Beta Motorcycles, or Betamotor, is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer that can trace its routes all the way back to 1904 when it began life as a bicycle factory trading under the “Società Giuseppe Bianchi” name. In 1948, the company decided to branch out and begin developing motorcycles, and from then until now, Beta Motorcycles has become a prominent player in the international motorcycling scene. The brand isn’t as well-known as some of its compatriots, such as Ducati or MV Agusta, but while Ducati and MV Agusta have made a name for themselves on the planet’s roads, it’s the rugged trails and off-road tracks were Beta Motorcycles truly excel. Any off-roader will be able to extoll the virtues of this small Italian brand, and if you’re looking to get involved in trials competitions, enduro racing, or any type of off-road riding, then investigate Beta Motorcycles – because you will be pleasantly surprised at what the company offers.
A Brief History Of Beta Motorcycles
From Bicycles To Motorcycles
Beta Motorcycles was first founded in Florence, Italy, back in 1904, under the name “Società Giuseppe Bianchi.” The company specialized in the manufacture of handmade bicycles, and their products were in high-demand across Italy and garnered a great deal of fame – however, the Società Giuseppe Bianchi was in no-way affiliated with the world famous Bianchi bicycles of Milan. By the 1940s, and in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Italian public was in dire need of small and economical transport options. The two bosses of the Società Giuseppe Bianchi, Enzo Bianchi and Arrigo Tosi, decided to begin working on a motorcycle prototype. By adding an engine with a basic roller transmission to one of their bicycle frames, the first “Beta” motorcycle was built in Tuscany.
With production shifting from the production of bicycles to motorcycles, the company directors decided to rename the company appropriately. Using the initials of Enzo Bianchi and Arrigo Tosi, the name “Beta” was agreed upon, and Beta Motorcycles was born – and the name has been with the company ever since. The first production model from Beta Motorcycles was called the CERVO 48, and it featured a transmission built around a rubberized roller that acted directly upon the rear wheel, along with a chain for starting the engine, and a final drive. The CERVO 48 was succeeded by a more technologically advanced model in 1948 called the CIGNO, which came equipped with a 48 cc single-cylinder engine, a double cradle frame, telescopic front forks and rear suspension too. In a short time, Beta Motorcycles had evolved from engine powered bicycles into fully functioning, purpose-built motorcycles.
Developing Sports Models
At the beginning of the 1950s, Beta graduated to the production of larger displacement machinery, beginning with the 125 cc ITAL-JAP 125, a sporty model equipped with pressed-steel girder forks and telescopic rear shocks. Though only 125 cc, the ITAL-JAP 125 was lauded for its power and handling. The ‘50s also saw the release of a number of new and exciting models from Beta Motorcycles, such as the M.T 175, a model derived from Beta’s racing efforts that came equipped with a punchy single-cylinder, two-stroke engine that could propel riders to speeds of up to 81 mph. The M.T 175 was complimented with a separate touring model, the S.V 175, with both models helping to put the Beta name on the map.
The rest of the decade saw a number of other exciting sports-focused road models roll out of the Beta factory, each powered by a single-cylinder four-stroke pushrod engine that produced excellent performance for the time. Some of the most notable sports models from the era include the ASTRO 98, MERCURIO 150, FOLGORE 175, and the ORIONE 200. Beta had a number of other engines installed in their bikes, but it was the four-stroke pushrod units that provoked the best response from the buying public.
By the 1960s, Beta had decided to settle on one engine configuration and run with it, rather than experimenting with too many other variables. These new in-house produced engines were available in a number of displacements and were fitted to all of Beta’s motorcycles across the range. The new interest in engine and model development and directly impacted Beta’s competition performance, winning hill climb races such as the Italian Motogiro event, and the Milan-Taranto race, both with Beta’s 175 cc models.
At the end of the 1960s, the motorcycle industry saw an upward trend in the public’s interest in off-road bikes. With the advent of new sports like motocross and enduro racing, many of the world’s biggest manufacturers began producing purpose built dirt-machines for off-road use. In the past, motorcyclists interesting in conquering off-road terrain would have had to adapt existing road bikes and upgrade them for off-road use. In the 1970s, Beta Motorcycles began producing more and more off-road oriented motorcycles that proved themselves to be incredibly capable in off-road motocross and enduro competitions. Later on, Beta would go on to produce specialist trials motorcycles too.
