Thursday, September 23, 2010

For they know not what they do! 5

28. After years of seeing bizarre, dangerous and inconsiderate behaviour by car drivers, and since reading email and texting your friends became the norm for the London driver, I thought I was beyond being shocked. I was very wrong!

Coming up behind a small blue hatchback in Battersea this afternoon I noticed through the rear window there was a baby in strange rear facing child seat where you would expect to see the steering wheel. Never mind. The vehicle was obviously left-hand drive. Then things got interesting! A hand holding a spoon came into view from the left and started feeding the child. OK, it must be someone in a back seat. But no! The spoon is being held by the woman in the driver's seat, although whether, given the impressive degree of maternal attention she is bestowing on the child it is questionable if she could be considered in control of her vehicle.

Shortly after I passed, the Stig caught up with me and said, "why did you give that car a double take?"

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Piaggio MP3




I still have not got round to reporting on the X9 500 Evo I have been riding since last July, but in the meantime ...

For various reasons, including a minor coolant leak affecting the X9, I have had the opportunity to ride three different MP3 models in the last fortnight. Although not doing loads of miles, I have ridden the 125, the 125ie and 250ie enough in London traffic to assess them for commuting.

As all three bikes are very similar apart from the power of the 250, I have written one review but attempted to draw out the different features between the models. The bikes were -

59 MP3 125 200 miles

09 MP3 125ie 300 Km


56 MP3 250ie 14,000 Km


Cosmetics

The bikes looked very well made. Everything seemed to fit well and there was a sense of quality. The 250 had clearly had a harder life than the others, not surprising as it was older and had done many more miles. One previous rider had obviously not understood the suspension system as the panels showed signs of it going over when stationary - aparently this is commonon loan MP3s.

The bike looks low and squat, but is actually very agile in use, but heavy when stationary. Thankfully one button press locks the suspension (and stops the bike crashing to the ground) which is a relief when standing for a long time at junctions. The suspension unlocks as soon as the revs rise so it unlocks as the bike pulls away - an excellent feature! Of the three bikes, the 125ie had a higher screen which looked better and gave more protection at higher speeds, although at normal city speeds I didn't really miss it.

Storage

Loads of storage in an underseat locker and a flip up boot at the rear. However, neither space was the right size for a flip front helmet so a complete waste to me. I image most open face and full face helmets will fit, but don't assume your's will without checking.

Speed

The two 125s were very, very, very slow. The ie seemed even slower than the carbed 125. The 125ie was even worse at pulling away than the Lead 110 and the Zip 50. It was the only bike I have ever ridden that did absolutly nothing when you oppened the throttle. It may have bee na bad example, but was part of the Piaggio press pool so should have been set up properly and looked after and was stil lvery low mileage. I felt very vulnerable on both the 125s in traffic as cars and vans always wanted to pass you as you pulled away from lights.

By comparison, the 250 was very very good. Pulled very quickly to 50mph from a standing start and was always very quick and very responsive. I was very impressed with it.

Handling

You get on, you think this is going to be a different experience, you pull away and within 50 feet you realise the control of this is going to be like any other bike. Steering, counter steering the works is all no different to any other bike. By 100 feet you stop thinking about it and ride completely normally.

At first the small front wheels make it feel twitchy, but the first time you take a corner you realise this is nothing like a normal scooter. The cornering is tight and firm. The extra wheel and shift of weight to the front male the bike corner and brake so well. It generates a lot of confidence quickly and despite riding on a lot of icy and and oily roads recently, the handling and braking were always top notch. The extra wheel also makes hitting bumps and potholes less of a trauma. The bike just glides over them.

Despite it looking wide, it is actually narrower than many maxi scooters, including the X9 so is easy to filter etc.

Economy

Difficult to tell as each bike was only ridden for a few days. However all were much lighter on fuel than the X9 500 I currently have.

Comfort

OK for the hour long rides I did. I imagine that the hard seat and poor bum stop lack of feet forward riding position would cause cramp more than on any typical maxi scooter.

