Back in 1951, Benelli launched its original Leoncino 125cc; one of the most popular machines in the iconic Italian brands illustrious 106 year history – and for 2017, an all-new Leoncino 500 has made it to market.
Staff writer Ross has been out to Italy for the Leoncino launch, and took the chance to put one through its paces in the hills above Rimini. Here are his first impressions, ahead of the full review launch report going in the February issue of MCM.
Hot on the heels of the parallel-twin Benelli TRK502 adventure tourer, Benelli has launched its latest incarnation of its iconic Leoncino. In short, it’s a naked roadster which matches neo-retro styling with modern technology – while sharing much with its TRK502 sibling. Interestingly, its standard Pirelli Angel ST tyres, Bosch ECU and two-channel ABS, are the only bought-in items for the Leoncino. QJ and Benelli look after everything else in-house, including brakes and suspension.
My first impressions based on appearance alone were overwhelmingly positive. It’s a fantastic looking machine; thanks to the hard work of Benelli’s new CentroStile Italian design centre which has reimagined the original Leoncino, delivering an uncomplicated modern motorcycle, that’s great fun to ride too. A nice design touch is the little lion which sits on the front fender, tying the new machine to the iconic original Leoncino.
Features include a digital dash, which incorporates an analogue tachometer and digital speedo, and offers water temp, fuel gauge, clock, mileage, trip and gear information. Its lights are all LED and it comes with an Italian made leather seat (which is very comfortable, by the way) which is set at 815mm, delivering a surprisingly spacious riding position for my 6ft 1” frame – and I have no doubt that shorter riders would find the Leoncino just as comfortable too. It weighs in at a fairly average 196kg, but it’s really well balanced so you’ll barely notice the weight once you’re in the saddle.
The Leoncino features fairly wide ‘Benelli Piega Bassa’ (‘low lean-over’) taper-section handlebars; in practice, they helped to provide excellent leverage for flicking the bike from side to side through the tight switchback we encountered on our test ride. The mirrors on the Leoncino are well designed too, providing an excellent rear view with no vibration – and its slimline 13.2-litre fuel tank offers a claimed 300km range. Admittedly, there are no indents for your knees, but it’s easy enough to grip regardless.
Benelli Leoncino 500
ENGINE: 449.6cc twin cylinders, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, double overhead camshaft
SEAT HEIGHT: 785 mm
WEIGHT: 186 kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 13.5 litres