Nobody can give you a more insightful review of a particular vehicle than someone who owns it. In the past, many of our followers have shared their ownership experiences and it only gives us more joy to share it further with the community. One of our readers and followers Vikramaditya Mishra decided to share his experience with a pre-owned Benelli TNT 600i. Someone whose love affair with motorcycles began with a 1998 (gear on the right side) Bullet Machismo 350, Vikram grew up riding a Hero Honda CBZ, before the bug to pilot something more substantial bit him. Below is an account of how it all started and what made him buy into brand Benelli, in his own words:
I was maybe 3 years old when I first remember the image of a MotoGP race. I am not sure if it was on TV or a photo in a magazine, but a rider going full tilt, knee grating against the road, astounded me. Back then, my father used to ride a Bullet and I too experienced my first taste of two-wheeled freedom astride one. My father was of the opinion that learning on this bike would give me the confidence needed for other lighter bikes. At that point, my dream bike was the recently launched Karizma. It was frankly out of our budget. With a heavy heart, I settled for a CBZ when the time came. Not that the first-gen CBZ was a slouch and I realise that I was extremely fortunate to own one. Thanks, Maa.
The CBZ served me well through my student years and well into my first job where it made multiple runs from city to rural areas since I was in sales profile. The engine did not die. Ever. Finally out of sheer boredom I decided to get a new bike. By now the CBZ had completed a little over 9 years with me and the Pulsars had grown into an aspirational brand.
It was at this time that the NS 200 had been in the market for nearly a year and my choices were down to that, or the Duke 200. With budget and looks being the deciding criteria I somehow settled for the NS. Yes, I felt the NS looked more proportional than the Duke. This is the first bike which gave me high-speed confidence. The brakes were much superior to the CBZ, the ergonomics and switchgear quality were brilliant and the vibrations were less than the CBZ. I was happy!
About 3.5 years later I was getting into touring and the CS 400 was finally launched by Bajaj. I immediately got in the queue and picked up the first batch of the Dominar after multiple long test rides. This was in February 2017. It is to be noted here that I did not wait for the long term reviews and was not worried about reliability concerns because of my positive experience with the NS. The Dominar got me into relaxed high speed touring. I also learnt how to counter-steer on it. By now though, I knew that my next bike had to be something in the big leagues.
I started saving and had my eyes firmly fixed on the most practical bike in the most practical category (as per me) – The Kawasaki Z650. It was perfect for my requirements. It was about 6 Lakh on road in Gujarat, had a 650 cc engine which was just the right amount of power, decent looks and it was a Jap! So to achieve this goal, I set about depositing a substantial amount of money in a separate bank account. I decided never to touch this account and it was strictly for a new middleweight sports bike. I estimated that at the rate I was saving for the bike, it would take me the better part of 4 years to save up for a new Z650. A second hand/pre-owned bike was never on the cards. Life – Yeah right!
One fine day, I noticed a beautiful Honda F4i parked in our office parking. I was curious to know who it belonged to. But more than that it looked familiar. It was then that I connected the dots and realized I had read about this bike restoration a few months ago. What were the odds of that? It “was” the same bike. Now, the level of restoration and the amount of time and effort the owner had put on, made me a fan of his work. Still, I had not seen the man yet and a bigger coincidence awaited me.
This man comes and sits next to me in the office and has an international spec helmet. I put 2 and 2together and realized that he was the owner. Small world! So we start talking and he is an enthusiastic guy who told me how he hunted and got this bike in Rajasthan and all the while I’m thinking – “but why second-hand man?” He himself explained that one can get fantastic examples if you know what you are looking for and can do a basic inspection of the bike. Over the next couple of months I warmed up to the idea and with the help of my new-found friend, I was able to zero down on some of the bikes which would suit me. I was clear I did not want a fairing on the bike I got and most importantly in terms of safety, it had to have ABS.
