First ride: Benelli TNT R160
It may be a little rough-edged, but that’s why this brawny streetfighter, which was released in 2011 to celebrate the famous company’s centenary, has so much appeal
Naked bike performance in all its unrestrained glory! That’s what Benelli’s TNT R160 streetfighter is all about, as it doesn’t rely on electronic aids, a steering damper or other support networks to get the job done: it’s all about a stonking engine (with an awesome exhaust note) and a supreme chassis to tear apart twisty roads with conviction.
And in Australia it can be all yours for $21,990, around the same dollar mark as its main opposition, including the Aprilia V4 R APRC ($21,990), Triumph Speed Triple R ($22,290) and MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR ($22,990).
The R160, which was first released in 2011 as part of Benelli’s centenary celebrations, isn’t as refined as the Triumph or Aprilia, which is an issue around town with its jerky fuelling under 4000rpm, where it’s difficult to maintain a constant speed; a heavy pull on the dry clutch, which replaces the cable version on the stock TNT; and average turning circle.
But when it’s time to tap the top-end on the shoulder, the Benelli becomes the master. Above 5000rpm the power delivery is manic, and the sweet-shifting gearbox will allow clutch-less gearchanges if you want to increase the tempo even more.
And if you like to broadcast yourself with wheelstands and general mischief, well then look no further. This is uninhibited riding at its best – and a reason why the R160 is a fresh point of departure in the streetfighter stakes.
The R160 engine is an evolution of the company’s signature 1131cc inline three-cylinder engine, which now has a higher compression ratio of 12.5:1, more aggressive camshafts (increased lift and duration) and shorter intake trumpets. The bore and stroke is 88mm x 62mm.
The changes have been profound: maximum power has now surged to 155hp at 10,300rpm, an increase of nearly 20hp. Meanwhile, torque has been increased a little to 120Nm at 8400rpm. Healthy numbers on both accounts, and the balance shaft does a great job – for the most part — of keeping all those power pulses contained.
By the way, the R160 chews up about 6.3 litres of fuel every 100km – not that fossil fuel conservation is a prime consideration when you’re riding this bike in fast mode. The tank holds 16 litres.
The suspension on the R160 has been uprated and is now fully adjustable at both ends – a 50mm Marzocchi upside-down fork working alongside a Sachs monoshock. There’s a steel trestle frame, with an aluminium-alloy subframe. The wheels are five-spoke aluminium on Michelin Pilot Power tyres – 120/70-17 and 190/50-17.
The suspension is stiff, just like the Aprilia’s, so it doesn’t always massage away road imperfections. But on the flipside, the odd high-compression jolt through the body is a sacrifice for brilliant cornering prowess, where the R160 remains a beacon of stability and composure. In that heady environment, it certainly doesn’t feel like 208kg (dry) of machine is being hailed around.
The riding position is quite upright, with just enough of a sporting bias without putting too much pressure on the wrists. And the cockpit itself is quite roomy, the pegs are mounted quite low in the chassis, and there’s a comfortable seat to top off the spacious accommodation.
Even though the Marzocchi fork is quite firm, there’s still quite a bit of dive once the Brembo monobloc brakes are engaged. And that’s because the brakes basically go from nothing to razor-sharp in one fell swoop, which always increases the risk of lock-ups without the back-up of ABS.
And I’m speaking from experience, as I’ve locked up another streetfighter with a similar brake package and speared straight off the road. More potent doesn’t always equate with better real world performance.
The R160 isn’t cut from the same cloth as its competitors, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s not micro-managed by a haze of electronics, so it’s all up to the pilot to get the best out of it – whether that’s eating up hairpins or trying to keep it burbling along at a constant pace in the city. It isn’t a perfect machine – even some of the panel fitment is questionable – but you can’t hold a grudge against it.
The R160 is never going to be a volume seller, but riders looking for something with a distinctive style and demeanour should seriously take a look.
Benelli is imported into Australia by Urban Moto Imports, with a unique business model that befits the marque’s boutique status.
SPECS: BENELLI TNT R160
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC in-line triple
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 158hp (113.1kW) at 10,300rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 120Nm at 8400rpm
Type: Six speed
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Front steel trestle, rear aluminium alloy casting
Front suspension: Marzocchi 50mm upside-down fork with compression and preload adjustment, 120mm travel
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