The ‘70s and ‘80s were exciting times for the Beta brand, especially in terms of racing success. Not only was Beta producing motorcycles that garnered universal acclaim, they were also attracting big names to race with them, and secure prestigious victories too. Some of these famous racers included the famous American rider Jim Pomeroy, Belgian champion Gilbert De Roover, and the Italian racer Ivano Bessone. With the advent of Beta’s specialist trials motorcycles, the company started making huge waves on the international trials scene in the mid-80s too, with Jordi Tarres winning the World Trials Championships in 1987, and repeating the feat in 1989, 1990, and 1991. In the 1990s, British rider Dougie Lampkin joined the Beta team and managed to secure three consecutive world titles for the brand too. Beta Motorcycles also competed in the Indoor World Championships, winning seven titles between 1994 and 2002, and the European Championships, where the brand one five European titles.
Beta Motorcycles In The 21st Century
Firmly defining themselves as one of the most successful European off-road brands, Beta decided to return to developing four-stroke enduro motorcycles in 2004, whilst simultaneously focusing on advanced trials machines. The company invested heavily into the new development and it helped Beta regain its place on the world enduro stage. For a period in the mid-00s, Beta decided to power a number of their models with KTM engines, but that all changed in 2009 when the company once again began developing new engines of their own. This time is was an all-new four-stroke engine that would go on to power the company’s all-new “RR” designated off-road motorcycles. The new twin-cam engine helped redefine the brand, and bring Beta Motorcycles back to life.
Today, Beta Motorcycles offer a wide range of motorcycles for their US customers, including five strictly off-road models, four street-legal dirt bike models, eight conventional trials bikes, three electric trials models, five EVO trials models, and four very unique EVO factory editions. What makes Beta Motorcycles so different from many other brands is that each of their motorcycles are built by hand, by real-life craftsmen and women rather than robots. It’s for that reason that you can tailor-make your own Beta machine by choosing a wide range of motorcycle styles and from a broad selection of components, until you’ve built the motorcycle of your dreams, which will be built and delivered within less than two months. It’s these features that elevate the Beta brand, and make it one of the most formidable off-road racing companies in the industry, standing tall among the likes of Montesa, Gas Gas, Sherco, and the newly reborn Ossa.
Beta Motorcycles: Reliability
Compared with the likes of Honda, Yamaha, or Kawasaki, Beta Motorcycles is somewhat of a small, niche brand and as such there’s not a terrible amount of literature about the overall reliability of the company’s products. However, thanks to the brand’s off-road credentials, regular comparisons are often made between their products and others – specifically between Beta Motorcycles and KTM models. While KTM offers a wider range of off-road products for multiple skill levels, Beta Motorcycles has always prided itself on the fact that its models are ideal for riders of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced professionals, and when stacked up against rival KTM models, Beta’s bikes generally stand their ground.
According to a number of testimonies from specialist forums, Beta’s engines are incredibly reliable and can be raced hard and endure hour upon hour of heavy practice races without sustaining any motor problems. Similarly, other testimonies from dealerships that stock both KTM and Beta Motorcycles products have reported that Beta’s bikes generally receive less complains or suffer from engine problems when compared with KTM. The reasoning behind this is attributed to the fact that Beta have a good engine design and configuration and have made only minor changes to that good design over the years, while brands like KTM (with a desire to innovate) change engines and components too often, leading to teething troubles.
Generally, most complaints about Beta Motorcycles are the engine blocks themselves, which are considered quite large and weighty when compared with other models, but that large engine is often cited as one of the reasons that Beta Motorcycles are so reliable: they’re tough and sturdy and can handle a lot of abuse – which is a key ingredient in the off-road arena
At the time of writing, Beta Motorcycles haven’t issued a single recall for any of their models released in the United States, which generally indicates that their handmade motorcycles are put together by serious craftsmen and women who engineer their products to the highest possible standard. In light of this, we would consider that Beta Motorcycles and their products are incredibly reliable.
