My new Italian-Chinese Scrambler: Benelli Leoncino Trail

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by ChopperCharles, Feb 6, 2021.

  1. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So, many of you remember me from my mega thread about the Chinese cafe racer I bought in February 2019. https://advrider.com/f/threads/my-new-chinese-cafe-racer-ssr-buccaneer-250c.1366197/ If you enjoyed that thread, hold onto your butts because here's another one to subscribe to!

    I've been looking for a replacement for my behemoth of a scrambler (Yamaha SCR950), because it is too heavy and hurts my back to ride. Well... I've had my eye on Benelli ever since a test ride on the TNT300, and then the Leoncino Trail came out. Because of my really good experiences with SSR fixing major issues well out of warranty (SSR also imports the Benelli) I had no hesitation in dropping Honda money on an Italian-designed, Chinese-made motorcycle.

    First off, quick history. Italian owned and operated Benelli 10 years ago had great ideas and piss-poor implementation. They had major reliability issues and while the bikes were beautiful from 10 feet away, they had major fit and finish issues. (aka: "Italian Charm"). Benelli today is owned by a Chinese company. But it's not some small fly-by-night company, it's the same company that owns Volvo and Lotus. Shifting manufacturing to China has completely changed the nature of the bikes. They're not massive powerhouses with delicate electronics and bits that can and will catastrophically break anymore. Today's Benellis are now overbuilt, reliable machines.

    If you're in for this, stay tuned because I'm going to post some pics and some first impressions shortly!

    Charles.
    #1
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  2. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So here I am picking up my brand new Benelli Leoncino Trail at Honda Suzuki of Sanford, in Sanford NC.

    IMG_9280.jpg

    IMG_9281.jpg

    Shit man, I really need to lose some weight.

    And here's the bike, unencumbered my my fat ass:

    63432006631__CF2F10A4-340F-4BA9-9360-A5247DFB6BBB.JPG

    Charles.
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  3. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Finally! I've been waiting for the farkling and customization to begin... :dirtdog

    Congrats on the new bike!

    Gustavo
    #3
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  4. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So, my ride home was about 50 miles, and it wasn't the best. After 10 miles I knew all the controls had to be adjusted, I just felt awkward. I got the bike home, then I rotated the bars back a bit, rotated the levers forward, fixed the mirrors, and adjusted the shifter pedal and clutch lever freeplay. Then I took it out for another ride, and it was much, much better. The bike fits me well, and I'm very happy with it so far.

    However, one thing bugged me about the bike. And this isn't just a Benelli thing, it's largely EVERY new motorcycle I've ridden or purchased in the last ten years or so. Every single goddamn manufacturer things I have Gorilla Hands. The reach to the brake lever is MASSIVE. Even with the adjustable lever set to the closest position, it was still a super reach to the brakes, and I feel like I'm engaging the brakes so far out that I have limited hand strength at full finger extension, and this also makes the brakes feel wooden and vague. I had this exact same problem with my Yamaha SCR950. It was especially bad. My SSR Buccaneer had the same issue, and to a lesser extent so does my CSC RX3. In all cases, aftermarket adjustable levers made the brakes feel responsive and powerful. Well... I didn't order aftermarket levers for the Buccaneer yet... so I disassembled the stock adjustable lever and used a bastard file to trim the flat that the adjuster rides against. 15 minutes of futzing around and now I don't have to spend $30 on aftermarket levers! Just.... don't PING! the circlip across the garage. I was smart this time, I removed the circlip inside a gallon-sized ziplock bag. You can teach an old nerd new tricks.

    So... that's my complaint about the Leoncino. The brake lever can't be adjusted close enough. Everything else so far is AMAZING! I'm really stoked about this bike, and I need a beer and some dinner. I've been riding and then adding accessories all day. But stay tuned, I wanted to get the bad out of the way so I can espouse the good unencumbered!

    Charles.
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  5. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So yeah, The farkling has already begun. I spent $700+ in parts from Ali-Express and all but the skid plate were waiting in kitchen for the day I bring the bike home. And that day was today!

    Want a teaser? Well, here's a teaser!

    IMG_9284.jpg

    Hand Guards and a flyscreen. And since this is the 22nd bike I've owned (not counting parts bikes or has-never-run-or-been-street-legal YET project bikes), it got a number 22 in Italian livery. Flyscreen hard-mounts to four threaded holes on the instrument cluster, which appear designed for holding a flyscreen - or even perhaps a larger windshield.

    The flyscreen is pretty trick, but the handguards are even more so. They're 100% plastic, and offer little to no protection in a fall -- unlike the TRK502 hand guards. These are actually a copy of the TRK502 guards, but without the metal brackets. That's okay with me, I need them largely to protect my hands from wind and rain, and to be able to put Hippo Hands on the bike in the cold months. I do very much like how the hand guards are custom fit. They come with new metal bar ends that replace the stock bar ends, and are machined to fit the hand guards and a recessed screw. It's very trick. Also the handlebars have a nut welded to the ends, so there's no shitty rubber expando-piece. Everything fits together precisely and there's no threat of rotation.

