REVIEW: Piaggio MP3 Three-Wheel Scooter
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Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:00 pm quote
Piaggio MP3 Three-Wheel Scooter Review


Background

Last Thursday, Vespa Walnut Creek called me to let me know that their MP3 demo model would be arriving on Friday, and that I was at the top of the list to take it for a spin. More specifically, I was to pick up the keys on Saturday evening and keep the bike through Sunday (when the shop is closed) and return it on Monday. I didn't actually request this, so it was either the result of the good relationship I have with my dealer (Rockridge Two Wheels and Vespa Walnut Creek are owned by the same person) or a shrewd tactic on Piaggo USA's part to get an MP3 into the hands of someone who could help them generate buzz about their product. Either way, it was my chance to flog the MP3 for an extended length of time, so whether I am a pawn or not is largely an academic question.

Saturday evening, I turned up at Vespa Walnut Creek just before closing time, filled out the standard release of liability form, and rode away with the MP3. Walnut Creek is about 15 miles from where I live via freeway, but I decided that it would be best if I took surface streets all the way home. Not because I was afraid of the freeway, mind you, but because the surface streets between Walnut Creek and Oakland consist of long stretches of fast, curvy, rural roads devoid of any traffic and tight scooter-friendly twisties through an extremely large park called Tilden at the top of the ridge that divides Contra Costa county from Alameda county. It would be 23 miles in all. In other words, I wanted to have fun more than I wanted to go fast, and I wanted to push the limits of the MP3 as much as possible.

Of course, it was dark when I left the dealership in Walnut Creek, and the temperature dropped precipitously. I drove home in what are for me extremely cold temperatures (mid 40s) shivering the whole way home. Oh, and given that I was driving on empty, rural roads that pass through various wooded areas, I was concerned about the presence of deer as well, although none jumped out at me.

Latitude of Lean

Instead of pushing the MP3 hard, I spent the first half of the ride being slightly confused. I wasn't riding badly, per se, but I was definitely not quite able to figure out how much to lean into the turns, and I especially couldn't quite comprehend why I couldn't figure it out. The bike didn't really feel that much different than my GTS, at least not on the surface, so why was I so confused? After all, the route I took home was the very same road where I learned how to ride a scooter in the first place, where I first started getting the hang of leaning into a turn and finding that "sweet spot" where the radius of the turn, the speed, and the angle of the lean all intersect into that moment that every rider relishes as the bike plants itself, the G-force goes up, and the bike hums around the turn like a meteor.

And then, like a flaming meteor streaking across the sky and hitting the ground with a thunderous crash, it hit me: I couldn't find the sweet spot because the MP3 wasn't misbehaving. In fact, it was very well mannered, going through each curve easily, if modestly, and lacking any kind of wobble, unintended trajectory, fishtail, or other clue that I might be over or under leaning. Of course, it was lacking that ethereal moment of riding bliss when everything comes together perfectly, too. In short, I was merely riding along with nothing spectacular or otherwise worthy of note happening. Kind of like driving in a car.

This was my epiphany, then, something that was previously subconscious and intangible, now crystal clear in my mind because of its sudden absence: I usually ride by letting the bike tell me what I'm doing wrong. I keep adjusting things until that moment when it doesn't complain, and then I know I have it just right. In a turn, if the bike feels unsteady, I change the parameters I have control over (speed and angle of lean) until I dial it in and the bike plants itself hard in the corner. Then I repeat for the next curve, hoping that I've chosen the correct parameters based on the last curve. And then again for the next curve, and so on.

The MP3 didn't complain. At least, not much. I kept waiting through the first half of my ride home for something to happen, but I didn't really know what that something was. It was just something that was missing.

With the MP3, Piaggio has effectively widened the latitude of lean. It will plant itself in a turn -- or at least not skid off the road -- across a much broader range of rider input than an ordinary two-wheel bike. A small lean works okay, even if it leaves the rider unsatisfied, and a hard lean works pretty well too. The bike definitely feels different across this range of lean, but it doesn't complain so much at the extremes of the range. Instead, the rider gets a sliding scale of thrill, starting with no thrill for a small lean and a huge thrill for a hard one.

I am, on the whole, a novice rider. I've only been riding for a bit over a year now, and my skills are still developing. I still misjudge my speed going into a turn, use my brakes at the wrong times, and generally under-lean. During the course of a ride, I can work at it until I get it just right, and sometimes I have brilliant moments where everything comes together well, but I am definitely still learning to refine some things that many of you take for granted after years of riding. My tendency to under-lean through a turn is mitigated by my GTS misbehaving when I do so, and I adapt and correct and lean some more until it feels right. I don't generally over-lean, as I am what you would call -- in latin -- a Chickenus Maximus.

Once I had taken a few moments to absorb this new idea, that the bike was going to keep riding like a car as long as I treated it like one, the next logical step was to do something about it. Fortunately, this was about the time I reached some of the tighter twisties on my route home, and on a road that I knew very well. Unfortunately, it was extremely dark, with no lighting whatsoever, and only the barest minimum of reflecting thingies on the side of the road along the way. Oh, and it's a road with no guard rail on the edge of a steep hill that leads a long way down. One misstep and I could go right off the edge of the road and through the trees clinging to the side of a steep hill. I'm sure there's lots of poison oak down there, too. You know, in case the trees don't kill me first.

