2008 Benelli TnT 1130 Review
The American motorcycle market may not be the hotbed of success for standard and naked style bikes like it is for the cruiser, custom or sportbike arena, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's a dearth of good choices when looking a fairing-less ride.
For one, witness the return of Kawasaki's Z1000 as an all-new model for 2010. Putting aside opinions about the new Z's styling, most enthusiasts could agree that, from what we know about the bike thus far, it should be a great machine.
Another motorcycle with questionable styling but a powerful, character-filled motor wrapped in a stout chassis is (or rather, was) Buell's 1125CR. And of course there's Triumph's most excellent Street Triple R. The British Triple isn’t supplied with a liter-class engine, but if you've either read about it or ridden it, you then know it doesn't need a big mill to be loved the world over.
Those are only three brilliant options to consider; there are even more. One we'd like to bring to your attention is the TnT from Italian bike maker, Benelli.
As noted in our review of the Tre1130K all Benelli models currently available for U.S. consumption are powered by a 1,130cc (88 x 62mm), liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve, fuel-injected, 6-speed, in-line Triple carried in an attractive tubular-steel trellis frame.
Primary differences between models in Benelli's line-up center around chassis components like brakes, wheels and suspension. The big Triple's state of tune in each model creates additional distinctions between the bikes.
The hooligan TnT, along with its up-spec siblings, the TnT Sport and Café Racer, boast a claimed 135 hp and 86 ft-lbs, slotting in as the middle child between the racy Tornado 1130's claimed 161 hp/91.5 ft-lbs, and the more mild and adventure-minded Tre-K with claimed figures of 123 hp and 85 ft-lbs.
Though there's considerable separation in power – power that's as discernible in real life as it is on paper – between the TnT and Tre-K, the two machines are very similar.
Both motorcycles share the same undertail single exhaust canister and split LED tail/brake light, as well as the same instrument panel. Differences include the TnT's use of dual side-mounted radiators necessitated by the naked design, and the angry robot eyes headlamp assembly carrying a tiny flyscreen compared to the Tre’s fuller shield.
Oh, my! It’s naked!
It's a naked bike, but not naked like someone's ratty '89 Gixxer devoid of all plastic. Despite the absence of any real windscreen the headlight package and wide flare of minimal bodywork that are the radiator shrouds do an okay job of deflecting some windblast.
The TnT runs with a meaty non-adjustable 50mm Marzocchi upside-down fork as found on the Tre1130K. The Extreme Technology shock provides adjustments for rebound damping as well as spring preload. Spinning at both ends are Dunlop's grippy Sportmax Qualifier tires in 190/70 and 120/70 sizes, on stylish 5-spoke cast-aluminum 17-inch Brembo wheels.
Though the big diameter fork makes no accommodation for tuning, it's sorted enough to offer good damping for a price-minded component. The Extreme Tech shock, on the other hand, is a different story.
For a bike with a claimed wet weight of 473 pounds we wouldn't have expected such a weak spring rate. To have to crank down the dual-locking rings for at least 80% of the available threads on the long shock body says a lot for just how soft the spring is, especially considering the 150-pound lightweights who rode the bike.
Our resident unpaid test mule, Kaming "Sir Ridesalot" Ko, sorted the shock's preload and rebound damping adjustment enough to find the best compromise between a comfortable ride and passable chassis stability. Accelerate hard enough coming out of corners, or while on really crummy pavement, though, and the rear still wiggled and squirmed for us.
A pair of 4-pot Brembo (two-piece) calipers clamp down on 320mm floating discs. With mono-block calipers becoming common fare on performance-oriented and exotic bikes, we noted the TnT's binders missing the precise feedback and easily modulated power that we're accustomed to on today’s sporting bikes. Our spoiled brat attitude and sense of entitlement aside, all it took to make the TnT’s Brembo calipers perform adequately was some extra squeeze on the lever.
Now, 'bout that big stonkin' motor. Would you be interested in a mill that pulls like a mule from just off idle 'til just south of redline? Thought so.
