You gotta love Canada in November. Today* it’s plus 15C and sunny and tomorrow it’s going down to zero with so much snow that the government of Canada has issued a weather warning.
For a motorcyclist, living in a cruel and unusual climate means that you have to seize the moment. With a brand new Beta Alp 2.0 sitting in the Canada Moto Guide garage and a good pal with time on his hands living just down the road, that moment was now.
Bruce is a Harley guy, but he’s a multi-dimensional character and likes to live life outside the stereotypical motorized box. As a result, he recently purchased a used BMW Dakar 650, fitted it with a pair of knobbies and let it be known that if I ever wanted to hit the trails, he’s just down the road.
New Canadian Beta importer Steve Howland is considering adding it to his line-up – he wisely made the leap of faith to bring in a sample bike and then make it available to CMG to boot.
The Alp is the least aggressive of Beta’s dual-sport line up. It uses Suzuki’s proven DR200 air-cooled single motor and inserts it into a high-end chassis with a twist. The twist is that the Alp is two bikes in one. In standard form it looks like a regular dual sport, but remove the seat and tank plastic and it transforms into a trials bike.
For those unfamiliar with the difference between a trials bike and a trail bike — beyond switching around the a and the i — a trials bike is something that, in the right hands, can jump fallen logs without a thought and ride up the side of boulders like the laws of physics no longer apply. Probably the best way to illustrate this is with a video of four times CMA National Observed Trials Champion, Jordan Szoke (worth going to watch a trials event in person BTW).
Having no desire to actually do such things myself, I can’t confirm whether the Alp 2.0 has this capability or not, but since Beta offer a whole line of trials bikes, they probably know what they’re doing.
Canada Moto Guide’s Editorial team tested a Beta 498RR earlier this season and we’re becoming familiar with the Italian company’s hard-edged focus on trials, trails and super moto variations. Though we noted a few quirks with the 498RR, these were mainly to do with making a dirt bike road-legal (licence plate and headlight issues). My short time on the Alp 2.0 did not allow for such a full test, but a close inspection shows all parts to be of a high quality. The sidestand though, doesn’t allow for much lean and the first thing the Alp did when pulled out of the garage was get blown over.
Though I’m far from being a competitive enduro rider, I do enough off-road riding to have a grasp of where the cutting edge is, and I see that Beta can give companies like KTM a run for their money in the dirt segment.
ALP 2.0 – TO THE SOMME
In mild temperatures and beaming sun, we ventured off a wide gravel road and down a seemingly civilized trail. This was a bit like a visit to the French countryside circa 1913, all lovely and easy going with fine wine and fresh croissants. Then 1914 happened and the mud rose up and the track became a mini modern day Somme.
The Alp’s feathery weight and stiff but competent suspension was not phased by this turn of events. The heavier and dual sport orientated Dakar was the perfect juxtaposition as Bruce courageously fought against overwhelming mass – steering at full lock, bike sideways, front wheel ploughing through the mud.
Dual sports like Bruce’s Dakar and my KLR 650 are like a comfy couch that instantly accommodates the amateur. Dirt oriented trail bikes in KTM and Beta territory require a steeper learning curve – the Alp 2.0 has clear dirt bike DNA and takes time to get to know, but instantly I feel the finesse.
The high point of that learning curve is the steering, which I suspect is somewhat compromised by Beta’s attempt to make two bikes in one. Trials riding is all about agility and the ability to maneuver quickly at slow speeds. In the trails this trait makes the front overly sensitive as the wheel tends to track slightly off centre, ploughing the mud as much as rolling through it.
I’m somewhat familiar with the DR200 motor as we have a Konker KSM 200 for the family (and errant staff) with the same unit. Albeit in a slightly different state of tune than in the Konker, the Alp’s 199 cc air-cooled single is a tough bastard and enjoys being flogged. Top speed is about the metric tonne (100 km/h) as the gearing is low for better trail use.
The front brake is a little on the soft side but effective enough, while the rear is set too high for me to easily use with my stiff dirt boots. As mentioned above, the suspension is on the stiff side and in combination with the plank-like seat I was on the pegs more than my lardy arse was fit for.
As Bruce and I go further into our ride, every additional blissful minute of freedom in the trails takes us away from daily rote, and I start to bond with the Alp. The steering is more familiar with much less ploughing as I find the flow through muddy holes and sandy corners. Tomorrow this will all be under two feet of snow … Carpe diem!
The beauty of a small and light dual sport is that you can throw it into stuff that a larger, porkier bike will have you doing a 27 point turn to get away from. Mass is the instrument of the devil in the off-road world and despite having a rather small motor, careening through the trails with a wide-open throttle is a joy to behold.
Beta have made a high-spec, simple machine in the Alp. Since I do not ride up two-storey high boulders, I would be happier with more trail than trials in behaviour. But, this old dog can learn new tricks and the slow speed maneuverability gracefully carried me over a pair of medium sized logs followed by a wheelie up a beach side embankment.
So who does the Alp 2.0 fit best? Well, at 830 mm seat height it’s tall but not ginormous, and at only 108 Kg dry it’s not heavy either. It’s also not overly powerful, so it should appeal to the more novice rider, though at 6’ 4” and medium skilled, I would be more than happy to own one too (FAR anyone??).
At time of testing the importer had still not decided if the Alp 2.0 is a shoe-in for the Canadian market. It would be nice to have it here but I do worry that in a now ultra-competitive small bike market that is already up to 300 cc, the Alp 2.0 may struggle to find the love it needs. How about the Alp 4.0?
*This was written two days ago, it’s all white now …
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