Have you seen Into the Wild, or read the book it is based on? You know, the story about Christopher McCandless, the promising student and athletic son of affluent parents who gave it up all for a life of travel and living with nature in its very basic form. It is a powerful story and one that resonates with us, the Generation Y, the millennials. The same group who also had posters of Easy Riders on their dorm walls and is still prone to quoting Fight Club quotes when with friends.
Unfortunately, not every one of us has the luxury, nay, the fortitude, to chuck it all aside and live the oddly satisfying life of a vagabond. It takes a special kind of mindset to say goodbye to a grounded life and go ahead and answer the call of the open road.
There’s a certain ilk that comes closest to it though. Bikers. Or, more specifically, tourers. The people who take a leave of absence from their 9-to-5 lives just to dust off their steeds, tank it up to the brim, and ride off into the unknown for as long as time allows them. You will find these people at some special places, sipping overly sweetened chai at a dhaba beside four-lane highways, laboriously making their way up to Khardung La, or parked beside a village road, admiring the sunset with their rides by their sides. They are recognizable by their clothing and their motorcycles too – the lucky ones ride specialized bikes made for touring while the rest make do with whatever they commute to their office also. Both groups love their bikes the same though, a fact attested simply by the mileage they put on the latter every month, every year.
And, since you’re reading this, it’s safe to say, you belong to at least one, or probably both of those two groups. We also have with us here a specialized bike made for touring. Meet the Benelli TNT 600 GT.
Photography: Rohan Patil
Design and Features
Touring bikes, by their very specific design requirements, aren’t the most sporty or fastest looking motorcycles on the planet. Eschewing fancy styling cues, they’re meant to protect the riders from windblasts at high speeds, hence a tall windscreen and at least a half fairing of some sort is de rigeur. They’re ridden for longer durations that any other category of motorcycles so they need to be more comfortable. Hence a tall and wide handlebar in place of clip-ons, well-padded seats in place of a sliver of foam beneath your bum, and a relaxed riding position that more resembles a commuter bike than a thoroughbred track monster. Also, since they are meant to be stable, with the ability to lug around luggage and tools and spares, they are big. Really, really, big.
The Benelli TNT 600 GT is a big motorcycle. It also has all of those attributes that would make it an excellent touring machine. And it looks pretty decent too as far as tourers go, although it is nowhere as sit-up-and-take-notice as the sibling it shares most of its mechanicals with, the Benelli TNT 600 i streetbike.
Upfront, the large projector headlights with clearly demarcated high and low beam lamps dominate the look. The plexi windshield is adjustable for two positions, mounted on black plastic air scoops that channel air to the large radiator behind it. They meld nicely with the white half fairing, which also houses the long and uniquely shaped clear-lens indicators. Thick 50mm upside down forks painted golden, twin front discs, and 120mm dual purpose front tyres round up the front look.
Instrumentation on the GT is dominated by a large analogue tachometer, flanked by an LCD readout at the right and tell tale lights at the left. The LCD is comprehensive, with an engine management display, clock, and a speedo that displays in both miles as well as kilometers. Switchgear is also comprehensive, with a hazard light function at both ends of the bars’, although their quality leaves a little to be desired. Unlike the TNT 600 i and the TNT streetfighters, the stylish switchblade-style key goes in front of the handlebars, making it more accessible.
Two hard panniers painted in body color adorn either side of the pillion seat. They’re lockable, and can be complemented by another pannier directly behind the pillion’s backrest. Nestled between the two side panniers are the taillight and the stylish clear-lens indicators.
The problem with small manufacturers like Benelli is that in some cases they can’t exercise a tight control over the quality of components as bigger marques do. Which is probably why parts of the GT feels extremely high-end, like the white and black body panels, while other parts seems like they have been sourced from factories with less stringent manufacturing norms. These include the switchgear, exhaust, the luggage mounting points and the panniers themselves.
Performance and Efficiency
What good is a touring machine if you can’t evaluate it over the terrain it was meant to dwell on? The good guys over at DSK MotoWheels thought so too, so they graciously loaned us the GT for two days, giving us ample time to put it through its paces. To properly emulate the touring lifestyle, which sometimes includes a pillion and quite some luggage, Rohan, my colleague, and I, slapped on the side panniers, loaded it up with some gear, tanked it to the brim, and set off two-up for the nearby hills of Mahabaleshwar for a whole day.
