2019 Beta 390 RR-S Initial Impressions
For the last couple years I’ve been really leaning towards more dual sport opportunities. I plated my last dirt bike and loved the freedom of connecting trails, some short rides on the pavement and being able to access some riding that I wouldn’t have been able to before. For 2019 I wanted to nail down the best trail weapon that also fared well on the road. Basically, I want what I can’t have- a dirt bike that can handle fast enduro, single track and still keep up on the street. Naturally, my mind went straight to a 500cc offering from KTM and Husqvarna. These are very popular machines that you’ll find virtually everywhere, so they must be good right? Well, they are good but they also fit in a more specific range of riding. At the end of the day, I had a hard time settling on a big bore as their character flaws come out in tight, technical single track. I want a solid bike for everything.
Enter Beta. The more I researched, the more I began to see Beta’s line up really being the sole competition to KTM/Husky in North America. I was really interested in their variety as it seems they’ve built a bike to suit the needs of many. Not only do they offer a 500, but they offer a street legal 430, 390, 350 and 125! The sheer number of options had me take a closer look at the only manufacturer listening to the riders.
The 2019 Beta 390 RR-S on paper is the most capable off road bike available in the US. Not only in terms of the engine package, but what Beta can do with a street legal dirt bike. I’m not sure what the process is for models to pass DOT standards, but it sure seems like the Beta is much more dirt bike than say it’s KTM counterpart. The tires, exhaust and seemingly minimal emissions equipment is much more dirt bike than dual sport.
In order to give the Beta 390 RR-S an honest impression of what it’s capable of, I wanted to thoroughly ride and treat it as a dual sport without making any changes to the bike. That meant keeping the OE tires on, no suspension tinkering and even keeping the mirrors. My thoughts below are after 100 miles of riding rural and country roads with up to 50 mph speed zones along with some general trail and single track type conditions.
Some of the reservations I had of the bike were I think pretty common among potential Beta customers. I’ve never had the opportunity to ride one, so would it feel foreign and uncomfortable? Would the stock tires ride and wear terrible? Is 390cc really enough? I could only base my confidence off of the experience friends have had, previous reviews and of course Beta die hards. My last 3 bikes have been KTM and Husky, all of which had 4CS and Xplor forks. I was never impressed with these and really took the fun out of buying new bikes knowing that the suspension would need immediate attention. Going to the Beta, I maybe had the assumption things wouldn’t really be much different.
If you haven’t been to a Beta dealer, or have really walked around and looked at one of their models closely, you are missing out on a bike that really is held to a high standard. The fit and finish of these bikes make give off an exotic vibe. The attention to detail is apparent as much of the bike is well thought out. Just sitting on the bike feels good.
Firing up the 390 RR-S, they sound like a dirt bike. They immediately feel like a dirt bike and not a dual sport. Most of my concerns began to fade as I was able to put some time on it. It’s a comfortable bike with ergos that hit the mark. I immediately felt at home and wasn’t awkwardly searching for controls with my feet. If you’ve ever had a KTM or Husky, you know what a hard seat feels like. While the Beta is stiff in comparison to a DS seat, it is much more comfortable and tolerable than KTM and Husqvarna’s offering. I don’t feel like I need to replace the seat.
On the road, the bike handles great for a dirt bike. Off road gearing is sufficient for 50 mph all day long and putts right along. I was under the assumption the stock tires would not only handle terrible, but melt away within the first 100 miles. Riding on the road and much of the trails being rocky and having stretches of erosion control like cinder-block I was surprised how well they are doing. Not only have they held up, but they actually work pretty good (albeit conditions have been favorable).
Riding off-road immediately had me grinning ear to ear. I like fast, flowy trails that can really show a bike’s weaknesses. The Beta in stock form was no slouch. While I could get the suspension to bottom from time to time, it wasn’t harsh and I was able to go fast and feel comfortable/in control. This was huge as I haven’t had a stock bike in this category inspire confidence like this. Again, big grin ear to ear.
There’s something about the 390 that hits a sweet spot. It’s almost hard to describe how good the engine is. I’ve always had the mindset that I need a 450-500 to ride how I want to ride on both the road and dirt. I’ve been a fool this whole time as the Beta 390 RR-S is super capable and far superior in a trail setting. I would compare the characteristics to a 300 two stroke, but with the benefits of a modern four stroke engine. Beta also equips these bikes with a map switch to change between settings. There’s a sunny setting and a rainy setting and you can assume which is which.
Switching back and forth from dirt to street meant using the mirrors quite a bit. Beta was nice enough to equip their RR-S lineup with mirrors that fold down. When sitting on the bike before being able to ride it, they seemed huge, bulky and would be annoying to ride with. The problem with mirrors is that there isn’t really a right answer. The small ones like MSR’s fold down mirrors are useless and vibrate so bad you wouldn’t see anything anyway. There are some big aftermarket ones that are popular with the ADV crowd that fold, but again Beta’s offer that. They work well and fold down out of the way. The only downside is the mirror portion when folded covers the Trail Tech Voyager.
There were some things I didn’t like. I’m going to omit things that boil down to personal preference. If riding is what you love to do, then you should expect to set up your bike to your own preferences. There will never be the perfect bike for anyone or any one condition. The goal here is to have something good as a baseline and change things like tires, suspension setting and gearing when necessary. If you don’t like the seat or grips- guess what, that’s preference and I’m not here to talk about things like that.
The kill switch / ignition switch could use some attention. You might as well not even have a kill switch because if you leave the key on, you’ll zap the battery. I’m not sure if there is a reason that is associated with being a DOT approved model but just ignore the kill switch and turn the bike on and off with the key.
No kick start back up. This may just be me being cautious but I’ve always preferred to have it on e start models. Have I ever needed it? No. Does it mess with my head? Yes. Fortunately Beta offers a wealth of parts and aftermarket accessories including a kick start kit.
These turn signals are enormous. Likely an scenario to cover DOT requirements and it’s hard to be too bummed as they weren’t in the way while riding, didn’t fall off and could be looked at as a preference issue.
To be completely honest I haven’t been this excited about a bike in awhile. It is so incredibly fun to ride and so far fills a void of capable dual sport. Durability and attrition as a whole can’t be determined yet. As I rack up the hours I’m going to share changes made, mechanical/service observations, and if I’m a full bore Beta fan yet.