2016 Beta 300RR Full Review
by Dirt Bike Test
- An alternative to KTM and Husqvarna two-strokes.
The world needs alternatives. For everything including dirt bikes. If there has ever been dominance in off-road motorcycles KTM is the current go to. They’ve earned it. It shows in the motorcycles out on the trails and bikes winning races. It is easy to suggest a rider won’t go wrong buying a KTM. But not everyone wants to be Orange, even KTM knows this. What do you think the Husqvarna rebirth is? But maybe even those bikes are not different enough for some. Or maybe there are traits and characteristics that are not being served by KTM. Enter the need for Beta. It is going head-to-head with the Austrian juggernaut building dirt bikes that can compete at any level and making no excuses in doing it.
- Computer controlled oil injection.
- Frame changes to the shock mounting.
- Upgrades to the front fork.
Since 2013 Beta has been producing the two-stroke RR in 250cc and 300cc displacements. For 2016 the big news is the addition of computer controlled electronic oil injection. No more mixing the gas on your Beta two-stroke, you just pour oil into an airbox mounted tank and forget about it for about three tanks of gas. Additionally the ECU has been remapped for what Beta claims is an increase in top end power. The frame has a stronger top shock mount to improve strength while also altering the feel of the chassis. Water draining out of the air filter box has been improved and new air box cover fasteners that provide a more secure attachment. The Sachs front fork has been modified with an increased size cartridge bleed hole to allow better oil flow during bottoming with a longer spring guide to provide smoother action and a more durable top-out spring. They are now gold anodized as well. The odometer instrumentation is updated and integrates the lights indicating low oil level and separate oil injection system diagnostics. The grips have the Beta logo embossed in them now.
- Excellent power all around.
- Acts like a 250cc when you want it to and a 300cc when it needs to.
- Oil Injection is spot on and has some real advantages.
- Check the carb’s float level and the oil seal around the powervalve cover.
The dilemma of a 300cc two-stroke is that they tend to be characterized as torquers and not revvers. For many this is just fine. But as four-strokes get lighter and rev a million, this makes the two-stroke powerband feel short in comparison. Thank the four-stroke for getting companies that are improving their two-stroke to stretch out the power spread. Beta has done that with this 300. It has a long-winded powerband that starts at diesel level RPM without much flywheel feel but a lot of torque. Then the RR pulls in a very progressively building spread to a very decent top end surge that is impressive. It works very much like the 250cc KTMs with 300cc cylinders put atop them. It is lively on the bottom, more like a 250 and not a sleepy 300 in throttle response but there is torque like no 250cc bike will have. The RR resists stalling and will rev-up with just roll-on of the throttle in a very controllable way that is still very exciting. The mid-range is eye-opening and the top end a scream. This is a very good engine.
The powervalve is adjustable with an Allen wrench and that tuning can really change the character of the delivery if you’d like. We moved ours about a turn in either direction from stock to either liven up the hit or mellow it. It makes the kind of changes switching exhaust systems does but so much easier.
The electric start is much quicker spinning than we remember from our last two-stroke Beta and the bike fires quickly. The jetting on our bike was pretty crisp at all elevations but we dropped the needle one clip position and the bike really came to life. And while we were at it we lowered the float level in the carb since there was a lot dripping out the overflows. With this our fuel mileage went up considerably and we went from squeaking out 35-miles on a tank to getting more near 60-miles. Our bike also needed a little sealant put around the powervalve cover to prevent transmission fluid from getting forced out as the seal here is very hard.
The hydraulic clutch is excellent and had great feel and really takes a lot of abuse. One thing we have learned is that the Beta’s like fresh transmission fluid and shifting will suffer if you neglect the changes. Otherwise the shifting is very average through the semi-wide-ratio six-speed transmission. Gearing wise some of the gaps can seem long and we did have riders who felt adding a tooth to the rear sprocket would be a better fit for them. Top speed standard is right at 95 MPH and is gearing limited yet first gear will get you through an extreme enduro if needed.
The oil injection was really interesting and welcomed after our time with it. The system is obviously sensitive and knows just how much to throw at the motor. We’d say it would vary between 30:1 and 100:1 depending on the riding. While trying to ring the guts out of the motor on a Baja-fast desert loop we used roughly four ounces (or 100ml) per gallon of gas. Then in first-third gear mountain riding that same four ounces lasted for a full tank if not a little more. There is a low oil light to tell you to check the tank’s level which is difficult to see without removing the air filter to view. But the best part of the oil injection was revealed when you are lugging the bike in slow and low RPM sections for a long time. Then when you get out to someplace where you open up the throttle, the bike does not sputter or have to clean out, it goes right to ripping. And a lot less smoke too! The light on the odometer comes on when the level gets low and also if there is a failure. It came on with about a full gas tanks worth of oil left in the oil tank at average pace riding.
We can’t tell you how the kick-starter worked because we never used it. But it is there if you need it.
- The Sachs suspension is making forward progress.
