Fun, light, and spunky, 200s were once the rave. The Beta 200 RR keeps the wave alive.
Photography by Kit Palmer
I don’t think I’ve ever met a 175/200cc two-stroke that I didn’t like. Even back in the day, I still have fond memories of Suzuki’s PE175, Yamaha’s IT200, and of course, Kawasaki’s beloved KDX200. And they didn’t have to be two-strokes, either. In its own playful way, even Honda’s anemic XR200R was a blast to ride. However, KTM put all previous 200s to shame when it introduced its first 200 off-roader in 1997, the limited-edition Jackpiner 200. It paved the way for the many wonderful KTM 200 variants to come down the road over the next 19 years. For whatever reason, KTM stopped producing a 200 after the 2016 model year in favor of a 150. Luckily for us, Beta realized there was a need for a 200cc two-stroke in the U.S. and eventually picked up where KTM left off. The Beta 200 RR first saw the light of day in 2019.
2021 Beta 200 RR Review | Partially Cloned
The 200 RR is based on the Italian company’s existing 125 RR platform. The frame comes straight off the 125, as does the motor but with some important differences. Simply boring out the cylinder is no good, so the 200 got a completely new top-end. Bore and stroke changed from 54 x 54.5mm to 62 x 63mm for an actual displacement of 190.2cc. However, much of the 200’s bottom end is the same as the 125’s. The 200 also gets oil injection and electric starting. The 125 has neither. A back-up kick-starter is available for the 200 as an option for approximately $400.
2021 Beta 200 RR Review | More Beta
Today, Beta offers two versions of the 200, the RR and Racing. The 200 Racing is—well—a little more tuned for, yes, racing. The two are still very similar motorcycles, however. The main difference between the two is the Racing’s higher-end KYB, versus the RR’s Sachs, fork. The Racing also gets a few more protective parts, doodads, and prettier trim, and since hardcore racers tend to want light weight, the Racing model ditches the RR’s oil-injection system in favor of premix. You’ll also pay $500 more for the Racing model.
Beta describes the RR, the model we’re reviewing here, being designed for the “casual” off-road rider who also wants something more than just a play bike, something he/she can also race and be competitive on.
As mentioned, the RR is fitted with a Sachs fork. It’s a 48mm open-cartridge-style fork that is fully adjustable. Compression and rebound damping and spring preload can all be adjusted from the top of the fork tube; no tools required. A single fully adjustable Sachs shock and linkage handle suspension duties in the back. (In case you were wondering, the Racing model is fitted with the same shock as the RR.)
A somewhat unique feature of the 200 is its electronic oil-injection system. Most two-strokes mix fuel with oil manually (that’s you) for engine lubrication. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages, but oil injection wins hands down when it comes to simplicity. Since Beta’s oil-injection system is electronically controlled, it regulates mixture better than a Ratio Rite. A low-oil light is installed to help prevent a sudden loss of horsepower if you forget to check the oil tank, which holds a generous 650cc of Texas tea that seems to last forever. And if the light does happen to go on in the middle of a ride, don’t panic. Beta says you have at least a full tank of gas to go before you should start to sweat.
The 200 is fueled via a 36mm Keihin PWK carburetor, which feeds the top-end through a V-Force reed induction system. On the departure end, you’ll find a mechanical exhaust powervalve that is adjustable using a 5mm allen wrench, though Beta offers a $25 accessory knob that allows you to make adjustments by hand. Dial it out for a harder hit, dial it in for a softer hit. An Arrow muffler (non-spark arrestor) is attached to the nickel-plated exhaust pipe.
A six-speed wide-ratio transmission and an O-ring chain transfer power to the rear wheel and the hydraulically operated clutch is matched to a Brembo master cylinder.
Brakes are Nissin with a 260mm disc up front and a 240mm disc in the back.
Beta made your life a little easier while living with the 200 RR. No tools are required to remove the seat or access the 200’s TwinAir filter, and it designed the subframe so you can remove the shock through a slot on the right-hand side, so you don’t also have to remove the subframe itself.
The aluminum handlebars are six-way adjustable, and there is a digital meter that reveals speed, average speed, maximum speed, total miles, trip meter, hour meter and battery voltage, and that’s where the low-injector-oil light hangs out.
After a significant update for 2020, the ’21 200 RR sees subtle but welcomed changes, such as slimmer bodywork and a slightly higher-capacity 2.55-gallon fuel tank. The frame has been stiffened up a bit via extra gussets around the steering head area, and the subframe has been beefed up, as well. Beta says the seat base is stronger, and the electrical system is more reliable now. And coloring is back to Beta red.
