2021 Beta 300RR
The Red Monster
- Constant, consistent changes for a better Beta.
- Same amazing stability without sacrificing agility.
- Power monster two-stoke.
- Oil-injection, and has a carb.
- Little bit of vibration, even counterbalanced.
- It has a carb.
- Suspension is soft for racing.
- Carbureted, 300cc two-stroke off-road bike.
Beta is a conservitive company. They began their journey with Bicycles in 1905 and have managed to stay alive while so many others have come and gone. Just building motorcycles that perform at the highest level is a task in itself. It is rare you see revolutionary new innovations on a Beta. Take this 300RR for example. It is pretty standard, just one step from the 2020 model, and quite similar to what has worked for that foreseeable past.
- Frame strengthening.
- Durability tweaks.
- Suspension updates.
For 2021, the big change is to the frame’s headtube, specifically its gusseting for strength. The sub-frame was beefed up along with the air box and side cover to keep them in place. Since the counter-balancer inside the engine was new in 2020, no additional changes have been made aside from increasing the output of the electrical system for better charging. The odometer unit was updated for durability and functionality. Of course, the Sachs ZF front fork and rear shock received updates for claimed better traction and plushness.
- 300cc two-stroke power and counterbalanced.
- Oil-Injection for the simplicity.
- Carbureted for the rest of you.
All about it. Yep. Plenty. What more do you need. It’s a 300cc two-stroke so you are getting 150cc more bang than even that 450cc four-stroke if you know what we mean. Trust us, that line just went above most of your other editorial source’s comprehension of engines and your average influencer’s head just exploded. Like their understanding of dirt bikes in general. We just 300cc roosted the shit out of you, that makes sense. The Beta marketing slogan from design to practice is all about “Rideability.” The power level that two-strokes now have is smoothed out and the engine’s ability to produce exciting yet controllable power is getting crazy.
Being carbureted and sticking to it may be the best thing going for the Italian made engine. It hasn’t changed much in configuration (counterbalancer added in 2020, kickstarter left out in 2018). The jetting as delivered was just a little on the rich side, which was great for break-in, but then we leaned it out a clip position on the needle and down a size on the pilot jet for our 2000-6000 ft. elevation. This worked until the temperatures got colder, then we returned back to stock. Our bike came equipped with an FMF Powercore 2 Spark Arrestor.
The bike fires right up and the starter spins quick which is great for races with dead-engine starts. The throttle response is crisp and very 1:1, meaning connected and familiar to your wrist. Usable power starts at a pretty low RPM, but not as low as the new fuel-injected bikes. Though the 300RR revs out plenty and better than before, it also seems about 500 RPM down on spread here in comparison to FI. However, we’d bet the peak power is better on the Beta than any other off-road 300cc two-stroke. Torque too. Not that you ever need that much power, but we know how bragging rights are earned and used. This bike has a Brick Shithouse character that has all of the presence you’d expect and can back it up if challenged.
Adjusting the powervalve did not give the same results as it has in the past with Beta 300s. It felt as if the spring’s rate is not as affected by the preload adjuster as in the past. But it does change the feel and we found stock to be the best all-around power delivery at roughly 1.5-2 turns in from fully unscrewed (there is a stop). Fine tuning was noticed by higher level riders but for most it took almost 3/4 -turn to give a noticeable change, if much at all. You can add a little hit or take some away as desired.
Where the “carb feel” comes in is that the bike has just the right amount of snap whenever you turn the throttle, a positive for most riders. And it does not feel lean at any time, especially in trailing throttle. The fuel efficiency compared to FI is a little off (less MPG), but we have found the overflow from the carb plays heavily in this. We were getting roughly 55 miles out of a tank and the reserve would go on at 40-45. Oh yeah, not having to mix the gas is wonderful. The bike seemed like it was mixed at 80:1 in the trails and 40:1 when on the pipe, which for us was clean burning and safe for the top end. It seemed like it was adding slightly more oil than when we first tested an oil-injected Beta, which for riders hard on the bike is a good thing, and for the rest, it will hardly be noticed. We were getting about 220 miles, or roughly 8-gallons of gas, per 500cc fill up of the oil tank.
