2007 Benelli TNT 1130 Café Racer: A Spartan Warrior's Soul

The woman in the silver Nissan Xterra, swathed in west coast urban adventurer garb, looks on gape-jawed as the bike slides up parallel. The bike moves forward slightly and the Xterra edges alongside again blocking traffic. Consideration for a bike in Vancouver? No, this is something else. The driver’s window whirs down and the woman, entranced, exclaims, “What is it? I’ve never seen anything like it! It’s gorgeous!” It is the Benelli TNT 1130 Café Racer, and riding one you should brace for such attentions.

Mostly you’ll hear, “What is it?” Benelli’s being as rare in Canada as Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae. Consult the oracles though and the TNT 1130 Café Racer is likely this Italian exotic manufacturer’s truest spear for piercing the North American market’s phalanx – if only based on looks alone.

It’s as if the design team at Benelli sat down and said, “Italian design with all the curving lines and sexual innuendo needs freshening. Let’s do something different, truly foreign and aggressive.” So they hired a God of War, taught him pencils weren’t for stabbing, and chained him to a drafting table. Actually Brit Adrian Mortontroke penned the TNT’s original visual outrage, and the Café Racer just perpetuates the anger management issues.

The headlight assembly is a gladiator’s face shield. The switchblade key doubles in length, letting you stab into the Benelli’s ignition above the tank’s Italian insignia chest-plate. The top’s a wasp. The brake-light is cleaved in two making way for a Termignoni sourced under-seat exhaust. The offset chain adjusters are concentric works of art. The maroon frame is a precise and cleanly welded sculpture. Every machined piece is adorned with additional detail befitting an exotic. Bar-end mirrors look the café racer part, and (gasp) work exceptionally well. Vented side panels house side-mounted radiators and look like they should break away revealing rocket launchers - unfortunately these black plastic covers are stitched together like scooter parts in the Keebler Elves’s first industrial manufacturing attempt. Beyond that it’s smooth muscular curves, gold, and armoured with lashings of carbon fibre.

While other manufacturers have stuck with a derivative retro-recipe, Benelli has created what today’s (and possibly tomorrow’s) café racer should look like. Next to the Café Racer, the Ducati Monster S4R is an elderly senator who just soiled his toga with fright. The K1200R is an over-plump ex-warrior retired to nobility, and other street fighters are frail babes fit for abandonment on Mt. Taygetos’s slopes. Astonishing as the Benelli is to look at, that’s nothing compared to riding it.