My new Italian-Chinese Scrambler: Benelli Leoncino Trail

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

  1. Bt10

    Bt10 Long timer

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    I’m just as frugal, but sometimes you just gotta do it. I replaced the stock tires on my versys x300 within 150 miles. Had my kid sell them on the ‘book.
  2. Matt-J2

    Matt-J2 Been here awhile

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    Yeah, sometimes frugality has to get deeper. Would new/different tires be safer? Would dropping the bike more often because of less traction cost more over time than the new tires?
    Etc.

    Obviously I don't know the answer to that, but it's what I would consider. I reckon it depends on just how often you're going to ADV ride that bad boy, those tires seem to be doing well for the other riding you've mentioned.
  3. RedRocket

    RedRocket Yeah! I want Cheesy Poofs

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    Switch the tires now, and keep the originals for just in case.
  4. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    I took a ride on my new Leoncino and the SCR950 back-to-back yesterday, and I have a few comparisons if anyone cares.

    First off, the SCR950 is way more powerful. Spec-wise they seem similar 51.3hp for the SCR950 and 47hp for the Leoncino... but the Yamaha feels like it has considerably more balls. Banging through the gears is really fun on the SCR.
    On the highway things are different. The Yamaha is a vibrating beast, and 70mph is uncomfortable. 80mph is way worse. If I maintain 80mph for a few hours on the highway, I'm wiped out afterwards. It's very fatiguing. The Leoncino is smoooooooth up to the 95mph I've had it so far (still in break-in). 80mph is easy and comfortable to eat up miles and miles.

    Both feel light and nimble once they're above parking lot speeds, actually. At parking lot speeds both are top heavy, but the extra 100 pounds on the SCR950 is quite noticeable and makes the SCR a bear to handle. That, coupled with the miniscule steering lock on the SCR 950 makes it pretty shitty for slow speed maneuvering. Pushing it around the garage is even more annoying with the narrow steering lock and super heavy weight. The Benelli is far easier to move around in the garage too, it has a nice wide steering lock so it's easy to put where I want it in the garage.

    Handling is all the Leoncino. While the SCR doesn't handle bad - it's actually pretty quick handling. But the ground clearance on a stock bike is so ridiculously bad you can't push it in corners at all, or hard parts scrape. With a Baron's Rise-up kit, I get an extra inch in the rear, and I slid the tubes down in the trees 1/2" to get more ride height in the front. This quickened the steering very nicely, and gives it reasonable clearance. Not good clearance, but reasonable. So long as the road is smooth, a raised SCR950 handles well. But as soon as ANY road irregularity shows up, the 1.7" of rear suspension travel just starts destroying my back. It's so bad that my vision is vibrating and focusing on the road takes effort. The Leoncino? Super smooth, plenty of travel front and rear, and it just soaks up the hard hits both on pavement and on rock gardens and pot-holed, rutted dirt roads. It's a night and day difference on rough roads. That said... the SCR950 is stupid fun on dirt. Yeah, it's heavy. Yeah it's the wrong bike for the job. But it's SO much fun to slide the rear out. It spins the rear easily in any gear, even with bigass Shinko 805 knobbies. The sliding is slow and predictable, and it's very easy to sling the bike around underneath me. Yeah it hurts when I hit the big bumps, but shit it's fun. It's like driving an old 1970s muscle car on dirt. So long as it's a well-graded gravel road, it's going to be fun. Big holes, ruts, and rock gardens? Not so much. This is a bike that barrels over and through. There is no finesse involved. The Leo is amazing on the street, it carves corners like a sportbike and has more ground clearance than I've been able to use yet.