2021 Beta 200 RR Review | Brraaaap!
Many things stand out when you throw a leg over the Beta 200 RR for the first time; it’s difficult to pick just one to start out with. But at the top of the list has to be weight. The 200 feels ridiculously light—125cc light! Beta says the 200 weighs 213 pounds without fuel, the 125 RR is 207 pounds, also without fuel. You can attribute the added six pounds to the 200’s electric starting and oil-injection, which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing, really. You would think it would be a lot more. But on the trail, it doesn’t really matter because it’s all about feel, and the 200 does, indeed, feel 125-light and extremely agile and maneuverable.
But what tells you that you’re not on a 125 is the motor. Compared to a typical 125 two-stroke, the 200 has far more torque and more all-around power, and the 200 RR is just plain fast—really fast. It has tons of top-end. And, from top to bottom, it’s all usable, too.
Indeed, the 200 is not a hard bike to ride thanks to its relatively broad powerband and impressive torque; you don’t have to clutch it like you do a 125. It can chug just fine up a rocky and technical climb and it rarely threatens to stall. Throw in an extremely light-pull clutch that offers a good feel and seems to dish out abuse well, and you have a bike that gives you the confidence to tackle “extreme” trails that you might not otherwise attempt on more powerful and heavier dirt bikes. The 200 makes you think you can conquer anything, and you pretty much can.
The 200 has two power modes controlled by a switch attached to the frame by the steering head that alters the ignition curve, even on the fly. The two positions are depicted by a sun (for optimal conditions) and a raining cloud (for wet conditions), and you can quickly feel the difference between the two, and both are indeed useful in many situations. In sun mode, things get exciting. The engine spools up quickly and revs to the moon, making the bike feel like a 125 on steroids. Rain mode is excellent when you want to chill a little bit and don’t want that two-stroke head-jerk every time you crack the throttle while at slow/cruising speeds. It definitely calms that down a bit and makes the bike feel less hyper overall while still getting the job at hand done. It still feels plenty fast in rain mode but far tamer and less revvy on top.
Fueling is excellent; jetting seemed spot on. There are no glitches, bogs or hiccups at any rpm that we could detect, and we didn’t experience any detonation. And the oil injection system, which continually adjusts to engine rpm, is seemingly flawless. The bike rarely emits any noticeable “two-smoke” from the exhaust. Our test bikes showed no signs of oil drool whatsoever from the tip of the muffler.
The 200 handles solidly and turns well; it’s the perfect bike for tight and twisty trails, twistier the better. It’s a quick-handling machine that is still very stable at speed over rough, flat ground. Suspension is good, but the fork is not as supple over the smaller chop and square edges as we’d have liked, but right out of the crate, it’s acceptable. Beta says the fork needs at least four hours of good break-in time, and we were near that point when we handed the bike back to Beta, and the fork was indeed feeling better at that point. Sachs makes good equipment, that we know, so we feel reasonably sure this fork has plenty of potential.
Braking is excellent. Both front and rear discs have good feel, but they don’t have to work exceptionally hard to slow this lightweight of a motorcycle down.
Our Beta came fitted with Michelin Enduro tires with short Euro-spec knobs and, while providing adequate traction on hard terrain, their stiff sidewalls translates into a harsh ride over rocks.
We didn’t like a few other things, such as the left switchgear on the handlebar that includes a non-functioning turn-indicator switch. Handguards are missing, as is a front-brake-disc guard, and the fat exhaust pipe is susceptible to damage (which isn’t anything new with two-strokes, though). There is, however, a plastic skid plate.
On the other hand, there are many smaller things we like about the 200, such as the grab slots on the subframe for easy lifting, full lighting, the option of removing the headlight and the meter with a solid number plate, which comes with the bike. A tool kit is also included. And Beta offers more than 300 accessory options for the 200.
2021 Beta 200 RR Review | Fun For Thought
Overall, off-roading doesn’t get much more fun than this. The Beta 200 RR is an outstanding motorcycle that should please a wide range of off-road enthusiasts, from the young rider who rides with the throttle pinned all the time to the older rider who wants a lightweight, good-handling, and fast trail bike that has enough torque to plow through anything in its way, even if it’s between green and checkered flags. CN
2021 Beta 200 RR at a Glance
New For 2021
- Updated frame with extra gussets around steering-head area
- Slim bodywork, larger fuel tank, sleeker design overall
- Revised Sachs 48mm open-cartridge fork
- Sachs shock with new valving and overall longer in length to work with the new chassis
- Updated (more durable) electrical systems
- Stronger subframe
- Stronger seat base
2021 Beta 200 RR Specifications
||Engine: Two-stroke, single-cylinder
|Bore & stroke:
||62 x 63mm
||Beta Progressive Valve (BPV)
||Electronic Oil Injection
||36mm Keihin PWK carburetor
||Wet, multi-disc, hydraulic
||Electric w/ optional back-up kick
||Molybdenum steel/double cradle w/ quick air filter access
||Sachs, 48mm USD fork, fully adj.
||Sachs, single shock, fully adj.
|Weight (dry, claimed):