So I started really leaning into the turns. As hard as I dare. And from the back of my mind came a sound, much like that meteor streaking across the sky. It sounded like this:


WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


The rest of the ride home, as you can probably surmise, was a lot of fun. It was dark, and cold, and my visor kept fogging up, and there was debris in the roadway, and the threat of deer seemed high, even if none dared jump out at me. Still, I was having fun, I was riding too fast, and I was leaning hard in every turn like I was Valentino Rossi. Even the slow ones. In fact, the slow turns were especially fun, because I could lean into them at angles that would be impossible to do on a regular two-wheel bike.

Sadly, I had to get home and get myself ready to go to a social obligation that evening. It was a holiday costume party and I didn't have a costume yet. But that's a whole different story.

Ugly Is Not The Point

Before I go much farther, I'd like to get something out of the way. It's something that's been bothering me since before I even rode the MP3, and as soon as I figured out how to ride it, the idea gelled in my head. Whether one likes the looks of this bike or not is really almost completely unimportant. I hear a lot of complaints about it being ugly, but that truly, genuinely, tragically misses the whole point of this vehicle. Ugly or not, it does something that no other bike does, and it does it with a surprising amount of finesse. The large wheel wells in front definitely force some aesthetic compromises, and I doubt we'll ever see a three-wheel Vespa model. Piaggio would sooner die than compromise the crown jewel of style that is the Vespa.

But who cares, really? Until you've ridden an MP3 and really had a chance to hammer it hard in a turn, I don't want to hear about how ugly it is. Just shut up and go ride one. Once you've done that, we can have some real, substantive discussions about the general philosophy and whether a machine that's easier to ride amounts to compensation for lesser riding skills or a false sense of security. I'm in the former camp, if you care.

The Point

The big advantage of the MP3, the point of the whole exercise, is to provide a scooter-like (or motorcycle-like) experience while improving safety. Besides the aforementioned latitude of lean, the MP3 also provides 50% greater contact patch on the road surface due to the extra tire, improved braking characteristics due to the dual front-disc brakes, and much much more stability on the road in a wide variety of situations. I believe that the three-wheel geometry makes it much less likely that the front wheel can slip out from under the rider, and it makes locking up the rear wheel much less hazardous.

In fact, I did lock up the rear wheel on at least three separate occasions. The first one was unintentional: as I came flying around a downhill curve in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Walnut Creek, I saw that there was a blind stop sign that there had been no previous warning for. At the bottom of the hill was a police car, lights flashing, having just pulled over someone who probably ran the same stop sign. I hit both brakes hard, and heard the rear wheel lock up and drag along the pavement. The bike remained perfectly stable and upright, with not even a hint of fishtailing. And I successfully stopped before I crossed the line of the stop sign.

The second and third times I locked up the rear tire were both intentional: I found a wet patch in the street later on my ride home, and I deliberately pulled the rear brake as hard as I could in order to see how the bike behaved. Again, the rear wheel locked up and dragged along the pavement, but the bike was very stable.

A couple of times I experimented with hard front-brake stops, in order to determine if I could get the rear end to "go light" just a bit, the precursor to a stoppy. I was much less ambitious in this area, though, and in fact the bike had a distinct tendency to "squat" in a hard front brake maneuver, rather than have the back end lift up. While I completely failed to make any progress toward a stoppy, I think the behavior of the bike in hard stops is quite admirable.

Not As Big As It Looks

The MP3 isn't nearly as big as it looks in pictures. The styling makes it look distinctly like a maxi-scoot, I think, and that gives us a mental size marker to compare it to. It isn't though. Whatever the specifications may say about the dimensions, it actually feels a bit smaller than my GTS. I have no idea if it actually is or not, but the seating position, handlebars, instrument cluster, and windshield all give the impression of a smaller scooter. There's not a lot of leg room, either, which is typical of the Piaggio-branded products. There's just about one place to put your feet, and one position to sit in on the seat.

There's a little ledge in the seat, too, so you can't slide any farther back. In fact, this is my one consistent complaint about the Piaggio (not Vespa) models: The seat on nearly all the models forces you into a specific spot, and the foot positions are very limited. My advice to Piaggio: Stop it! WTF are you thinking? There are tall people in the world, and they want to ride scooters, too. Hell, I'm only 5'8", and I felt a bit cramped on the MP3. Capisci?

Hold It Right There!

The locking mechanism is one of the more interesting pieces of kit on this scooter, and probably one of the more vexing, too. It actually works very well, but can have some slightly unintended consequences.

Below a certain speed (5mph?) a yellow light on the dashboard flashes, indicating that you could, if you wanted to, lock the suspension so that the bike won't tip over. Nevermind that the flashing light looks like a turn signal, and is located in a spot very near the single dashboard turn signal light.

Once the light starts flashing, you can flip a switch on the throttle-side of the handlebars to activate the lock. The switch flips side-to-side. Kind of (exactly) like a turn signal switch. Flipping it one way will lock the suspension at whatever lean angle you happen to be at, while flipping it the other way will release the lock and let the weight of the bike fall whichever way you happen to be leaning. An audible beep can be heard when locking, and two beeps can be heard when unlocking. Additionally, any blip of the throttle, even the tiniest amount, will unlock the suspension.

It's quite possible (although not especially common) to lock the suspension in an undesirable posture if you happen to be leaning a bit when you hit the switch. You can't do it while doing any kind of speed -- only rolling to a stop. The bummer about this is that as soon as you blip the throttle to unlock it, you'll usually end up momentarily headed in some random and unintended direction because of the angle. This is usually quickly corrected, but it's disconcerting nonetheless.

