Benelli is back in business with its electric mix of modern-retro metal – and building on the success of its recently reimagined Leoncino, the Italian factory has gone one step further and kitted it out for the dirt. Introducing Benelli’s Leoncino Trail.
There’s no denying the overwhelming popularity of the new breed of neo retro-styled off-roaders. Derided by many dyed in the wool bikers as little more than a hipster trend, you could probably argue that they’ve helped entice a new generation of riders into the world of motorcycling. Yes – even outside of Shoreditch. And manufacturers right across the board have been working hard to get in on the action – so if you’re after a stylish but versatile machine that’ll tackle twisties and trails with equal vigour, then you are truly spoilt for choice. There’s Triumph’s Street Scrambler, Norton’s new Atlas, Ducati’s Scrambler and Fantic’s Caballero to name but a few. But this time, we’ve been taking a look at Benelli’s Leoncino Trail – the off-road ready version of its recently introduced Leoncino 500.
Benelli’s undergone a serious resurgence in recent years, after short periods of relative inactivity through the 1990s and early 2000s – punctuated by the release of some seriously sporty exotica including the Tornado Tre 900 sportbike and TNT roadster. Bought by China’s Qiangjiang in 2005 before being taken on by Geely in 2016, Italy’s oldest existing motorcycle brand is back. And it means business. With a plethora of new models unveiled at EICMA back in 2017, Benelli has been making strides in the European market as it expands its range of aggressively priced, but still thoroughly capable machines.
Back in 1951, Benelli launched its original Leoncino 125cc; which went on to make a name for itself as one of the most popular machines in the iconic Italian brands illustrious 106 year history. For 2017, a revitalised Benelli launched its all-new Leoncino 500 to the market – and MCM was lucky enough to get the chance to head out to Italy for the launch of the new machine, taking the chance to put one through its paces in the hills above Rimini. And it really impressed us – so we couldn’t wait for the chance to ride the marginally more expensive, dirt-capable Leoncino Trail. Even if it was in and wet and windy Lincolnshire.
Built around the same 500cc DOHC eight-valve parallel-twin engine and trellis-frame as the standard Leoncino, the Trail gets wire-spoked wheels (19-inch up front and 17-inch at the rear), dual-sport Metzeler rubber, 10mm more suspension travel front and rear, different sprockets, shorter gears and switchable ABS. It has also benefited from a number of mild changes to its rake, trail and wheelbase to improve off-road stability – while its front brakes have been toned down, with the introduction of less aggressive floating two-piston calipers up front (though they do bite the same 320mm twin discs) to reduce the chance of the front-brake locking-up on slippery surfaces.