When talking about real dirt bikes that come from the factory with license plates, there are only three brands that offer said machines. Out of those three, Beta is the newest to join the street-legal brigade, and it offers five models in its RR-S line: 125 RR-S, 350 RR-S, 390 RR-S, 430 RR-S, and 500 RR-S. As you may have noticed, Beta doesn’t like to conform to the typical dirt bike displacements, yet, since it is an off-road brand, adhering to the strict 250 and 450 sizes that trickled down from motocross isn’t necessary; it can experiment with different-size motors and let the customer decide what works for them.
To keep things from getting out of hand with so many models, Beta’s model lineup has its mellower off-road four-strokes being street-legal, then its gnarlier Race Edition models being off-road only. The Race Edition bikes have a few different components and, obviously, none of the extra street-legal stuff and none of the weight that comes with it.
Speaking of weight, the ’18 430 RR-S is claimed to be 8.7 pounds lighter than last year’s machine, but as our shop scales show, it is still a hefty 270 pounds. The 430 ditched the kickstarter, but the cases are the same as the ’17 and can be retrofitted with a kickstart backup if desired. Additionally the clutch is all new and is another place that the bike lost some weight. It also has a new frame that is said to be more rigid than previous RR-Ss. Other new items include a new gear change system, new fork slider, stronger turn signals, new Excel rims, and white plastics.
Now… To The Dirt!
As learned with last year’s Beta 500 RR-S and confirmed with this 430, Betas start really easily. Within a millisecond of touching the starter the bike is idling, ready to go. But this also might be why we ran into a bit of an issue. Perhaps the starter motor being so strong and quick, it drains the battery faster than we could recharge it on a slow trail with about six or seven starts and stops. We really could have used that kickstarter backup.
First, I will say the motor is a tick off the pace of other off-road 450s. And then you say, “But it’s not a 450.” And I reply, “Yes, but even for a 430, I would expect a little more excitement from that big of a motor.” All that being said, I really like this motor. There is a sneaky-fast quality that doesn’t rip your arms off or sound super aggressive—or even rev super-fast—but it sort of reminds me of a KTM power curve but with more torque and meat at the bottom. The controllability factor makes the bike unintimidating when navigating off-camber, sketchy single-track where if you got a little whiskey, you could be flying over a cliff. But you can also wring the bike out and it’s more aggressive higher in the rpm, again, a KTM-ish feel. Throttle response is just okay, not instantaneous but pretty good. Also, one of our testers liked that there was just the right amount of engine-braking to help control the bike down steep hills.
Unlike the 2018 Beta 300 RR that we also just tested, the 430 RR-S’s Sachs suspension was much more on the comfort, rather than performance, side. The plus side of this is that, even though the bike is heavy overall, it handles rocks and logs and trail chop really well at low speeds and you can pick your way through tight trail all day long. But any fast-paced, whooped-out trail and we were getting the bouncy pogo feel from the shock. We went three clicks stiffer on the fork compression and two clicks stiffer on both the high-speed and low-speed shock compression and two clicks in on the shock rebound. This left us with a little bit more balanced bike when hitting bumps and whoops at a moderately fast pace. We can blame this all on the suspension because if the bike went on a diet (again!) it would make everything better, including the suspension.
Other than the front end wanting to tuck on fast flat corners, we felt the 430 handles pretty well, especially for a street-legal machine. The bar feels a little tall, and it’s not the bend because the stock bend is pretty flat. It’s like the frame comes up high in the front of the bike. Standing feels fine but sitting the seat feels slightly low to some testers. It’s not super thin or wide feeling between the legs, just a neutral, natural width. The handling, like the suspension, gets better at lower speeds. Just leaning the bike and using your lower body to maneuver around tight corners the 430 RR-S responds well and the mellow power delivery complements this.
Who is the Beta 430 RR-S for? This would make a beauty of a bike for someone who lives near tight, steep single-track connected by dirt roads and needs the power to rip up some climbs every once in a while. With some minor suspension work, this bike could be good in the desert, but in stock form, it wants to be on rough, slow trails.
Usable, sneaky-fast power
Nimble handling on tight trails
Get-out-of-jail-free card (license plate)
Even with weight savings, it is a hefty machine
Stock FIM tires don’t have as much grip as we are used to
Stock suspension will not be happy on fast, whooped-out trails
Tristen Morts, Age: 22, 6’2”, 185 lb, Expert Moto/Off-road
Where I found the engine really excelled was through the mid and top-end. It never felt like you ran out of gear. It carried through the gears smoothly. Engine-braking worked well going downhill; if you needed to downshift, the transition was smooth and worked in your favor being able to control the speed you feel comfortable with. Hill climbing is where I found the power of the Beta to benefit most. Second gear made all the climbs we did that day, and I never felt the need to shift. The 430 had the power to carry me to the top of the hill without revving, and if I needed to chop the throttle to maneuver over an obstacle on the way up, it didn’t bog on me and that mellow response didn't want to wheelie me back as I got back on the throttle.
Allan Brown, Age: 47, 5’10”, 175, Vet A
Any bike that I can ride from my driveway straight into the trails is something I would want in my garage. The first thing I noticed riding the 430 RR-S is the front end felt quite heavy. Considering it’s a 430 four-stroke I was expecting a slightly stronger engine. I am assuming Beta may have had to do a few modifications to the engine and its EFI system to meet the 50-state street-legal rules resulting in a slight loss of overall power. The super-plush suspension is certainly more at home on smooth fire roads. You can easily ride this bike everywhere you ride your normal trailbike but might want to upgrade the suspension if you plan on using it more for trails versus roads. Sitting on this bike I felt like the triangle of footpegs-seat-bar was a little off as the seat seemed low. When standing the bar felt comfortable and helped keep me in a centered to forward position. In stock form I would say this is a good casual trailbike that you can ride anywhere. With a few upgrades and modifications it has plenty of potential to be a more aggressive off-road bike.
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