While the secret to Beta’s long term success has been to slowly refine an already excellent engine and keep outright innovation to the bare minimum, the small Italian firm has recently developed an entirely new engine platform which boasts significant technical improvements over the last model. The new engine is complimented with new top-of-the-range components and accessories, all wrapped in an advanced frame. Here are a few technical highlights from the Beta range:
Beta Motorcycles most recent engines are some of the most advanced off-road engines on the market, thanks to a sterling effort from Beta’s R&D department. The most significant new engine is the 125RR two-stroke model which has been optimized for the best weight distribution and power delivery, thanks to new streamlined parts that fit inside a lightweight and compact engine block. The new engine is smooth and powerful, and boasts a number of distinctive features such as: double piston rings, a progressive power valve, a lightweight crankshaft with polyamide inserts, a die-cast aluminum crankcase, magnesium clutch and ignition covers, and much, much more.
Improved Rolling Chassis
Beta’s latest models are built on top of innovative frames made either from chrome molybdenum engineered into a double cradle arrangement for the enduro models, or using advanced hydroforming technology to press the frames for their trials models. The clever design and engineering that goes into each frame helps provide Beta Motorcycles with some of the sharpest maneuverability in the off-road segment, providing the best weight distribution, without compromising stability. Beta have also paired their chassis with top-shelf components to help provide riders with the best ride experience possible, with Sachs cartridge-style suspension performing the suspension duties on most of the company’s models, Nissin brake systems controlling the brakes, and optimized exhausts to better control the torque and power curves of their machinery.
One of Beta’s more unique features is their “Build Your Own Beta” – a unique custom build program that allows riders to tailor their new Beta Motorcycle purchase to suit their riding style. The scheme allows riders to build on top of a base model, selecting the wheels, tires, gearing ratios, suspension, engine upgrades, specialist chassis parts, and final finish, for the ultimate factory-custom experience.
Current US Line-Up
Despite being a relatively unknown name in the USA, Beta Motorcycle’s US importer, Beta USA, imports a wide range of models to cater for more discerning American off-road riders. The company’s model range is divided into three distinct categories: Street Legal Enduro models, Off-Road Only models, and Trials machines, with a selection of models in two and four-stroke configurations – however, the company also has a small range of electric bikes on offer as well, so we’re classing that as another category in its own right. Here are the highlights of the current range:
Street Legal Enduro
Beta’s current road legal line-up includes a wide range of top class off-road motorcycles that come with just enough on-road accoutrements to satisfy the nation’s road-legal requirements. The current range of street-legal models is based around the Beta RR-S single-cylinder four-stroke configuration, with engine displacements including 350 cc, 390 cc, 430 cc, and 500 cc. Each model boasts impressive adjustable Sachs suspension, disc brakes, an electric start, fuel-injection and liquid-cooling, Michelin tires, a very cool Trail Tech Voyager GPS unit to keep you on the right track when you’re in the wilderness, and 12 months warranty. Previous year’s ranges also included an impressive Supermoto model for those more interested in aggressive street riding.
The current off-road only range of Beta Motorcycles consists of four models based around the Beta Motorcycles RR configuration, which uses a single-cylinder, two-stroke engine as its power plant, in a variety of different engine displacements. The models include the 125 RR, 200 RR, 250 RR, and 300 RR. The previous year’s included larger displacement four-stroke models, and the unique Xtrainer model too. The current line up all benefits from adjustable Sachs suspension, competition-spec Enduro racing tires, an electric starter with a back-up kick start option, electric oil injection, and a Molybdenum steel, double cradle frame. The off-road only models are given a 6 month limited warranty.
Beta’s celebrated Trials motorcycles are some of the most capable and competitive trials machines in the world, with plenty of competition victories to their name. Currently, Beta USA offers trials models in three distinct flavors: EVO Trials, EVO Trials Sport, and EVO Factory Editions. There are currently 8 models in the EVO range, starting from the 80cc EVO Jr and SR models, and graduating through from 125 cc, 200 cc, 250 cc, and 300 cc, with a 300 SS model, and a four-stroke 300 cc alternative too. Similarly, the EVO Sport range includes models from 125 cc to 300 cc, with a 300 cc four-stroke option too. The Factory Editions are more or less the same as the other EVO Sport range, but with a striking and race-inspired color scheme.