Kawasaki had shut shop in Gujarat while I was hunting for a used example of the Z650 and that meant, for any replacements or service, I would have to visit Mumbai. To expand my searches, my friend also added me to a couple of Facebook classified pages where Indian superbike owners buy, sell and exchange bikes. These pages also gave a newbie like me some reference in terms of prices which are asked and the reaction to those prices in the comments gave me an idea of what was hot and what was not. Frankly, I avoided taking into account the trolls and the hilarious low ballers but within a week I could see that certain bikes and accessories were coveted whereas certain brands were just ignored. Strangely enough, it was a very unlikely brand which caught my attention simply because I kept seeing so many examples of it. Yes, it was the Benelli.
Now I am not someone who has ridden a lot of imports/inline 4s/parallel twins or v-twins, but I have read about these a lot and the few things I read about the 600 series from the Benelli were not at all encouraging. Every review said that the bike is underpowered and the torque develops at crazy high RPMs. The bike without fuel weighs in at 230 kilos! The service is crap and the spare parts cost a bomb. Service frequency is high and brakes only look massive but don’t have the necessary stopping power. The only positive was the sound and bragging rights of owning an inline 4.
Yeah, I knew all of this. Still, there were 2 for sale listed in my city, Vadodara, so why not have a look? The biggest reason was that both these were mid-2017 examples with less than 10000 km on the clock and had ABS. After having ridden both, they felt quite different, and frankly, I am glad that the experience made settle for the better choice.
Making The Choice
I rode the red one first and red is my favourite colour. The license plate number on it also coincided with my month and day of birth! The owner was a bit “lazy”. In our first meet, he couldn’t produce the keys of the bike. He said they were misplaced because he didn’t ride the bike all that much. No rearview mirrors as well and the bike was parked under a tree and left that way for at least a week. It was filthy and I felt sad at its state. On the positive side, he told me that the bike had insurance and was within warranty. In the second meeting, the owner had it washed and I was able to ride the bike.
It felt good and as far as I could tell the 4 cylinders were firing well. I used a screwdriver to listen to the valves. The bike had only run maybe 4000 km in the past 1.5 years. Surprisingly the owner was touting this as a big reason for the price he was demanding. He did have the IXIL exhausts and frame sliders but we could not close a deal that day because we couldn’t agree on a price. In retrospect, I am glad that we didn’t. The bike was in warranty since the owner had the bike serviced at the dealership as per him but as I found out myself from the parivahan website, it did not have insurance. He said if he agreed to my price, I would have to take on the insurance bit myself. This was contradictory to what he said in the first meeting. I let this hang and in the meanwhile, my friend gave me a lead on another Benelli in Vadodara.
This bike belonged to a young kid who had priced the bike more optimistically than the red Benelli owner. One look at the ad and I felt this was more out of reach for me. It was black and I did not really take to it. However, I decided to give him a call and ask if the bike was still for sale and it was. We talked a bit where he gave me details like he had a new tyre put into the bike 500 km ago and that the bike had run about 8000 km. He had a bunch of other bikes and he was getting rid of a few of them. He had recently sold his Hayabusa and had put up an HD 48 for sale as well. This was the third bike. I said I was interested and gave him a stern and direct offer. I mean that was the best I could do and it was more than 25% less than what he had put it up for. He thought for a few seconds(or pretended to) and asked me to come down and see the bike and we could work around the price.
I visited him that weekend and found the bike came as advertised. It was clean and looked well maintained. At this point, I think its best to let you all know what all I checked about the mechanicals of the bike before I finalized my decision. This pretty much is applicable to all the bikes I looked at:
- Tyre tread and condition. Also, the wear pattern, if it is uneven, could indicate alignment issues. If it is worn out then bargain hard. A set costs 20K. Unused tyres become hard and will crack. It is not a good thing if someone says the bike isn’t ridden a lot.
- Stick a light and try to see inside the fuel tank for rust or any other unwanted residue. I easily checked this using my phone’s light. Rust or residue is bad. This happens a lot in bikes which are ridden less or have been fed adulterated fuel.
