So what would happen if you took a perfectly good enduro bike and put it on an extreme diet? Well, chances are you’d come up with something not dissimilar to the Beta Xtrainer, a slimmed down, pared back and thoroughly well thought out enduro bike. But what you wouldn’t expect is for it to be able to match the performance and poise of the full-size machines and even beat them at their own game. That would be too much to ask wouldn’t it?
Ride Expeditions took to the mud to investigate …
THE TEST BIKE
So as with our test on the Montesa 4Ride, we borrowed a 2016 model that was being regularly used by an experienced trail rider. Beta have updated the XTrainer for 2017 but the changes are relatively minimal and for the purposes of the test, we wanted a bike that had had a thorough shakedown and had the wrinkles ironed out, rather than a box-fresh demo bike that we’d be reticent to give a thorough beasting on the trails.
The bike was largely stock except the carburetion had been tweaked to ensure that the jets and needle height got the best out of the engine. The suspension had had nothing more complicated than the sag settings adjusted for the rider.
Basic stuff but these two aspects of set up are often ignored …
OK on first glance the beta doesn’t look that much different to a normal enduro bike. It’s got a profile not dissimilar to its bigger siblings within the range, so initially it’s hard to say what the USP of this bike might be. But then you start to look at the detail. The machine is altogether slimmer, shorter and more compact than it initially seems, but Beta have done it so well you hardly notice the difference.
The motor is the same unit from the 300 RR enduro machine, but it’s been substantially reworked, retuned and reported to give a far wider and more flexible range than it’s bigger brother. The gearbox is the same six-speed unit though and the carb retains the 36mm Keihin from the enduro version, but when it’s paired with that weird hybrid exhaust that looks like a mix between a four-stroke header and two-stroke expansion chamber, the result is something that is far more than the sum of the parts.
Beta might have originally seen this bike as an entry-level trail or enduro machine with a relatively narrow appeal, but the reality is that the XTrainer is a near perfect combination of engine, frame and running gear that is winning fans from all off road sectors from extreme enduro and long distance trials to backwoods thrashing and trail riding. Honda might have though they were going to re-invent off- road with their 4Ride, but Beta are the ones that might just have achieved it with the XTrainer …
HOW DOES IT ADD UP?
OK so what makes the XTrainer so good? Well the first thing is that the frame is 10% smaller than the enduro version. This might not sound much, and it only translates to 3 cm in the overall seat height, but it’s enough to make the bike vastly more manoeuvrable and manageable out on the trail, whether going fast or slow. Along with the smaller size, Beta have taken away substantial of weight so that the XTrainer comes in at 98.8 kg dry, compared to the stock 300s 104kg. Again it doesn’t seem much, but it feels like they’ve shed 20kg. Weird.
The motor is the 293 cc unit with a square 72mm bore and stroke, which delivers a modest 11.3:1 compression ratio. The bike retains a power valve, unlike KTMs similar Freeride 250 that comes without the technology and is arguably the worse for the omission.
Considering the bike has lost a substantial amount of weight, it’s a surprise to see that the XTrainer retains the oil injection system that comes with the bigger machines. There’s an oil tank under the seat – which removes with a fantastic one button operation – so it’s just fill it up with a maximum of 6.5 litres of the good stuff and forget carting around those little bottles. We’re saying this like it’s new technology but in reality a vast amount of stokers used to have this way back in the day – back to the future Beta! But whatever the vintage of the systems, at the pumps it’s a godsend to just fill and go like a thumper.
Beta are a tad vague as to how many tanks of petrol you’d get through per tank of oil, but owners and previous tests suggest up to six at the top end. Either way, there are two warning lights on the clocks – one to say you are low on oil and one to tell you it’s all gone and you need to stop!
Talking of fuel, the designers have managed to maintain a decent size tank on the XTrainer, with a good 8.5 litres in there before you run dry. OK it’s still around a litre down on the likes of the EXC’s but it’s not too far off to be a pain. Honda please take note for future 4Rides.
The XTrainer does not have a kick-start, which would not necessarily be our choice when you are out on the trails, so starting is on the button only. More on this later. Oddly for a small two-strike, the XTrainer has a radiator fan on the right side to keep the compact motor good and cool. A V-force Reed block handles the induction side of the process, again an industry norm.
The strange front pipe connects through to a stylish FMF end can, so you don’t even need to buy a replacement in the first week of ownership …
The rest of the figures are again not far off the enduro standards – the wheelbase is 1468 mm, ground clearance a respectable 320mm and the footpegs a good 391 mm from the ground.
STREAMLINED AND EFFICIENT?
