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BENELLI LEONCINO 500: A MODERN TOUCH TO A CLASSIC ENDEAVOUR

With its mark in the motorcycle industry, being one of the oldest European motorcycle manufacturing brands even more so than Moto Guzzi, Benelli is still going strong with its array of motorcycles. As an Italian manufacturer from Pesaro, established in 1911 AD, Benelli is revitalizing what it stands for in recent years with its rebirth after being a part of QiangJiang Group. And now Benelli is back at storming the market with its new-found vigilance. Benelli has been in the Nepali auto industry for roughly 2 years now. Initially, they had introduced TNT300, TNT25, TNT600i and Zenzero 150 which were widely accepted by the youths for their rideability and premium quality. And now, we have here the Leoncino 500, a much-awaited retro-classic bike with all the modern inclinations; a sure shot product to take the Italian heritage forward.The Benelli Leoncino 500 has a rich history dating back to 1950s. The new model that we have now is a reiteration of a classic 125 model Leoncino, also known as the lion’s cub. A lightweight classic motorcycle in the era of post war Italy became a necessity and the Leoncino was the answer to that. Even now, the Leoncino stays true to its heritage, it is a bike that redefines what Benelli once was but with all the modern updates making it a strong contender in the present market. We, at Autolife, got to get our hands on this retro beauty and take it out for a spin. Here, we review the Benelli Leoncino 500 and tell you about our thoughts on this modern take of a classic.DESIGN AND FEATURES

A glance is all it takes to see how elegant the Leoncino looks. Styled as a scrambler, the bike has this neo-retro vibe to it that makes it stand out in its own. The shade of red of the tank and front fender gives it a royal look with a sculpted lion figure on top of its short stubby fender. Also, the metallic finish of the Leoncino adds to its elegance, making it look magnificent. The headlight is a classically fashioned round set up but with LED DRLs and projector headlamps giving it a modern touch. The design cues on the motorcycle are very minimalistic and well-integrated, making the bike look very compact. We have to admit that the Leoncino is a definite head turner.As for the features, the Leoncino comes loaded with a switchable dual channel ABS, twin disks at the front, upside down forks and Bosch eFI system and ECU. The instrument cluster is a full digital console with a reverse backlight with a gear indicator as well. The lion’s cub is an overall package that comes with exciting features for this segment and a design that is meant to grab attention.ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE

The Leoncino comes with a liquid-cooled 2-cylinder, 4 stroke engine that it shares with TRK502. The parallel twin on the motorcycle produces a power output of 47 bhp at 8500rpm and torque of 45NM at 4500 rpm. The engine comes mated to six-speed gearbox with a linear power delivery through out the rev range and comes with a compression ratio of 11.5:1 making it a fun bike to ride at just 170kg of dry weight.The Leoncino is a very elegant highway cruiser as it seems like the engine’s happy zone is somewhere around 5000 rpm and is very smooth with the engine giving a cruising speed of 120kmph in the 6th gear at just 6500rpm. The best part of how the bike performs is the massive torque that pulls the bike. The torque presence is noticeable as early as 3000rpm and it just gives the confidence that the bike will accelerate well giving the rider a sense of empowerment of some sort.The pull on the Leoncino just gets better up the rev range with smooth initial pick up. Also, with the FI system you feel that the fueling on this bike is on point with no evident lag in throttle response. The engine feels very refined with no evident vibrations that can make the ride uncomfortable. However, the gears did seem a bit stiff and the clutch could have been lighter if it had a Slip and Assist clutch setup. But all in all, the Leoncino is a treat to ride, giving the rider the power of a middle-weight contender with confidence to even be graceful with it.BRAKING AND SUSPENSION

The braking department on the Leoncino is handled by dual 320mm floating discs at the front with four pot calipers and a 260 mm disc with twin piston calipers. The bike comes with a dual channel ABS that is switchable. The brakes have substantial initial bite even with the ABS turned on, giving the rider confidence even at high speeds. The ABS kicks in at the right time, giving the rider adequate control of the brakes while providing the safety at the same time. The front brake lever is a 4-step adjustable lever, making it adjustable to the rider’s preference. Overall, the Leoncino has its braking duties covered.Leoncino has 50mm upside down forks with rebound damping and an offset cantilever monoshock with rebound damping that can be adjusted via a knob on the side and preload adjust. The thick front forks allow the bike to lean into corners with confidence and stability. However, the suspension set up did feel rigid while going on patchy off-roads but most probably it can be managed with a different adjustment set up, both at the front and back.COMFORT AND HANDLING

The comfort of the bike is all thanks to the Italian made leather seat that gives the rider adequate amount of space to move around. The Leoncino, in no ways, feels cramped. With a seat height of 815mm and surprisingly spacious seat, it’s a joy to ride and it would be the same even for shorter riders. The foot pegs are neutral and aren’t too rear set but still allows to lean into corners. That with the wide handle bars that are set quite upright offer a smooth and relaxed ride. Also, even the fuel tank is set perfectly and isn’t wide but still providing enough contact patch.The Leoncino gets Benelli Piega Bassa (low lean-over) taper section handle bars. The handle bars are fairly wide and well weighted that it provides a good steering feedback, providing leverage for flicking the bike around. The bike feels well balanced and feels planted through out the corner. Even though the bike has a wheelbase of 1460mm and weighs heavy, once you are on the saddle and start riding, it does not feel sluggish at all. All of this paired with Pirelli Angel ST tires, with 120/70-R17 at the front and 160/60-R17 at the rear, the Leoncino has a perfect blend for an almost flawless handling.VERDICT

The Leoncino is a well-balanced machine with a perfect blend of both quality and performance. Benelli has been known for the quality that their bikes have, which is already made evident with their TNT series, and that just proves to the point why Leoncino is without a doubt bang for your buck. Overall, with a refined engine and impeccable styling, this is surely a stunner. If you are into highway cruising and want a laid-back ride at the same but still want the thrill of high speed runs, the Leoncino can be your best companion.

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