- Handlebar and chassis alignment. Took it over some water and checked that the tyre marks on the road were aligned.
- Screwdriver to ear and the metal part to each individual cylinder. Just listening for something out of rhythm.
- On the test ride, leave the handlebars at low speed at an empty stretch to see if the bike stays straight.
- Brake pads bite. Brake lever play. The play is higher in all Benellis, but it should “not” be more than 50%. If it is, then new pads are needed. There may also be air in the system.
- ABS light should go off after 15 kmph and engine warning light should be looked at. Ideally, there should be no warning lights in motion.
- Leave the bike idling for 2 mins or more and see if the radiator kicks in. In Benelli TNT 600, it is supposed to kick in after 95 degrees Celsius.
- Check basic electricals. In the first TNT, I saw (the red one) the headlight pass switch was networking.
- The TNT 600i has its key position in a deep recess in the tank. This place collects all the dust grime and water and screws up the connection of the key. It needs to be kept clean.
- Owner history – I did some digging around in the owner’s social media page and saw when he had first uploaded pics and also the rides he had taken on it. It seemed well cared for and I never saw his friends riding it.
- Always clarify if the bike is under insurance. This is one thing I asked at the very end and found it had lapsed in one case. More bargaining power to you and if you ignore this, it is an expense.
- I had seen many videos during my initial research period but this time I paid more attention and picked up tips like not filling the fuel tank to the brim because of the horrendous fuel overflow mechanism and the fact that this was one heavy bike. I knew I would need to get my back and legs strong if I wanted to ride this bike.
Bringing Her Home
I finally got my bike after making a full payment from the owner on. I had finally accomplished it, a proper sports bike. My own! Riding it back to my place amidst the rush hour traffic had me “grinning like a kid on Christmas morning” – words said by my friend who accompanied me on another bike and made sure people didn’t get too close! One thing I immediately realized despite my extremely short ride that although very manageable, the bike is not meant to be ridden in heavy traffic. I can see the experienced riders here going – Duh! Thankfully, over 4 months down and I can finally highlight the bad aspects along with the amazing ones on the bike. I have ridden the bike every alternate day since I got it and every Saturday of the weekend. As of now, I have accumulated over 4500 kms. I am sure I will learn a lot more as I ride it.
- Brake lever play – The play in the lever is massive. The brakes start working after the lever has travelled half distance. This happened after bleeding the brakes. It was more earlier. Has been vastly reduced by switching to EBC brake pads. Expensive but worth it.
- Weight – Let’s address the elephant in the room – quite literally. 230 kilos without fuel. I always tank up so you can imagine the weight without the rider. Yeah if this thing leans beyond control, best to let it down as gently as you can and then lift it.
- Spares – There is only one Service Centre in Gujarat and that is in Vadodara. This was told to me by the technicians working there. There are only 2 technicians for all the bikes that come in. Oh, and yes, the waiting time for spares and their costs is well….
- Tank Size – The GT gets 27 litres whereas the TNT gets only 15! Are you kidding me? I mean I know this is a street naked but come on.
- Fuel efficiency – No this is not me crying over the km per litre I get. That is within expectations but with the small tank, I am visiting the fuel bunk so often! It gets irritating.
- Fuel overflow mechanism – I have to, strictly and sometimes sternly, tell the operators to leave space on the top. The overflow mechanism basically immediately leaks fuel all over the left side of the engine and onto the ground. Dangerous and embarrassing.
- Headlight – It looks out of place on such a huge bike and does a pathetic job too. sometimes I feel it isn’t even on! High beam is just about ok for the city, which I don’t use out of empathy for other vehicles. The pass switch response time can be measured with a sand timer. It’s that bad.
- Lack of Slipper Clutch – I have had a couple of heart in mouth moments because of this. I use a lot of engine braking. Dominar has spoilt me!
