Sunday, February 07, 2010
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.