Ahoy fellow travellers! I say that because we’re testing a couple of twin-cylinder, middleweight ‘adventure’ tourers with us here on this rainy, rainy day. Why? Well, there’s nothing quite like going on a quest every now and then to see what’s over that horizon. Especially now, since things seem to be slightly better. So, let me introduce our noble steeds for today. Representing Italy (and China) – the striking and gorgeous Benelli TRK 502. And representing Japan – the bold and beautiful Kawasaki Versys 650. Since we’re on this subject, let me start off by saying that I think the Benelli just takes the edge as far as design is concerned. I mean, just look at that front beak, LED DRLs, sharp cuts and full metal jacket look all around.
The TRK 502 grabs your attention very easily with those updated knuckle guards, front mudguard and mirrors. The instrument cluster along with the switches have also been updated on this BS6-compliant TRK 502. The backlit switchgear looks especially premium. But that’s not to say that the Versys isn’t handsome. But, it certainly takes a different approach. That Candy Lime green colour adds a bit of flavour to the otherwise fairly serious looking ADV. However, the Versys 650 does have an air of confidence about it. Maybe it’s those clean lines across the side and the contrast of the green with the black. Or maybe it’s because the Versys has been around in the market for a while now. All those years of experience do bring a certain amount of confidence to the mix.
The Versys 650 also looks taller than the TRK, which can be a boon for taller riders. Especially if you consider the fact that the TRK 502 has an 800mm seat height, while the Versys 650 has an 840mm one. However, the ground clearance on the Versys is lower at 170mm, than the TRK’s 190mm. The front Showa suspension is adjustable, unlike the TRK. If you compare the instrument clusters, the TRK and Versys both get semi-digital units but the TRK’s unit looks and feels more premium. The Versys on the other hand is more simple and robust. Other than that, the halogen bulbs on the Versys look a lot more dated than the TRK’s LED indicators and aforementioned DRLS. Around the back, the Versys looks a lot more conventional; but the dark theme to the tail light is a nice touch. With the TRK, it’s all very big ADV feels with the luggage rack which has the indicators placed on them.
But enough of standing around and talking, let’s take these motorcycles to where they belong the most – out on the road. We hopped on the TRK 502 first to see what’s what. Once you get the slightly heavier frame off to a start, the TRK feels fairly sure-footed. Yes, there are quite a few vibrations towards the higher end of the tachometer but it’s not that disconcerting. In fact, I kind of preferred it that way, if I can be honest. The TRK 502 feels like it has appropriate power, or more usable power to be exact. It sort of sits square in the middle of being neither too powerful nor too underpowered. The 502cc, parallel-twin motor produces 48 bhp and 50 Nm of peak torque. It comes mated to a six-speed gearbox which really adds to the bike’s touring capabilities. Overall, the TRK 502’s power output figures can leave one wanting for more but in practical use, it wasn’t too bad at all. In my opinion, there’s a distinctive character to the Benelli that some riders will really enjoy.
The Versys 650, on the other hand, is completely different in its approach and feel to the power. Its 649cc, parallel-twin engine churns out 64 bhp and 61 Nm of peak torque and too comes mated to a six-speed gearbox. However, that’s the only similarity you’ll find here. Kawasaki’s entry-level ADV in India takes a much more clinical approach to performance. The power delivery is smooth right from the get-go, with torque coming in nicely after you wring the throttle a little hard. The best part? It revs all the way up to the 9,000 rpm mark which can be so addictive, for some at least. The aforementioned Versys 650 confidence also shows up here, thanks to its fantastic riding dynamics. You’ll love to push the Versys hard, especially out on the open road. However, the braking can use some work here since they are smaller twin discs compared to the TRK’s larger 320mm units upfront.
The TRK as a whole felt a lot better when one has to slam down on the brakes hard. While the Versys does a better job at handling broken or rough patches of road. But there’s one angle of competition where it’s not even close, there’s only one winner, and that’s the sound from the exhaust system. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s the loud and shouty Benelli that takes the prize and the cake here. The TRK 502 sounds bassy and gruff, somewhat like a ton of angry bees which happen to be extremely Italian. In this regard, the Versys 650 is the quiet one, going about doing its job with the minimum amount of fuss. It almost seems like the Versys is more polite, almost feeling bad about being loud in any capacity. The exhaust here is a more controlled and sonorous one. Again, this becomes a matter of personal choice. If you’re looking for something that gladly bears its name right on its chest, then go for the TRK. But, if you’re a fan of taking the understated approach and want to let the performance do the talking, the Versys is your machine.
Before we get to decide what’s best for you, we must make mention of the third horse in this race – Honda CB500X. Yes, it’s an extremely capable mid-capacity ADV, one that is lighter than both these motorcycles and has power stats similar to the TRK 502. But, and this is a big one, it costs Rs 6.87 lakh (ex-showroom), just 21 grand lesser than the Versys 650, which has a lot more power and kit. In fact, there’s the fourth horse in this race as well. It’s Suzuki’s V-Strom 650. But it costs a lot more than any of the bikes mentioned in this review. So, where do the TRK 502 and Versys 650 stand? Well, pricing-wise, the TRK 502 is Rs 4.85 lakh (ex-showroom), while the Versys 650 costs Rs 7.08 lakh (ex-showroom). That’s a Rs 2.23 lakh difference. But the Versys is much more powerful and weighs less too.
To sum up, I feel if you’re on a tight budget, want to upgrade from a single-cylinder and must simply have one bike that can do it all, the TRK 502 should be your number one choice. But, if you have a bit more cash to burn and want something that’s fast and nimble rather than steady and easy-going, the Versys 650 is your best bet. To be honest, it’s not easy picking between these two distinct motorcycles. The difference in price is such that it really makes you wonder if you need all that extra power and kit. Or should you maybe take it down one more notch and just go with KTM 390 Adventure. We wouldn’t blame you either, because it very well could be the rational choice to make here. Personally, I know which one I’m going to pick and why. Let’s just say, ‘I’ prefer it that way.