- Console – This bike’s fuel gauge should be researched by the top scientists of the world. The word inaccurate doesn’t do it any justice. Digital fuel gauges are always a pain but this one actually fluctuates with the revs. Once I revved up and it went to full bars and as soon as I decelerated, it disappeared! The showroom guys confirm that Benelli indeed could have done a better job with the fuel gauge in this bike.
- Mirrors – pure form over function. It has blind-spots the size of Jupiter. I have to move my head around to get over these.
- Switchgear – Pathetic. I remember my 2004 model CBZ had better quality switchgear than this bike. I mean, it may last but it feels very crude, almost agricultural.
- Smoothness – By choice, I have always owned slightly unrefined bikes. Vibrations have been a part and parcel. With this bike, it feels strange to have 0 vibes till the end of the rev range. Strangely the only exception is right at the 6000 RPM mark. Anything below and above this smooth.
- Brutal Acceleration – Post 8000 RPMs, if you are committed on the throttle, the shove is massive. The bike is currently pumping out nearly 90 BHP (courtesy IXIL) and the acceleration is so manic that you seriously cannot try this without being on a long stretch. Trust me, even after 4 months with it I am still not used to it.
- Responsive Throttle – immediate response to my throttle inputs. It almost feels like its ride-by-wire. Hard to explain. Maybe it’s just the power.
- Stability – High-speed stability despite crosswinds on the highway. Probably the weight.
- Ergonomics – It isn’t as comfortable as its touring-oriented relative, the GT, still my torso is only leaned slightly forward. The footpegs are positioned slightly behind but it doesn’t put too much weight on my palms
- Console – while it isn’t comprehensive by modern standards one thing that works in favour of being outdated is the analogue tachometer needle! I love seeing that needle in play. Even a short glance gives me a better idea than I get while looking at my Dominar’s digital rev counter.
- Comfort – The seat is decent sized despite being a split set up and is cushioned well. Even the pillion seat is better cushioned and my pillion riders have commented its better than myDominar! Oh, and the exhaust under the seat doesn’t heat up the pillion seat. Also, the stepped design seat provides excellent support to my lower back, especially when accelerating hard.
- Easy to manage in the city – By sportbike standards it almost works in its favour that the power is in the high end of the rev range. This means I can ride it pretty easily in the city. I have even done 40kmph in 4th gear with no engine knocking. Not advisable though. I hate lugging any engine.
- Temperature Indicator – very useful as one should keep a mindful eye on this. In city this stays between 92-105. Normally it stays under 100 but in case I get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic it goes up. On the highways, the engine temp stays under 95. Radiator kicks above 95 degrees.
- Aesthetics – Subjective but I really like the clean rear end of the bike and the under-seat exhausts. I know these aren’t modern but I dig the way they look. Paint quality seems better than average as well. Also, I like that this bike looks bigger than it is. I am 6ft tall and 85 kgs. It suits my frame.
- Mileage – It gives me 18 km/l in the city and about 20 on the highway. Very good in my opinion.
- IXIL Exhaust – The previous owner put IXIL 60 exhausts (which cost Rs 60,000 as per the showroom) and these announce my arrival. It’s a big attention magnet even if I am doing 40kmph. Sounds almost like an F1 car near the redline. Even when I roll off the throttle cracks and pops.
- Bragging rights – A 600 cc inline 4. That’s it. I don’t use this much though.
Living With It
I had prepared myself mentally for all the precautions I would have to take when taking care of such a powerful bike. It is in another league altogether when compared to all my previous machines and even my cars. This bike has to be used and since I love riding a lot it won’t ever be left sitting waiting for the weekend just so I can do a breakfast run and feel happy about it. I will be taking it places and riding the heck out of it. In 4 months I have already ridden it 50% of the kilometres the previous owner rode it in 18 months. In contrast, I have seen many amazing litre class and above bikes on superbike meets and it feels sad to see that even after owning them for a few years, many haven’t even crossed 8000 kms.