Beta USA also imports a total of four excellent electric motorcycle models for the North American market. These small and compact electric models are ideal for those who are looking to get into the trials and off-road game at a young age. Beta offers three electric trials models, the EVO MiniTrial 16, EVO MiniTrial 20, and EVO MiniTrial 20 XL. The numerical difference in these models is an indication of each bike’s rim sizes, with the MiniTrial 20 XL offering a more powerful electric motor. Each of these three models can run for up to three hours depending on the riding level and travel speeds. The final electric model from Beta is the MiniCross-E: a basic, lightweight off-road powered by a 750 Watt/ 36 Volt battery, with disc brakes, USD forks, an adjustable rear shock, and a maximum riding time of around one hour.
Beta USA is an importer of motorcycle products from the Italian Betamotor S.p.A company. At home in Italy, Betamotor has an annual turnover in excess of 44.5 million Euros, which is roughly around $51.5 million US dollars. The Italian company produces an average of seventeen thousand motorcycles a year, and fifteen thousand engines. While Beta might seem like a small company, its sales figures and production volumes say otherwise. In fact, the company is so large that its marketing network directly operates individual companies in Italy, France, and Germany, with another outfit overseeing the firm’s business interests in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg.
Beta’s international exports actually make up a surprisingly large portion of the company’s income. For example, Beta has stated that only 30 out of every one hundred Beta Motorcycle model made is sold to the domestic Italian market, with the remaining 70 being exported and distributed to foreign markets. Beta’s US operations are overseen by Beta USA, a specialist Beta importer that has grown from a small operation to a nationwide powerhouse. Today, Beta USA operates a large number of dealerships and sales points up and down the country that sell Beta motorcycles and products, provide expert servicing and race support, deliver parts, and more. Beta might not be as well-known as the likes of KTM, but their dealerships have been noted to offer a superior, and more personal, buying and servicing experience.
Where Are Beta Motorcycles Made?
One of the most frequently asked questions at Beta dealerships is this one: “where are Beta Motorcycles made?” and the answer isn’t a complicated one. Beta is, and always has been, an Italian company that prides itself on its unique hand-built nature, and it operates the same way today that it always has done. Since 1972 when Beta established a newer and modernized production plant, all of Beta’s products have been manufactured at the Rignano Sull’Arno plant near Florence, in Italy’s Tuscany region.
Beta USA Dealerships
Beta has a total of 144 dealerships and authorized sales outlets in the United States of America, with the highest concentration of dealerships being in California (16 dealers), Colorado (8), Utah (7), and Texas (7). These dealerships specialize in the sales and service of Beta Motorcycles, providing technical demonstrations of their models, offering test rides, and delivering parts and spares. It’s highly recommended that you visit your nearest Beta Motorcycles dealership if you’re looking to get the best deal on a new bike. Prospective customers can enjoy a wide range of financial options, special offers, and of course, take advantage of the company’s impressive factory warranty schemes. For those who aren’t looking for a new motorcycle, Beta also offers a comprehensive pre-owned stock which you can browse on the company’s website, but here’s a little extra information before you get started:
Beta’s Pre-Owned Listings
Beta USA has a great resource for sourcing pre-owned Beta Motorcycles across the country. The bikes featured on the company’s website are submitted by private sellers or individual dealerships and have to go through a short vetting process before getting posted up – but before you go browsing for a bargain be warned that the ads listed are sold through private sellers and are not affiliated with Beta USA – even the dealership listed products on the site should be treated as third party listings. Shipping arrangements, transaction issues, and warranty queries are all to be arranged by the seller and the buyer. If you’re looking for a factory-approved pre-owned program, this isn’t quite it. However, that shouldn’t put your off searching for a bargain. Not only are Beta Motorcycles reliable, but the riders who own them and ride them are generally pro-maintenance and take care of their vehicles. If you’re buying from a Beta owner, they know what they’re talking about.
