Monday, February 05, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast

Potential of the New MP3

Its been a while since I've had the opportunity to put some good thoughts down for you to read. I had the chance to see the new Vespa MP3 at the Minneapolis motorcycle show this last weekend.

The MP3 is much smaller in person than pictures seem to suggest. The bike certainly has its own look. A lot of carrying capacity might make it an interesting travel capable vehicle but there are other prospects I've been thinking about. Both in the real world and on the track.

The real world:

The lean angle of that front end allows approximately forty degrees of lean if you want to keep both front tires touching tarmac. This is substantially less than what is possible considering how deeply the design of the standard two wheeled bikes can taken to their limits. Is this a problem? Depends how you ride.

Here's the advantage. You can use that third wheel design to lean less and use more power. You actually push the bike harder at less angle because that double hoop setup up front is going to provide roughly double the traction you had otherwise. But its contradictory to what we motorcyclists are familiar with. To the newer rider however, it might seem a real boon to have twin contact points leading the way. Lower levels of skill are could potentially train newer riders inexperienced with how much actual usable lean angle a traditional two wheeler has, to treat every scooter they ride with the same shallow lean angle at a higher speed than might be safe. Its as if once a rider owns an MP3, the necessary learned riding style is going to change dramatically to accomodate the way the MP3 has to be ridden. Unfortunately riding the current MP3 seems to have the potential to really mess with the heads of people like myself. I think the three wheeled design is going to have to be treated like a completely different animal. Its not a bad thing, but it is something to consider if one moves from a three wheeler to two wheelers at any time.

On the track:

Here's what I see that's going to be interesting. There are places which have created scooter racing divisions. There's one in Iowa and I hope to attend at least one event there.

Imagine racing MP3's. These machines, though complex, will offer a huge dividend for both racing participants and audiences. Harder racing, faster laps, innovative ways to increase the factory lean angles could really make such a race an exciting thing to watch. Even in stock form these machines could compete against deeper lean angle capable traditional two wheeled scooters because the "trads" may be able to lean all the way down to their limits through the turns, but the MP3 should be able to make up the difference in traction and the extra speed that traction can provide.

I can also see the skills of scooter visionaries coming up with ways to deepen the lean angle of the MP3 to the limits it could actually get down to. We're talking about a machine which would limited more by how well the rear tire performs in gripping the lane than the limits we've dealt with to this point.

Could it be that a slower engine, one generating less power, would be able to hold higher rpm's through a given course simply because it didn't have to slow as much in the turns? Keep the speed up and you have faster laps.

A mixed race of traditional scooters and MP3's could make for some incredible racing scenarios. I hope its in our future.

The Roadbum


Bryce said...

Skilled riders are likely to lean maybe up to about 50 to 60° in either direction on public roads. My thought is that while 40° isn't as big of a range, there are a lot of riders who never venture beyond it. I like to consider myself swift, but I am not out there dragging a knee around the bends.

I am assuming Piaggio did their homework and figured that most of the time, people are working within that 40° range. When I rode it, I only once felt like I wanted to be able to lean it more than I could. That wasn't just on your average street, but it was while I was hustling down the back roads of the hill country near San Antonio.

So I guess the trade off is how much you can lean in the absolute, or how much you can lean in reality. I think in the real world, on public roads, you can lean further on the 3 wheeler with more stability and safety than you could on 2 wheels.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Hi Bryce,

I think Piaggio had a read dilemma on their hands. Either set the capability at the scooter's actual lean limits or take the safe route and put figure out where, as you said, the majority of riders tend to peak. Piaggio chose to give it to the average rider (good choice imo) and let those truly interested in the possible dynamics of the third wheel, play with it on their own insurance policies. I would love to see someone play with one on a track though, I really would.


Bryce said...

I too would love to see a group of MP3s on the track. It would be an awesome sight to behold.

Combatscoot said...

I read a review of someone who borrowed a MP3 for a whole weekend. He said that, at first, he was a little freaked-out with it, but soon settled down and was able to really carve with it. He noted that one could choose a variety of lean angles and still get the same results, so it is a bit forgiving.

CodyandMichelle said...

I agree Harv & Bryce, It's just good marketing to have something as new as the MP3 to appeal to the masses. It's up to some of those more brave souls to push the limits. Heck, it's what makind has done from the beginning of time.The problem I see is something that Harv touched on in his post. If you are a newbie and start on the MP3 and for some odd reason, say hey, I think I'll go get a two wheeler instead. When they try to lean into a twistie as if they were riding the MP3, i think theres a possibility of LIGHTS OUT! Whereas if it's vice versa, I don't see it being that hard of a transition. We'll see!