One common thing I see in all these bikes is massive amounts of rust on the disc plates. That is pretty much a dead giveaway that it is probably ridden once in a week or so. May not be the case in coastal cities but in a place like Vadodara – Ahmedabad where there is very little moisture, this usually happens due to lack of riding. I have understood though that it’s best I learn some basic maintenance myself. I lube the chain every 2 tankfuls, that is about once every 400 – 450 kms. I also am aware that I shouldn’t half clutch this bike which is a habit with us Indian riders. I use the clutch only for shifting gears and on the rare occasion, I get stuck in traffic since I only take the bike out in the city after 10 pm! All speed breakers are dealt with on the first gear without use of the clutch.
- The bike doesn’t feel so heavy to push around using one’s legs when seated on the bike.
- I think the speedometer wire is connected to the rear wheel of the bike.
- This is a 600 cc bike which is so big that it looks like a litre-class bike.
- Where other SBK manufacturers are trying to make their litre-class bikes smaller so they appear less intimidating, Benelli went the other way.
- I realized that the length of the footpegs is shockingly about as much as my middle finger. Still, till I had seen them I didn’t think anything about it. I don’t feel them wanting in any way yet. I have “size 8” feet.
- My petrol pump attendant always asks me to do a rev bomb after he has filled up fuel. It’s getting old now.
- I haven’t yet had the opportunity to take the bike to 6th gear. Not even once.
- The horn is quite good and strong but the least used a feature of my bike perhaps. You can guess why.
- I now don’t just look 4-5 cars ahead while riding, but way beyond that, nearly 8-10 car lengths ahead.
- I also save every month separately for tyres, oil, service and other consumables. Since I ride the bike every other day and ride it quite a bit on the weekends too, these things add up.
- I have stopped at half clutching. I know it’s a sure shot way to burn through the clutch. I never do it on the Benelli and this habit is now slowly extending to the Dominar as well.
- I am always aware that I am carrying massive momentum, even at low speeds. If I hit something even doing 40kmph because of the weight of the bike it will get amplified. For reference, a Kawasaki Z650 weighs 190 kgs. This is 40 kilos heavier. 50 if you consider fuel
- Air in brakes – resolved simply by doing a brake bleed. Realised the stock brake pads were also worn out and changed them with EBC.
- Ignition and electricals not powering on – Sounds worse than it is but sometimes when I turn the key nothing happens. Jimmy it a little and it’s all good. Put some WD 40 in and it worked well for a while but I need to get the assembly opened and cleaned.
- Massive overheating – Got stuck in crazy Ahmedabad traffic and that too in the peak summer afternoon. The temp hit 108 and even on the highway at decent speeds it did not come below 102. Faced massive vibes. Tried to cool it down by taking stops but it didn’t help much.
- Mobile charger and holder – Rs 1,000
- Ceramic coating for paint protection (5 years) – Rs. 5,000. Half the normal rate because the business owner is a friend.
- EBC brake pads for both front discs – Rs 8,000.
- Headlight swap from the 899? I saw a 600 listed recently with the headlight of an 899 and it looked perfect. That is my only issue with the bike and I hope it can be done.
If you have stuck around till now, then, first of all, thank you. I wonder how someone who can buy something so impractical (for our market) can try to justify it by quoting numbers and saying I have absolutely “no regrets”. Honestly, I do feel that maybe I overpaid. I do worry about the maintenance aspect. I do realise that I could have gotten myself a very nice sedan sometime in the near future by not buying this bike. The Benelli is a pain to manoeuvre, intimidating and not very happy till I am revving its nuts off. My Dominar can probably do 80% of what the TNT does minus the hassle. But, there is a “but” in this one! But, I have never had a clearer flashback of my thoughts and dreams from when I was a child until I rode and started taking care of the Benelli. I know I haven’t felt like this since I was 3 and that alone is worth the price and the effort.