The steering does actually work while the suspension is locked, but since the bike will unlock as soon as any throttle is applied, this becomes a fairly insignificant point. I only mention it because some of you are going to ask.

One of the possible foibles one can achieve on the MP3 is to flick the lock switch while rolling to a stop before the light has started to flash, which of course will do nothing. The problem is that if you think you've locked the suspension, you're probably not going to put your foot down. The result is that, due to the magic way the MP3 will balance itself for significantly longer than a two-wheel bike, you're going to be oblivious to the fact that the suspension is not, in fact, locked. Until it starts slowly and almost unobservably tipping to one side. And then over.

The demo unit I rode had, in fact, been dropped in exactly that manner. Twice. Which is good, because it made me relax a bit about any minor damage I might do to the bike during the course of my ride.

After playing with the lock mechanism for a bit, I decided I was more comfortable simply putting my foot down and balancing the bike myself. The seat height on the MP3 fit me well, probably better than my GTS, and so I could have one foot down quite easily. The suspension on the MP3 actually holds most of the weight of the bike anyway, so the rider doesn't have to hold much up.

Balancing Act

The balance on the MP3 is a very deceptive and seductive thing. While riding, it is so well balanced in so many different situations that you forget sometimes you're riding what is essentially a motorcycle. In fact, were it not for leaning over in a turn, you could believe you were riding a four-wheel ATV. And sometimes I felt myself believing just that. Right up until I pulled up to a stop light and started tipping over or quickly hitting the lock switch. This one characteristic of the MP3 might very well be its greatest strength and simultaneously its biggest downfall: it absolutely positively lulls you into the mistaken belief that it will balance itself forever.

Numbers

I set out Sunday morning to put the MP3 through its paces. I decided I would ride over the bridge to San Francisco, up to the Presidio, and then see where the road took me. I ended up in Santa Cruz before I headed home, and did a total of 186 miles for the day. Add to that that 23 miles on the night I picked it up. The bulk of the miles on Sunday were spent going South on Highway 1 (50mph speed limit in most places, but I did 65 most of the way) and garden variety freeway riding, plus some hills to make things interesting.

Top speed I managed (measured by GPS) was 80.5mph, but that was going downhill on Highway 1 in full scooter tuck. I never got close to that kind of speed at any other time during the ride, despite my best efforts. Typical top speed on a flat-out road was 70 to 75, and sometimes lower. In fact, top speed was kind of inconsistent, although so was the terrain I was covering. At the other extreme, going up Highway 17 (which goes up and over the Santa Cruz mountains) I was struggling to maintain 50mph. Generally, the MP3 has a pretty decent amount of boogy. Not as peppy as the GTS, which has essentially the same engine, but the MP3 is heavier for sure. And the place where weight is most a factor is going up hill. Yes, gravity is a cruel mistress, and she made me well aware that 250cc / (MP3 + My Ass) == not so much speed on an incline.

I really truly believe that Piaggio should just skip the 250cc model altogether and go straight for 400cc. This bike, while not a slug, definitely suffers from a weight issue. Oh, and the speed off the line from a dead stop is pathetic, with the transmission not really finding the right spot for a good couple of seconds after jamming on the throttle.

MPG worked out to a bit over 61 miles per gallon. Not bad, considering I flogged it all day. The engine on my demo unit was nominally broken in, with 860 miles on it when I picked it up.

Controls, Storage, and General Details

The controls on the scooter are, AFAIK, pretty much standard for a Piaggio-branded bike. The usual assortment of brakes, horn, hi/lo/pass beam switch, and so on. What caught my attention was the Mode button, which is on the throttle-side of the steering wheel and in easy reach of your thumb without ever taking a hand off the throttle. Pressing it rotates the digital display through temperature, trip A and trip B, and allows resetting the either of the tripmeters by holding the button down. Being able to do this without fumbling around and taking a hand off the handlebars was fantastic. Kudos to Piaggio for that.

The turn signal indicator, however, sucks. It's located in the lowest possible point of the dashboard, as far from the field of view of the rider as possible, and there's only one. And as said earlier, it's very near the blinking lock-available light, with the only thing to distinguish them is green vs. yellow. This more than undoes any goodwill I might have felt toward Piaggio's well-thought-out Mode button.

The ignition switch does many different things simultaneously, maybe to the point of confusion. There's the usual On-Off-Lock mechanism, but if you push the key in slightly and turn counter-clockwise, the trunk pops open. If you push in and turn clockwise, the gas filler door pops open.

The seat, as far as I can tell, can only be open via a button on the ignition key itself. It's especially hard to press when the key is in the ignition, and it doesn't unlatch the way the GTS does. Instead, it unlatches and holds it unlatched for about two seconds, and then re-latches. If you don't lift up the seat in that amount of time, you must start over. To make matters worse, there's no obvious place to grab the seat to lift it up. You just have to kind of stick your fingers in and try to work it up with your fingernails.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure it's quite possible to lock your key under the seat.

The rear trunk truly, really, genuinely fits my Shoei XXL full-face helmet. There's a trick to putting it in (upside down and nose-first) but I'm pretty sure that's the intended method, judging by the shape of the opening.

Underseat storage is generous, especially when taking into account the contiguous helmet/trunk area, but the space is reduced considerably when a helmet is in the trunk. Still, the MP3 has some of the best storage among scooters.

There's no glovebox. Not even a vestigial one. Nothing. Zero. Underseat storage is all there is, unless you count the space between the windshield and the dash area, which is actually pretty deep. I threw my FasTrak transponder in there, and it stayed there for my ride across the bridge, although it rattled around a bit.

