A peak at the changes to the 2015 Beta lineup confirms that this off-road manufacturer is set on making meaningful changes to their models each year. Even though the new lineup looks similar to last year’s, they are quite different and vastly improved. Headlining the changes for 2015 are new displacements for the 4-stroke line up, save for the 350 which remains the same. The 400cc has been reduced to a 390cc and the 450cc and 498cc engines have been reduced to 430cc and 480cc, respectively. What’s so intriguing about the new displacements is that each bike produces the same horsepower and torque as the 2014 models, but with a weight savings of 2.2 lbs for the 430 and 480 engines and 3.3 lbs for the 350 and the 390. Beta didn’t just reduce the piston and cylinder sizes: they made several important changes to the motor, including internal components and cases that have been made lighter and redesigned to reduce rotating mass and weight. The Beta engineers also tinkered with a new camshaft profile and a new exhaust system to further the weight savings. An intended by-product of the weight-saving measures are improved agility and handling.
Betas also come fitted with fine components like Galfer Rotors, Nissen brakes, Domino grips, and a tough, lightweight polymer skid plate, though our test bike came with an aluminum one. The bikes are also easily fitted with blinkers, which are removed before the bikes are imported in to the U.S. Other features include a composite sub frame, Michelin FIM Enduro tires (dumpster bait), and Nekken bars which will remain as we like the bend. The Betas are still carbureted, save for the 350 which is now EFI.
A “First Impression” report from us is a baseline review of the bikes’ off-the-showroom-floor performance. All we do is adjust the sag (98mm – the Betas have 11.4″ of travel), tire pressure, fork height, and jetting – if conditions warrant it. We should note that Beta offers a choice of suspension through the Build Your Own Beta program (BYOB) that include Sachs and Marzochi. We were happy to see the Sachs fitted to our 390 as they seem to be a bit plusher and more appropriate for our eastern conditions. For some reason, our 390 came fitted with a 15 tooth front sprocket, which we later determined was an oversight. We know that the Dual Sport/RS version comes fitted with 15’s and that the stock setup is usually 13/48 gearing. The 15/48 was a bit too tall for the tighter, technical conditions but surprisingly manageable everywhere else. We then installed a 13-tooth front (the Beta uses the same counter shaft sprocket as the KTM) and were happier.
Sitting on the 390 reveals a nice slim profile with plenty of room for my 5’8” 165 pound frame. Lifting the 390 on to a stand lends a weight feel similar to a typical 350. The claimed dry weight is 234, which is the same as the fuel injected Beta 350. The new exhaust system is quiet and worked well, though we are guessing an aftermarket silencer will reveal a beast within. The first impression the Beta 390 makes is that of torque, lots and lots of torque – more than any of the 350’s, as expected. The Beta rumbles along at the bottom of the RPM range without a hiccup and minimal clutch work. Acceleration is smooth and quick, with a slight hit in the midrange. The great thing about the 390 is that you can rev it if you want to, but it is by no means a necessity. The 390 is quite content to lug around a gear higher and earn its keep by barking out gobs of torque.
This year’s Sachs suspension features new valving and seals that reduce friction for a smoother progression through the travel. Overall, the suspension performed surprisingly well over the rocks and trail junk and left a positive impression. The Beta kept a straight line and was settled and predictable, some of which is attributable to 4-stroke stability. The new valving delivered on its promise of a smoother progression through the travel and didn’t leave us thinking “revalve”. Overall, the 2015 Beta suspension is better balanced than the 2014 we tried last year. We are excited to see just how good the suspension will perform when properly broken in.
As we mentioned above, the Beta is surprisingly slender feeling. In terms of agility and feel, it’s closest to the KTM XC-F 350. Initially, the Beta was under -steering the corners, we then raised the forks in the triple clamps to 6mm which made it turn much better. As it turns out (assuming that info on the web site is correct), the Beta comes fitted with triple clamps in the 23mm offset position, so raising the forks is a necessity in the tighter terrain we ride. Still, the Beta is a quick and agile turner. For a follow up, we may try to get our hands on some 20mm triple clamps to see if there is a notable improvement. Overall the 390’s agility and quick turning makes it a joy to sling through the single track trails.
You have likely read reviews about the 350 and 450, but the 390 thus far has received little attention, which is too bad because it is an excellent eastern woods bike straight out of the showroom; it’s agile like a 350 but with bottom end grunt that most 350 riders would prefer. There is no pressing need to run out and purchase a bunch of high-end aftermarket components for this bike either. A few sensible changes will transform this machine into an expression of personalized glory. So, we are not done with the 390 just yet. We are going to see just how well we can get it set up for the eastern woods, then share what we have learned. Look for a follow-up review soon. Tim Pilg, owner of American Beta, has joked in the past that we need to move to Southern California to facilitate access to these bikes. My response is always that the Betas are excellent eastern woods bikes and that they should move east. The 390 is no exception, and undoubtedly the best kept secret in Beta’s line up.