Christmas is just around the corner, which also means 13th-month bonuses or other holiday-related bonuses are on the way. While many consider traveling or shopping, motorcycle riders may be thinking of spending these hard-earned year-end bonuses for... a new motorcycle.
It is a given that top Japanese brands, or, to some extent, top European brands will be in the equation. But has anyone ever considered a Benelli motorcycle?
Benelli Motorcycles have been around since 1911, the same year that Colt introduced the M1911 handgun, a.k.a. the Colt 1911, designed by renowned firearms designer, John Browning. Coincidentally, Benelli motorcycles also spawned a firearms subsidiary, more popularly known for making shotguns like the M4 Super 90.
Because of that, Benelli is considered by many as one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers in the world and has produced some of the most notable motorcycle models and race bikes after World War II. Tough times, however, forced the company to be acquired by different entities, and in 2005, it was bought by Chinese motorcycle giant, Qianjiang Group (which is now owned by another Chinese automotive giant Geely).
With that acquisition, Benelli motorcycles have become competitive again and have recently introduced entry-level, half-liter big bikes to the world, and most recently, the Philippines. One of them is the Leoncino 500.
The Leoncino, meaning lion cub in Italian, is powered by a parallel-twin, liquid-cooled DOHC engine that produces 47.6 Ps at 8,500 rpm with 45 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. This half-liter engine will not bury your eyeballs in their sockets but still has enough pull to give you a smile especially on the long stretches of the highway.
Though the clutch pull is light, finding neutral is a bit of a job during stops, the rest of the shifting is flawless when the bike is rolling. Also, the engine's heat is very much tolerable, owing to the Leoncino's radiator that is as big as the ones installed in a compact car.
Designed by CentroStile Benelli, the Leoncino combines modern styling with classic scrambler cues. Yes, this is a scrambler. Although to our eyes, the overall look resembles a mix between the Ducati Scrambler 800 and a little bit of the Honda Rebel 500.
All lights are LED, as well as the instrumentation panel. The details, such as the Benelli marque at the handle grips are a plus. More pronounced details, like the Lion of Pesaro ornament standing on the top of the front fender is, in our opinion, unnecessary and doesn't blend well with the overall look.
I had planned on testing the bike and its performance in the mountain curves of Marilaque, but the weather at the time did not permit it. So, I ended up taking the bike to Angeles City for a nice steak at Bondoc's Steak House instead.
Going there, I was able to stretch the Leoncino's legs a bit and found out that the bike could easily maintain cruising speeds of up to 140 kph without any wobble on the front whatsoever. This Leoncino prides itself with 50 mm wide front forks. Yes, that's 50 mm, almost as thick as a Johnny Walker Black bottle, only round of course. Forks these thick are usually reserved for performance bikes like those used on the racetrack.
I also liked the beefy exhaust note from its factory-installed silencer, comparable to an inline-four if you ask me.
The Leoncino's fuel consumption during its stint with us was about 24 kilometers per liter. A full tank should give you enough fuel to travel from Manila to Baguio with fuel to spare.
As for the Leoncino's stopping power, there's no question that the four-piston caliper on twin 320mm discs provide quite the bite, allowing you to stop as soon as you want to.
It doesn't have any ride modes for rain or sport or what have you, but it does have dual ABS and could be a fun motorcycle for both newbie and experienced riders.
The Leoncino 500 has got our attention for good reason. It's a no-nonsense motorcycle that offers a bit more than its Japanese counterparts. Yes, most of its parts are made in China and assembled locally in Carmona, Cavite, but the overall build quality is close to what you can expect from an Italian-built one, all for the appealing price tag of PhP369,000.
So if you're looking for where to spend your Christmas bonus, or for an everyday motorcycle that could also become a riding companion during weekends that is “expressways legal”, consider the Benelli Leoncino 500.