We loved the light and agile feel of the two-stroke 300 RR. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIT PALMER
Beta might be a small company but it's producing some amazing motorcycles. Take the Beta 300 RR two-stroke, for example. In just two years of existence, the bike has already collected a number of first-place trophies on its mantle, such as from the Tennessee Knockout, King of Motos and EnduroCross, and the bike also just placed third overall at the 24 Hours of Glen Helen. In just a year, it's already considered one of the top contenders in its class despite going up against some formidable opponents like the KTM 300 XC-W and Husaberg FE 300. It will also be going head-to-head soon against the new Austrian-built Husqvarna TE 300, which is a cross between the KTM and 'Berg 300s. We've ridden all of these machines and the Beta is without a doubt a player in the two-stroke class in off-road.
Beta made a big splash in 2013 when it introduced its very first 250 and 300cc two-stroke off-roaders. Pretty much anyone who is into off-road riding and two-stroke motorcycles, and who had heard about the 300 RR, wanted one, and Beta pretty much sold all that the small Italian manufacturer could pump out. With that in mind, Beta was quick to release its 2014 two-strokers, like the 300 RR model we had the chance to sample here.
The 2014 300 RR (as well as the 250 RR, which is nearly identical to the 300) hasn't changed a ton over the previous model. The most obvious change is the new red color, which it gets from last year's Factory Edition models. You might notice that the front fender also has a new shape and it is also designed to be stronger and more flexible.
The now-red Beta 300 RR is a lot of bike for a comparatively reasonable price.
Probably the most welcomed change is the larger 2.5-gallon fuel tank. Last year's held just two gallons, which did nothing but make the off-road crowd angry. The tank is also translucent now, making it much easier to monitor fuel levels.
Beta says the frame is new but its dimensions are the same. Gusseting, however, has been reworked to reduce frame stress in key areas.
The Beta is again fitted with Sachs suspension components, front and rear. To improve performance over rocks and square edges, modifications were made to the fork's internal cartridge, as well as valving, and to make damping adjustments and servicing easier, the fork caps have been redesigned.
A new bleed-hole diameter with a tapered adjuster is said to allow for more precise rebound adjustment for the shock, which also gets a stiffer 5.2 kg/mm spring.
The 300's 293.1cc two-stroke motor, which features a 72mm x 72mm bore and stroke configuration and Beta's Progressive Valve (BPV) case-reed-induction system with Moto Tassinari reeds is unchanged for 2014. Though it did get an oil-level plug on the clutch cover. Except for the button on the right handlebar, you'd never know that the Beta has electric starting - that's because the starter motor is hidden inside the engine cases, which is a pretty cool design. In case it or the battery fails, however, there is a kick back up. Transmission is a six-speed, and the clutch is hydraulically operated.
FMF supplies the 300 with its exhaust system. A spark arrestor, however, has been omitted. Of course, the Beta 300 RR is considered a closed-course machine and is not EPA legal.
Fueling is handled by a 36mm PXK Keihin carburetor.
We found out right away that the Beta 300 RR is both a fantastic trail bike and worthy racer. For the casual trail rider, the 300 is super-easy to ride and very forgiving. It's not the fastest 300 we've ever ridden, so it's far from intimidating. Whatever it may lack in top-end speed, however, is made up for on the tight and technical trails, but that’s what this bike is designed for.
The trail rider and off-road racer will both love the 300 for its low-speed prowess over the ugly stuff. Tighter and more technical the trails, the more the Beta excels. The motor has excellent torque and bottom-end power to get you out of almost any seemingly hopeless situation, and it never, ever pops and stalls like most four-strokes. Instead, the Beta just keeps plonking along doing whatever it takes to help you get through a challenging section. And when the trails do open up, the Beta is also ready, willing and able to perform - to a point. Like we said, it's not a screamer on top - it's a bottom-to-mid bike, not a wide-open desert racer.
The Beta 300 RR feels right at home in the woods.
We loved the positive and light feel of the hydraulic clutch. It seems to handle a lot of abuse well and pull is ultra light, so much so that we could still get by with just about an inch of lever left after a fall. Despite having almost zero leverage, we could still easily operate the clutch.
The Beta's six-speed transmission is well mated to the bike's power delivery, and shifts are always clean and precise. Vibration is there but it's not a game changer, and the FMF muffler does a fine job keeping the machine quiet. Unfortunately, large two-stroke pipes are susceptible to damage, the Beta's large pipe is not an exception.
Suspension is soft, way soft. But this works well for the roots, rocks and ruts and when the going gets slow and tough. It's not set up for moto, that's for sure, or high-speed terrain. In general, the Beta's suspension works very well for what it's intended to do - to get you from one end of a special test to the other as comfortably and as straight and quickly as possible.
The bike feels very light and nimble, quite a bit more so than the Beta 450 RR we recently tested. The heavier four-stroke did feel a bit more planted and stable over the rocks than the more agile 300, but we liked the 300's quicker handling better overall. It steers through the trees as good as anything else in its class.
We also liked the 300's powerful brakes and electric starting, which never missed a beat. The tapered aluminum handlebars have a nice fit, but they're missing hand guards. Grips are quite good.
Our test bike came fitted with Michelin Enduro rubber, which seemed to work well on a variety of surfaces.
The headlight appears to be quite powerful, though we never got the chance to ride the bike in the dark to see how well it lit up the trail.
Servicing the air filter is super easy, and all it takes to remove the seat is a push of a button.
Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of time to spend with the 300 RR, but what time we did have was well spent. We found the bike to work as good as any other 300 we’ve ridden lately in extreme conditions, as long as the trails aren’t too open and speeds weren't too high. That’s when the motor and soft springs hold it back a bit. It's definitely a woods bike in every sense of the word, and is certainly capable of rivaling the well-established 300s that came long before it.
There is one area where the Beta clearly wins over its rivals and that is price. At $7999 (the same price as it was last year) the Beta is a good few hundred dollars less than the KTM 300 XC-W and Husaberg TE 300, and we assume the same will be said for the new Husqvarna TE 300. Tack on Beta's Build Your Own Beta Program and you have a machine that's certainly worth checking out.
2014 Beta 300 RR
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, two-stroke, single
BORE x STROKE: 72mm x 72mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 12.0:1
EXHAUST VALVE: BPV System
STARTING SYSTEM: Electric/Kick
IGNITION: Kokusan AC-CDI
INDUCTION SYSTEM: Case induction with Tassinari reeds
FUEL SYSTEM: Keihin PXK 36mm carburetor
CLUTCH: Wet multi-disc
FRAME: Molybdenum steel w/double cradle, split downtube
FRONT SUSPENSION: Sachs 48mm cartridge fork, fully adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION: Sachs single shock, linkage, fully adjustable
FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL: 11.4 in
REAR WHEEL TRAVEL: 11.4 in
FRONT BRAKE: Wave disc, 260mm, w/double-piston floating caliper
REAR BRAKE: Wave disc, 240mm w/single-piston floating caliper
FRONT WHEEL/TIRE: 90/90-21 in. Michelin Enduro
REAR WHEEL/TIRE: 140/80-18 in. Michelin Enduro
WHEELBASE: 58.3 in
SEAT HEIGHT: 36.6 in
GROUND CLEARANCE: 12.5 in
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT: 229 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY: 2.5 gal.