the Italians design a new bike or car it usually
creates a stir from the public and the press. Italian design
is always different and the Benelli Tornado RS certainly lives
up to this tradition! I saw the Tornado previewed some years
ago and read about the mixed reactions it had, so finally
I managed to get hold of one for a real road and track test
to see what all the fuss was about. There are a lot of top
end sports bikes in the world, not just from the Japanese,
but from the UK, Italy and now Germany too. So is the Benelli
that different from the others, would it get noticed in a
I made the trip down to Three Cross motorcycles
in Dorset to collect the RS, it was a warm sunny day and there
I was going by car and trailer to get it. Why can't I ever
get it right, it always rains when I go to get Harleys by
bike, still the forecast was good for the next week or so,
maybe I would get to really try it out?
My question about the Benelli getting
noticed was soon answered on the way back. Within
10 mins of leaving it was surrounded by onlookers at the first
set of lights in the local town, it was the start of a pattern!
Everywhere I went during the course of the following 10 days
was the same, the Benelli turned heads and that's frankly
a hard task these days with all the good looking bikes on
the market. Even non-bikers stared from the cosy air-conditioned
comfort of their cars. Maybe it was jealousy as I weaved past
them in traffic, maybe they all looked at bikes this way,
but I still found my way to the front of the queue and still
had the looks as I pulled away leaving them all fumbling for
big giveaway with the Benelli RS is those fans in
the tail, talk about making people stare and become speechless,
a quick prod at the person next to them and then the reaction
- What the ****'s that? You can just imagine what they're
saying, it just makes you laugh when you ride by. Of course
on the RS the fans are red to go with the rest of the bike,
but on the Tre they are yellow, just to make them stand out
even more. Let's face it, in black it just wouldn't have been
After a couple of days riding it was time
for the annual pilgrimage to Silverstone for World Superbikes,
3 days of bikes and racing, brilliant! This year I was parked
in the race paddock with the Benelli, irony in itself as they
are not eligible to race now. Why? The World Superbike rules
changed and the Benelli was built to comply with the old rules,
750cc four cylinder, 900cc three cylinder and 1000cc twins.
But now it's 1000cc for bikes, and that means a major redesign
if it's going to race again. And in my mind race it should.
Riding solo and two-up for
a few days both in town and out on the ordinary roads gave
a first verdict on the bike. When parked up outside a cafe,
it's a real attention magnet, and getting there was a ballistic
experience on any road! With race bike equipment, handling
and comfort it's not the easiest bike to ride a long way but
it rewards you with supreme feel and feedback, and wow does
it cover the road at a respectable pace! If that isn't enough,
whenever you turn up at your mate's house they always come
out to greet you with the words "Well I heard you coming
around the corner, it makes the whole room shake' It's good
to know you've arrived!
So what's it really like to ride?
Fire up the motor and it rattles a bit, then
settles down to a low groundshaking rumble, a bit like my
old Triumph Daytona T595, in fact a lot like it, but that's
where the similarity ends though. It may well sound the same
casually idling on it's side stand, but slip it into gear
and ride off and then you see the real differences!
engine response is excellent and it pulls 'turbine
like' from nothing right up to the top end with smooth power
delivery and tons of torque. The cassette gearbox is very
slick and quickshifting through the box without the clutch
is just a delight. Changing down is easy and effortless to
with the adjustable slipper clutch making it smooth to change
gears without actually touching the clutch lever. Blip the
throttle and snick it in, nice and easy, except when you need
to find neutral. There are two possibilities of finding neutral,
get it as you come to a stop, or kill the engine and find
it then. In talking with a couple of other owners I found
out that it's a trait of this box, it's livable with, but
in town it spoils it a little.
The RS is a lot less heavy
on your wrists than you may expect from this style of bike,
and the wafer thin seat is not as bad as it looks either as
it spreads the load well. The suspension is fairly firm to
say the least and bumpy back roads are not a recommended place
to ride, so get it out on those smoother 'A' and 'B' roads
for the best results. The Benelli RS needs to be ridden out
of town, on fast corners, on tight or flowing roads, it really
doesn't mind, the more interesting the road the better as
there's little need to change gear! There's a little over
11,500rpm to play with here, and there's also no noticeable
point where you suddenly take off, it really is as flexible
as that. At normal cruising speed the Tornado RS is running
at a a very leisurely 4500rpm at 70mph in 6th, yet when you
need to get past something or feel the urge for a little spurt
up the road all you need do is twist the throttle and away
she goes, solo or two-up makes little difference.
the Benelli spec sheet it says that this motor puts
out a claimed 133 bhp, and in a recent head to head on track
at Cadwell Park with our long term GSX-R 750 it felt about
the same. There was really very little difference between
them. The Benelli is smoother and a lot more progresive with
its power delivery than the 4cyl, but in terms of 'chuckability'
the GSX-R is at the head of the queue. The triple sounds fantastic
when you open it up, the induction noise alone makes you keep
it up over 7,000rpm, then it howls and just get faster and
Having ridden quite a few miles on the roads
over the course of a few days it was time to get to grips
with the bike on a track, so off we went to Cadwell Park to
try it out properly. The on-road handling so far was fantastic,
what would it be like on a track at higher speeds?
The Benelli suspension is
a quality package that seemingly gets better and better the
faster you go, but it also works well at low speeds to. The
overall feeling you get from the bike is that it feel totally
planted both front and rear at almost any speed, Benelli have
definately got that difficult balancing act of combining easy,
fast steering and a stable feel sorted out exceptionally well.
The Marzocchi 50mm USD forks are perfect for this bike, combined
with the “Extreme Technology” rear shock you get
all the feel with absolute grip and stability, although on
the road it does feel a bit stiff but liveable with. On the
top yoke there's a “Extreme Technology”steering
damper, but it in my personal opinion it's a fashion accessory
more than a necessity as it really doesn't need it. I turned
it down to its lowest setting on the road and it didn't need
it at all on the track. No matter what you did to the bike
on acceleration or over bumps, there wasn't the faintest hint
of a headshake, a wobble, in fact there was never a moment
when the damper actually went to work.
same story comes when you talk about braking. Benelli
have equipped the RS with Brembo Radial 320mm front brakes
with 4 piston calipers which do the job with no fuss and perfect
feel and progressiveness. On the road you never need more
than a finger to haul you up from normal speeds, on the track
add 1 more finger and you have the 'King of the late brakers'!
The braided hose/Brembo radial caliper combo on the Benelli
RS is another sign of the top quality kit that this bike has,
a bike with near perfect braking feel and some serious stopping
power when you need it the most.
The Benelli Tornado RS is
a pure sports bike designed for twisty roads fun. There are
a few little things you will have to get used to, but in general
its a fantastic bike with one sole purpose in life - to thrill!
The riding position is perfect for sliding your arse off the
seat and scraping your knee on the tarmac on almost any corner.
The bars are just in the right place so they don't give you
wrist ache over a distance, and believe me on one occasion
I did over 400 miles up to Cadwell Park, rode on track all
day then back home again without any aching wrists at all
- mind you the seat is a bit hard after that amount of time
and I did feel a little sore there!
The Tornado RS is a real-world performance
bike and will equal any offering from Japan and the
its home country. The real thing about the Benelli RS is it
is unique and will draw crowds wherever it goes. It will suit
poseurs and real riders alike, its a serious sports bike with
fabulous looks and it also goes pretty damn well with it!