Sharing the same liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, four-cylinder, with four valves per cylinder engineas the TNT 600 i streetfighter, the GT produces 81.5PS of peak power at 11,000 rpm and a max torque figure of 55Nm at 8000 rpm. Benelli has reworked the gearing to better suit the GT’s mile-munching aims, and it shows in the way the bike moves.
Slot the engine into the first of the six gears and the GT takes off with reassurance, albeit with less urgency than the TNT 600 i. There is ample power to trundle around town, but you can feel the bike still straining at the leash. This is a motor that plays its best at high revs, and rewards you for a liberal throttle hand. At around the 7500mark, there is a slight but perceptible surge in the power, and from thereon, the GT zooms off with a sense of urgency. 0-100 kmph is achieved in under 5 seconds, and given a long enough stretch of road, it will cross the 200kmph mark without breaking a sweat.
The last thing you want to be doing when you’re enjoying your ride on the open road is to be brought back to earth by the necessity of stopping for fuel. Not with the TNT 600 GT. With its whooping 27 litre fuel tank and an overall fuel efficiency of 19kmpl, you can motor on, covering a few tiny countries before stopping for fuel. Okay, close to 600 kilometers, but you get the point.
Despite the increased risk of riding at night, there is a certain pleasure traveling down the road after the sun goes down. The air is cooler, there are fewer vehicles on the road, and, for a tropical climate like India, the bike runs cooler too. Which is why we found the return journey to Pune to be a more pleasurable affair, aided by the excellent illumination from the projector headlamps on the GT. The slight whiff of hot air emanating from the four-pot engine during the daytime and troubling my legs also subsided with the cool nighttime air.
With the bright projector headlamps, night time riding is a pleasure on the GT
That’s a rather long name, dont ya think?
Instrumentation is comprehensive and legible
27 litres! Fill it, shut it, forget it
Hazard lights for added safety
Prepare for jealous eyeballs at toll booths
Exhaust note is subdued compared to the 600 i
A liquid cooled inline four
The engine is the same as the one on the TNT 600 i
Plush seat is comfortable on long distances
Bungee cords and hooks abound
Where bikers congegrate…
The headlight is a revealation
Top spec suspension and brakes are built to last
Dual purpose Pirelli Angel GTs
Fit and finish of the exhaust is not in tune with the rest of the machine
You can rip it open on the straights
Best take the corners slow with added luggage and a full tank
This is one leviathan of a machine, this GT
The switchblade-style key is a miniature work of art
Tall windscreen plays its part admirably
Still one of the most evocative badges in the business
There’s space for one more pannier behind the pillion
Steel trestle frame, aluminum sub frame
Footpegs are rearset, but not overly so
Panniers are lockable for added safety
Just in case you were unclear about what this machine does best
Switchgear quality could have been better
Uniquely designed turn indicators meld unobtrusively into the fairing
Four cylinders for all the grunt you will need on the open road
… or off it, the 600 GT is a comfortable machine
Ride and Handling
As you’d expect, with its upright and relaxed riding posture, the 600 GT is a plush machine to be on, much more so than its streetfighter siblings we’ve tested recently. The reach to the tall handlebars is perfect for both six-footer Rohan and tiny me, and the seat is lower than other Benelli streetfighters at 800mm. The footpegs are very slightly rearset, and impart a natural stance that ensures that you can ride on for hours on end without needing to take a break. The two-piece stepped seat is well padded and there is ample room to move around, so changing postures slightly on the saddle is possible.
With the steel trestle frame, meaty 50mm upside down forks at the front and the rear swingarm mounted asymmetrically on an aluminium sub-frame, the Benelli is a stable handler too. They aren’t adjustable except for preload and rebound at the rear, but the GT has been set up softer before it left the factory premises. It is a lot more pliant, which is a boon considering our less than stellar highways.
The downside of this soft suspension, and the GT’s inherent girth, is the handling. Shod with 120/70-17 and 180/70-17 Pirelli Angel GT dual-purpose tyres at the front and rear respectively, the GT corners with poise, but it is not the most flickable bike on the road. You have to push the inside ‘bars quite a bit before it turns, giving the impression of a bike that is most at home on the straight and the narrow. Once it is leaned in though, it will hold a line, aided by the 1430mm wheelbase and, despite the 27 litre fuel tank, the centralized centre of gravity.