- The clickers work and make a difference.
- We did not experience any shock fade as in the past.
Beta is fighting an uphill battle from many critics because of the perception about the suspension supplier. Sachs isn’t a household name nor is it the latest and greatest–but they are constantly improving both quality and technology of the forks and shock. Tested as a single-track trail riding or racing bike we found the suspension to be right on for most of our average sized and weighted riders and actually had two riders comment that the front forks were the best off-road forks they had ridden in faster desert conditions.
If we were to place the Beta’s target on the suspension it would sit between a KTM XC-W and XC. The setup isn’t going to cut it on a motocross track and jumping with hard landings isn’t the specialty of the RR. But for tracking along in rough, rocky or choppy ground it is very good and the faster the rider the better it seemed to work. The initial compliance isn’t a strong point but the softer side-walled tires (Michelin) do a lot of the work here. Put a stiff tire on the bike and be prepared to play with the suspension. Then having the balance of the bike correct (100mm rider sag) goes a long way in getting the fork to move in the beginning of the stroke. A low rear end on this bike makes the fork harsh and the shock pack into the mid-stroke getting harsh. Complaints voiced from other media outlets suggest they did not adjust the ride height of the bike before complaining nor did they take the time to get the settings proper.
Our bike was what we’d call aggressively plush letting the riders feel the ground but never beating them up. A few clicks on either compression or rebound can go a long ways and it seems the clicks accomplish a lot more than in the past with the Beta. Additionally where older bikes could suffer from shock fade we did not experience that on the 2016.
Chassis – Handling
- A stiff chassis that acts light and stable.
- The rider has a lot of leverage on the bike.
The RR has a unique and potent handling character. For a bike that weighs more than some 450cc four-strokes on the scale (251, full tank) it has a very light feel on its wheels. This light feel continues through the bars in turning and maneuvering. The RR also acts long and stable. It is very narrow where it needs to be and the seat height measures out about an inch lower than a comparably set up KTM. The handlebars feel a little taller and the footpegs feel a little lower and farther back, maybe just a bit wider at the footpegs than a KTM. So you have a bike that you have more leverage over–so even if it is heavier the effort to move it around is less. Until you put it on the stand, then you feel it.
The other good feature is when combined with the great power and lack of weight the two-stroke adds to the feel when spun up, the Beta really inspires the rider with a light and lively feel that never gets unstable. It has a very precise steering character as if the rake is kicked in quite a bit yet suffers none of the bad traits that come along with steep steering. It is a bike that craves very slow and technical riding yet isn’t scared of going flat-out across the desert. In the air some of the weight feeling comes back but this isn’t a jumping bike. Again, there is something with the position of the footpegs and bars that really liven up the bike’s feel, having a similarly perky power deliver on a 300 compliments this. Plus with a stiffer chassis it doesn’t flex and feel wallowly or unprecise. You can get the 300RR to do things with the throttle and clutch in tandem with the handling character that seem muted or delayed in comparison to some other bikes.
It is very easy to move around on the bike and nothing bothers the rider. The shift lever and brake pedal seem positioned for someone with size 12 or 13 feet and some mentioned that the shifter could have a slightly longer tip on it. The seat isn’t too bad for sit-down riders and makes it easy to get forward on the bike in turns.
- Great at either end of the speed spectrum, extreme enduro or desert racing.
- Easy to work on.
- Very enthusiastic brand loyalty and owners groups.
Here are some other things about the Beta. It basically has Honda’s Nissan brakes, identical to the CRF450X. But they seem to work better and really have a great feel and power to go along with it. Working on the bike is simple with a tool-less access to removing the air filter and a push-button removal for the seat. The basic simplicity of a two-stroke is obvious and the powervalve isn’t overly complex. You can get at the carb without removing the tank but you have to remove the countershaft sprocket guard. The bike has lights that will get you in after dark and it is wisely outfitted with a plastic skidplate. The FMF muffler is not a spark arrestor, though it is quiet and the bike is sold as a closed course competition bike. Handguards would be nice but everyone has their favorite brand anyways. The tires wear quickly at first (especially the rear) and are pretty sensitive to certain types of hardpack with a soft top layer. But they are helpful to the feel of the suspension with a softer than average sidewall.
Let’s be clear about this bike; It isn’t a KTM. It isn’t a Honda, or a Yamaha or anything else. It is a Beta and that has to be regarded as a good thing. We have had very good experiences with the durability of the bikes and parts supply seems to be on point. Dealers seem to be very enthused about the brand and that really helps. There are strong user groups that are supportive and very brand loyal. A lot of the same traits KTM shared in the earlier days when Orange was an awkward color on a motorcycle. This Beta has a little more character than its 300cc competition and that is a good thing. We would not hesitate to recommend this bike to anyone looking for a 300cc two-stroke for single-track riding and racing. And the more you like to do extreme enduro or go really fast in the desert, two very different things, of course, this bike is a winner.
Written by Dirt Bike Test