Beta Motorcycles: Financing & Special Offers
Since Beta is a relatively small manufacturer compared to the likes of KTM, Honda, or Yamaha, it doesn’t offer the same kind of financing deals or special sales promotions that many other dealerships advertise. It also doesn’t currently have any pre-existing relationships or partnerships with any financial institutions like FreedromRoad, Dealer Direct, or Roadrunner Financial. However, many of Beta’s affiliated dealers and retailers have their own in-house financial systems in place to help you get on the bike you deserve. Different dealerships have different options available, and no two are alike – but for the best offers and the most comprehensive financing options, it’s recommended that you visit a larger dealership.
The Build Your Own Beta (BYOB) Scheme
One of Beta Motorcycles most interesting sales tactics is the fact that they offer an incredible factory-custom option. The BYOB (Build Your Own Beta) scheme allows riders to select a base Beta model and customize it in a wide range of ways by selecting from a collection of parts upgrades and factory options. If you’re in the market for a tailor-made off-road racing machine that is built to provide the best performance for your needs, then the BYOB scheme should interest you.
The process is simple: using the company’s online interface you can select your base model of choice and customize parts to suit your needs. The customization begins with a tire and wheel selection, followed by gearing and rotor specifics, before following on to a comprehensive selection of suspension parts and settings. Next, potential buyers can choose from a wide selection of chassis parts, engine upgrades and add-ons, and even add specific finish requests such as paint, graphics, and other finish options.
The Build Your Own Beta process takes between 30 to 45 days to complete and deliver the order, with your tailor-made off-road weapon getting delivered to a Beta dealership of your choice, complete with all of your ordered accessories, a personalized ownership plate, and receiving a full service before you take it home.
The scheme might seem expensive, but in reality most BYOB customers actually save between 5% and 25% by going down the tailor-made route. This is because all Beta models receive a discount when they’re used for the BYOB program. Even better, if you decide to change your mind on the process, Beta will offer a refund up to 10 days after a deposit is placed. And of course, all BYOB Beta motorcycles receive full factory warranty for added protection.
Beta’s Motorcycle Racing History
Beta Motorcycles has a long and illustrious history in the racing scene. Despite being better known for their off-road offerings, Beta’s first forays into the racing world began with events such as the Italian Motogiro and the prestigious Milan-Taranto road race. In these early years, Beta raced their small capacity 175cc models. Despite posting reasonable results, Beta moved with the times and saw the appeal of building exceptional off-road motorcycle instead, and eventually began competing in off-road events all over the world.
The switch from on-road to off-road happened during the 1970s, when old-school scramblers began evolving into full on motocross motorcycles, with major manufacturers producing dedicated, factory built dirt bike machines. Beta was quick to capitalize on this trend, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the brand was able to win numerous races and attract world class riders to ride their motorcycles, such as Jim Pomeroy, Gilbert de Roover, and Ivano Bessone. By the 1980s, trials competitions began to emerge and Beta quickly began to make a big impression on the new sport, winning their first championship with rider Jordi Tarres in 1987, which was the start of a Beta Motorcycles winning streak.
Over the years, many other riders have famously ridden Beta Motorcycles to the top of the World Championship tables and to the top steps of many a podium, such as trials legend Dougie Lampkin, Spain’s Albert Cabestany, and junior racing champions like Iwan Roberts and Jaime Busto. In total, Beta Motorcycles have won no less than 7 Trials Outdoor World Championships, 6 Trials Indoor World Championships, 7 European Championships, and well over 100 National Championship events.
The Beta Motorcycles Rignano sull’Arno Factory
Though there are reports that it’s possible to tour the Beta Motor factory in Rignano sull’Arno, Florence, in Italy’s Tuscany region, there isn’t a lot of information about how to arrange one. The factory itself is a small complex and only employs a staff of around 120. Since arriving at the premises in 1972, Beta has consistently streamlined their production line to maximize their output without compromising the handmade artisan nature of their products. The factory prides itself on it’s strict quality assurance measures, with teams of inspectors testing everything from the factory built engines to parts brought from outside suppliers.