The gas filler door, on the hump right in front of the seat, is well placed. It's easy to fill the tank, it clicks off appropriately, and any spillage from the nozzle is captured in a generous area around the filler cap and drained through a small hole onto the ground. Much better than spilling it all over your paint and down onto your muffler.

Pictures!

I snapped a few pictures along the way. Click on any photo to see a larger version.



Darragh of Vespa Walnut Creek shows me the ropes



Spacious underseat storage



I carry a lot of gear, it seems.



The trunk connects to the underseat storage



Junk in the trunk















Articulation



Suspension doohickey



Grrrr!



Fuel filler door



This was not from me overfilling the tank, but from excess gas in the gas station's vapor recovery hose. The area around the opening keeps gas from getting all over everything.


Excess gas drains through a hole in the bottom



This Euro-spec model favors Km/H.









Conclusion

Despite minor annoyances, poor indicator light design, less-than-stellar power, and an uncomfortable seat, I like the MP3. A lot. I think Piaggio has done a really fantastic job on the technology that makes the MP3 what it is, and it shows. Even a relative novice can ride like a pro as far as curves are concerned, and I know personally I rode today with much more confidence than I've ever had before. The rest of the issues, outside of the core technology of this bike, are ultimately not very important. It is one iteration of what hopefully will be a whole line of scooters with this technology, and so debating the virtues of the gas filler door or whether it meets some idealized aesthetic misses the mark by a wide margin. It's a demonstration that this technology can work, and work very well, with a real, tangible benefit to the rider.

Last edited by jess on Sun Dec 24, 2006 10:11 am; edited 14 times in total
Ossessionato
2011 GTS 300 Super 2013 BMW K1600 GTL
Joined: 26 Nov 2006
Posts: 3993
Location: Irvine, CA
Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:56 pm quote
Great post Jess! Your level of detail made me feel like I was riding the scooter with you. Taking your advice and leaving the "ugly" comments to myself I agree that this bike would be better in a 400cc model but after riding it I too felt it did not have the get up and go off the line I was looking for in a scooter. From a technology standpoint I feel it is here to stay and Bravo for making their first model so well. I am curious to see what others say and again thank you for that level of detail and the time it took.
Ossessionato
Joined: 17 Oct 2005
Posts: 3220
Location: The Happiest Place on Earth
Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:59 pm quote
Very interesting review.

I was able to get my XL flip up helmet to go under the seat itself, but didn't spend any time figuring out how to fit it in the trunk area. Though there is no glove box, I have typically found most on modern scooters lacking in sufficient capacity to be worthwhile. I prefer one big storage space over several smaller ones.

What I found thrilling was being able to go flat out down a twisty road; leaning with wild abandon without backing off on the throttle.

Most of my riding was in and around San Antonio, which is much flatter than anywhere around San Francisco. I didn't have a problem with speed or acceleration.

Last edited by Bryce-O-Rama on Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:26 am; edited 1 time in total
Hooked
the Piaggio trike
Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 417
Location: Paradise, BC
Mon Dec 18, 2006 1:13 am quote
Thank you for the awesome post, Jess. It was most helpful and insightful.

-Rick
Ossessionato
None! I sold it :(
Joined: 01 Nov 2005
Posts: 3247
Location: Burlington NC
Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:06 am quote
Very well done review Jess! I am really starting to look at this bike, and would love to ride one. I think the 400cc engine sounds like it would be the real deal. It would be fun to try on some of the back country roads around here.

I do have one question were all your posted speeds GPS?

If I get the chance I will ride one and then decide what to do. Your review just makes me wish it was my turn, Beale.
Technical Moderator
Consume Less & Share More
Joined: 25 Oct 2005
Posts: 3130
Location: New Jersey, USA
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:41 am quote
I'll say it again, getting a day alone with an MP3, that's what I call a perk!
Riding the MP3 on dry pavement, under normal conditions, is the sunny-day scenario. I bet it really shines when the sky's don't, as the rain hammers down relentlessly. Give some thought to the panic stop, and a locked-up wheel. These age-old moto-problems may just be history.
Moderatore Dedicato
GTS250 Gilera Runner SP180
Joined: 27 Jan 2006
Posts: 5209
Location: Kent,England
Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:02 am quote
This perk should be extended to ALL the moderators,IMO.Just to give a balanced opinion....
Hooked
MP3 500
Joined: 25 Jun 2006
Posts: 142
Location: Calgary, AB Canada
Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:45 am quote
Hey Jess:

wondering, how do you think the MP3 is for a brand new rider? Being that the person would not have been "tainted" with a previous scoot, how would they percieve the MP3?

Alt
Ossessionato
07 GTS250ie VCOA#2794
Joined: 23 Nov 2005
Posts: 3193
Location: Philly PA Burbs
Mon Dec 18, 2006 6:50 am quote


... well sort of

Come on Jess ... where are all those detail shots that Piaggio seems to think we don't need to see like:

Dash
Locking Mechanism
Suspension
etc.
etc.
etc.



Bravo on a great review.
Hooked
'05 ET4
Joined: 21 Mar 2006
Posts: 102
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:13 am quote
I'm curious about the lack of pickup. You're comparing this to the GTS. BUt how does it stack up against Piaggio's 150 or 200 cc bikes? Surely it's faster off the line than an ET or LX, right?
Molto Verboso
2006 Vespa GTS250ie
Joined: 07 Nov 2005
Posts: 1622
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:51 am quote
Excellent review of the MP3. They are interesting vehicles but my biggest concern is the rise in mechanical "stuff" to maintain and replace. And buying three tires instead of two.

