Benelli BN 600 GT Stirs Things Up In India

DSK Benelli is all set to stir things up in the adventure motorcycle market segment in India with the Benelli BN 600 GT. The company appears to have made a huge impression on price conscious Indians at India Bike Week 2015 where it launched the motorcycle.

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This mid sized sports-touring motorcycle is powered by Benelli’s new 600 cc engine, an in-line four-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled engine that delivers a maximum power of 60 KW at 11,000 RPM and 55 Nm of torque at 8,000 RPM.

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The front suspension is a 50 mm upside-down front fork. The rear has an aluminum alloy swing arm with a shock absorber that is off center towards the right of the motorcycle.

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I found it really odd that an adventure motorcycle would have its exhaust opening at the level of the rear axle. This could be a huge problem at water crossings.

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I sat on the motorcycle at the DSK Benelli booth at IBW. The riding position is great for a six footer like me. However the hand guards were conspicuous by their absence.

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The motorcycle came fully loaded with lockable panniers and a top case.

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The pricing of the Benelli BN 600 GT for India hasn’t yet been announced. But the number doing the rounds at the IBW booth was Rs 6 lakhs. That’s half the cost of a Triumph Tiger 800 XC or a Kawasaki Versys 1000 or the soon to arrive KTM 1050 Adventure. At such a low price point, my expectations of the motorcycle aren’t really a lot. I just need the damn thing to work and DSK Benelli to support me quickly if and when something goes wrong. The good news for people like me in Goa is that there will be a DSK Benelli dealer in Porvorim.

I recently bought a KTM Duke 390 for Rs 2 lakhs and have started converting it into an adventure style motorcycle (see “Project KTM 390 Adventure – The Plan“). I did this because I didn’t see the point in spending 12+ lakhs on a motorcycle like the Truimph Tiger and use it as a secondary motorcycle after my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. But if I stretch my limits a little I could see myself spending 6+ lakhs on a Benelli BN 600 GT in the foreseeable future. I chose not to wait because this is a new brand (in India) with a new motorcycle that has a new engine being sold by a new dealer and all of the above need to prove themselves first before being worthy of my money.

Of all the motorcycles I came across at IBW 2015 I was most interested in the Benelli BN 600 GT. Ironically I was least impressed by another motorcycle that Benelli hopes to launch in India in a year or so (see “Benelli Launches Keeway Blackster 250, A Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Clone“). Benelli is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers. Established in 1911, the company has a rich legacy and I believe getting involved in cheap Chinese knock-offs of American iconic cruisers is not going to help DSK Benelli’s brand building efforts in India. True, the Indian market is quite price sensitive. But premium products are sold on perceived brand value, not on price. Branding is as important, if not more, than features and functionality. Most people in India willing to part with anything more than a couple of lakhs for a motorcycle are more likely to wonder what others will think of their motorcycle instead of what their motorcycle will do for them, or more importantly, what they will do with their motorcycle.

I can’t wait to test ride the Benelli BN 600 GT. By test ride I don’t mean ride it around the block. I want to ride the crap out of it for an entire weekend, leave the GPS at home and get lost somewhere. Because that is precisely what I will do if I ever end up buying one.