Power cruiser for the masses! The 502C aims to plug the gap in the mid-weight cruiser segment. Does it succeed?
We Indians love our cruisers but there has always been a gaping hole in the middleweight cruiser segment. Hyosung tried to fill that gap with the expensive ST7 and Aquila Pro 650 in the last decade. The only motorcycle repping in the middleweight cruiser segment for a long time has been the Kawasaki Vulcan S but it now has company — the Benelli 502C. The 502C is the Italian bikemaker’s take on power cruisers and it does make a statement especially thanks to its intriguing design. In addition to good looks, it undercuts the Vulcan S by a huge margin but does it have what it takes to be your first middleweight cruiser? Time to find out.
Looks like the devil
There are no two ways about this. The 502C seems like a scaled-down version of the Ducati XDiavel and that’s no bad thing at all. You have a large LED headlamp flanked by fat forks. If that does not get your attention, the massive fuel tank will. Benelli says the fuel tank can hold 21-litres but looking at it would make you wonder if it could take 30 litres even! It gets a retro-looking ribbed-pattern floating seat and twin brake lamps positioned below it. I like the way the rear turn indicators are inconspicuously integrated into the rear number plate holder.
Overall, the power cruiser exudes good fit and finish levels but disappoints in terms of switchgear and instrument console quality. The console layout feels dated. Interestingly it features a different layout for night mode. The day mode has a clean, legible layout but the night mode's layout is difficult to read. Another grouse is the messy wiring that ruins what could have otherwise been a clean looking handlebar design. Overall the 502C is a head turner but could do with better quality instrumentation.
Our motorcycle came equipped with an optional essential kit. Priced at Rs 9,999, it includes the engine cowl, plastic crankcase protector, rear brake reservoir cover, backrest and a few protective bits around the frame.
Shorter riders rejoice!
With its low seat, wide handlebars and forward-set footpegs, the 502C feels almost like riding an armchair except for your shoulders and arms leaning forward. Shorter riders will appreciate the 750mm seat height and adjustable footpegs but could find the wide handlebars a tad bit uncomfortable, especially while taking U-turns. Another issue is the large turning radius that will have you taking 3-point U-turns.
The large fuel tank poses an issue for taller riders who will find it impossible to tuck their knees into the tank's low knee recesses. Despite its wide shape, the seat is not as comfortable and could do with more cushioning. The tiny seat is very uncomfortable even for short trips. The 502C is best enjoyed riding solo for short distances.
The 502C shares its 500cc parallel-twin motor with the Leoncino 500 and the TRK 500 twins. They even make the same 47.5PS and 46Nm. The problem, like with most new Benellis, is the excessive weight (216kg in this case) that makes it feel lethargic. The 502C offers a linear power delivery with a good mid-range. Performance is strong between 6,000 and 8,500rpm after which it tapers off and you are better off short shifting. Like other Benellis the motor is a sweet-sounding unit and its twin-barrel exhausts deliver a deliciously raspy exhaust soundtrack.
What impresses is the motor's tractability. In the city, you can ride the motorcycle in fifth gear at around 40kmph without having to skim through the gears. The gearbox offers positive shifts while the clutch is moderately light for you to endure heavy traffic riding. Interestingly with the right side of the engine having a plastic cover, you feel the heat on your left knee in standstill traffic. It isn't as bothersome though.
Out on the highway, it will sit comfortably at 100kmph in sixth at around 6,000rpm. It is a refined motor and you only feel a mild buzz through the footpegs at higher revs. Overall, the performance is good enough to allow novice riders to manage and even have fun.
Like most cruisers, the 502C is best enjoyed on a sunny day with an open stretch of road with a few fast corners thrown in the mix. However, we only got to ride it in less than ideal weather conditions. Its long wheelbase offers good highway stability and it holds its line well on smooth, sweeping tarmac. The wide handlebars offer excellent leverage and help the heavy front end tip into corners easily. However, the vague front-end and the top-heavy feeling do not inspire confidence to lean heavily. The 120-section front and 160-section rear Pirelli Angel ST tyres offer adequate grip in the wet and we had no complaints with them during our rainy ride. The most impressive part of the 502C's underpinnings has to be the brakes. Despite having smaller 280mm (Leoncino 500 gets 320mm) front brakes, they offer good bite and help shed speed rapidly.
The 502C's armchair-like riding position and stiff rear suspension mean shocks from bad roads are transmitted straight to your tailbone. The ride quality over less than ideal roads feels uncomfortable for both rider and pillion.
Should you buy one?
At Rs 4.98 lakh (ex-showroom), the Benelli 502C is the most affordable middleweight cruiser in India. The only other cruiser with forward set pegs and a canted-over riding position in this segment is the Kawasaki Vulcan S that costs a whopping two lakh rupees more.
The typical Indian customer’s primary requirement for opting for a cruiser are looks, road presence and comfort. The Benelli 502C checks two of the three boxes. It's got the (inspired?) looks, is packed with enough features, the power delivery is easy-going and the newbie-friendly motor is powerful enough to cruise at triple-digit speeds. However, the patchy ride quality and the uncomfortable seat means you’ll be able to best enjoy it on shorter cafe hopping runs. Want to take it continent-hopping? Probably get a larger and a more comfortable seat to start with.