    Note that the US gets big floppy front turn signals. Some stupid law about them having to be 4.7 miles apart. They're signals only, no running lights, so I intend to buy another set of rear turn signals (with short stalks) and mount them to the front.


    Note that the metal TRK502 hand guards appear like they will fit the Leoncino as well. I believe all the hand controls are the same.


    Charles.
    #5
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  6. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    And here is the bike after several hours of en-farkling:


    IMG_9286.jpg

    Sorry it's dark, and it started to rain. The luggage rack fought with me for hours, and the saddlebag quick-release brackets made everything just that much harder to line up and attach. But eventually everything lined up, attached, and was straight to within 1/8 of an inch.

    The saddlebags are quick-release, they have a little lock and pin arrangement on the inside. Unlock the lock and the pin pops out and the bag can be removed. The plates stay on the bike, and they can be used to keep larger throw-over bags out of the wheels as well. These leather bags are actually pretty small.

    That's the extent of my farkling for tonight. Saddlebags, rear rack, hand guards, and flyscreen. I also have a midpipe that replaces the collector box, some fender extenders, and the skid plate that's still on the way. I'm going to get a top box for the rack as well.

    Charles.
    #6
  7. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So, where to begin? I guess, I'll go with first impressions. The first thing I thought when I saw the bike is how beautiful it looks in person. The paint is rich and deep, all the machined parts are fluted or have some kind of special finish to them, the logos on the tank are metal, the gas cap is unique and feels good to flip open. The key doesn't need to be in the cap to close it, which is a nice touch. Everything looks and feels top notch. The body panels all line up, and it just looks good. It looks like a Honda.... if Honda had the class and style of the Italians. It is a very pretty machine.

    Straddling the bike, I was surprised how tall it is. I'm on the balls of my feet, but it doesn't feel too heavy. It doesn't feel top heavy either. It does feel substantial, though. It doesn't feel like a 250, it's got some heft to it. Now, I loved my test ride on the TNT300. I was going to buy a 302S, which is the upgraded version of the TNT300 with a slightly bigger motor and 5 more horsepower. Then the Leoncino showed up on my radar, and it spec'ed out as weighing only a few more pounds than the TNT300, but having 15 more horsepower. Well... this bike is DEFINITELY heavier than the TNT300. In fact, I measured it. Brand new, no farkles, and about a gallon of gas in the tank... and it weighed in at 447 pounds. That's WAY heavier than the 375 lbs on the Benelli website, but close to the 207kg/456 lbs that I'm seeing with a google search. The difference between my 447 and google's 456 is likely down to gas.

    Both keys that come with the bike are switchblade keys, which I found a nice touch. The bike starts up with a muted soft growl, and the idle burbles a bit, like an old muscle car. This burble happens regardless of how warm the motor is. Maybe it will go away when the bike is broken in, but I hope not. I love the burble. The bike has plenty of tractable power. There's no risk of stalling, torque is right there when you're letting out the clutch, and the bike happily accelerates at any rpm. You can lug it, you can wind it out, both ways work. It doesn't have a massive amount of horsepower, but it's enough. On country backroads it settled in and liked to be ridden at around 70-73 indicated, which is right about 6000rpm in 6th gear. On the interstate it happily runs at 80 or better with no problems. Passing is easy, and I expect it will likely do the ton without much issue. I'm still in the break-in period so I'm not ready to try that quite yet.

    The transmission is wonderful. WONDERFUL. I never have a problem finding neutral, either from first or second. The bike shifts smoothly and cleanly every time. It doesn't clunk or snick, it kind of... I dunno... rolls into each gear. Engagement feels smooth, like butter. It shifts with buttery goodness. I've never felt a transmission quite like it before, and I really dig it. My Yamaha clunks into gear. My RX3 needs a firm engagement, or it may pop out of gear to punish you for not paying attention. This Benelli I can just think about shifting, put ever so little pressure, and it goes right into gear. So far that's my favorite feature.

    The power is adequate. The TNT300 was fun because the power kept building and building the higher the motor revved, and the exhaust would howl like a rabid rhino bent on revenge. The Leoncino on the other hand has a far more docile motor. It makes more power, but the motor doesn't scream like the TNT300, and it doesn't build torque as the rpm rises, so it feels lazier. The rev limiter seems to kick in around 9500 rpm, and it stops pulling hard around 8500 rpm anyhow. It has a very muted exhaust note. It's quite deep and bassy, but not loud at all. The bike is obviously tuned for more bottom and midrange than top end, but it still has WAY more balls up top than my SCR950. (AND it weighs 100 pounds less).

