Sometimes the most radical move is no move at all. Right now, that’s especially true in the world of 300cc off-road bikes. A few short years ago, the Beta 300RR Race Edition was typical of the breed—a two-stroke with a carburetor, a case reed and a mechanical power valve. It was a proven formula that was very hard to beat. Now, the landscape in that class has changed so much that the Beta is an outlier with no injectors, no electronic power valve and no complex three-dimensional maps.
Not that the Beta has stood still. It has electric start, but there’s a place for a kickstarter if you want one. It has a counterbalancer, two mapping options and a hydraulically actuated diaphragm clutch. It has evolved, but make no mistake, this is the same recipe that has dominated off-road racing for years.
Beta has three other 300cc two-strokes in the lineup. The standard model has Sachs suspension and oil injection. The RX motocross model has a number of motor and suspension differences that make it more suitable for motocross. And, the Xtrainer is a more affordable version with a detuned motor and a shorter seat height. This particular bike is Beta’s Race Edition. In some ways, it embraces tradition even more than the standard 300RR. It uses premix lubrication rather than oil injection. In most ways, though, the Race Edition is about performance. The motor has a larger exhaust port, higher compression and different power-valve timing. It also has KYB suspension front and rear and a long list of extras, including handguards, aluminum footpegs, anodized axle blocks, a front axle grab-handle and more. This year, all the Betas have new radiator shrouds that are a little narrower and sleeker.
The main attraction, though, is what hasn’t changed—the 36mm Keihin PWK carburetor. It feeds a motor with the universally successful 72mm by 72mm two-stroke motor with a physically adjustable power valve. It has a 6-speed gearbox and a steel frame. The KYB fork is held on with a CNC-machined triple clamp, and the KYB rear shock has linkage
It’s impossible to talk about this bike without addressing the changes that are taking place in the two-stroke world, most of which are being driven by Austria. The new KTM and Husqvarna 300 two-strokes are now fuel-injected. The competition models also have electronic power valves, which are integrated with the injection through complex programs. Electronic power valves have been standard equipment on Sherco and TM two-strokes for a very long time. That leaves Beta as the one player that can be tuned through traditional means. You use jets to alter the fuel mixture and a hex wrench to adjust the preload on the power-valve governor. You don’t bring a laptop computer to the track for anything.
If you’ve been riding off-road motorcycles for more than a minute, you know pretty much what to expect from the Beta 300RR Race Edition. It’s the sweetest motorcycle for the rudest conditions. The power that it produces down low is incredible and perfectly controllable. It can be taken to absurdly low rpm without the fear of stalling. Then, it pulls flawlessly when you open the throttle. The Race Edition clearly has a little more to offer than the standard version. It has more pulling power and a noticeable hit in the middle, although the top end is about the same. It isn’t a crazy-fast motorcycle on top. It certainly runs well, but it isn’t going to challenge any 450cc four-strokes. When it’s done revving, it’s done; best to shift early and more on.
We love the fact that you can make tuning changes to the Beta’s motor without a degree in computer science, but Beta did a spectacular job with the stock jetting, so there’s nothing to do. The motor runs perfectly clean; no rich spots, no detonation, just clean acceleration. Almost all of our testing was in the most benign conditions—75 degrees at 1000 feet above sea level. We know from history, though, that the stock jetting has an amazingly wide operating range. It takes about 5000 feet more altitude before you have to open the carb. The power valve does offer the chronically fussy rider some tuning options. In general, less preload on the power valve spring results in a sharper hit. If you look under the cover, there’s a spring within a spring. We know several riders who have removed the inner spring altogether with decent results. If you want less hit, that’s easy. The little button in front of the fuel filler is the map switch. The raincloud emoji detunes the power output noticeably through changes in spark advance, which might be handy in truly terrible conditions. As a side note, the Beta 300RX motocross bike is in a vastly different state of tune with considerably more peak power and revs than even the Race Edition.
KYB PLUS KYB
A key difference for this year’s Race Edition is the KYB shock. The closed-cartridge KYB fork appeared on this model a few years ago, and that was a significant improvement over the standard Sachs fork. Frankly, we didn’t expect to see such a dramatic improvement in the rear, but we were surprised. The Beta 300RR Race Edition has outstanding suspension overall. It does a great job of bridging the gap between trail riding and all-out racing. In rocks and on slow-speed technical trails, the bike is reasonably plush, stable and predictable. On faster trails and whoops, it’s level and stays up in the stroke until you get into bone-crushing impacts. Even there, it bottoms gently without a clunk or any sharp jolt. We still believe the Sachs suspension on the standard model is cushier and, in the hands of a good suspension tuner, has potential for more performance. But, for aggressive riding, the setup for the KYB components is right on the money as delivered.
Overall, though, we still can’t say the Beta provides a particularly cushy ride. It’s a rigid-feeling bike. The seat is hard, the gas tank is wide, and there’s a bit of vibration coming through the bars. All these things are relative to other off-road bikes, though. The Race Edition is exactly what it says it is—a racer. It’s more Ferrari than Cadillac.
That, of course, begs the question: Do you want a Cadillac, a Ferrari or a Tesla? Some riders live for the latest technology. That’s not what this is. The Race Edition is a proven formula with a history of success. Between the carburetor and the power valve, there are no question marks; almost everyone knows what to expect and how to get more. The Beta remains a lone island of traditional technology in a sea of turmoil and chaos. For us, that’s hard to resist.