Beta is sneaky. This isn’t a company that generates a lot of hype and grand expectations. Austrian and Japanese corporations make all the headlines and win high-profile races, while Beta engineers work quietly in Italy, matching their rivals move by move. The Beta 500RS is an example of what a small group of determined enthusiasts can do in a world dominated by giants. The 500RS is a legitimate and legal dual-sport bike that meets every government certification and is license-able in all 50 states. That, alone, is an amazing feat of giant slaying. Beyond that, it has capabilities that outgun fully dedicated dirt bikes in many areas.

If you ignore the horn, mirrors and lights, you would swear the Beta 500RS is a full-fledged dirt bike.


Rodney Smith personally delivered our 2024 Beta 500RS. You gotta love it when a five-time GNCC champion drops by, hands you the keys to one of the greatest dual-sport bikes on earth, and just says, “Have fun.”

We’ve been doing our best. The Beta is an impressive bike. It’s the least bottled up of the fully certified 500cc dual-sports—even the KTM and Husky 500s are more detuned. Two years ago Tom Webb loved the Beta 500 so much that he purchased one for himself, and he still prefers riding it over the many test bikes he has available.

This year, there aren’t many changes for the Beta dual-sport line. The most noticeable one is a change in the name. It’s now called the 500RS rather than the 500RR. For 2024, the “RR” suffix refers to their dirt-only fourstroke models that have returned to Beta’s lineup. Those take a little pressure off the street-legal models, which no longer have to do double duty. It does, however, make it difficult for Beta dealers to keep all the models on the showroom floor.

As in the past, there are four dualsport bikes that look virtually identical. The 500 shares its chassis and most of its motor with a 430, 390 and 350. When you ask Beta officials why they don’t thin down the herd, they say it’s like trying to decide which of your children you love the most.

The more mechanically oriented changes for 2024 include formed radiators to increase the turning sweep from lock to lock, a softer seat, a new front brake hose, new fork settings, new graphics and a redesigned taillight/license-plate holder. The 500RS has a double-overhead-cam motor with a 6-speed gearbox. The suspension is by Sachs, the brakes are Nissin and the tires are Maxxis. All RS models include a Trail Tech Voyager GPS unit with the ability to upload and download riding routes. Other features include a trip meter, a speedo, a tach, engine temp, outside temp and a voltmeter.

If you’re one of those guys who has to modify everything he owns, suspension should be the first item on the list. Put motor work in third or fourth place.


This is one of the very few dual-sport bikes that doesn’t need anything. Most owners of Austrian dual-sport bikes eventually go looking for more power, and that can be difficult. It’s not like you can just install a pipe and go racing. The mapping on all the street-legal bikes is very lean, and the CPU is supposed to be tamper-proof. We know lots of riders who have managed to jail break their ignition systems, but the point is that you don’t have to do that with the Beta. Apparently, Beta is willing to fly closer to the sun with the stock emission settings. The bike is also a little louder than other dual-sport bikes, but still very quiet by dirt bike standards.

Unlike virtually any other dual-sport bike, the Beta has two maps and traction control available through a button in front of the fuel filler. There’s a sunshine emoji and a rain cloud representing the hard and soft maps. We almost always ran it in the Sunshine mode, although it’s possible that the mild map and traction control might be helpful in some horrific conditions somewhere.

yes thats a trail tech gps
Yes, that’s a Trail Tech GPS, and it comes stock on the Beta 500RS.

Riding it is just like riding a real dirt bike. It’s reasonably light (255 pounds without fuel on our scale) and reasonably powerful. You still have to understand that this is a trail bike, not a 450 race bike. You can go hill-climbing with the boys and not be shamed, but if you think you’re going to turn hot laps on a motocross track, you will be discouraged quickly. It doesn’t have the hit or the peak power for that. Conversely, if you took a full-blooded motocross bike into the 500RS’ world of technical trail riding, it would hit too hard, spin too much, overheat quickly and be a general nightmare. The RS performs its primary task very well. The power delivery is smooth, the torque is excellent and stalling is rare, although not unheard of. First gear is reasonably low, and the hydraulic clutch has the world’s easiest pull; it might even be too easy. It encourages a certain amount of abuse, although we never suffered any ill effects as a result. The bike runs very cool most of the time. The single radiator fan does its job well, even in slow, nasty canyons where there’s no airflow.

Likewise, the suspension is great for rocky trails. The slower and more chaotic, the better. In this area, Beta might have overshot the mark. Yes, the suspension is great for extreme rocks, but is very soft and will wallow and bottom if you get carried away. Hard-core Beta fans seem to have a love/hate relationship with the Sachs components. On one hand they will defend the fork and shock passionately, but on the other they have tips and secrets they quietly share with each other. There are a number of suspension tuners who specialize in Sachs, but even they say that the internals wear quickly. Frequent oil changes seem to be the key.


the 500rs is probably

The 500RS is probably the only legitimate dual-sport bike that isn’t crying for motor work.


After a couple of years with his Beta 500, Tom Webb’s only real modifications were in ergonomics and suspension. He installed tall bar mounts and low footpegs to make the riding position more spread out. He also added more than 2 inches to a custom GUTS Racing seat. Most normal-sized riders won’t go that far, but the stock seat/peg relationship is a little tight, and Seat Concepts sells a complete seat that’s 1.25 inches taller than stock, which is good for anyone approaching 6 feet of stature. For suspension, Tom went to Beta’s in-house Factory Suspension Service and claims they performed miracles. Other complaints are all minor: the kickstand is too short, the handlebar switches limit lever positioning, and the fold-up mirrors are great but can break if given a good hit. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the Beta 500RS isn’t a fulltilt dirt bike. This is a bike with blinkers, lights and full governmental blessing, and it can honk its horn as it passes most pure off-road machines. That’s nothing short of amazing, and it raises the expectations for all dual sport bikes.

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