Benelli Cafe Racer

2008 Benelli TnT 1130 Review

The American motorcycle market may not be the hotbed of success for standard and naked style bikes like it is for the cruiser, custom or sportbike arena, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a dearth of good choices when looking a fairing-less ride.

For one, witness the return of Kawasaki’s Z1000 as an all-new model for 2010. Putting aside opinions about the new Z’s styling, most enthusiasts could agree that, from what we know about the bike thus far, it should be a great machine.

Those are only three brilliant options to consider; there are even more. One we’d like to bring to your attention is the TnT from Italian bike maker, Benelli.

As noted in our review of the Tre1130K all Benelli models currently available for U.S. consumption are powered by a 1,130cc (88 x 62mm), liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve, fuel-injected, 6-speed, in-line Triple carried in an attractive tubular-steel trellis frame.

Primary differences between models in Benelli’s line-up center around chassis components like brakes, wheels and suspension. The big Triple’s state of tune in each model creates additional distinctions between the bikes.

The hooligan TnT, along with its up-spec siblings, the TnT Sport and Café Racer, boast a claimed 135 hp and 86 ft-lbs, slotting in as the middle child between the racy Tornado 1130’s claimed 161 hp/91.5 ft-lbs, and the more mild and adventure-minded Tre-K with claimed figures of 123 hp and 85 ft-lbs.

Though there’s considerable separation in power � power that’s as discernible in real life as it is on paper � between the TnT and Tre-K, the two machines are very similar.

Both motorcycles share the same undertail single exhaust canister and split LED tail/brake light, as well as the same instrument panel. Differences include the TnT’s use of dual side-mounted radiators necessitated by the naked design, and the angry robot eyes headlamp assembly carrying a tiny flyscreen compared to the Tre�s fuller shield.

It’s a naked bike, but not naked like someone’s ratty ’89 Gixxer devoid of all plastic. Despite the absence of any real windscreen the headlight package and wide flare of minimal bodywork that are the radiator shrouds do an okay job of deflecting some windblast.

The TnT runs with a meaty non-adjustable 50mm Marzocchi upside-down fork as found on the Tre1130K. The Extreme Technology shock provides adjustments for rebound damping as well as spring preload. Spinning at both ends are Dunlop’s grippy Sportmax Qualifier tires in 190/70 and 120/70 sizes, on stylish 5-spoke cast-aluminum 17-inch Brembo wheels.

Though the big diameter fork makes no accommodation for tuning, it’s sorted enough to offer good damping for a price-minded component. The Extreme Tech shock, on the other hand, is a different story.

For a bike with a claimed wet weight of 473 pounds we wouldn’t have expected such a weak spring rate. To have to crank down the dual-locking rings for at least 80% of the available threads on the long shock body says a lot for just how soft the spring is, especially considering the 150-pound lightweights who rode the bike.

Benelli Cafe Racer

Our resident unpaid test mule, Kaming Sir Ridesalot Ko, sorted the shock’s preload and rebound damping adjustment enough to find the best compromise between a comfortable ride and passable chassis stability. Accelerate hard enough coming out of corners, or while on really crummy pavement, though, and the rear still wiggled and squirmed for us.

A pair of 4-pot Brembo (two-piece) calipers clamp down on 320mm floating discs. With mono-block calipers becoming common fare on performance-oriented and exotic bikes, we noted the TnT’s binders missing the precise feedback and easily modulated power that we’re accustomed to on today�s sporting bikes. Our spoiled brat attitude and sense of entitlement aside, all it took to make the TnT�s Brembo calipers perform adequately was some extra squeeze on the lever.

Now, ’bout that big stonkin’ motor. Would you be interested in a mill that pulls like a mule from just off idle ’til just south of redline? Thought so.

The TnT’s engine is so grunty it feels as though it never stops accelerating until the rev limiter cuts in around 9K rpm. That kind of power makes for a bike that needn’t be shifted too often. The catch here is the rather abrupt throttle response.

The Man at MO’s helm, Kevin D. referred to the fueling response as digital, like EFI systems from about five years ago.

When combining the throttle response with so much steam available immediately from the engine room, you might find the bike can be difficult to ride smoothly in tight turns where the rider is transitioning rapidly between corners.

We often found ourselves anticipating a jerky hit of power at low speeds, and overcompensated with cautious initial throttle input. Another way around the sometimes snatchy fueling at low rpm is simply to run one gear higher than normal, using the copious torque to pull the higher gear.

Of the Ben�s jerky low-rpm throttle response Kevin remarked: �This wouldn’t be the bike to ride if you were two-upping a passenger while wearing signed Valentino Rossi lids, as they’d surely be knocking together like the steel balls in a Newton�s Cradle.�

Benelli Cafe Racer
Benelli Cafe Racer
Benelli Cafe Racer
Benelli Cafe Racer
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