There’s always been a healthy contingent of bikers who like belting about on small-wheeled, almost ’mini-bikes’. And that’s why Benelli decided to get in on the act, building on the success of Honda’s MSX125 by creating a funky little pocket-sized naked. Having admired its good looks and heard numerous tales of how much of a hoot it is to ride, understandably, Chris Bailey jumped at the chance to try the new Benelli TnT 125 out for size for a month. Here’s how he got on.
Benelli has been in the business since it opened its doors in 1911 in Italy, although it didn’t actually start producing its own bikes until 1919. Skip forward over 85 years and Benelli joined the Qianjiang group, the largest group in China for size and manufacturing capacity in the motorcycle field. The partnership has enabled Benelli to produce a range of great-looking bikes, ranging from 125cc up to more powerful 800cc beasts (with more on the way).
The Benelli TnT 125 is part of Benelli’s low-capacity bike stable. The model I got was grey with black and yellow trim and it looked amazing. From any angle you look at the TnT you can’t escape how great it look. The front boasts four dipped LED headlights, as well as one large, powerful full beam. The display looks great, with a classic analogue rev counter next to a clear digital display, which at a glance will show you your fuel, the time, miles ridden and current speed. What I found odd was that whilst it has the regular green neutral light, the display seemed to have a boxed-out area where you would expect to see a gear indicator, yet inside the box it’s just a blank screen. Moving back to the handlebars, the mirrors come up and away a great distance from the handles, meaning it’s incredibly easy to get perfect visibility behind yourself with very little faffing about with them. Round the back of the bike, the brake light is high up and visible, being incorporated into the back of the seat, along with the indicators, and down the side of the bike we have two exhausts, which caused the little bike to make a deceptively loud and powerful rumble when you hit the ignition.
You may have heard bikes like this described as ‘monkey bikes’, which is a reference to the much-loved Honda Z Series. Due to the bike’s smaller stature, it was noticed that riders on them looked oversized, like monkeys riding a cycle – and the name has stuck for any ‘mini’ motorcycle. Okay, the TnT isn’t quite as mini as the original Monkey, but it is compact. And yet I didn’t feel like a giant perched on a child’s bike. I felt comfortable and in control.
As soon as I set off I was surprised by how much power I had at the bottom end, the single-cylinder, 4-stroke, with four air-cooled valves and Benelli’s 125cc BMT series engine providing 8.2kW meant the bike would fly off the starting line, giving you speeds of up to 68mph on a flat with no headwind, although with a moderate breeze blowing directly at you that top speed quickly tops out at the 56mph mark. But that’s perfectly respectful for a bike which is primarily meant for zipping through towns and cities, as well as leaning round twisties.
The front brakes are made up of a 210mm disc with three-piston caliper and CBS linking with the 190mm disc with single piston caliper on the rear brake. For the first couple of hundred miles it felt like I had to push the brake lever down quite far for the brakes to start engaging. However, as I wore the TnT in, the braking quickly become a lot more responsive, the light weight of the bike combined with the well-designed system meaning that the moment I noticed a hazard, the bike could be slowed down at various speeds in a safe and controlled way.
Considering, as mentioned, that the TnT’s main purpose is to get you around busy urban hubs, I was sceptical of how it would feel when I took it down some of Lincolnshire’s finest uneven roads. However, due to the 35mm diameter upside-down forks on the front end, and the swing arm with an adjustable shock absorber on the back end, the bike glided perfectly over pretty much every terrain I threw at it – which meant that on pretty much all road surfaces I felt absolutely confident about throwing the bike around as I took it round corners. And with an unladen weight of 124kg, you really could lean it effortlessly from side to side with zero difficulty which felt great. The only downside I found was that because of the bike’s smaller size, if I was leaning it around some corners on an incline I would occasionally hit the footpegs against the raised ground, which just led me to not leaning it quite as much on uphill bends, but the footpegs fold up and then down again in such instances which made it not much of a bother at all. This great handling extends to town riding itself, and the nimble TnT is absolutely great at filtering between lanes and past traffic to get you where you need to be, with minimal time waiting for a large enough gap to slide into.
From the moment I saw the headlights I knew they’d provide great visibility at night, and I wasn’t mistaken in the slightest. The four powerful dipped beams lit up the unlit roads so perfectly that I rarely used full beam at all, and when I did it just shone that much brighter on the road.
In lower gears I’d often be stuck in a situation where I would be in first trying to get into neutral, and I couldn’t get the gear lever to shift gently enough to nudge it into neutral, as it would either feel completely solid against my foot, or I’d have to use enough pressure to use it to skip into second. I’m not particularly mechanically minded, though I’m sure there’s a straightforward enough fix for the issue – be it a change of fluids or a slight readjustment of the clutch cable.
Benelli tote the TnT as being at its finest when its nipping through city traffic and when having fun on twisty roads out of town, and I can’t disagree with that. It’s great at those things – though it’s by no means the quickest 125cc machine I’ve ridden. If you’re after a fun, funky and easy-to-ride learner legal bike, then this could very well be the right fit for you, though it’s definitely worth trying one out for size first, and seeing if you feel at home on the diminutive machine. And at a very reasonably priced £2399 it’s a lot easier on the pocket than a lot of other new 125cc bikes on the market.
Benelli TnT 125
Transmission: 5 manual gears
Wheels/Tyres: (F) 120/70-ZR12 (R) 130/70-ZR12
Weight (empty): 124kg
Fuel tank: 7.2 litres