The History of Beta Motorcycles - an Italian Legend
Beta motorcycles have always been connected with the history and evolution of life on two wheels. The company was founded in Florence in 1904 under the name "Società Giuseppe Bianchi", for building handmade bicycles. At the end of the 1940s, with the changes that had taken place in Italian society and the development of motorized transport, the company switched to motorcycle production. The simple expedient of attaching an engine with a roller transmission to one of its bicycles, a typical example of Italian creativity, resulted in the first motorbike produced by the Tuscan firm.
The two men who ran the company, Enzo Bianchi and Arrigo Tosi, joined their initials to form the brand-name Beta, and the company’s bikes have been sold under this name ever since.
The CERVO 48 was the first model to be put on the market. It featured transmission by a rubberized roller acting directly on the rear tire, alongside a chain for starting and final drive. In 1948, the company launched the CIGNO, which was powered by a single-cylinder 48cc motor. Its double cradle frame, telescopic forks and shock absorbers gave it a very sporty look.
In 1950, Beta entered the more demanding 125cc class with the production of the ITAL-JAP 125, fitted with pressed-steel girder forks and telescopic rear shocks.
Another model launched in the ’50s was the M.T. 175: derived from competition bikes, the M.T. used a two-stroke single-cylinder engine capable of reaching 81 mph. A touring version was subsequently developed, the S.V 175.
A wide range of road bikes was produced in this period, with a tendency towards sportiness. The ASTRO 98, MERCURIO 150, FOLGORE 175 and ORIONE 200 are only some of the models fitted with single-cylinder four-stroke pushrod engines, delivering quite a respectable performance for the time. In the 1960s, Beta began in-house production of the motors which from then on would be fitted across the range. The development of new models went hand in hand with a commitment to competition: the ’50s saw Beta’s first successes in hill climbing, Motogiro and in the Milan-Taranto race, with its 175cc models.
In the ’70s, with the emergence of the off-road sector, Beta began to specialize more and more in the production of off-road vehicles. This specialization has always been accompanied by a matching commitment in the area of competition, the test-bench for excellence in the production of Beta motorcycles - initially in motocross and enduro and later in trials, during the early ‘80s. Beta’s close involvement with motorcycle sport has been marked over the years by a series of successes. There were the early victories in motocross in the late ’70s and early ‘80s from riders by the names of Jim Pomeroy, Gilbert De Roover, and Italian rider Ivano Bessone. In the mid 1980’s Beta began to focus on building Trials motorcycles and had immediate success in the World Trials Championships won by the great Jordi Tarres and the three consecutive world titles awarded to Dougie Lampkin (1997-1999). Then there were the six Indoor World Championships, including the one which Albert Cabestany won in 2002, and finally five European titles.
In 2004, Beta returned to four-stroke enduro with a major investment both in product development and in its presence on the competition track. In this new field, Beta remains faithful to its mission to inspire motorcyclists in such a fashion where the quality of the riding experience is just as important as the quality of the product. Today, many of the other motorcycle manufactures depend on robots to construct their products. Beta relies on the experience and passion of craftsmen to build their motorcycles.
In 2009, Beta began development on an all new in-house built four stroke engine to power their new line of RR off road motorcycles. This new twin-cam engine has once again proven to the world that Beta is committed to the off road market.
Since 1972, the production plant has been located at Rignano Sull’Arno near the Italian city of Florence. With an annual production of around seventeen thousand vehicles and fifteen thousand engines, Betamotor S.p.A. has a turnover of 44,5 million Euros. Out of every 100 bikes manufactured, over 70 are distributed abroad and the remaining 30 in Italy. The marketing network runs direct sales operations in Italy, France, Germany and Benelux, and works through importers in the rest of the world including the United States. Beta continues to be operated by the same family that started the company. For more than 100 years, Beta has continued to strive while others have failed. Beta’s United States importer Beta USA continues to grow by the means of excellent products, strong relationships with their established dealers, and outstanding spare parts delivery service.