Maybe we are nitpicking here really, because no tourer has been made to carve corners like a streetbike, and no streetbike will offer the cushy ride of an adventure bike. That said, the Benelli TNT 600 GT is a stable handler even with a pillion and luggage, and unless you have a proclivity for rushing into tight corners on full throttle, it should more than suffice. What’s more important is the ride quality over long distances, and here the GT excels. The panniers do not get in the way of either comfort or hard cornering, and remain unobtrusively tucked at the side. You can safely forget the girth they add until you’re maneuvering in heavy traffic.
Braking duties on the GT are handled by 320mm twin floating discs and radial calipers with braided steel cables upfront, while the rear is taken care of by a double piston caliper biting down on a single 260mm disc. The brakes are good – not as grabby as some sportsbikes but providing good and gradual deceleration throughout.
By the time we handed back the Benelli TNT 600 GT to the DSK MotoWheels showroom, we had covered almost 400 kilometres in the course of a day. Most of the riding was done on the smooth stretch of NH4 that connects Pune to Bengaluru, but we also threw in a sizeable stretch of good old B-roads and twisty ghats in the interests of science. And yet, my colleague and I were in almost the same state of err… perkiness as the moment we set out.
Yes, we both have covered longer distances at a stretch before, but the overarching urge, at least for me, at the end of the day in those occasions was to hit the sack and rest my weary bones.
This is a testament to the Benelli’s mile munching capabilities. Sure, you can make the same trip on a hardcore streetbike, and maybe you’d even be faster too, but that would tire you out long before the fuel has even hit reserve on the GT. Not to mention the luggage you can haul with a tourer like this.
And the Benelli is pretty reliable too, putting our fears about Italian machines at rest. The only downside we could find on the package was the slightly glitchy fueling at low speeds, and the lack of low and mid-end grunt, which could have made for a more delectable touring package. But, other than that, the GT is a surprisingly stellar machine that can do battle with the best of the competition.
Speaking of the competition, there are a couple of very worthy ones from Kawasaki, the Ninja 650 and the recently-launched ER-6N. Despite the slightly larger engine capacity, the Kawasaki duo produce 10PS less than the Benelli, but has a higher torque figure, something that touring at high speeds will bring to the fore. The Benelli is still more comfortable, and is a specialized machine that can lug more. Then there is the legendary BMW Motorrad range of touring and adventure bikes, although their pricing keeps them out the hands of many who might want one.
In terms of just cubic capacity, there’s the triumph Street Triple, the most powerful bike in this range, and also the Hyosung GT650R, another offering from DSK in India.
DSK Benelli hasn’t disclosed the pricing of the TNT 600 GT yet. The machine will be available in two colours, black, and the white one you see here, to be sold at newly set up showrooms across the metros.
You really have to have a touring mindset to choose the Benelli TNT 600 GT over its peers. If you do possess that, this is a machine that can go to the ends of the earth with you, and leave you with looking forward to the next day of riding at the end of it all. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the bike for the modern-day Alexander Supertramp.
- ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
- Engine type Liquid cooled 4-stroke 4-valve DOHC Inline 4
- Capacity 600 cc
- Bore x Stroke 65 mm x 45.2 mm
- Power 82.5 PS @ 11,000 rpm
- Torque 55 Nm @ 8,000 rpm
- Compression ratio 5:1
- Clutch wet
- Gear Box 6 Speed
- Fuel Injection electronic-injection-with-four-o-38-mm-throttle-bodies
- Frame front-steel-tube-trellis-rear-aluminium-alloy-casting
- Front Suspension Benelli ø 50 mm upside down forks with 120 mm stroke
- Front Suspension adj. no
- Rear Suspension Benelli shock 123 mm stroke
- Rear Suspension adj. adjustable-preload-rebound
- Front Brake Twin ø 320 mm floating discs with radial mounted 4 piston calipers
- Rear Brake Single 260 mm diameter disc with double piston caliper
- Front Tyre Pirelli Angel GT 120/70 ZR17 58W
- Rear Tyre Pirelli Angel GT 180/55 ZR17 73W
- Front Rim aluminium-alloy
- Rear Rim aluminium-alloy
- Overall Dimensions 2150-mm-x-800-mm-excl-mirrors-x-1180-mm
- Seat Height 800 mm
- Wheelbase 1405-mm
- Wet Weight (all fluids except fuel) 223-kg
- Fuel Tank 27-litres