Benelli TnT 1130

Text: Beatrix Keckeis • Photography: Len Vincent, Benelli

The name is explosive, the design aggressive, the engine eruptive, and the sum total is the Benelli TnT 1130, one of the sharpest bikes on the market.

The martial names concocted by motorcycle marketing specialists are legion. The Brutale, the thunderous Tuono and the explosive TnT are but a few. Comparatively, Ducati's once fearsome Monster moniker sounds somewhat benign. It seems the sensitivity chapter was excised from the most recent volume of Names to Claim for Motorcycles, replaced by a new, larger chapter on provocation. Waking from dormancy, smaller manufacturers - many representing legendary brands - have apparently studied this recent addition and taken it to heart. The little guys have issued an open challenge to the big players: "We're back. Be prepared to joust with us!"

Like the phoenix, certain celebrated marques have risen reanimated and they would like nothing better than to shred the established motorcycle landscape with their talons. MV Augusta, Triumph, Laverda, and Norton having already returned from motorcycling's elysian fields, and now the renowned Italian manufacturer Benelli has joined them.

Founded in 1911 in a small workshop in Pesaro, Italy, Benelli began a tradition of winning that culminated with a world championship in the fifties. Even today, the laurels bestowed have deep roots in the area - Urbino, birthplace of present MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, is very close by. But when the appearance of successful and inexpensive Japanese bikes in the sixties laid a pall over European producers, Benelli was not immune. Scooters with the green lion logo were the only machines leaving the workshops of Pesaro in the three decades that followed.

That all changed four years ago when Benelli leapt from the coroner's table and danced a jig at Intermot, the year's largest international motorcycle show. Benelli appeared with an elaborate and refined supersport bike, the Tornado 900 Tre. This innovative machine sported a three cylinder, 900 cc engine and had the motorcycling world buzzing. This brand new Italian bike was considered a sample of things to come, and many were surprised when the first production bikes were soon on the road. Hardly built in mass quantities, the initial models looked nearly identical to the prototype, although - as with any new edition - the Tornado showed signs of teething. But over time, the glitches were systematically ironed out through careful testing at the track and on the road.

Three years later, the prototype TnT, a close relative of the Tornado, burst on the scene. Featuring a whopping 1130 cc motor, the TnT exploded from the drawing board and on to the road, losing none of the expressiveness of the original design. The look of the TnT is playful yet unmistakably aggressive. Edges, corners, peaks and spikes dominate. The small front fairing gives the impression of an infuriated insect that puts even the Cagiva Raptor to shame. Despite its aggressive stance, it provides respectable wind protection as long as you stay within permitted speed limits. But no matter your velocity, don't expect to pass unheard. The howl of the three-cylinder engine exploding from the high-mounted exhaust pipe is utterly infectious. It generates a certain species of vibration that leads directly to the stomach - and lower. Even after several hundred kilometers of test riding, no one expressed disdain for the Benelli's savage yet intoxicating roar.

Riding the TnT feels like being atop a volcano just seconds before eruption. Don't expect the smooth, cultivated sensation you get from the jewel of the English fleet, the three-cylinder- Triumph power plant. Mechanical noises, sputters and coughs happen often, but don't disturb the impeccable and powerful performance. On the contrary, they add to the volatile character of the TnT. Every millimeter of throttle movement is rewarded with propulsion, a quality made all the more fascinating considering it goes hand in hand with reliable traction. Lofting the front wheel is the least of your worries, no matter the gear!

The power of the mighty motor is well tamed by a sturdy chassis. Out front, the massive 50-mm inverted fork deals with the road's less appealing aspects in an effective albeit harsh manner. The adjustable damping relates well to handling, but it may not be the ticket for anyone planning a 1,000-km day ride. Riding position is well balanced and oriented toward the front wheel in a typically supersport fashion. The hard saddle is slim and low enough to appeal even to riders who have cause to worry about the strength of their inseams. The handlebars take their cue from Baby Bear's porridge: not too wide, not too narrow, they're just right. Their distance to the seat is a perfect fit for a wide range of sizes. The handling is precise and easily manageable in town and out on the road, despite being equipped with a 190 rear tire and a poor steering angle. Only when trying to park the bike properly do you realize the size of that rear ham. Despite its nimble qualities in tackling the curves, the TnT never fully allows you to forget gravity. Belying its fragile appearance, this beast is no lightweight. And since it tips the scales at 219 kilos ready to ride, you don't want to run out of gas. Pushing the Benelli is not advised for all but the heartiest of riders.

