – R17, 160/60 – R17
Seat height: 750mm
Overall Length: N/A
Overall Height: N/A
Instruments: LCD display