Reliability

Each bike did 100+ miles with no problem, but that doesn't say much. The 125ie already had a faulty brake light when given to me which was due to the physical failure of the light cluster rather than the electrics.

Commuting

The bikes are well designed for commuting, but the 125s are too slow in my opinion. The 250ie on the other hand is very close to being an ideal commuter, reasonable comfort, good storage, excellent performance for round town, and I would expect good economy given what other bikes with this engine achieve.

General Riding

I didn't have the chance to take any of these out of town. The 125s are simply too slow in my opinion to take anywhere beyond 50mph limits. The 250 on the other hand would seem well designed to hit national speed limits. The lack of a decent screen will be a problem doing 70 mph, as it will be noisy and tiring, but it is certainly capable of it.

Fun

These bikes are fantastic fun. The light steering, amazing grip and the sense of security and reliability they bring mean riding even the 125s is fun. Throwing them around with real security brought a big smile to the face. However, the 250 was far more fun than the others!

Value

The big problem is the cost of these bikes. They are significantly more than a comparable bike with only two wheels (Xevo for example). The 250 may be worth the extra money, not sure the 125s are given the significant loss in performance from the extra weight.

What would I change?

The 125s simply don't deliver in terms of power. The extra weight is incompatible with being a decent 125 bike. I would certainly change the storage so wider helmets will fit, and would put a taller screen on the 250ie. The mirrors on all three bikes were the same, small and badly placed. With larger mirrors, and the other changes, I would love an MP3 250ie as a commuting bike.

Overall

I am impressed with the concept. The way the bikes behave, even on very poor surfaces and bad roads is very reassuring. The braking is very secure and allows the rider to be very confident in all they do. Don't write them off as a gimmick, give them a try, but the limitations of the 125s really make them very poor substitutes for the much cheaper commuter 125 alternatives. The 250, however, is a very polished and capable machine well worth considering.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Honda SCV 110 Lead




2008 Honda SCV 110 Lead Red


Five-and-a-half hours, 30 miles.

Last week I part exchanged my X9 250 for an X9 500 Evolution. More about that bike later, but unfortunately, the Surrey Honda dealer which sold it to me failed to service the bike whilst they had it. A service was just about due according to the original Piaggio service schedule, and I wanted that bloody book stamped! They offered to service it the next Saturday, and offered a courtesy bike. So I set off early on Saturday morning to ride the ten miles to the dealer, queued up to hand in the keys of my pride and joy, and to pick up the courtesy bike, a Honda SCV 110 Lead.

Cosmetics

The bike looked very well made. Everything seemed to fit well and there was a sense of quality. There was also a sense of being very small! I was having terrible flashbacks from my old Zip. It looked like my Zip, and when sitting on it, it felt like my Zip! It also seemed impossibly light compared with the bikes I have been riding for the last four years.

Storage

For a small scooter there seemed loads of space under the seat. Certainly enough for a helmet plus a bag of shopping. There was also a small glovebox, but I didn't try and put anything in that. There was also an integral robust looking rack on the back that looked like it would be ideal for strapping boxes and packages to.

Speed

For a small scooter with a 108cc engine performance was surprisingly good. I didn't have the opportunity to try it out at great speed, but it got to 30mph very quickly, and pulled very strongly up steep hills at 40mph. The engine is very smooth and very responsive.

Handling

It is light, it has small wheels that gives it a very light and twitchy feel when you first get on it. But after a few miles you adjust and the bike seems to have a good hold of the road and stays on line round corners. The rear suspension appears to be made out of a knackered old mattress as it is soft, spongy and bouncy. It may be possible to change the settings, but I didn't get chance to do that.

Economy

I imagine the bike must cost almost nothing to run. I picked up the bike and half way home realised the fuel gauge was actually the temperature gauge and the temperature gauge was actually the fuel gauge showing less then empty. I rode to the nearest petrol station, which these days not unusually was about three miles away. I then had no idea how much fuel to put in. I put in just under four pounds (about 4 litres) and that put the fuel gauge to more than full! Later in the day I rode back to the dealer, and having done over 20 miles since filling up, the gauge still showed the tank as being more than full. I imagine that as a Honda dealer has a fleet of these as courtesy bikes they must be cheap to maintain as they wouldn't make unnecessary expense for themselves.

