The Beta 430RR is uniquely comfortable. That may be a weird statement, but the machine and the company are fighting for traction in a world dominated by KTM/Husqvarna, a duo that has filled every niche market in the off-road world with superb and constantly evolving equipment. And yet Beta, a smallish Italian marque, has cleaved out a perch in the enduro/hard-core arena with machines that are honed to the task of making your off-road life more comfortable.
This doesn’t mean fluffy, Old World or non-competitive. Our test of the 2016 Beta 430RR showed that technology mated to a focused game plan can equal something that may look docile, but in reality is a stone-cold trail star.
A LOOK INSIDE THE MACHINE
The Beta 430RR is basically what we would call an enduro bike…10 years ago. It’s designed for trail work with a motor that is very focused on bottom-to-mid power and suspension that craves the burly input of nasty rocks and logs, not high-speed G-outs in Lucerne whoop fields.
The big news with the 2016 430RR is in the engine, as it is now fuel-injected. Last year only the 350RR was equipped with EFI. There is no questioning the obvious benefits of a more consistent power delivery, better tuning at elevation and increased efficiency through the fuel mileage. But, we’ve also ridden machines that made the segue from carburetion to injection and missed the mark. Flame-outs, lean pops and hard starting will make your off-road life a living hell. Fortunately, Beta’s 42mm Synerject throttle body is mated to new intake ports and smooths out the power delivery. With the 42mm-diameter throttle body, the system targets precise fuel delivery, while the air-fuel mixture is optimized at all altitudes via temperature and pressure gauges. Unique to the injection system is a stepper motor mounted on the throttle body—this puts a premium on precision slow-speed response and reduces engine braking. The stepper motor is there to control the idle speed, which in turn controls the engine braking. Beta dealers can upload a choice of six different maps for the bike: Standard exhaust: 1.) Stock idle, 2.) +100-rpm idle, 3.) +300-rpm idle. And for the FMF system there are 1.) Stock idle, 2.) +100-rpm idle 3.) +300-rpm idle. They arrive from the factory with the standard idle (normal engine braking).
With the chassis, the Beta four-strokes retain a chrome-moly frame, with both suspension ends using Sachs to handle the damping chores. The frame comes directly from the 2015 Racing model, and the two main connection points to the steering head have been increased in size for improved cornering and increased stability. The Gen4 Sachs fork is an open-cartridge design that has been on the receiving end of internal changes through the increased size of the cartridge entrance, which makes for better oil flow on full-bottoming scenarios. Other updates include a longer spring guide to provide smoother action and a more durable top-out spring and a new gold color. The rear damper is also a Sachs unit, and it mates to a full-linkage system.
The skid plate is now made of plastic similar from the latest-generation materials that make for good impact resistance with low weight. A new handlebar is lowered, targeting improved weight transfer during cornering. Beta has modded the airbox for better drainage and has new fasteners that are more secure. The Beta RR push-button quick-release seat is excellent, allowing for instant access to the air filter, battery and toolkit. The odometer has been updated and has lights indicating low fuel level and electronic fuel-injection system diagnostics. It comes equipped with enduro lighting fore and aft, the muffler is a legal spark arrestor, it’s fit with a side stand, and the fuel tank is now translucent (from the 2015 Race Editions), allowing for a clear view of the fuel level.
ONTO THE TRAIL!
The 430RR proved to be a shocker right out of the hole. It’s wickedly quiet, starts quickly with a stab at the electric start, and then makes immediate and robust amounts of roll-on power. It’s a six-speeder with gearing that is broad yet a bit tall for our tastes. Fortunately, the blend of bottom-to-mid power and really good mapping makes it almost stall-free and tractable in the tight stuff. Add in the hydraulic clutch with a great feel and you’ve got a machine that totally enjoys extreme conditions of the plonk and conquer world. It loves making traction in terrain where momentum is crucial, and hard hits and a lofty rev factor mean zilch.
