Italian brand Benelli had a wee surprise up its sleeve at EICMA 2015: a European-designed, Chinese built monkeybike with its sights set squarely on Honda's giggle-machine Grom. With a choice of 125 or 135cc single cylinder air cooled engines, the Tornado Naked T looks every bit as silly, and every bit as much fun.
Small motorbikes are big fun. You hear that sort of thing from time to time, but for me it really hit home as I was extracting myself from a lemon tree underneath a Sachs Madass 125. I'd ridden it through the front door of my mum's house, out the back and was pulling wheelies up and down the short backyard cricket strip when I'd wobbled off into the bushes because I was laughing too hard to stay upright.
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Did I look like one of those tricycle-riding circus bears? Sure. Did I give a stuff? No sir, I was having a ball. Man-sized motorcycles demand fear and respect and a tender hand on the throttle. Snack-sized bikes like the Madass and the Honda Grom bring out the absolute opposite; they demand to be thrashed and spanked and skidded and jumped and stunted. The hunched-up riding position alone is enough to make you start giggling before you even let the clutch out.
So you'll excuse me if I'm a little excited to see Italian/Chinese brand Benelli getting in on the oversized monkeybike action with the Tornado Naked T.
There's no disguising what the Naked T is – it's an Italian-designed Grom knockoff. So let's compare the two. The Honda rocks a 125 cc motor good for about 10 horsepower. The Benelli has two engine options, a 125 and a 135. Not sure why you'd really bother making two different motors for this thing, especially with so little difference in capacity, but the 135 cc makes 12.6 horsepower.
Dimensionally, the Benelli is a bit bigger, with a 15 mm longer wheelbase, 20 mm higher seat height and 7.2-liter tank against the Grom's 5.5 liters (1.90 vs. 1.45 gal). And in terms of weight, it's … hang on, let me check that again. Wow. The Grom has a kerb weight of 101.7 kg (224 lb) ready to roll with all fluids and a full tank, and the Benelli weighs 121 kg (267 lb) dry. That could be a bit of a killer.
When we rode Benelli's BN302 earlier in the year, we were surprised how heavy it was as well. But Benelli says it's designing its recent models for heavier-duty use as it expands into Indian and Chinese markets thanks to its new Chinese ownership and manufacturing facilities. So that kind of approach could account for some extra weight here, although I'm not hearing a whole lot of reports that the lighter Grom isn't tough enough.
The Benelli certainly looks nicer, with a bit of Italian flair to it and a dinky little trellis frame. The proof is going to be in the riding, and in the price tag, but it's sure great to see another machine come into the market that's dedicated to pure, silly fun.