Our local dealer is going to have a demo unit soon and said I could try it out. It I do I'll add my two cents of experience.

Looking foward to pictures too!
Moderator
2010 Dragon Red GTS 300 Super, 2018 Grigio Titanio Piaggio Liberty S 150
Joined: 11 Jul 2006
Posts: 16295
Location: Toronto, Canada, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:08 am quote
Jess, excellent review, the first I've read about the MP3. It is good to hear that the MP3 isn't just a gimmick, but instead a new idea that actually has some advantages and disadvantages. Thanks for taking the time to post your review.
Ossessionato
Piaggio BV 250
Joined: 01 Jul 2006
Posts: 2348
Location: Alameda, CA
Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:11 am quote
Jess,

Excellent review!

I agree about the 400cc being the minimum for this bike - IMHO

and one funny bit I had to laugh at:
Quote:
made me well aware that 250cc / (MP3 + My Ass) == not so much speed on an incline.
Ossessionato
2005 Genuine Stella 150, 2008 Genuine Buddy, 2013 Piaggio BV 350, 2014 Piaggio Fly 150 3v
Joined: 30 Aug 2006
Posts: 3836
Location: Cleveland, Ohio US of A
Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:35 am quote
Thanks for a great preview! I cannot wait to get mine!
Hooked
Vespa 250 GTS, Triumph Tiger 800
Joined: 27 Oct 2006
Posts: 219
Location: Denver
Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:47 am quote
Interesting stuff, thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed review. I'm hoping to snag a test ride when our Denver shop has a demo unit. When I first saw pictures of the MP3 my reaction was pretty negative and had nothing to do with the looks. As I read up on the vehicle I found much more to like and I think it will make a sizeable splash in the market.

I was wondering about power from the 250, especially in hilly or mountainous areas. I think those of us in the Rockies or any hilly area might be wise to wait for a bigger motor. On the other hand, flat-landers might find the 250 more than adequate. In fact, on a recent visit to South Florida I stopped in at the local Vespa dealership, mainly to see if they had a GT-60 on the floor. The conversation came around to the MP3 and they said they already had 10 deposits! With no hills in sight, South Florida just might be perfect MP3 country, other than the fact that half the cars are going 95 mph and the other half are going 10 mph below the speed limit.
Addicted
Stella and a Fuoco
Joined: 01 Dec 2006
Posts: 869
Location: New Mexico
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:05 am quote
yeah, gonna demo ride a unit when they get it in (they said march at the latest, hoping for sooner)...i am really tore about the 250cc though

for me it's not an issue of balance and all that (though the three wheels will be nice in snow) but of fun in the mountain twisties...

i've been jonesing for a yamaha TMax, but they don't sell those in the states...when i saw the MP3 i thought, dang, that would be as fun or even more fun than the T Max...

but i'm at 5000 feet and will be riding up to 10000 feet on some rides...and i live in a state with 75 mph speed limits on all my rides, so i need a bike that can keep up and exceed that mph

so i am testing the 250...but coveting the 400

still might get the 250 and trade up to the 400 when they come to the states

g
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:20 am quote
addicted wrote:
Riding the MP3 on dry pavement, under normal conditions, is the sunny-day scenario. I bet it really shines when the sky's don't, as the rain hammers down relentlessly. Give some thought to the panic stop, and a locked-up wheel. These age-old moto-problems may just be history.
Excellent point, Gary. That's an area that I wanted to mention in the review, and forgot in my haste to get the review posted. I've just added the following section to the original post:
Quote:
The Point

The big advantage of the MP3, the point of the whole exercise, is to provide a scooter-like (or motorcycle-like) experience while improving safety. Besides the aforementioned latitude of lean, the MP3 also provides 50% greater contact patch on the road surface due to the extra tire, improved braking characteristics due to the dual front-disc brakes, and much much more stability on the road in a wide variety of situations. I believe that the three-wheel geometry makes it much less likely that the front wheel can slip out from under the rider, and it makes locking up the rear wheel much less hazardous.

In fact, I did lock up the rear wheel on at least three separate occasions. The first one was unintentional: as I came flying around a downhill curve in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Walnut Creek, I saw that there was a blind stop sign that there had been no previous warning for. At the bottom of the hill was a police car, lights flashing, having just pulled over someone who probably ran the same stop sign. I hit both brakes hard, and heard the rear wheel lock up and drag along the pavement. The bike remained perfectly stable and upright, with not even a hint of fishtailing. And successfully I stopped before I crossed the line of the stop sign.

The second and third times I locked up the rear tire were both intentional: I found a wet patch in the street later on my ride home, and I deliberately pulled the rear brake as hard as I could in order to see how the bike behaved. Again, the rear wheel locked up and dragged along the pavement, but the bike was very stable.

A couple of times I experimented with hard front-brake stops, in order to determine if I could get the rear end to "go light" just a bit, the precursor to a stoppy. I was much less ambitious in this area, though, and in fact the bike had a distinct tendency to "squat" in a hard front brake maneuver, rather than have the back end lift up. While I completely failed to make any progress toward a stoppy, I think the behavior of the bike in hard stops is quite admirable.
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:27 am quote
Beale wrote:
I do have one question were all your posted speeds GPS?
Yes. All speeds were GPS. In fact, the demo unit I was riding was a Euro-spec model, and had the speedometer marked favoring Km/H, with MPH in small, red, unreadable type. I never got the hang of reading the speed with the MP3's speedometer, and so I exclusively used my GPS to know how fast I was going.

