Benelli 1130 Café Racer

Story by Misti Hurst// Photos by Misti Hurst
November 1 2007

With all the time I spend on the road, it is unusual for me to be home for any length of time during the summer months, and with living in Vancouver it’s even more unusual that the weather be anything but raining during those precious days off.

So, when I received a random email from Paul Moes at Benelli in Vancouver during one of my few days home offering me a chance to ride the 2007 Benelli Café Racer 1130, I peeked out the window and saw a beautiful cloudless and sunny sky.

With no hesitation whatsoever, I promptly picked up the phone and helped myself to the offer. “Hi Paul, it’s Misti. I got your email today about riding the Café Racer and I would love to do it. I’m in town for exactly two days. Can I pick it up today and return it Saturday? Excellent. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Enroute to the Forza Crono Benelli shop, located at 116 West 2nd in Vancouver, I pondered on where I should journey aboard the enigmatic bike. Having never ridden a Benelli before, I was excited to have the opportunity to ride such an elusive machine, however, riding in and around Vancouver proper is not really my cup of tea. It’s busy, bustling with a lot of traffic and not the greatest area to be able to “test” and get a real feel for a motorcycle. I wanted to venture somewhere where the pace was slower and more relaxed than the busy city, somewhere I could open it up if I wanted to, and somewhere I could really enjoy my time “off.” I wanted a vacation on twisty, flowing roads, but with only two days home I also wanted to utilize the time to my advantage and “multi-task” as it were.

Grabbing my cell phone, I called my sister who lives in Errington, a small quiet little town about an hour north of Naniamo, near Parksville on Vancouver Island, and told her I would be over on the first ferry the following morning for a visit. It was the perfect opportunity to go for a ride, visit my sis and see my niece and nephews as well as some friends elsewhere on the island. Plus, having previously lived in Victoria and virtually beginning my riding career there, I was well aware that riding on the island is “da bomb” and remember dozens of back roads where I could mellow out in the Zen of riding, or unleash the fury of the Café Racer on some pretty awesome curvy switchbacks.

Arriving at the immaculate and neatly arranged Benelli store, I spied for the first time the mighty 1130 cc Café Racer set exclusively on a display pedestal for all to see. It’s 100% pure sculpted Italian with a color scheme and confrontational styling that only the Italians could pull off. With angular matt black and gold fairings mounted around a wine red steel tube trellis frame, the Benelli oozes sexiness and commands immediate attention. Its aggressive and extremely unique design made me yearn to take this naked performance streetbike for a spin.

Throwing a leg over the beautiful Benelli gave me a little flutter in the stomach as I realized how elite and expensive the machine really is. With a list price of $24,995, it is definitely one of the more highly priced motorcycles I have ever ridden. It’s also so flashy I decide that I want to cruise through downtown on the way home to show it off and test the reactions of people as I sashay by.

The guys at the Benelli shop were extremely friendly and after sorting out paperwork, sent me on my way. I started up the Café racer, which sprang to life with a meaty growl, put it effortlessly into gear and launched into my ride.

The Benelli 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, 1130cc inline engine is nothing short of a powerhouse. With 135 hp at 9250 rpm and 86 ft lb of torque at 6750 rpm, it is punchy and strong, delivering immediate pull throughout the rev range. The transmission is velvety smooth with no hitches or clunks while changing between the 6 speeds, though neutral is nearly impossible to find. Seating is very comfy, with a well padded, but thin seat, wide handlebars and a slightly tilted forward riding position. The instrument cluster is simple, but well laid out and intuitive to read while the little angular mirrors not only look cool alongside the rest of the edgy styling, they are actually extremely practical, offering a crystal clear view behind.

Riding through the downtown traffic I was impressed with the stability and agility of the flashy Benelli. It responded well to steering inputs into the bars and didn’t hesitate to change direction or stop in a hurry. The Café Racer comes with double floating 320mm Brembo disk front brakes with twin 4-piston calipers and a single disk 240mm diameter with a twin piston caliper brake in the rear. Suspension is firm with Marzocchi 43mm “upside down” stanchion forks with compression, rebound and spring preload adjustments and the rear ASD steel tube trellis swing arm with single shock absorber offers extension and spring pre-load adjustments.

I paraded myself and the exclusive Benelli Café Racer down Robson, Davie and Denman streets, through English Bay and around Stanley Park while watching heads turn and people point and even catching a glimpse or two of my reflection in a storefront window. I certainly liked it.

