2021 Benelli 502C first ride review
There's a lot more to the 502C, Benelli's first cruiser for India, than what meets the eye.
First of all, gosh, this bike looks beautiful. I just had to get that off my chest, right off the bat. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking, the Benelli 502C looks like some cheap knock-off version of a more established Italian Power cruiser, right? But the thing is, that's just there to be seen in the the Benelli's silhouette. On closer inspection, the more you look at it, the more you can tell of its differences and its uniqueness, which all happens to be quite impressive. But with a price-tag of Rs 4.98lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) the 502C isn't exactly cheap. Here's what you can expect from Benelli's first mid-size power cruiser for India.
The Benelli 502C is a very smart looking motorcycle. You get a chunky 135mm inverted fork up front, and that LED headlamp unit which looks like it's designed in some anime cartoon, but functions quite well, as it turns out. The 502C has these really wide handlebars so you'll really have to be careful not to nick any cars or their mirrors whilst making your way past crawling traffic. The switchgear feels up to the mark, but I'm not a big fan of the display screen and layout. The entire layout and colours looks a tad childish to me, and though it does adapt to a completely different display setup at night, I really wish Benelli stuck with the after dark layout all throughout. No fancy Bluetooth connectivity or anything of the sort here. It's just a simple, no nonsense TFT display that reads out the need-to-know stuff like revs, speed, gear position, fuel level, engine temp, trips and time. Which is not really a bad thing. No riding modes either, and the dual channel ABS doesn't have any settings and can't be switched off too. The mass of the motorcycle is around the mid-section where the big 21-litre sculpted tank sits atop the exposed trellis frame and liquid-cooled motor. The level of fit and finish is good, and everything appears nice and tidy here, with all the wires tucked away neatly, the fluid reservoirs hiding behind their own little panels.
The scooped-out seat is comfortable and gives you the feeling that you're sitting within the bike and not on it, quite like the bike this Benelli appears to have drawn much inspiration from. The riding stance will have you your arms and feet stretched out forward which is very cruiser like, feels very relaxed and you definitely won't mind long stints astride this bike.
Not only does the 502C have a nice burly stance to it, but it has a decent 170mm of clearance from the ground, which I found to be just lovely considering Mumbai's battered roads. The only odd bit would have to be the tiny rear seat for the pillion, but Benelli says that the back rest isn't an add-non, it comes as a standard fitment now. So I'm very sure most peoples' posteriors will be relieved with that bit of news, because the seat without it, is ridiculously tiny. The tail section is very neat as well with the taillights under the bikes' floating seat. No snazzy single-sided Italian swingarm here either, but there is sturdy monoshock unit that's preload adjustable at the back and the indicators and the nameplate integrated to the tyre hugger are very neat touches.
There's a lot more to this motorcycle than just its attractive looks. The Benelli 502C also impressed with its on-road mannerisms. The 500cc engine isn't all new and it's the same mill that does it duty in the Benelli Leoncino 500 and the Benelli TRK 502 as well. Now, on paper the 47.5PS at 8,500rpm and 45Nm at 5,000rpm may not seem like much, but it works really well with this 216kg cruiser motorcycle. There's a decent amount of torque available low down in the rev band and the bike's exhaust note sounds its throaty best at this point. But the fun really kicks in past 4,000rm. The Benelli shows a stronger emphasis on the sporty part of its sport-cruiser credentials. The bike's sound gives you the impression that you're riding a sporty three-cylinder, and an absolutely brilliant and raspy sounding one at that. It's just so much fun relegating traffic to the Benelli's teardrop-shaped rear-view mirrors.
The Benelli 502C feels great to ride with the engine being quite tractable as well. Fifth and sixth gears are really tall. You can be pottering about at 38kmph in sixth without a fuss, and take her all the way up to 150kmph. 80kmph comes up at 4,000 rpm and 100kmph comes up at 4,700rpm in top cog. The bike can manage high-speed really well, but it feels at its best at the speed of around 85-90kmph where the engine isn't sounding stressed and there's plenty of go to overtake traffic at the flick of the wrist. Heat dispersion levels are good and even when stuck in traffic, the engine didn't toast my legs, which was much appreciated, obviously. As I mentioned before, you'll end up having immense fun on this bike if you keep the engine boiling at 4,000 revs, and getting past traffic is an absolute breeze, but the 502C seems to run out of steam the higher you climb up the rev band. The excitement gradually fades away north of the 6,000rpm mark.
The front fork is more sport-inclined, set up stiff on the Benelli is 502C, while the rear monoshock is almost as stiff, but more in favour of the comfortable side of things. This translates to the bike handling a lot better with the more momentum you carry, and the slower you ride over all those undulated surfaces, the more judders you'll feel through your spine. One thing's for sure, you'll definitely keep hunting for long sweeping corners on this bike, because there's much fun to be had in them. The front wheel does tend to skip a bit over sharp bumps, but you're almost always getting good feedback from the front end at all times so you'll know what's going on up front. The 127/70(f) and 160/60 (r) Pirelli Angel GT treads also deserve a special mention. The level of grip is quite admirable and the treads egg you to really have a go on the bike on wet or dry surfaces. The clutch and the front brake both come with adjustable levers and feel really good to use, but I felt that the dual front discs could offer a more consistent bite feel.
Usually when it comes to power cruisers in India, you end up with a motorcycle that's got a lot of power but you're often left with no real roads to put it all that power down on. But with the Benelli 502C everything seems well balanced - from its fueling and power delivery right down to the ride and handling dynamics. It's a good cruiser, for sure, and if you want to go fast, you'll have to work for it, and that's where the fun lies with this motorcycle. Sure, it's no big game changer, but it's really no slouch either. It feels brisk and fun to ride, sounds brilliant, looks lovely in this matte black paintjob and is very comfortable over distances. It's definitely a winner in our books. The only downer with this motorcycle is its Rs 4.98 lakh pricetag. I know I'm nit-picking. Still, just wish it was price wasn't that high. There currently aren't too many bikes that we can compare the Benelli 502C to at the moment, but we'll be sure to do a proper road test of this motorcycle before we go down that road.
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