Oh, and there were no stickers in the underseat pet warmer suggesting proper use.
Molto Verboso
'06 Vespa GTS 250 i.e., '77 Vespa P200
Joined: 05 Apr 2006
Posts: 1260
Location: Bay Area, CA
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:42 am quote
Did you get a chance to ride it two-up, or lane-split with it? Is it wider than the GTS?
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:56 am quote
valincal wrote:
Did you get a chance to ride it two-up, or lane-split with it? Is it wider than the GTS?
I did not get a chance to ride it two-up. I did do some lane splitting in San Francisco, pulling to the front at a stop light. The bike doesn't seem any wider than the GTS, although you have to be slightly more conscious of where your two front wheels are.

The real bummer about lane splitting is that due to the very poor off-the-line performance, the cars actually have a fighting chance of outrunning you when the light turns green, and several cars attempted to do exactly that. Eventually, the transmission finds its groove and acceleration picks up, but there were those couple of moments that made me wonder if I had made the right choice.
Modératrice
2005 Cobalt Blue ET4
Joined: 13 Nov 2005
Posts: 6952
Location: Portland, OR
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:02 am quote
Scoots wrote:
This perk should be extended to ALL the moderators,IMO.Just to give a balanced opinion....
Couldn't agree more

Wonderful, detailed review, Jess (you lucky dog!)-- Piaggio should thank you!

--Deborah
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:11 am quote
Added some pictures to the original post.
Moderator
2006 LX150 "Amadora"
Joined: 01 Feb 2006
Posts: 7129

Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:20 am quote
Interesting review. Since its introduction to the world, I have found my initial distaste of the MP3 slowly giving way to curiousity. I would welcome a chance to give it a try!
Addicted
GTS "Alessandro"/ MP3 "Thor"
Joined: 09 May 2006
Posts: 739
Location: Vancouver,BC
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:45 am quote
Thanks Jess -I like a good, meaty review like that, with attention to detail and lots of "up close" observations.

My only comment would be to not expect the MP3 to be something it is not.

If you believe that Piaggio "skip the 250 cc model altogether and go straight for 400cc" - I do question that fervently. Personally, I do not need the 400 cc price tag, fuel economy or weight ! Same with the many women out there, skirts flapping - traversing the slippery cobbled streets in Italy. Heck, that extra weight could break a stiletto heel FGS!

The MP3 400 weighs 524 lbs - the weight of the Burger King !!! At least the Suzuki Burgman has a 650 cc powerplant. How do you expect the larger MP3 to accelerate from standstill, I daresay we might expect a little "weight issue" there as well.
I had the Burgman 400 and it wasn't a bull at the gates - and it weighed less than the MP3 250 !
In a way I view 400cc as an odd displacement - I'd need more to seriously tour on a freeway, and with the MP3/400 it will be in a heavy body unsuited for my day to day urban needs. Even the X9 is lighter, cheaper !

So, the MP3 250 sales brochure concentrates on ride stability, comfort, storage, enhanced braking etc NOT performance. Let's keep this in perspective when we all test ride the MP3!
To say let's skip the 250 cc is like riding the LX 150 and saying "err Piaggio, no thanks - no need, just send us the GTS." We must respect the needs and desire of all potential scooterists. I seek enhanced road holding, modest power suitable for city and burbs and weather protection - and oh yeah, the "weeeeeeee" in the twisties !!

I say YES to the 250 cc, hold the 400cc, and give us the Gilera Fuoco ! And if you want real performance sit pretty for the 850 cc maxi !


Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:46 am quote
Altaman wrote:
wondering, how do you think the MP3 is for a brand new rider? Being that the person would not have been "tainted" with a previous scoot, how would they percieve the MP3?
You know, this is a really good question (and one that will undoubtedly be asked a lot) but I'm extremely torn on the topic. On the one hand, the MP3 is undoubtedly much less susceptible to solo accidents caused by rider error or poor road surfaces. In that sense, it is very well suited for a novice rider.

On the other hand, it might be much much harder to transition from MP3 as a first bike into something with only two wheels than it would be to simply start on two wheels in the first place. I can see a former MP3 rider getting on a scooter or motorcycle for the first time and leaning way into a turn at the wrong speed -- or simply not leaning enough -- and going sideways off the road.

In a very real sense, the MP3 is like having very flexible and functional training wheels.
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:59 am quote
MsGTS wrote:
If you believe that Piaggio "skip the 250 cc model altogether and go straight for 400cc" - I do question that fervently. Personally, I do not need the 400 cc price tag, fuel economy or weight ! Same with the many women out there, skirts flapping - traversing the slippery cobbled streets in Italy. Heck, that extra weight could break a stiletto heel FGS!
You are, of course, correct in that there's a legitimate need for a smaller displacement version of the MP3, and I certainly don't expect that the Piaggio USA executives are sitting around the board room this morning going "You know, this Jess guy is a virtual oracle of truth. Let's just do a 400cc version".

That said, there is one important point to consider that makes the assessment of weight different than any other bike. The MP3 holds most of the weight of the bike in balance until it is tipped to one side. You can't even tell how heavy the MP3 250 is until you push it around a parking lot with the engine off. The incredible balance it has is very very deceptive.