Beta has a nice two-position ignition map switch mounted near the gas cap indicating normal (or sunny) with a blue LED and soft (less aggressive, rainy) with a white LED. It makes a difference and different riders gravitate towards the different modes. Some felt the rain map acted like traction control while others preferred the less aggressive map as it gave the bike better hit a little later in the power delivery. Test it to see which you like better is all we can recommend. After all, it is just a button push away. Yet, the position of the button can be an issue with larger aftermarket gas tanks.
The gear box is a six-speed semi-wide ratio transmission, meaning smaller gaps than a traditional wide-ratio transmission. It has some space but there are no holes in spacing. First is on the lower side and sixth is a little short, but a final-drive gearing change could easily shift the gearing to get more top speed if you seek 100MPH. Shifting is average but gets better with time. Beta’s have always craved fresh transmission fluid so if shifting or clutch action isn’t great, change the oil. Our bike leaked trans fluid from the powervalve cover in the beginning of our test (it slowed after cover inspection and removal of the security bolt holding it on!) and it could use some silicone at the mating surfaces to the clutch side cover.
- Sachs finally found plushness in the forks.
- Clickers work.
- Setup for aggressive trail but will take race pace.
Sachs finally found the plushness comparable to other brands. That was the first thing we noticed in the 43mm open cartridge ZF fork on the 300RR. We typically need to put 20-hours on them to even begin to move freely, and in the past it took a lot of setup to get the right feel. So big improvement right there. Strangely, our bike came with way too little oil in both fork legs and bottomed much too easy. Unlike most esteemed reviewers who’d have said, “the fork’s shit” and continued, we knew something was wrong and investigated. Oil level was at 165mm so we learned the proper range (125mm-100mm) and set it at 100 since a fair amount of our testers were heavier and prefer a little extra bottoming resistance. The forks are now fine and we’d recommend 110mm (125 is supposed to be standard) for most riders. They still bottom easier and harder than other forks, and more than the shock, but much improved on everything else. The shock’s physical size, especially the reservoir size is a little smaller and tends to get really hot. But we did not experience any fade during our testing, which we are on the lookout for since this had been an issue in year’s past.
The shock has a balanced and matching feel to the fork which is what we’d call an aggressive trail riding or moderate racing setting. The suspension has just enough movement so that it isn’t stiff, yet the bike resists getting a wallowly feel. The spring rates are spot on for the 170-200 lb. rider and the Sachs components use the damping to do a lot of the work. So adjustments do make a difference, especially on the rebound side both front and rear.
Trail Riding Settings:
Shock: 8-Compression, 8-High speed Compression, 12-Rebound, Sag - 105mm
Shock: 5-Compression, 8-High speed Compression, 12-Rebound, Sag - 105mm-108mm
Fork: 8-Compression, 6-8-Rebound
This is where the Beta starts to get harsh beyond these settings and the fork really affects the way the shock feels. Also note that the rebound has an effect on compression damping on the fork, almost as much as the compression adjustment alone does in the range we used it. For every two clicks of compression we went out, we also took a click of rebound away till the fork started to feel springy. If you let it get low in the stroke, it also becomes stiffer and harsher.
Chassis - Handling
- Do-it-all handling character.
- Don’t weigh it!
- Italian styling and a fair amount of function.
The Beta has been on a diet according to our scale and it shows up there but not anywhere else. That is because these bikes, the 300RR in particular, have always ridden lighter than the scale weight. At 246 lb. full of fuel, this isn’t light, but the only time you feel the weight is when putting the bike on the stand or when something starts going really wrong while riding. At times it can be slightly more difficult to bring back than lighter bikes. So what we are saying is to get over the scale number. In fact, it just plain looks light, so don’t put it on the scale. We had to.