    Standing on the Leoncino is easier. I can lock my knees against the tank. It's a little slippery, but it's doable. The Yamaha's footpegs are so wide and the tank so narrow that I can't lock in on the SCR950 at ALL. Not even a little bit. My knees don't bend that way! The Leoncino handles precisely on and off road, and it's easy to maneuver even at very slow speeds. Finesse is the game here. It also soaks up bumps that would launch me off my seat on the Yamaha. The stock tires on the Leoncino are terrible for off-road, but I was doing better and feeling more confident on the Little Leo than I was on the Yammer Hammer. Hrm... that's a good analogy. The Leoncino feels like the proper tool for the job. The Yamaha feels like a club or a sledge hammer, and you beat the road into submission. Or it beats you. One way or another, it's brutal. Which can be fun sometimes, but not all the time.

    The brakes on the Leo are exceptional. I mean, truly exceptional. Good initial bite, good feedback, very powerful, and they don't take a lot of effort. No fade either. The SCR950's brakes? Well... they're fine at first, but the faster you go the more the brakes fade, until it takes a hulk-like grip to slow the bike down. Spirited mountain riding is not this bike's forte. A single rotor and 2-piston caliper is just not enough to repeatedly slow down 800+ pounds of bike and rider. I've not experienced brake fade like this since my 1987 TW200 with drum front brake. But the TW never got fast enough for it to matter... the Yamaha is an out-of-control ore cart full of lead when riding downhill in the mountains.

    So basically, the SCR950 is a far better short-distance, cruising kind of bike. It's not meant to hot-dog it on mountain roads. It's not meant to go fast. It's not meant to carve canyons. It's meant to cruise and nothing more. You can do all that other stuff on the SCR950, but it takes extra effort and it shows the flaws of the machine. Readily. The Leoncino is made for canyon carving AND for dirt-road shenanigans, and it's FAR easier to do these things on the bike.

    And that brings me to another good point on the SCR950. It really is an excellent cruiser. If you don't ever push it, if you're not trying to ride fast or do anything even remotely performance-oriented, you'll love the bike. It is MASSIVELY roomy. The peg to seat distance is enormous, and I've never felt in such a neutral, relaxed position on a bike. It's easy to control from this position, unlike foot-forward cruisers. It feels fun to be on the bike, even just lazily cruising around. The problem for me is... I'm not a lazy cruiser. I'm a bit of a hooligan, and this bike makes me work really hard to have fun. The Leoncino makes it a lot easier.

    But the biggest thing for me is, and what it all boils down to, is that I need a bike I can ride 300 miles to the fun stuff, and not feel worn out and fatigued when I get there. The Yamaha leaves me exhausted and in pain after even short rides (I have a bad back). It's an around-town cruiser, not a long-distance machine, and that's why I replaced it with the Leoncino. The SCR does one thing well. The Leoncino does everything well. The SCR is dead sexy to look at, but when I want to go for a ride i'm grabbing the keys to the leoncino.

    Charles.
  5. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    I put some Mefo Super Explorers on it today. Was going to get shinko 805s, but the super explorers were $145 a PAIR. So far I’m liking them. They are a more pointy tire so there is a quick turn in/fall in that I like. Quiet at speed but a bit of rock and roll at parking lot velocities.

    69C841DB-D001-4884-9567-99000FF1242C.jpeg

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    Sorry the bike is pretty filthy, I’ve been riding it, not washing it!
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  6. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    Why 22? Just curious.

    Those are some serious chunky tires, but I'm betting there are a lot of great back dirt/gravel roads in your area. I know there are in the Appalachians up in Ohio/Penn/W. Virginia, has to be very similar there.
  7. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    #22 because it's the 22nd bike I've owned in my life. The numberplate is there to hide the saddlebag mount when the quick-release saddlebags aren't attached, and I had to put *something* on the numberplate. I

    I actually don't have good dirt around here at all, I have to drive three hours to get to the good stuff. However... I'm spending an entire week in the mountains for memorial day, and that's where the good stuff is. Last time I was there I dropped the bike because the rear spun on wet grass going uphill with almost zero power applied. Everyone else made it up the hill without incident, but they all had actual knobs on their tires. The Metzler Tourance tires that came on this are really a street tire. 90/10 at best. These are going to be a lot more fun in the dirt, and they're not bad on the street.