I don't expect the 400cc engine to make the off-the-line experience any better. I'm actually hoping a change in the transmission (and the roller weights) might make that a bit more snappy. What I really want the extra CCs for are to make this more palatable on the freeway, and for the occasional high-speed hill climb. In its 250cc incarnation, the MP3 just doesn't have the oomph to get up a hill and keep up with traffic.

In Europe, I expect this bike to be used in crowded cities, year round, just like the rest of the scooters. In the US, I expect an entirely different demographic. I think people in US cities will still favor smaller scooters (like the LX) while the MP3 will draw weekend riders and touring types. And yes, I expect the 400cc to be an interesting alternative to sport touring motorcycles, with storage and stability in inclement weather being the chief draw.
Addicted
Vespa LX150
Joined: 30 Dec 2005
Posts: 675
Location: East Windsor, New Jersey
Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:05 am quote
Nice review Jess. Cant wait until it comes out in my area so I can get a test ride. I am saving up my loose change now and almost have the cost covered. Just wondering what will I do with my LX150. I don't really want to get rid of it. Well we will have to see.
Hooked
Vespa 250 GTS, Triumph Tiger 800
Joined: 27 Oct 2006
Posts: 219
Location: Denver
Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:03 pm quote
I guess my only other question concerns causing accidents. Did you notice if any cars slammed into other cars or ran over dogs because they were staring your way in slack-jawed disbelief?
Ossessionato
07 GTS250ie VCOA#2794
Joined: 23 Nov 2005
Posts: 3193
Location: Philly PA Burbs
Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:10 pm quote
jess wrote:
Added some pictures to the original post.
Thanks Jess! I knew you had some
Moderator Australis
2014 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, 2014 Vespa 150 Primavera (sold) 2003 Vespa GT200 (sold)
Joined: 15 Nov 2005
Posts: 5652
Location: New Zealand where it is already tomorrow..
Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:18 pm quote
Nice work Jess
Thanks for taking the time to do this review in such detail and allowing those of us who may never get to ride an MP3 to have some degree of insight into the experience.
I will hold my hand up as the perennial 'bagger' of this beasty. yeah I think it's ugly but in a rugged blokey sort of way so I have no doubt of it's appeal to many.
For me it still sits in that 'novelty' sector where I would expect to see it at a 'Big Boys Toys' expo or similar. I have made a few attempts at humourous comparisions to a snow mobile (see 'snow tyres' thread) but I seriously see that this is where it's market lies. I read your fellow MVers posts where they mothball their scoots for the winter and I genuinely feel for them. Seasonal riding only, must be a real bastard and I can see the desire for a beasty that would extend your riding season into the early snows, if not through the entire winter.
If they ever bring an MP3 here I will certainly be up for a test ride but like you, I came to scooting just a year ago and I relish every moment on two wheels. This, and the Vespa look is fundamental to my passion for scootering. I just could not see myself on a 'trike' and like it or not, the MP3 is a 'trike'. It may handle like a bike and the leaning and suspension mechanism are undoubtedly brilliant - but I don't want a 'trike'. They are the stuff of Pizza delivery, electric milk carts in England and the Cops in Honolulu (with shotguns in the cab )
Good on Piaggio for pushing his one and offering choice to those who want to ride on two wheels (or three). I am not sure they will survive beyond a couple of seasons as the track record any such attempt to be different in the automotive market is littered with failures. Personally I was close to buying a BMW C1 but they are already out of production and parts and service are problematic.
Good luck to those of you who are up for life on three wheels and I look forward to you posting many more threads to document your love of the MP3.......just as long as you can stand more bagging from this Kiwi who loves his Vespa just the way it is.
Hooked
the Piaggio trike
Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 417
Location: Paradise, BC
Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:41 pm quote
Boulty wrote:
For me it still sits in that 'novelty' sector where I would expect to see it at a 'Big Boys Toys' expo or similar. I have made a few attempts at humourous comparisions to a snow mobile (see 'snow tyres' thread) but I seriously see that this is where it's market lies.
In North America at least, how is the majority of the motorcycles / scooters not a "boy toy" though? So fundamentally, I don't see how different the MP3 is compared to other vehicles on 2 wheels.

-Rick
Hooked
04 GT200, 58 VNA, 74 Rally 200, 06 Bonneville T100
Joined: 07 Jan 2006
Posts: 183
Location: Seattle
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:07 pm quote
question
What did "pothole avoidance" feel like with two front wheels?

Seattle is strewn with potholes (other cities may have far fewer potholes but some do offer deeply set manhole covers which provide a similarly annoying obstacle) and you get very used to doing the slight weave to avoid them. I was guessing that having two wheels upfront would make it harder to avoid these with both front wheels. What does "one-in-the-pothole" and one on the road feel like?
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:15 pm quote
Re: question
RScott wrote:
What did "pothole avoidance" feel like with two front wheels?

Seattle is strewn with potholes (other cities may have far fewer potholes but some do offer deeply set manhole covers which provide a similarly annoying obstacle) and you get very used to doing the slight weave to avoid them. I was guessing that having two wheels upfront would make it harder to avoid these with both front wheels. What does "one-in-the-pothole" and one on the road feel like?
Another excellent question. I don't think I was conscious of it at the time, but in a fit a joie de vivre I believe I gave up on going around manhole covers altogether. I didn't hit any large potholes, so I can't fully answer your question, but I hit enough small ones to know that they didn't present any significant hazard.

This brings up another excellent point, though, which I failed to mention in the original post: The suspension was very stiff. Not the newfangled lean-side-to-side part of the suspension, but the traditional up-and-down part. I really felt every bump in the road, especially in San Francisco where the roads aren't so much paved as built up by a process of accretion.