Those who manage to get a tour of the factory can visit a wide range of departments, from the paint shops to the production lines, but the Research & Development Center and Machining Center are strictly off-limits to help protect the company’s secrets – but that’s fairly standard on motorcycle factory tours. Visitors can explore the assembly lines; the two Beta assembly lines are responsible for producing more than 30 different Beta models, though these lines only ever focus on building one model at a time. According to the factory, it takes only seven minutes to assemble a trials machine, and eleven minutes to fully assemble an enduro model.
Currently, we don’t have any details on how to book a factory tour, however, it’s always a wise idea to contact your local Beta dealership for advice, or contact the Rignano sull’Arno factory directly for more information.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Beta Motorcycles
#01. Lapo Bianchi, the current CEO and driving force behind the Beta brand personally test rides all new models to make sure they’re ready for production. His ethos is simple: to build a motorcycle that doesn’t necessarily provide the most power, but delivers the power easily, in a maneuverable chassis, that’s fun to ride.
#02. Beta has successfully nurtured the talent of some of the most successful off-road trials riders in history, providing racing support for the likes of Spanish riders Albert Cabestany and Jordi Tarrés, as well as British motorcycle legend Dougie Lampkin.
#03. The name “Beta” follows the same trend that many Italian motorcycle manufacturers use for their naming conventions: using initials from their founders or location. “Beta” is an amalgamation of the names Enzo Bianchi and Arrigo Tosi, with initials rearranged into B.E.T.A. This is similar to Bimota (Bianchi Morri Tamburini), and Cagiva (CAstiglioni GIovanni Varese).
#04. Despite being one of the smaller and less well-known motorcycle manufacturers to emerge from Europe, Beta has managed to showcase their products in a number of television shows and movies. While the majority of their appearances on screen are in European productions, Beta managed to get their 1998 Beta Motard 50 into the 2003 movie Quicksand, starring Michael Keaton and Michael Caine. Another notable movie starring a Beta motorcycle was Shoot The Duke, with Stephen Baldwin.
#05. Beta USA mainly imports off-road only and competition models to North America, but the company actually has a wider range of street-legal models available for the European market. For example, Beta also retails a selection of supermoto machines and a couple of awesome street scramblers too. Hopefully the full selection of Beta motorcycles will make its way across the Atlantic sometime in the near future!
Beta Motorcycles: FAQ
#01. Where Are Beta Motorcycles Made? Ever since the factory relocated in 1972, all of Beta Motorcycles products have been hand built at the company’s new factory in Rignano Sull’Arno, a small town near Florence, in Italy’s Tuscany region. Every single Beta model is hand made in Italy by talented craftsmen and women.
#02. Who Makes Beta Motorcycles? Beta Motorcycles are made by Betamotor S.p.A, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer. All of the current Beta Motorcycle line-up are manufactured exclusively at the Beta factory in Rignano Sull’Arno in Italy. Each model is hand built by trained professionals. Beta USA is the US importer of Betamotor’s products, and they’re imported directly from Italy.
#03. Who Makes Engines For Beta Motorcycles? Currently, all of Beta Motorcycles engines are made by Betamotor S.p.A back in Italy. There was a brief time in the mid-2000s that Beta experimented with KTM engines. Some models from that era may be equipped with KTM motors, but the current line-up feature exclusive Beta engines.
#04. Where To Buy Beta Motorcycles? In the United States, Beta USA operates and oversees a total of 144 official dealerships and authorized sellers. Very few of these retailers exclusively sell Beta Motorcycles and they’re usually sold alongside other popular off-road brands like Sherco, Montesa, and KTM. The state with the most Beta retailers is California, with 16 authorized dealers.
#05. What’s Better: Beta Or KTM? Many professional racers, stunt riders, test riders, and journalists have debated about whether KTM manufacture better off-road bikes than Beta, and the two brands are often pitched together in shoot-outs. Unfortunately, a clear winner has never been chosen. However, Beta’s models usually match the KTM offerings in almost every way, except for the price point…which is usually much more affordable for Beta models than KTM.