You can be rest assured that the 2012 Beta 520 RS dual sport is more sport than dual. Sure, the 520 RS can be ridden both on and off the road legally, but it's all about the dirt with this bike. You can tell right away with its billet hubs, Brembo disc brakes, 45mm Marzocchi fork and fully adjustable Sachs shock that this bike wasn't meant to be ridden on the pavement, unless, of course, that pavement was taking you to the dirt.

The Beta 520 RR dual sport is a looker. Photography By: Kit Palmer

The Beta 520 RR dual sport is a looker.

For all intents and purposes, the 520 RS is a 520 RR - Beta's full-race off-road bike - with mirrors, turn indicators and a license-plate holder hanging off the rear fender. The RS is powered by essentially the same 497cc, DOHC, four-valve, four-stroke motor that powers the RR, which is carried in the same molybdenum steel, split double-cradle frame as the RR.

The Sachs shock and Marzocchi forks are also identical to the previous '11 RR's, but the fork has been revalved slightly to provide a bit more cush in the initial part of the travel.

Our first ride on the new 520 RR simply left us wanting more - not necessarily more power, or anything like that, but more time to play with it. That's because the 520 RS is quite fun to ride. Even though it's a rather large dirt bike, it just doesn't feel that way when you're on it. At a claimed 249 pounds dry, but adding roughly 12 more pounds worth of fuel from the 2.1-gallon gas tank, the Beta is hauling around well over 260 pounds in weight, probably closer to 270 in reality, but it feels much lighter than that. For a rather big bike, the Beta is remarkably agile and eager to respond to your every input. We spent a good part of our first ride on the Beta on some pretty tight and technical trails, and we were impressed by how well it performed. It just didn't feel like a big ol' 520. A somewhat narrow profile, firm seat and an extremely flat platform made moving around on the bike and putting it where you want a breeze.

You wont have to worry about the hard ways on the Beta. Photography By: Kit Palmer

You won't have to worry about the "hard ways" on the Beta.

A light pull and smooth-working clutch helped out as well, as did the torquey motor. However, lower gearing would've made things even better. The stock 14T front and 45T rear gearing was more suited for the open roads.

We also noticed the Beta's spacious 12.6 inches of ground clearance, which we came to appreciate in one extremely rocky section.

The Beta's motor is impressive. It makes great power off the bottom and pulls quite well until it's time to change gears. And there is little vibration. But even with its tall gearing, the motor can easily pull you from one turn to the next quite well and do so without having to shift all that much, despite being a six-speed. Still, lower gearing will no doubt give the Beta a bit more snap when you first crack the throttle.

In the tight stuff, we certainly gave the Beta ample opportunities to stall or flame out, and it resisted quite well. But the dreaded pop-and-die would happen occasionally. Unfortunately, our test bike didn't start easily. The electric starter turned the motor over slowly and would usually take a few tries on the starter button. It had all the signs of a weak battery but it would never charge back up, no matter how long we rode it. The folks at Beta later replaced the battery with a new one and said all was good, so for now, we'll just chalk it up to a bad battery. We'll see how it goes when we put more time on the bike with the new battery.

The 520 is remarkably agile for a big-bore thumper. Photography By: Kit Palmer

The 520 is remarkably agile for a big-bore thumper.

Luckily, the Beta is fitted with a back-up kickstarter, though the bike is not easy to kick over, and you really won't want to rely on it.

The Beta is one of the few European big-bore off-road bikes that is still carbureted, using a 39mm FCR Keihin, which actually works quite well, instead of EFI. We noticed no real issues with fueling, but from our experience with the 2012 350 RR, you will if you there are any significant elevation changes planned on your ride.

The Beta's suspension is quite good, in fact, it's outstanding for a dual sport bike. You can push the bike quite hard and hammer the whoops with remarkable confidence. You'll quickly forget you're on board a street-legal machine when the trail gets rough.

The Beta has many other nice features. We were quite impressed with the Beta's Nissin brakes, comfortable handlebars, spacious ergos, well-placed footpegs, and Metzeler 6-Days DOT knobby tires, that performed quite well on a variety of surfaces.

Our first ride on the bike didn't end when the sun went down, either. We put some time in the dark on the bike and managed to get by just fine with the Beta's fairly brightly illuminant headlight. We didn't get a chance to see how long a tank would get us, but that will come soon. But the 2.1-gallon should provide a decent range. We did get a 45-mile ride in and there seemed to be plenty of fuel left, though it was hard to tell with the solid, black plastic gas tank.

No fuel-injection yet for the Beta off-roaders. Photography By: Kit Palmer

No fuel-injection yet for the Beta off-roaders.

Again, we enjoyed our first day on the 2012 Beta 520 RS and are looking forward to many more, which will include a comparison with the Beta, and the KTM EXC 500 and Husqvarna TE 511 dual sporters.

Specifications:

2012 Beta 520 RS dual sport


ENGINE TYPE:    4-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single
BORE x STROKE:    100x63.4mm
DISPLACEMENT:    497.4cc
COMPRESSION RATIO:12.1:1
IGNITION:    DC-CDI w/variable ignition timing, Kokusan
LUBRICATION:    Twin oil pumps w/cartridge oil filter, separate oil for engine and clutch
FUELING:    Keihin FCR 39mm
CLUTCH:    Wet, multi-disc
TRANSMISSION:    6-speed
FRAME:    Molybdenum steel w/split double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION:    45mm Marzocchi, fully adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION:    Sach, single-shock, fully adjustable
WHEEL TRAVEL:    11.4 in. front and rear
FRONT BRAKE:    260mm floating disc, Nissin
REAR BRAKE:    240mm disc, Nissin
FUEL CAPACITY:    2.1 gal.
WHEELBASE:    58.1 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE:    12.6 in.
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT:    249 lbs.
WARRANTY:    6 month limited warranty
MSRP:    $9399

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.

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