The real characteristics of handling are the way the Beta turns and how stable it is. We’d call the bike very neutral in handling as it does not favor any “style” of handling. It has great front-end turning but will slide as needed. It acts long and stable in the desert and short and compact in the trees. You ride atop the newer Beta as it has a flatter seat and the tank is very low. It feels roomy to most and for those with larger feet, it seems the shifter and brake pedal are placed for size 13 feet. So in a way, the Beta is a great all-around bike in this department. Brakes are strong and a little bit on the aggressive side, or actually they ramp up in a more progressive action than most others, yet it is easy to get accustomed to. Michelin tires have a decent grip and have a sidewall that helps absorb the bumps which help the suspension there, so use caution with stiffer and also heavier tires. The unsprung weight on the 300RR is part of its lighter than scale handling secret. Tire wear is quick at first and they’ll be shot at 300 miles.
We can praise and complain at the Beta in design. The ease of getting to the air filter without tools, and especially under the seat with the push of a button, is great. Yet the black cover over the gas tank makes it difficult to see the fuel level rising in the tank during fill-up. Plastic in the past has been a little more brittle when it is cold out and some of the pieces are just a small bit thinner than normal. But the new color stands out. The switchgear is almost street-legal level (it has a horn!) but most off-road guys want less. We were surprised by the headlight actually being usable. No where near a high-output aftermarket LED, but at least rideable at night. Likewise, the odometer gauge with dual trips was great for keeping track of the oil injection level with trip 2 to plan before the tiny little light turned on.
We have had great durability with Betas in the past. Racing them in 24-hour events with no failures and impressed with 300+ hour teardowns on a 300 a few years back. Some of the weight is in fact helping this bike out here. Things like a robust electric starter may weigh more but they also last longer. Cases are a little thicker, some gears are a little heavier. This is a balancing act and most would argue that it is worth the weight if you need the longevity. However, there are some things that have been weak points in the past and Beta is doing something about them. Take the sub-frame for instance. It is and so far acts stronger. Parts like the brakes, chain, levers, wheels, and bars are all robust and took all of our abuse without an issue.
- To carb or not? That is the question.
- The other "red" bike.
This is where we tell you how much we liked this bike. Don’t we always say that? Yes, because most of the bikes we test and most of the bikes being sold these days are really good. Especially for the right buyer. So your question is likely is the Beta 300 better than the KTM? To that we have to ask which one? Because here is where the Beta is different and either better or worse. You decide because we don’t know the answer for you.
Compared to the Orange 300s XC-w or XC (or Husky and now Gas Gas) there is one major difference. Carburetion vs Fuel Injection. And for most it isn’t a question of which system is better, it is about which one is preferred. Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the needs and opinion of the rider. The carbureted Beta feels like it makes more power overall and every time you twist the throttle. It is a characteristic of the slight delay in response that gives the engine a little bit of “hit” when it responds. Even when hard on the gas the slightly richer character of the carbureted bike adds a feel of more traction and therefore more power at high RPMs and power levels. Even as smooth as the Beta is for such a powerful engine, the FI bikes are smoother.
Then we get to the chassis and handling. The KTMs are and feel a little lighter, especially through the steering. Yet the Beta sits between a KTM XC-W and KTM XC in setup and does it like the XC with a shock linkage system. It basically bridges the gap and is more like a Husky TE than anything we’ve ridden. But more like an older Husqvarna in stability and being carbureted if we are to be more correct. But to really detail it out we’d have to have the bikes all together and ride them in same conditions with a few different riders.
That said, even riders who were only considering a KTM were wildly surprised when spending some time on the Beta and asked, “Is the new KTM this good?” So there you have it. This is a good bike, especially for those who prefer being conseritive and familiar with their motorcycles.