Equally suited for the confined world of rugged trail is the Beta suspension. Both ends are incredibly plush, and the Sachs open-cartridge fork is shockingly adept at chewing on the grit and grime of teeth-gnashing trail trash. We’re talking rocks, hard-packed trail with roots, bony scars that rattle your eyes and junk that just isn’t remotely fun if you’re riding some hard-hitting motocrosser. This is where the Beta is at home. On medium to faster trails the Sachs units retain good damping qualities and eat up the majority of the hack that’ll pump your arms into cement, and only when it gets fast and deep do things start getting a little spooky.
It’s definitely on the soft side and will need more than damping clicks to handle the speed loads. With the shock spring it’s on the soft side for riders over the 180-pound point, so we just cranked the spring until we had about 15mm of free sag. We did increase the high-speed compression to help hold it up and get a ride of a slightly wallowy feel. Up front we added two clicks of compression, felt that the balance front to rear was pretty decent, and left it alone.
HITS AND MISSES
We love the motor that is all about smooth and bottom power, but it goes flat on top and feels clogged at the upper rpm. FMF has a Q-muff/header for it, and we’ll try this and see if we can coax a broader appetite out of the powerband.
The shifting is notchy, and neutral is hard to find when idling. We had better luck going from first to neutral by blipping the throttle. It may be our imagination, but it felt like the shifting got slightly smoother with more time on the tranny. Overall the gear ratios felt pretty good for general trail work, with fifth and sixth being overdrive. But like we said earlier, the overall gearing is too high. It has a 13/48 combo, and the rear axle is all the way forward in the swingarm, so the easiest way to go lower would be to use a 12-tooth counter up front. We did, and it helped hugely and had the added benefit of pushing the wheel back a little in the swingarm, helping with its manners at speed.
There is one quirk wisth the fuel injection that causes the motor to rev high for a couple of seconds on start-up. It is not an issue if you’re stopped and just firing up the bike, but bump-starting can get sketchy. In our Erzberg zone we tried coasting, motor off and used first gear to bump-start it. The bike ignited, did its rev thing and scared several years out of one tester.
Bars—too wide and too low for our tastes. The saddle is excellent, other than being very low for our taller, bad-knee crew. We never had an issue sliding back on hills, and our butt stayed in place on steep rock ledges. Basically, the legroom on the machine is cramped for all but the young and flexible or shorter pilots. All of our tall guys (5-foot-10 and above) wanted a taller saddle and maybe a lower footpeg.
Several riders complained about catching their boots on the rear number plates on extreme drop-offs and when dog paddling. The tank, seat and radiator-shroud junction are tight, being nice and slim, making for easy mobility in the corners.
While the 2-gallon fuel tank is slim, it’s too small for serious off-roaders. We’d like to see at least 2.4 to 2.5 gallons. The grips are comfy, it lacks handguards (really?) and the Michelin tires worked well in spite of the rear being an Eco (short-knobbed) tire.
Both brakes could be better. They’re not weak; they just aren’t a threat to KTM. Sitting on the bike the levers felt a little thin, though that sensation went away while riding. The rear has a vague feeling; we’re not sure if it’s the brake or the Eco tire that lacked grip. All testers felt that the front stopper required two fingers for aggressive slowing instead of the preferred one digit. Beta’s hydraulic clutch is sweet and has a very light pull, though it began to chatter and squeal a little when it got hot from abuse in the tight stuff. We did boil it in one of the ugly canyons; it’d be nice if it came with a fan.
THE REALITY IS…
The Beta 430RR is a player in the world of hard-core off-road. It has incredibly smooth and appealing throttle response, a midrange that helps you make traction, a light clutch pull, and suspension that prefers the sticks-and-stones domain that nearly every machine on the planet hates—only a slight lack of versatility hurts its case. It’s not lightly priced ($9399), but you can take this to the bank if your world is all about conquering the unattractive obstacles that plague the terrain, then it doesn’t get any better than the 430RR. In the right context it’s a full cheater!