By the time I got to the North Shore I wasn’t ready to get off the bike just yet so I continued riding towards Seymour Mountain and up the curvy access road to the top of the ski hill. Here is where I opened the throttle on the Racer and grinned at the powerful thrust it provided and the way it effortlessly held its line around the tight switchbacks. I nodded and waved at a few other riders as I whipped to the top, took a moment to take in the view and then ripped down again.

Part way through the ride the fuel light came on and I had to fill up. Three guys approached me during the fueling up with various comments about the black and gold work of art I was riding. “Wow, awesome! Nice bike! Looks expensive, and fast!” said one guy and I grinned and let him think that yes indeed it was my very own bike.

The next morning I anxiously brought the Benelli roaring to life and made my way towards Horseshoe Bay to catch the first ferry of the morning to Naniamo. Riding a bike gives you the privilege of going to the front of the line and loading and unloading first which is super handy in the busy summer months when ferry waits can be hours. I joined a small group of riders at the bow of the boat, all of who asked about the Benelli and commented on the unique design. The sail to Naniamo was beautiful as we crossed the Georgia Strait and I sat by the window watching the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean and the sailboats cruising by. In Naniamo I rode off the ferry and along the Island Highway towards Parksville and into Errington. Despite the small flyscreen and no protective windscreen on the Benelli, the freeway riding was surprisingly comfortable at speeds upwards of 130 km/h. The fuel light came on again and I scratched my head as it seems like I just filled up, but I pulled over and added more gas as requested.

Rolling into the driveway of my sister’s place I spy two little heads peeking out the windows. The heads disappear and suddenly the front door flings open revealing my three and a half year old niece, Locklyn, and my one-year old nephew, Kellan. Bounding down the steps and out to the driveway, they meet me, grinning and pointing at the bike. They are fascinated, and of course I am trying to corrupt them and make them into little motorcycle loving, dirtbike riding, future racers, so I prop them up on the bike and let them rev the engine and honk the horn. Then I see my sis holding a little bundle that is my brand new nephew, Lynden, who is only weeks old. We go for a wander to look at the horses and dig for some worms and then I’m off for a more intense ride down the island to Victoria.

I arrange to meet my friend Simon in Duncan (about the halfway mark between Parksville and Victoria) so I stick to the Island Highway for a leisurely commute to our Starbucks meeting point. Once we join up, we dart off the highway down a few back roads including a fast blast around Shawnigan Lake Road. The lake sits among dense trees and the road has lots of twists and turns. Before we get going over the Malahat, the fuel light once again comes on and I realize that this is one thirsty motorcycle. After another fuel stop, it’s up and over the 356-metre Malahat summit we go. Near Goldstream National Park we turn off onto Finnlayson Arm Road which is a rough, slightly wider than single lane, sideroad that weaves up and through the mountainous park in a technical series of twists and turns. I’m impressed with the way the Benelli handles the transitions from smooth highway riding to the chip chop rough stuff although I’m a bit freaked out about pushing such an expensive and “totally not mine” motorcycle close to its limits. From there we join up on another series of small locally known backroads including Muns and Prospect Lake Road before heading into downtown Victoria to stop by Adrenalin Motorcycle Co-Op to say hello to a couple of old friends.

Simon and I grabbed dinner at 5th Street Bar and Grill off Quadra before I left. Flying along the Pat Bay Highway, I barely make the last ferry at 9 p.m. Again, the good thing about taking a motorcycle across on the ferry is that they will always fit the bikes on, even if you show up only minutes before it is to depart. I place a safety block under each side of the belly and relax with a hot chocolate for the 90-minute ride.

The hour ride home in the dark is a little chilly and I realize that the small fly screen provides little protection from the colder evening temperature but the headlight, especially the high beam, provides ample light. As I pull into the parking lot of my apartment complex in North Vancouver I think about how much fun the riding is on the island and how much I miss being able to zip around the backroads near Victoria. We used to play games with names such as “chip chop” where we took different streets, sideroads and alleys home, or “dodge the rain cloud” where we used the weather to determine our route, or “avoid the cops” where we had to completely avoid any main roads or highways. You could ride for hours and hours on the island and never hit the same road twice or get bored with the ride. It was nice to be there again, nice to have the opportunity to ride a new and extremely fun exotic bike which I was sad to have to give up, and especially nice to see my family and some friends. MMM


For more information on Benelli visit or For information on Adrenalin Motorcycle Co-Op or to be put into contact with riders on the island that would be more than willing to tell you about Vancouver Island backroads, please visit

Cheers, Misti

Misti Hurst is a motorcycle racer, an instructor and a freelance writer. Visit her website at


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