So as regards the rest of the bike, there is not that much more you need to know. The deltabox frame is a steel perimeter design created especially for this model, with the petrol tank sitting low between the rails over the engine. The airbox is accessed through a quick access side panel on the left side – nice touch Beta.
The 43mm forks are made by Olle – a relative unknown in this market, and run a system that separates the springing and damping functions between the two legs – much as the SFF (Separate Fork Function) units developed by Showa a few years back. The spring is in the right leg and the damping is in the left, which might sound odd if you’ve not come across this before, but once riding it’s soon forgotten – the forks work just fine. There is adjustment for spring pre-load and rebound, but somewhat bizarrely, not compression damping.
At the rear, it’s an Olle unit again and there are the usual adjustments for compression and rebound damping at the top and bottom of the units. Like the forks, although soft, they perform well. The shock attaches to the aluminium swingarm through the usual linkage arrangement. Both ends have just under 27omm of travel, so a little less than a usual enduro machine.
Wheels are the usual round variety with a conventional 21 / 18 combination running soft enduro tyres. The front brake runs a 260mm Galfer rotor grabbed by a Nissin caliper, whereas the rear is a 240mm from with the same suppliers.
Keeping to the practical and required kit as stock, the XTrainer runs a large and well-made plastic baseplate / sump guard and oversize bars in a comfortably upright bend. There are no hand guards as standard but this is being picky – just about everything else you need is there.
The price for al this? A paltry £5995 will but you a spanking new 2017 version. Shop around and you’ll be able to find dealers letting them go for slightly less, but Brexit has added a little to the price on European machines in the UK.
BETTER THAN A KTM??
OK so lets qualify this test. At Ride Expeditions we are massive fans of the KTM EXC250 – in our view it’s pretty close to being the best enduro machine ever made. Clear enough how much we like it?
So for another bike to come anywhere close to that already high bar it has to be pretty damn good right? Yet from the moment you sit on the Beta there’s a distinct feeling that this may be a close contender. Push the electric start button and the engine springs to life instantly with none of the hesitancy and inconsistency that plagues the KTM two-stroke systems on all models prior to the 2017 incarnation.
Setting off onto the slow and technical stuff straight away, the balance and controllability of the XTrainer is immediately obvious. We’d even go to say that it was better at the slow stuff than the Montesa 4Ride that we tested recently. Now this might not be the case for a real trials bunny, but for an enduro / trail rider the dimensions of the XTrainer are so similar to a normal off-roader but without the weight and with a deliciously compliant motor and super smooth hydraulic clutch, that it’s easier to get to terms with than the tiny trials dimensions of the Montesa.
Through the trees, over logs, over collapsed walls the Beta displays mountain goat levels of sure footedness. Even at a virtual standstill the bike would pick up easily, despatch whatever obstacle you had selected and gone on to the next one. The Beta is substantially better than an EXC on this type of terrain – period.
The success is down to the super smooth torque that the motor delivers through that odd pipe. Whatever is in there does the job well and the Beta pipe man deserves a massive pay rise for his efforts.
The fact that Beta initially aimed this at beginners shows that they had underestimated what a gem they had made. Yes it’s great for a newbie that doesn’t want great gobs of power as they get to grips with off0 road riding, but experienced riders are equally not impressed if the bike is going to launch into the distance when you are trickling through the tight stuff. Whatever your speed or competence, the easy power and almost unstallable engine will handle the terrain well.
We like – we like a lot.
TURNING UP THE WICK
So if the XTrainer is so good as the slow stuff, it follows that it’s going to fall down on the faster going. No bike can handle both and come out with the plaudits surely? That pipe’s going to strangle all the life out of the motor like a noose on a condemned man, right?
But it’s evident that no one at Beta was told this. The XTrainer transitions seamlessly from feet-up tomfoolery to flat-out blasting without missing a beat. When the trails open up, a twist of the wrist will have the 300cc two-stroke lighting up the trails like Blackpool seafront. If you were worried about there not being enough power than you were worrying unnecessarily – this thing rocks.
At one point we were following another rider on an EXC250 who was riding at a suitably spirited pace. Sitting close behind on the Beta, we could exactly mirror the KTM every step of the way and had it been a race, could have easily taken the enduro bike on the corners thanks to the XTrainer’s lighter weight and superbly neutral poise. The bike would pick up the front so easily that all slight rises in the trail became wheelie fodder and the bike was genuinely joyful to ride at speed. With the power of a 300 and the weight of a 125 it’s a combination that works superbly.