The precise, noiseless gearbox rewards the left toe with effortless shifting, but the clutch can have a tendency to run hot especially in stop-and-go traffic. Stopping the TnT is another lesson in ease of use. The brakes scrub off speed with the reliability of the rising sun. The rather conventional components are consistent, precise, and accurate, offering more than enough bind for road-going purposes. Track riding, on the other hand, may expose a slight tendency to fade.

Obviously the Benelli technicians developed the TnT for pilot use only. Pillion perchers will be met with an unpleasant experience. Space there is an afterthought at best and the position of the passenger pegs is torturous. They should be removed immediately to eliminate any temptation to ride two-up.

Luggage? Don't even ask. There is absolutely nothing to which bags or similar items can be properly fixed; the only solution is a rucksack. Considering the elevated consumption of fuel and the corresponding limited range, long distance riders aren't likely to opt for the TnT unless they have plenty of time for fuel stops and prefer to travel very light.

Competitors of the naked Benelli are more than can be counted on two hands. Certainly there are those of Japanese, U.S., and European origin, with a number of them hailing from Benelli's own backyard (e.g. the Aprilia Tuono R, the Ducati Monster S4 R, and the MV Agusta Brutale). But as for the real competition, we must look to a certain English lady, completely renovated and likewise equipped with a three-cylinder inline engine - the Triumph Speed Triple. The naked bike match of 2005 will be...Italy versus England.

Test Summary
On a TnT you will never pass unnoticed in terms of looks, sound or performance. The design may be a bit over the top for the average enthusiast; however, she (in Italy bikes are female!) is a simply stunning machine. Whether tooling around or clocking a fast lap on the track, the TnT will turn heads. The most fascinating and impressive component of the TnT is the three-cylinder power plant. Despite the need for a few tweaks, the eruptive power freed by the mere twist of the wrist easily changes the minor flaws to "expressions of character." The same logic can be applied to the somewhat poor overall finish. But perhaps the most endearing aspect of the Benelli is what it represents: the fact that small producers are still very much alive. This simple fact guarantees motorcycles will remain a sporty means of transport limited only by the imaginations of their builders and riders.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Benelli 1130 TnT

Retail Price n/a
Warranty n/a
Maintenance Schedule 1000/6000km
Importer/Distributor not yet available in US

Engine
Type 3-cyl, inline, 4-stroke
Cooling liquid
Valve Arrangement DOHC
Bore & Stroke 88 x 62mm
Displacement 1130cc
Compression Ratio 11.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no
Transmission
Gearbox 6-speed (extractable)
Clutch wet
Final Drive X-ring-chain

Chassis
Frame tubular steel
subframe: aluminum die-cast
Wheelbase 1419mm
Rake 24.5°
Trail 99mm
Front Suspension USD-fork
Stanchion Diameter 50mm
Adjustments extension, preload, rebound damping
Travel 120mm
Rear Suspension mono shock
Adjustments extension, preload
Travel 120mm

Wheels & Tires
Type 5-spoke, aluminum alloy
Front 3.5"
Rear 6.0"
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17, tubeless
Rear Tire 190/50 ZR 17, tubeless

Brakes
Front Brake twin floating disc Diameter320mm, 4 piston caliper
Rear Brake single disc
Diameter 240mm, twin piston caliper
Combining no

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 780mm
Dry-Weight 199 kg
Fuel Capacity 16 l (3 l res.)

Performance
Horsepower 137 hp at 9250/min
Torquemax. 117 Nm at 6750/min
Top Speed 240 kmh
Acceleration n/a
Fuel Consumption 6.5 l/100 km
Fuel Range 200 km

Equipment
Odometer, speedometer, tripmeter, fuel indicator, etc.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 5/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 4/5

Comfort 2/5

Luggage w/accessories 0/5

Equipment 3/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 3/5