There were a couple of occasions when I had to do a sudden small swerve to avoid an obstacle that I didn't see until the last minute, and the MP3 felt... different. I can't really put my finger on exactly what was strange about it, and it wasn't bad, it just didn't feel like a sudden controlled swerve on my GTS.
Moderator Australis
2014 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, 2014 Vespa 150 Primavera (sold) 2003 Vespa GT200 (sold)
Joined: 15 Nov 2005
Posts: 5652
Location: New Zealand where it is already tomorrow..
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:28 pm quote
Traum wrote:
Boulty wrote:
For me it still sits in that 'novelty' sector where I would expect to see it at a 'Big Boys Toys' expo or similar. I have made a few attempts at humourous comparisions to a snow mobile (see 'snow tyres' thread) but I seriously see that this is where it's market lies.
In North America at least, how is the majority of the motorcycles / scooters not a "boy toy" though? So fundamentally, I don't see how different the MP3 is compared to other vehicles on 2 wheels.

-Rick
Hi Rick
On your first point, do you really think the majority of people consider their Scooters as 'toys'? I think many of the punters on this forum (as do I) use their scooters as extremely efficient, sustainable and fun commuting options. My scooter allows me to have breakfast with my family every day. Otherwise I would be joining the cagers in queues at 6:30am for a 1 hour+ commute. My scoot allows me the privilege of using the 'transit' lane in my district. I can leave any time I like and it takes me 20 mins to get to work, 14 km away.
On your second point..... "fundamentally, I don't see how different the MP3 is compared to other vehicles on 2 wheels." ....
It has three wheels Rick, I think that is fundamental enough.
Petty Tyrant
GTS250 GTS300 MP3 500
Joined: 11 Oct 2005
Posts: 29646
Location: Bay Area, California
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:42 pm quote
Boulty wrote:
On your first point, do you really think the majority of people consider their Scooters as 'toys'? I think many of the punters on this forum (as do I) use their scooters as extremely efficient, sustainable and fun commuting options. My scooter allows me to have breakfast with my family every day. Otherwise I would be joining the cagers in queues at 6:30am for a 1 hour+ commute. My scoot allows me the privilege of using the 'transit' lane in my district. I can leave any time I like and it takes me 20 mins to get to work, 14 km away.
While there are many scooter commuters here on Modern Vespa, I think in the US the idea of riding a scooter for everyday transportation is much less prevalent than it is in many other areas of the world. I think that's changing, but scootering is often viewed here as a recreational activity.
Hooked
the Piaggio trike
Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 417
Location: Paradise, BC
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:43 pm quote
LOL, Boulty. I am not here to argue, but notice how I specifically says that the scope is in North America. Given the dominant car culture here in North America, how many riders ride year round to and from work? Furthermore, in many areas of North America, the harsh winters forbids winter riding, limiting the functionality of a 2-wheeled vehicle.

Also, the "fundamental" bit was referring to the "boy toy" aspect of my claim, not the 2-wheels vs 3-wheels difference. So you might want to read that again.

-Rick
Moderator Australis
2014 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, 2014 Vespa 150 Primavera (sold) 2003 Vespa GT200 (sold)
Joined: 15 Nov 2005
Posts: 5652
Location: New Zealand where it is already tomorrow..
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:56 pm quote
Cheers Guys
I have only read about US 'car culture', and seen a few hot rod shows on Sky TV.
I have never had the privilege of visiting mainland USA, only a month in Hawaii where I got to drive a pick-up truck (NZ = 'Ute') on what I thought was the freeway....then I discovered I was still inside the Pearl Harbour naval base compound!
Not wanting to divert from Jess' good work on the reveiw, the point I was trying to make is I think the MP3 will live or die by the fact that it is a trike and that as a product, it sits outside of even mainstream motorcycle or scootering culture. For that reason alone I am predicting its demise. I don't actually wish this outcome as I am a fan of anyting that consumes less energy that a car.
I'm off to make some phone calls to see if the MP3 is ever due to hit our shores....I'll keep you posted.

Cheers again for the lively debate.
Ossessionato
fluffy bunny
Joined: 17 Oct 2006
Posts: 2099
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:45 pm quote
Really interesting review. Thanks for taking the time.
Hooked
LX OneFitty
Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Posts: 308
Location: SF
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:15 pm quote
I think this is a fantastic alternative for daily cage drivers in the city. I'd love to see several traffic lanes being shared by the MP3, LX, GT et al around town in hopes of reducing the single-person occupied SUV! But they are still ugly. Perhaps SUV drivers will find them cute though ...
Addicted
Stella and a Fuoco
Joined: 01 Dec 2006
Posts: 869
Location: New Mexico
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:19 pm quote
thanks for the info and photos....

the purist will never like the MP3...but then the purists (and i know a few) will never like the modern vespa...my old scooter friends will never own a vespa that is automatic...and they feel vespa has moved from it roots of affordable metal geared scooters that are easy to work on and mod...heck they have the same response for the gts and the mp3..."automatic? just go buy a car" "three wheels? just go buy a car"

me, i love a classic metal geared scooter...and i will likely own a modern scooter too soon enough...personally i don't see much difference in owning a gts and a mp3...neither will ever look as good as the old vespas, but they will run faster and smoother

so just get both, heck they don't take up too much room...chuck the cage and you can fit 4 or 5 scooters in there

g
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