TEMPER TEMPER ( Benelli TNT R160 )
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 11:10 am
IT’S HAILED as Benelli’s most powerful naked in the TNT line up, with 155hp promising to erupt from the 1130 triple-cylinder engine. It’s handsome, muscular and most definitely masculine. Seductive curves roll away from the 17 litre tank, pool at the 820mm seat and eventually rise to the sharp, underseat exhaust unit (and optional extra seat cowl). Triple pipes fall from the engine block, dip away from the 17” front wheel and cradle the carbonfibre-splashed underbelly.
The angular headlight housing is flanked by branded shoulders with integrated indicators, but even with such a stylish, fluid design, there’s nothing feminine about the R160. It’s a stallion, not a mare. Or is it?
The females in many species are often accused (usually unjustly) of being temperamental. Apparently, the fairer sex can occasionally be inconsistent, depending on various things like hormone or sugar levels, whether there’s a full moon, or an ‘a’ in the day of the week. But males are allegedly dependable, reliable and strong. I couldn’t help but wonder, just how masculine is this beefy Benelli?
Sure it looks the part, but unfortunately the Italian marque has a reputation for producing beautiful machines that can’t quite go the distance. Chinese whispers are, by their very nature, distorted, and a one-off electrical problem can suddenly become something that infects a whole model range, so it’s wise not to make assumptions. But as I said, I couldn’t help but wonder…
I slide into the contoured saddle that feels like it’s been moulded on my very own behind and I’m instantly comfortable. Although it looks mean and moody with an obvious wink towards a sporty performance, the riding position doesn’t feel unnatural. What’s more, those pinched mirrors that look like petite cats ears actually do their job pretty well.
Sliding through the six speed gearbox is neither silky smooth, nor clunky enough to warrant complaint and the Brembo braking power is aggressive without being violent. The most brilliant motorcycles always add up to more than the sum of their parts. The Benelli’s parts should make a fine calculation.
But as I settle into the afternoon’s ride, with the TNT doing its level best to impress me, something doesn’t feel right.
I lean into a left hander; the road’s surface is hardly billiard table smooth, so I’m not expecting miracles. But the standard suspension set up isn’t exactly inspiring me. The bike feels disjointed. It’s swallowing lumps of imperfect asphalt with such deliberate gulps that it’s unsettling my confidence.
It doesn’t have to be that way though, even a stallion responds well to a master taking control. So I continue on, attacking each corner more deliberately which certainly seems to have a more positive effect on the handling. And if that’s not enough, you can always opt to pull over and start tweaking the fully adjustable suspension.
Just when I feel the ride coming together, I launch the TNT into a sweeping right hand bend and a clattering, grinding noise interrupts my concentration. At first I think I’m touching down, scraping a footpeg or toe slider perhaps, but it doesn’t seem likely. Anyway, it’s quite distinctly a mechanical noise.
And I only hear it on fast rights. when my head is closer to the ground. and nearer the bike’s open, spinning clutch. It’s normally closed, but this bike’s been fashionably adorned with an aftermarket accessory that looks good, and sounds strange.
The engine’s 120Nm of torque and 155hp doesn’t quite punch a Benelli-shaped hole in the horizon, but it is strong enough to execute solid overtakes and stretch a stupid-looking grin across your face. It’s fairly linear and predictable, which always feels controllable, even when it’s impressive and as the revs build, the surge feels quite ballistic. But I had expected less sensibility and more instant, mind-blowing passion from the Italian stallion.
Perhaps the real intensity, the seductive fervour is smouldering somewhere within one of the two separate engine maps, controlled by the little red button on the dash. There’s the diluted rain mode, and the full power setting, which strains on the leash of a more aggressive throttle response. But I really can’t tell you anymore than that because the TNT button doesn’t work on this bike, although the maps are apparently scheduled to be fixed. Likewise with the clutch. It’s rather heavy.
If you’re steaming through switchbacks or just generally mile munching, it’s not an issue, and it’s not really a deal breaker in town traffic, but does give your left forearm a workout in stop start traffic. Again, it’s an idiosyncrasy that will soon be rectified on this model with a clutch that’s reportedly 30 per cent lighter.
I’ve joined the steady flow of traffic on the motorway and I’ve got my head down into the wind. There’s naff all protection on the R160, nor should there be on a truly naked roadster. But although you’d assume this bike is a beautiful but painful implement of torture when the throttle’s glued open, it only gets properly neck-challenging when you’ve tipped way over the legal limit. I feel kind of proud as I roar into the college car park.
It’s not everyday you get to ride to school on something so special as a Benelli TNT R160. I feel compelled to confess that it’s not actually mine. But I don’t. Instead I just park up next to a row of bicycles and as I walk away, the R160 looks massive.
Three hours later, it’s pitch black and I feel like someone’s burst my bubble with a super-sharp needle. Just moments ago, I’d been welcoming admiring glances from my colleagues. I’d even been feeling slightly sorry for them as they’d peddled away into cold dark night. But that was about ten minutes ago. Since then, they’ve all left, one by one, as I’ve stood here struggling to slide the key into the oh-so-fancy but impractically-recessed ignition.
It’s hidden in a narrow valley about as wide as a letter box slot, that someone with child-sized hands and no concept of thick winter gloves has so obviously designed. Finally, after much fumbling (note to future Benelli riders, park under street lights or attach a miner’s lamp to your helmet,) I hit the jackpot. But the Benelli continues to test my patience. I turn the key.
Nothing. Someone grabs the last remaining push bike opposite me, nods sympathetically in my direction and rides away. I try again. And again. It takes three attempts for it to spring to life.
It’s not news to Benelli and it’s something that the revised engine maps will apparently rectify. But for now, it’s annoying. And just a tad embarrassing.
I’m on the last stretch home and I’m about to turn into my street when the engine dies. It’s doesn’t gasp and stagger like some over dramatic cowboy in a fifties western. It just feebly faints on a closed throttle.
It takes two attempts to restart it, but at least the Benelli’s back to life. I park up in our garage and contemplate the day’s ride. Powerful it may be, masculine it may look, but as for the TNT R160’s temperament?
Where this particular bike is concerned, I’m not so sure.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Benelli TNT R160, £11,499
Engine: 1131cc, liquid cooled, 4 stroke in-line triple
Power: 153 [email protected],300 rpm
Torque: 89 [email protected],000 rpm
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