The TnT's engine is so grunty it feels as though it never stops accelerating until the rev limiter cuts in around 9K rpm. That kind of power makes for a bike that needn't be shifted too often. The catch here is the rather abrupt throttle response. The Man at MO's helm, Kevin D., referred to the fueling response as "digital," like EFI systems from about five years ago.
When combining the throttle response with so much steam available immediately from the engine room, you might find the bike can be difficult to ride smoothly in tight turns where the rider is transitioning rapidly between corners.
We often found ourselves anticipating a jerky hit of power at low speeds, and overcompensated with cautious initial throttle input. Another way around the sometimes snatchy fueling at low rpm is simply to run one gear higher than normal, using the copious torque to pull the higher gear.
Of the Ben’s jerky low-rpm throttle response Kevin remarked: “This wouldn't be the bike to ride if you were two-upping a passenger while wearing signed Valentino Rossi lids, as they'd surely be knocking together like the steel balls in a Newton’s Cradle.”
The TnT may look like a killer, but it's a pussycat in the saddle. Slightly shorter suspension travel compared to the Tre-K means the naked Benelli has a friendly 30.7-inch seat height. Pair the seat height to a short reach to the one-piece motocross-style aluminum handlebar, and a rider standing around 5-feet 8-inches or taller will sit almost bolt upright. The advantages here are great steering leverage and a rider triangle that can mean all-day comfort.
Don't believe us? Kaming, who's way older than any staffer here and full of old injuries, too, did over 1,200 miles in one weekend on the TnT.
A few Italian downers
There’s lot’s to like if not love about the big-bore Benellis. Yet, after riding at least three different iterations of Benellis, we’ve come to discover some bothersome deficiencies that seem problematic to all the models.
The most annoying and oft times most recurrent issue is a weak battery. We’ve experienced hard starting when the bike is cold or hot. The more common occurrence was when the bike was warm enough to cause the radiator fan to run. Shutting the bike down and then trying to start it with the fan still running was too much for the battery to handle. Turning the bike off again to kill the fan, or letting the engine cool for a few minutes would allow the battery to start the bike as if no problem existed.
This is something of a known issue to Benelli. The company informed us that replacing the battery to a better model almost always resolves the problem. If not, a starter motor may be the culprit; Benelli claims to willingly replace both the starter and battery under warranty if the need arises.
Beyond the battery/starter sitch, on the TnT we also experienced some loose wiring connections for the headlamp high beam. After Kaming fixed the connections to the headlight relays, the light worked flawlessly and the engine warning light on the dash stopped activating.
Finally, for a modern bike we’d expect better than the 30-ish mpg we observed time and again. With low-octane fuel hovering around $3.00 a gallon in the L.A. area you’ll have a hard time reselling the spouse on the idea of padding the savings account via the great fuel efficiency in motorcycles. Especially when your mate’s 325i and its inline-Six doesn’t do much worse than 30 mpg.
We like Benellis, but bring us the 899s, would ya!
Despite the funky look that brings a breath of styling fresh air, and the aforementioned occasional electrical gremlins, we’re mostly impressed with what is becoming a dated bike.
At $15,499 about the best way to justify the purchase of the TnT (or any other Benelli) is by heralding its relative scarcity. But if you’re okay with price to get something probably no one you know has, we say, go for it!
The towering stonewall of a counterpoint you might encounter is the fact that for $14,999 you can have Ducati’s more powerful Streetfighter that also brings higher-spec suspension, brakes, and, well, let’s face it, a dealer network.
Judging by reports from our Euro contemporaries, what would make us happy is to see the 899cc version of the Benelli in-line Triple finally make it to the States. Seems the 899 models offer improvements in reliability, weight reduction and still have good, usable power, but in the same Benelli style, and at lower retail figures, of course.
Damn EPA and their holding back the 899! We’re off to build a fire made from left over Cash for Clunkers banners so we can send smoke signals to the EPA to demand they open the ports to more Benellis! Who’s with us?
2008 Benelli Tre1130K Review
2010 Triumph Tiger SE vs. 2008 Benelli Tre1130K
2008 Oddball Literbikes Comparison: Benelli Tornado Tre 1130 vs. Buell 1125R vs. Ducati 1098S
2009 Ducati Streetfighter Review