Photos: Drew Ruiz
BETA’s 2017 300 RR 2-stroke could be a solid contender for the ultimate cheater bike. With the number 300 being a scorching topic of discussion in endurance off-road circles, this displacement hits all the top marks that performance enduro riders are looking for in an all around machine. The running joke is that they should call these ‘3-strokes’ because of the feline agility and low-end tractoring capabilities. But is there more to this Beta?
It’s no news that Beta USA crushed it in 2016, both sales and racing. Beta is back in 2017 with both the 300 RR & RR-S (street legal off road). This RR Race Edition is a step up from the the standard bikes with some added shiney anodized pieces, handguards, a quick release front axle pull and the oil-injection system is removed for less weight.
My daily driver is the tried and true Husqvarna FE501s four-stroke. I try to push the limits on endurance distance riding and technical terrain as much as possible. I intermittently jump on any smoker I can get my hands on to compare overall differences. From a ‘01 Suzuki RM125, and plenty of KTM two-strokes over the years, the RR easily ranks right near the top. On the surface difficult to find any significant problem areas with this 300RR. The standard featured specs are impressive to say the least and manages to retain a competitive price point of $8,899. This bike is ready to crush the trails right out of the box. And that’s exactly what we did.
Looks are only skin deep right? The RR looks great from about 50 feet away. Once you get up close and discover the multitude of red tones that make up the bike you’ll wonder if the proper hex code email was ever sent out between design departments. This coming from an ocd creative director, I do appreciate the blasting intensity of the trademark BETA red, but the difference in tone from the frame to the forks forces the question of color design. Not a dealbreaker especially when most of it will be covered in dirt and debris sooner than later.
Before we get to the teeth grinding heart pounding trail goodness it’s always a good idea to get a feel of the comfort level. The double R has a sharp, crisp like race inspired feel from the solid compound seat to the front and rear Sachs suspension. These “stiffer” factory traits often times seem to soften up a bit during the regular break in period. Measuring 36.6 inches in seat height the bike has a lower center of gravity feel and less ground clearance than other bikes. Although it felt very natural in it’s rider compartment and overall balance, in front of the rider between the legs the Beta did feel a bit wide to this rider. Vibration has miraculously been brought down to a minimum compared to the bigger bore 250/300cc models I’ve ridden in the past. It really appears like they got dialed in the engine alignment to dampen the constant rattling which is a major factor in trail endurance fatigue. The counter-balanced four-strokes have had the last laugh for years when it comes to engine vibration. It’s truly an amazing feeling ripping through the trails with minimal motor vibration.
Power is on point. Whether it’s a first or second gear nasty technical hill climb or you’re clicking between third & fourth through bouldery elevation there is plenty of sharp energy to go around. It’s the low-end guts coupled with the smooth linear power ramp that makes you want to take this bike home. The stock six-speed transmission’s gearing range is perfectly balanced for the technical rider. If you enjoy finding yourself in rock gardens and tire deep water crossings you’ll feel comfortable with the immediate power between the gears. Maneuverability is aided by such a long spread of power–in the thick of rocks and obstacles is a shining point for the RR. Throttle control is easy enough for a regularly experienced rider to lift up the front end and place it at a desired location. Something a lot of higher-powered four-strokes would simply get away from you in most cases. The 300 has an amazing ability to lug itself through ultra low rpm climbs and uneven terrain. Riding older two-strokes through the same obstacles would typically result in killing the engine with little or no forgiveness.
The RR’s double cradle frame build provides a what feels like a flexible rigidity that helps get you through the nasty stuff while staying stiff enough to provide stability. Although the BETA’s Sachs front and rear suspension don’t measure up to the KTM’s WP components for this rider, they do provide a planted line of support in high & low speeds. Higher speeds felt stable while the RR stayed planted through the tight trails and off camber bends. Once we got into the more extreme hill grades & looser rock areas, it was more difficult to get above the terrain to a secure balance point. The Beta does not have the planty=ted feel of a heavier four-stroke. A 450 or 500 is more manageable in those areas because you can fall back on the weight of the bike to set your line easier and faster. It really feels like the BETA’s suspension is dialed for the more experienced rider.
It seems as though every couple of years we think they can’t make these bikes any better. Then BETA updates the RR and Race Editions. For true enduro riders this bike is a dream to ride. From the standard bells and whistles to the mountain goat agility, Beta makes a solid case for meeting all the rider needs. It would only take a couple tweaks to the suspension, and some extra protection guards to get an experienced rider on the front lines with the RR. With more time and more riders on the RR and a comparison with the newest KTM, DBT will have more info up soon.
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