    Charles.
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  8. CajunRider

    CajunRider Been here awhile

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    ^^ You call that dirty??

    Just looks like a little bit of riding dust to me!! :thumbup
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  9. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    22 makes sense to me.

    By the way, if you have to trailer for 3 hours to save a good set of dual sport tires it's not cheating. Several times a year I will take my KLX250 in my truck about 2 hours east-northeast to where I used to live, as one guy called it "God's country" when it comes to motorcycle riding. Lots of dirt/gravel roads for some fun riding. The key thing to remember is the goal.

    Is the goal to ride through three hours of misery one way to ride some enjoyable dirt/gravel or off road, or is the goal to get the bike where you can enjoy riding some dirt/gravel. For me it is the latter. Plus my secondary goal is to not wear out my dual sport tires on the pavement unnecessarily. I also have plenty of room to haul my stuff up to my friend's place where I will spend a day or so. Not cheating, just makes sense.

    Now I will ride the street bike, because it is about an hour of sucky roads for some really good higher speed winding back roads and the tires are meant for it.

    Cheers.
  10. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Well, I like to go to Mountain view motorcycle campground near boone. It's a 3.5 hour ride on the highway, or a 4.5 hour ride on backroads, via a more direct route. I almost always take the scenic backroads route. My goal is to get myself ready for longer and longer tours in the saddle, until it's not something that bothers my back or balls anymore. And to have fun of course.

    Charles.
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  11. motorat

    motorat Is it raining

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    My africa twin is my 22nd bike but it took me 35 years to get there. I'm lucky as I live 23 miles from the start of the WABDR.
  12. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    I’m 43, but I’ve flipped a lot of bikes in the past. Bought as parts bikes with titles and put them back on the road. Kept them for a year and then sold them. So I amassed my number a bit quicker.

    Charles.
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  13. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    I figured it out this morning, I think counting all the clunkers, it ended up roughly 25. Only around 10 are memorable.
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  14. WDG

    WDG Not entirely domesticated

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    My dilemma has long been that when it’s nice enough to wash, it’s nice enough to ride.

    As a result, washing the bike seems to be an annual event, at best.
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  15. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    I'm on board with that excuse. :D
  16. BradyL

    BradyL n00b

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    I noticed you went back to the aliexpress pipe, did you punch the cat out? If so does it seem better than the stock resonator now? Thinking of getting the leovince catless mid, then probably a header

    I can not see how to pm you , I'm interested in that service manual, also thanks for all the info , I just grabbed one of these little bikes to get around while camping

    Brady
  17. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    7E4587ED-7651-4AA3-A403-11D2FEDAC67B.jpeg

    Really liking the Mefo Explorers on the street. I’ve been riding the crap out of this thing in the mountains and it’s performed wonderfully. Suspension is great, tires are great, power is suited to these roads. Today is gravel and dirt so I’m looking forward to how they handle that.

    Charles.
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  18. Bt10

    Bt10 Long timer

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    I dare say, if this was available at the time of my last purchase, and your review/thread was going, I may have bought this instead of the vx3 ($4600 OTD tho). Nice looking bike, probably more relaxed engine than vx3 and more accessible hp and torque.
  19. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    So this past weekend was an Italian Adventure Bike rally at mountain view motorcycle campground. Lots of Stelvios and V85s in attendance. A couple of ducatis as well, and of course my Benelli. Mark (the campground owner) lead a dirt ride for five of us, and it was a mix of pavement and gravel roads. Nothing too terribly gnarly... but man, the Leoncino really shined out there. REALLY shined. This is the first time I've really put the bike through its paces, and I'm VERY impressed.

    Here's the bike looking all pretty, lined up with all the other Italian bikes.