    The seat is real leather. Not vinyl, not pleather, real honest-to-murgatroyd leather. It's pretty comfortable so far, but I haven't put a lot of saddle time in yet. It might be a bit on the soft side, not quite sure yet.

    Handling is pretty good. Initial turn-in is slow, but I blame the Metzler Tourance tires for that. They don't have a very pointy profile, and I prefer a tire that dives into corners. That said, the bike handles like it's on rails. It swoops into turns and holds a line easily, and mid-corner bumps don't upset the suspension at all. The wide bars provide plenty of leverage and this bike WANTS to corner. The suspension is on the taught and stiff side, but I haven't played with any of the damping settings. Both the forks and the rear shock have damping, and the rear shock also has preload. And that preload is adjustable via a knob, no special tools or cursing involved.

    So far I've only ridden the bike completely naked, with no accessories. The windblast was pretty bad at highway speeds. I was gripping the bars hard and pulling myself forward. No turbulence, but just a lot of air on my chest and helmet. I'm hoping the flyscreen makes a difference, if not a larger windshield will be in my future.

    Okay, that's it for my initial impressions. More to come tomorrow.

    Charles.
    #7
  8. DocRogers

    DocRogers Been here awhile

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    I look forward to following this adventure.
    #8
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  9. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Oh this is the tool kit by the way. Pretty measly. But at least it’s something.

    Charles.

    Attached Files:

    #9
  10. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So I'm going to say right now that I'm not a big fan of the luggage rack I've installed. The two rear brackets didn't fit. I had to clamp them in a vise and hit them with a dead blow hammer to bend the ears so they were at the proper angle to fit. It took a long time to install it because of this. It's also not terribly robust. I can feel the rack flexing. It would be better if there was some triangulation and the rear brackets were welded on instead of bolted on. But the real kicker is that if someone in an SUV, jacked up pickup, RV, or semi is tailgaiting, they cannot see my brake light.

    There are other racks out there, I may switch to something else in the future.

    Charles.
    #10
  11. sanjoh

    sanjoh Purveyor of Light

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    Interesting specs

    $6850 before tax, tag, title?

    2.4" of rear shock travel, is that a typo?
    #11
  12. usedtobefast

    usedtobefast Been here awhile

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    Beautiful bike! How does the power/weight/handling/etc compare to a Honda CB500X?
    #12
  13. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    I've not ever ridden a CB500X unfortunately. On paper, they make about the same horsepower, but the Benelli's into full torque 2000 rpm sooner.

    I will say this engine is extremely smooth. In fact, the whole bike is smooth. The transmission is smooth, the engine is smooth, and the handling most especially is smooth. I'm finding myself really upping my speeds on the curvy roads I know. The bike is very confidence inspiring and it makes me want to ride faster and faster.

    Speaking of speeds... the speedometer is 10.5% fast. At 90 indicated my GPS says I'm actually traveling 80.5 mph. So I'll need a speedo healer ASAP.

    Charles.
    #13
  14. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Here's my current mods in the daylight.

    P2070028.JPG

    Charles.
    #14
  15. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Here are the saddlebags removed. They're quick-release, they attach with mushroom pins into the three holes, and then lock into place with an lock inside the bags.

    P2070033.JPG
    #15
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  16. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    With the little leather bags removed, the plates on the bike do a good job of supporting larger saddlebags.

    P2070034.JPG

    P2070035.JPG

    Charles.
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  17. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Except for those stupid-long US-spec turn signal stalks, the front end looks pretty badass with the flyscreen and the hand guards.

    P2070036.JPG

    Charles.
    #17
  18. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    Congrats on the next new ride Charles. The rest of us appreciate that you like to take chances on unique, interesting motorcycles that many of us might not know about, or if we DO know about them, we won't take that dive because there is so little feedback. Feedback like yours helps.

    I have to say, that is a serious front brake setup for what seems like a pretty small bike. What do the brakes feel like? This is a parallel twin engine?
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  19. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Yes, it's a parallel twin. The Trail version has twin 2-piston calipers, traditionally mounted. They provide amazing stopping power. The roadster version with the mag wheels has twin 4-piston radially-mounted calipers, and it will do stoppies all day long (I've seen the youtube videos). Apparently the Trail has the downspec calipers because the radial calipers had too much initial bite, and it made riding off-road a little hairy. Dunno how true that is, but these brakes are so good I can't imagine how the regular leoncino must stop.

    Charles.
    #19
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  20. greer

    greer Long timer Supporter

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    Congrats on the bike Charles, looking forward to seeing what you do with it. The detailed documentation you provide is much appreciated, too. Yep, those turn signals look goofy as all get out, any way to just eliminate those stalks and reattach the turn signals with shorter screws? That was a common mod on the Ducati Scrambler, I believe.

    Sarah
    #20
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