1 of 3
Click to enlarge
Previous image Next image
 

The scooter the law says is a car

By Steve Farrell -

First rides & tests

 10 June 2009 10:50

This 100mph scooter can be ridden by car drivers without a motorcycle licence or helmet. 

The 400cc Piaggio MP3 LT is Piaggio’s latest scooter with two leaning front wheels, after the smaller 125 and 250cc versions.

But this one can be ridden with no bike training because it’s the same as a three-wheeled car in the eyes of the law, a trick Piaggio has managed by moving the front wheels further apart and adding a footbrake.  

Having ridden it ourselves MCN can reveal the law is an ass. This is definitely a scooter, albeit one that’s slightly more difficult to crash.

As with the smaller MP3s, the extra wheel removes any anxiety about losing the front end. You can ground the centre-stand in a corner and if one of the front wheels strays onto a drain cover it doesn‘t matter.

Even if it does slip a fraction there’s never any fear of a low-side. Effectively it under-steers instead.

Also like its smaller brothers it has a switch which locks the front wheels in position so there’s no need to use the stand. Turn the throttle and the wheels automatically unlock so they can lean again.

Piaggio has made it idiot proof by adding a sensor in the seat which stops this happening if you’re not sitting on it. It means you can’t drop it by opening the throttle while standing next to it.

It takes a bit of getting used to but it’s actually possible to ride an MP3 without putting your feet down from the moment you get on to the moment you get off.

You just have to flick the switch to lock the front wheels the instant you stop.

Doing it too late would obviously be embarrassing. And people would be watching – wherever I went on this scooter people stared.

With a claimed 34bhp it’s perfectly at home on the motorway, although acceleration could be described as steady.

That foot pedal, which applies front and rear brakes, seems what it is: a token to satisfy legislation. Using it instead of the bar levers feels pointless and it’s just where you want to put your foot for extra leg room.

In town the MP3’s width becomes a disadvantage when filtering, especially if you’re trying to squeeze between a car and kerb thanks to the two front wheels.

And although it has an under-seat compartment and boot, neither would take my Shark full-face helmet.

There’s potentially a bigger disappointment in store for would-be owners, though. As a three-wheeler the MP3 doesn’t automatically qualify for benefits afforded to bikes, such as exemption from tolls. I got across Dartford Bridge for free but Piaggio is waiting for a decision on London’s £8 daily congestion charge.

The MP3 LT will be in showrooms from the end of June. Piaggio is offering test rides this Sunday at London’s Canary Wharf. Details: www.piaggiotestrides.co.uk

FACTS
PIAGGIO MP3 LT £6499
Engine: Liquid cooled 398.9cc single
Power (claimed): 34bhp
Torque (claimed): 27.7ftlb
Weight (dry): 253kg
Colours: Grey, blue

RIVALS
Yamaha TMax £5999 43bhp
Gilera Fuoco 500 £5695 33bhp