OK if you were to straight drag race against a full-fat 300 or if you are a hero level enduro rider, the Beta would lose out, but in reality when is this ever a consideration on the trail? When it’s a choice of control over power, we’ll take the control every time.
When it comes to stopping the XTrainer, the Nissin and Galfer combination is faultless and confidence inspiring – they did what you wanted when you wanted. And the same could be said of the electric foot – the bike started on the button every time and made us wonder why we ever thought we’d want a kick-start again. There’s going to be an aftermarket kit available for the bike if you really miss the kicker, but faced with the metronomic efficiency of the button, your money might be better spent elsewhere.
SO WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES
With all this praise for the Beta, there have to be some glitches? Well, to be honest we are scratching around here, but we’ll try
The expansion chamber sits quite wide and further back than a conventional system, so going hot into corners or leaning forward on steep uphill will have your boots touching it. That said the owner had not noticed this at all!
The fuel tank is smaller than the competition, so on a long day away from fuel stations you might want to take a one litre fuel bomb with you to match the other two strokes capacity and range.
And as for the forks – we’d like to see some compression damping adjustment, especially when you start increasing the speed you need that flexilbility.
Being developed from an enduro machine, the XTrainer can come up short on the really tight stuff compared to more trials-dimensioned machines like the KTM Freeride. This is all about the steering angles and turning circle, but the fact that the Beta does everything else so much better and more enjoyably than the Freeride, we can forgive it.
Oh and lets get to the name – we’re not sure whether it should be pronounced ‘Extrainer’ – to rhyme with Tea Strainer, or as Beta USA have titled it – the ‘Cross Trainer’. We prefer the American version, even if it does make it sound like one of those fitness contraptions at the local gym!
The only other downside we can identify is that unless you’ve ridden one of these you will not know how good they are. Consequently residual values and resale may not be as easy as the equivalent KTM, Husky or indeed full size Beta.
Beta’s themselves suffer from greater depreciation than the Austrian equivalents, but that is beginning to change as their racing success and build quality continues to improve with every passing season.
The orange stranglehold is slipping and Beta is in the ascendancy …
The XTrainer scores a good four here thanks to pleasing ergos, a good bar bend, open cockpit and dinky proportions. It’s not trials bike small, just small enough to do what it’s supposed to. The firm seat loses a point after a long ride.
Beta have been beavering away on their bikes to bring their build quality to the level the market expects. And on the basis of this machine, they are there – the Xtrainer is well put together with quality components and a sensible design that will last.
A solid 5 here – the fact that the XTrainer is substantially cheaper than the 300RR but has most of the refinements of the bigger machine, this bike is a total bargain. Trail or competition, the Beta will get the job done.
Another five here. We like the look of ther Betas across the board as they look unique to the brand – you can’t mistake them for anything else. The Xtrainer looks great from any angle and the combination of bare metal and painted components just works.
BETA XTRAINER – THE VERDICT
When you test some bikes, they deliver just about everything you were expecting. Jump on a 2017 Husky TE 300 and you know exactly what it’s going to feel like pretty much before dropping the clutch. And unsurprisingly you are correct – the Austrian Giant is pumping out great enduro bikes across the whole range – you just need to select which one you prefer and pass the coin.
But with the Beta it was different. We didn’t know what to expect and to be honest, we were not expecting to be impressed. It’s not ideal to go into a test with a negative preconception, but hand on heart, we were not expecting to be impressed with the Beta.
So it’s hugely enjoyable when a bike can totally turn that opinion on it’s head. The XTrainer is an unexpectedly brilliant bike. It’s well put together, sensibly laid out but most of all, intensely enjoyable to ride out on the mucky stuff.
The oil injection worked faultlessly and allows riders to set out riding without the usual faff that stroker owners have, just relying on a fill and go approach at the pumps. The power manages to be excellent at both the slow nadgery stuff and the fast flowing trails – it literally does not miss a beat as you transition from one to the other. Even on enduro tyres, the grip and drive on slippery rocks was great – stick on some hybrid trials hoops and this thing would climb the side of a house in second …
You might be getting the impression that we liked the XTrainer by now. You’d be right.
RIDE EXPEDITIONS REVIEW RATING : BETA XTRAINER
The Beta XTrainer is a truly remarkable motorcycle. It manages to be a beginner friendly trail bike, a competent long-distance trial weapon and a perfect training machine for top-end enduro riders. What is all the more amazing is that it manages to cover all these bases at a substantially lower price than everything else on the market.
So will we see the world taken over with XTrainers? In reality – No. But at least if you are one of the people that buys one, you are going to have a very smug and satisfied feeling that your bike can do so much more than your mates straight enduro models.
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