Comfort

Terrible! After the luxury of an X9, well known as an armchair on two wheels, the Lead felt terribly cramped and exposed. I imagine smaller riders and more frequent riders will get used it it!

Reliability

It got me 30 miles.

Commuting

The bike is small, very light and quite nippy. Given the likely low cost of fuel etc, I would say this was an ideal commuting bike for an urban commuter with a five mile journey, as long as they are not too big.

General Riding

Not being in a hurry on the way back I took some diversions down some winding hilly roads. Cornering was quite good for a small wheeled scooter. The brakes always felt reliable and progressive, although nowhere near as good as on a larger scooter with triple disks. Whilst not ideal for this sort of riding, it is capable of it if required.

Fun

I quite enjoyed riding this once I got used to the small wheels and the less efficient brakes. It brought back memories of smaller scooters I started riding on. Riding it did feel rather exposed. There feels like no protection from the elements or other vehicles, and other vehicles, especially 4X4 treat the bike with contempt as it has no presence whatsoever. Several times I found large vehicles coming the other way on my side of the road who either had not seen me, or did not care that I was there. Having ridden the same roads loads of times on X9s the different treatment was very clear.

Value

Brand new these are £2250 which is a lot for a small 110cc bike with no special features. Obviously they will be less than that secondhand, but the price seems high compared with other similar scooters from other manufacturers. Obviously you are paying for Honda quality.

What would I change?

The engine seems quite capable of pushing this bike along at reasonable commuting speeds and the general styling etc is fine. The handling and the brakes are acceptable for this sort of bike. The biggest problems as for me were the seat,
which is moulded so sitting back on it for long legged riders means you are sitting o
on a ridge, and the rear suspension which was impossibly soft!

Overall

Overall a good fun little scooter and I am glad to have had the opportunity to ride it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

For they know not what they do! 4

27. The comment about someone watching a DVD reminds me that last year I saw someone who I thought was watching a DVD, until I realised it was the BBC 6 O'clock news!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

For they know not what they do! 3

Driver behaviour just gets worse. New technology, new devices, new hazards for other road users. Adding to the list I drew up in 2006 I now have -

22. Typing on the laptop balance on the drivers knees.

23. Typing on the laptop on the passenger seat.

24. A very popular one this, scrolling through an email on a Blackberry.

A strange think a few months ago. As I was filtering through Wandsworth a couple of months ago and notices small things floating out of the driver's window of a car every few seconds. As I approached I could see the back of the car was full of boxes of what looked like old curtains. The driver had some of this pulled across her lap, and as she was driving though heavy traffic she was ...

25. Unpicking stitches!

Today, something new. I passed a driver moving along, pen in hand ...

26. Completing a form to register with a GP!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2004 Piaggio X9 250 SL - Imperial Blue




I have been riding this second X9 for a few months now. A month ago she started behaving very oddly. When slowing down she used to shake from side to side and was uncertain into corners. Even though the front and rear tyres both had plenty of tread other investigations suggested new tyres would solve the problems. I had new Michelin Gold Standards fitted front and rear yesterday and the bike is now going like a dream. No shakes, and very confident in all the conditions I came across today, including the greasy gritted roads. This is just like an X9 should be!

For the record it is, like the yellow one a 2004 model with a topbox which more than doubles the storage and makes the bike a very practical tourer, or at leasts allows you to do a week's shopping for two people! For more information about my experieinces of the X9 250 SL check out this post on the blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Piaggio X9 250 SL redux

After over a year on the X9 250 and 12,000 miles it was getting long in the tooth so regrettably had to go. It has been a please to ride. The replacement is ... er ... almost exactly the same, an X9 250 SL in Imperial Blue. More on my year on an X9 250 soon, and some observations on how different two bikes that are the same can be!