Now this is where the 302R left me dumbfounded. And not because it is the best motorcycle I have ever ridden; it’s not. I like it, sure, but I was amazed at how wrong I read it before I rode it. Here’s why.
The engine specs of the 302R read like this. It runs a 300cc, 4 valve-per-cylinder, liquid cooled and fuel injected parallel twin unit. So, it’s modern. The engine’s output at 38bhp and a little over 26Nm isn’t half bad either, especially when you consider it’s nearly in the same ballpark as the other similar capacity parallel twins in the market. And then you get astride and gas it, and immediately, you are welcomed by this lovely intake howl. So, you roll the throttle to the stops expecting a surge in acceleration that will put a smile on your face. You cross 6,000rpm and your expectations shoot up further for you have just felt a hint of surge coupled with the exhaust taking on a louder, more purposeful note. Now you wait for the big kick. But, it never comes. Not at 8 or 9 or even post 10,000rpm. It’s like expecting Abhishek Bachchan to deliver a hit… on his own.
Now before you conclude that the 302R is a slow poke, it’s not. It’s just not as quick as one expects a near 40bhp motorcycle to be. The upside to this, of course, is that anyone can ride it. Then no matter their riding skills or what they might be upgrading from, chances are they won’t scare or kill themselves. The fact that the engine is wonderfully tractable makes things easier still. The specs say the 302R makes its peak torque at 9,000rpm. But, in the real world, it’s happy to get going from as low as 3,000rpm without hiccup. It’s also a near vibe-free engine. Yes, it’s that friendly. What’s more, the 302R remains approachable for every other riding aspect too. The ride quality is pliant; the seating ergonomics are less sports-bike and more commuter-like; the rider’s perch is both low and roomy; and when you aren’t trying to rip the throttle grip off the handlebar, it is acceptably quiet as well.
Now the 302R also weighs quite a bit, a tad under 200kg. And that’s never a good thing for a sports offering. Surprisingly, the Benelli hides its weight quite well on the move, unless you are moving it around for a finicky photographer. Be it commuting in the city or making U-turns, helped by the generous turning circle, the 302R never felt like it would trip over its own wheels. It also doesn’t put any pressure on your wrists and with a seat that qualifies as comfy; this Benelli makes for quite a good daily ride.It remains agreeable even when you hit the twisties. To be clear, we only rode the bike in pouring rain. So, for the benefit of our journalist friends from other media houses who’d be riding the bike after us, we didn’t push the handling envelope of the bike as much as we would have liked.But, with whatever we could manage, the 302R felt quite up to the task of leaning. It doesn’t have the most communicative chassis and it’s no cat at attacking corners, but it is quite fluid nonetheless. All it needs is a prod to tip into corners and then thanks to those Metzelers, there’s just loads to grip even in the wet. Plus, given our experience with these tyres on KTM 390s, these should be a huge asset in the dry as well.