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    Here's the Lion cub in its element:

    IMG_9820.JPG

    Two riders split off - one to go home, one to find a BBQ joint. That left just Mark, Bill, and me. A Stelvio, a V85, and a Benelli Leoncino. That's Mark in the photo. Got him mid-hydration.

    P6050149.JPG

    Finally, Lisa caught this one from the back of Rogers bike, as I was flying up 226A outside of Little Switzerland:

    IMG_9811.JPG


    Okay, so first off, let me start by saying this bike with Mefo Super Explorers is a completely different beast than it is with stock Tourance tires. The Tourances are fine on the street, but on the gravel they're slick as snot. The Mefo Super Explorers grip the pavement perfectly, even at ludicrous speed in the twisties, perform well in the wet, and are EXTREMELY confidence inspiring in gravel. The rear will break loose predictably and slowly. It won't sling the tire wide out to the side, and it hooks up readily.

    I have said the Leoncino is a torquey motor, but I don't think you really understand. I came to an emergency stop and didn't have time to shift gears. I took off without thinking. I was in third gear, going up a hill, and not only did I not stall the bike, I barely needed more slippage than normal. There were times when I was in the wrong gear going up very steep gravel roads, and there was no drama, the bike just pulls. The sweet spot is between 4000 and 6000 rpm, but the Leoncino has most of its torque available right off of idle. In fact, I can take off uphill in 1st gear without any use of the throttle. Just clutch will get me moving. And this isn't a delicate feathering, I barely have to change how I let the clutch out to get moving without adding even one drop of throttle.

    On the dirt, I was gunning it and riding WAY faster than I thought I would. I've been building my confidence on unpaved roads, and the Leoncino with these tires is really helping. I would hang back with the slow group (two of the bikes were two-up, and thus were doing the gravel a lot slower), and then race on ahead to catch the faster guys. I'd do this over and over again, just bombing these dirt roads. Stading sometimes but mostly sitting. The suspension soaked up the bumps and I was sliding through corners and using the throttle to steer.

    Basically.... THIS IS AN AWESOME SCRAMBLER. With the proper tires, you just aim and BRAAAAAAAAP! It's pretty damn awesome. I don't have experience with big dirt bikes, just with the Yamaha TW200 and CSC RX3. Neither of them are capable of the speeds, agility, or ridiculous hooliganism that the Leoncino brings out in me. This bike is MADE for gravel roads with switchbacks and long steep climbs. Made for spinning the tire through corners. And made for twisty mountain roads.

    Around Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, it's not as great. The torque peak is 6000 rpm, which equates to 65mph on the interstate in 6th gear. It'll cruise at 80 no problems, but it's not made for that. The power tapers off the closer you get to the 9000 rpm redline. On the interstate, it feels underpowered. On twisty mountain roads, it feels like there's power everywhere. It wants to be short-shifted at 6000rpm, especially on dirt.

    Overall I'm really impressed and excited. I beat the snot out of the bike this weekend and had zero problems and shitloads of fun! The only real gripe I have about the bike is the too-soft seat. Corbin needs to make a seat ASAP. It's not brutal like the SCR950's seat, but even with a gel pad my ass is unhappy after 2 hours.

    Speaking of the SCR950... there is no comparison. The SCR might have more horsepower, but it's SO different. If you're not in the right gear on the SCR950, it will chugga-chugga-stall if you try to go up a steep hill. The Leoncino will just motor up the hill slowly - but up it will go. The SCR950 beats me to death even on relatively smooth roads. Off-road it's stand and point and hope. Don't sit much, because you'll be launched off the seat regularly. It slams into the ground consistently, and more or less handles like an overweight pig. The Leoncino is the opposite. The suspension is so good I sat most of the time when I was riding. I never dragged undercarriage, and I felt so in control and confident.

    Seriously, this is a GREAT scrambler.

    Charles
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  20. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    Kinda fun being sideways, isn't it? :nod Part of the reason why I dual sport - nice sweeping gravel roads, a foot out, and the rear wheel a foot or so out of line.... :wings