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Benelli Leoncino 500 Brief Ride Review

Ride Date -30 November 2019

By Ren Withnell

It's open day at Motorcycle Centre Orrell - again. It's also blooming freezing with a hard frost on the car park. 

I could choose to ride a £22,000 full dresser Indian. Or a brutal 1,000cc Versys. Or a stylish Z900. And yet I choose to have a go on what is probably the cheapest bike here, the Benelli Leoncino 500. Why Ren, why?

Side shot of the Benelli Leoncino
Lay-on-chee-no. Not Lemon Cello

Look at it. It might have "style" although personally I don't think it's the best looking bike. But I'm not interested in it's "style". I'm far more attracted to the way it's put together - from the point of view of DIY spannering ownership.

The O2 lambda sensor is behind the radiator keeping it safe. I can follow the water pipes logically from the rad to the pump to the barrel and back. The rear master cylinder is both accessible and away from the dirt of the back wheel. The rear shock has no stupid linkage AND a quick adjust for the preload. The expansion tank is readily accessible as is the rad cap. The cooling fan is accessible. Stainless exhaust headers. Even the ABS is visible under the seat.

The radiator on the Benelli is simple and accessible
A radiator you can get to and remove easily.

The expansion tank is on the side of the bike and the lambda sensor is behind the rad
Expansion tank has good access, the lambda sensor is protected by the rad.
The rear shock has a large knob to adjust the preload and the rear master cylinder is easily accessible
Easy-adjust preload, easy access master cylinder.

Save for fuel injection and ABS this reminds me of the bikes of yesteryear, albeit with a modern style. It's not without a few downsides. Twin disc up front. Completely unnecessary on a bike of this size and performance. Upside-down forks - again completely unnecessary on a bike of this size and performance. Tiny weeny front mudguard. Zero storage under the seat. Barely no rear seat.

front forks, brakes and short mudgaurd on the leoncino
Stick standard forks and a single disc on it and sell it to me cheap please. Oh, and fit a mudgaurd.

So what is it like to ride? Regrettably this test ride is supervised, does not involve any motorway or high speed roads and on this icy day getting to grips with the handling is just not going to happen. Never the less - off we go.

The bars are wide and the seat is firm, that's the first impression. After that the engine makes itself known. Bearing in mind the power output is the same as my CB500X this motor is a peach! Crisp clean perky lively acceleration comes from all revs, even as low as 2k. There's no powerband just a silky smooth delivery of usable torque. There's no point revving it, it's not bothered just snick up at 3 or 4 grand or 6 if you're in a rush. I expected the motor to be crude cheap Chinese nonsense. It's not. It's every bit the match of my Honda, maybe a smidgen better, the fuelling is spot on.

The ride? Firm and neutral I'd say. The bike has barely 70 miles on it so the suspension won't have settled in and it might ease off. The seat is something of a plank too, not terribly so but if you're after a mile muncher you might want to get it re-padded. I'm sat upright and naturally so the position is fine. All the controls work as expected and nothing takes me by surprise. 

I'd love to comment on getting the pegs down or flickability, I'll need a proper ride on a warm dry day to tell you that. I have no complaints so far though.

So everything is, as far as I can tell, fine. It's the engine that impressed me on the road and the potentially easy maintenance when not riding it. But should you buy one? 

£4,500. Yes, that's right, a brand spanking new 500cc motorcycle for £4,500. For £4,500 you're getting an awful lot of bike. 

You could argue it's made in China so it'll be crap. In which case I'd point you to Sharon's Keeway. Why? Keeway and Benelli are owned by Qiangjiang and likely made in the same factory. The Keeway's build quality is been BETTER than the Kawasaki she owns in many areas. Anyhow my Honda was made in Thailand. It's not where it's made it's quality control that matters.

Would I buy one? Yeah. I'd have to adapt it for touring and do something about the back seat if Sharon ever wanted to come on the back and the front seat for my comfort. I'd likely fit a big old screen and crash bars. And a proper mudguard. But the base bike, the starting point, that's right enough for me, especially at this price.  

Ren's always happy to review a bike - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Snod said :-
Almost looks reasonable save for the rad begging to get punctured by stones and the exhaust looking like it's almost touching it(!).

What does the shiny silver knob do where the carburettor should be?
06/12/2019 23:36:42 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Looks like the header tank "Knob". Can you say knob?

07/12/2019 10:18:27 UTC
Snod said :-
Ohhh I see it now, yes. Perfect to be nicked by kids, just like the radiator cap..
07/12/2019 10:48:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Jeeez! Ya can't win. Stick the caps where they're accessible and you have to worry about them going walkabout. Stick them where you need universally jointed limbs, more tools than a workshop and a degree in spacial dynamics and everyone moans about access.

An no you can't say knob, someone might be offended. Call it a cap, no, someone might think it's a baseball cap with a rude logo on in. Call it a "threaded retention item with indentations to assist manual operation for a fluid retaining vessel".
07/12/2019 19:22:30 UTC
Upt'North said :-
After a night drinking way too much Marstons Bitter in the Staffordshire Moorlands last night my fluid retention vessel kept me awake for bleeding hours.
Not to mention the other word!

08/12/2019 10:14:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have no sympathy at all.
08/12/2019 11:43:12 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I always give filler caps a little tweak with the pliers to (hopefully) prevent prying fingers. Of course if I parked up in Manchester that may be of little use.
09/12/2019 12:19:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm glad you said filler caps rather than knobs... ahem.
09/12/2019 13:29:44 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Am I likely to give you the opportunity to titter?
09/12/2019 13:41:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Ooooooohh no, titter? Me? Such jovial frivolities don't sit well with my deep dark brooding nature. Hang on...can you say "titter" anymore? Someone might be offended!
09/12/2019 14:38:21 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You've made me come over all "Frankie Howard".
Titter ye Not, ooh please yourself.
You should take more responsibility Ed, you have great power over your Brethren/Sistren devotees, we will be walking around all day in Togas and sandles.
Ooooh I've gone all limp, nooooo nooooo don't mock the afflicted.
It ain't half drafty in a toga today, glad I'm not riding in it. Oooh errr missus.
Stop it now.
10/12/2019 09:07:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Frankie Howard, worra chap. Now I've also got Kenneth Williams in my head too... awwwwwwwnooooo, Matron! I know you're on "Up Pompeii" but I'm on The Carry On films. I can see a youtube session coming up. Right after I've put the tyre back on the rim of the front wheel of the 125.
10/12/2019 11:30:14 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
If only you had.....

At least nobody's mentioned grease nipples. Oh, hang on......
10/12/2019 11:44:03 UTC
Glenn said :-
I like the way you think Ren.
My major issue is still China, politics play a part, resale and perceived quality after 2 years another part but mostly it's parts availability after a decade, the Japanese contenders parts supply will be a given, especially the CB500 that platform is going to be around for a loooong time.
06/01/2020 10:03:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I take your point Glenn. We do struggle to get stuff for Sharon's Keeway. If the Leoncino is a big seller then the parts will keep on coming for as long as there's a market but yes, it's just a given that the Honda bits-n-bobs will be available for years.
06/01/2020 10:21:11 UTC

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