These days, trail bike riding is increasingly taking cues from trials riding. Instead of racing madly off in all directions, bouncing off boulders and trees, people like Barry Morris and Megan Griffiths (aka @megs_braap) are turning woods riders onto control techniques from the world of trials.
To do that, Beta has come out with the XTrainer dirt bike, combining trials and trails features. But even before that machine came out, Beta had the Alp series, a cruder take on that concept. Once upon a time, there was the Beta Alp 4.0 and the Beta Alp 2.0; now, only the smaller bike remains in the lineup, under the name Alp 200.
It’s small, and not very powerful. And yet, this machine has a unique design that no other manufacturer is currently producing. It’s a trail bike at first glance, but it quickly converts into a trials machine. And, it’s not your typical European enduro bike, with a high-strung motor. This made-in-Italy motorcycle has a Japanese engine.
Powered by Suzuki
Look closely at the Beta Alp 2.0 and you’ll realize that single-cylinder powerplant looks extremely familiar. In fact, it’s one of the longest-running designs from Japan, the same air-cooled four-stroke motor that Suzuki debuted in the mid-’80s for the DR200.
The DR200 is no hairy-chested beast. Max output is around 20 crank horsepower, with around 13-14 pound-feet of torque. Furthermore, as the DR200 engine is basically a hot-rodded 125, there’s not much more power to be had; although there are some upgrades (some owners used to run ATV cams in them), you won’t find neck-snapping torque here.
However, the DR200 has something else going for it: It’s dead-nuts reliable. The DR200 has its own cult following on ADVrider as a budget-friendly, beginner-friendly travel machine. Travel outside developed country, and you’ll find the DR200 is a very trusted machine in other countries. In South America, they use them for police bikes. In China, factories crank out their own copies of the design. It’s a tough motor that just plain works.
So, Beta buys the DR200 engines from Suzuki, built to slightly different spec than the Japanese models. In the photos, you can note a kickstarter on the Beta’s engine. The bike for sale here also has a nasty anti-smog system grafted on to the exhaust, which most owners would likely be only too happy to jettison. It’s also possible the Beta machine has different cam timing or other changes to slightly boost performance. If it does, or if it doesn’t, don’t expect much power either way. However, you should expect the engine to last forever, and if you need parts, look no further than your local Suzuki dealer in a pinch. Most of the engine should more-or-less match up with DR200 parts.
Glancing quickly at the rest of the machine, and it’s not terribly impressive. The forks look weedy, the steel frame doesn’t look racy, and the rest of the chassis does not appear to be very aggressive either.
That first glance is correct—Beta intends this for sensible trail use, not cross country racing. However, the chassis has one really cool feature. The seat removes with the help of a couple of quick-detach screws, along with the plastics, and then, surprise! You’ve turned your Alp 200 into a kinda-sorta trials bike, with a stripped-down aesthetic and no practical seat.
The Alp is certainly not as nimble as a two-stroke Montesa Cota. However, you can do some slow-speed vintage-style messing around with it. At least Beta cut the steering rake fairly sharp, so you’ll be able to zip around trees without too much difficulty. The bike only weighs 238 pounds dry; that’s heavy for a trials bike, but still very light compared to most street-legal dual sports.
There’s a trials-style low-mount front fender on the Alp, along with a set of blinkers and a headlight. In some ways, it’s got very similar design to the old Kawasaki Super Sherpa—a low-speed, low-stress dual sport with a low seat height to boot (830 mm).
Beta plays this up in its marketing, calling it
The ideal solution when mountaineering, it is capable of climbing the most arduous alpine tracks where even the biggest and most powerful Enduro bikes would struggle, yet the bike is equally at home on white roads or the daily urban commute, all this while maintaining very low running costs, which compare very favorably with other specialized off-road models.
Most people wouldn’t pick a carbureted 200 as an ideal mountain-climbing motorcycle, but Beta does have a point—this street-legal machine will navigate goat tracks much more easily than big-bore adventure bike.
A rare machine
Despite its unique features, the Beta Alp 200 and its bigger brother, the Beta Alp 4.0 (similar, but based on a DR350 motor) have never caught on big. As far as I know, only one or two were ever brought into Canada (I tried to buy one, but alas, failed!). I’m not sure of US numbers, but I’d be surprised if they were much higher.
In Europe and the UK, the Alp series is available through Beta dealers, and generally considered to be trail bikes for mild-mannered individuals. Nobody is winning FIM-level trials events with these bikes, but some riders say they’re a smart choice for long-distance trials events. I don’t know if that’s true—nobody I know is into that scene. I do know there aren’t many options for 200-250 cc street-legal trailbikes in the UK and Europe, and that makes the Alp more attractive in those markets.
However, it’s a machine that could see considerable demand, in my opinion, if it came into North America right now. The bike-buying public is crying out for simple, easy-to-ride trail machines. As long as they weren’t put off by the Alp’s sharp handling, this could be the kind of bike that adds a lot of fun to cottage weekends.