Gilera has aimed its newly launched Nexus 500 scooter squarely at the weekend sports bike rider in a bid to tempt them out of the car during the week. And with the offer of an easy, no hassle, but most of all, fun ride to work, they might just do it.
The Nexus is by far the sportiest looking maxi scooter yet, moving away from the stayed, comfortable, touring look that most of the big automatics go for and instead opting for styling to rival any of the sporty 50s.
The angular front and swept up rear end give the scoot an aggressive stance that makes you want to head for some fun. But that's not to say that Gilera hasn't considered comfort. The seat is firm but comfy and the Nexus is just as happy whether you want to crouch down sports bike style behind the screen or just relax in a sit-up-and-beg stance.
But all those sporty good looks would be pointless if the Nexus didn't have the mettle to back it up. With 460ccs of engine swinging up and down at the back you would be forgiven for thinking that the nexus is never going to handle as well as Yamaha's T-Max with it's fixed parallel twin engine. But Gilera has worked hard to develop it's Powerdrive suspension system and make the Nexus surprisingly agile, disguising its 216kg weight well.
The new system places the rear shock under the seat using a connecting rod and linkage to transfer the motion of the rear wheel. As an added benefit this has let Gilera fit a ride height adjuster to the connecting rod allowing you to alter the height of the rear end simply by twisting the adjuster with your hand. The preload on the gas shock can then be altered with a c-spanner to suit the riders weight rather than their inside leg measurement.
Out on the road the Nexus feels pretty nimble flying round corners without any fuss, but you soon remember it is not a sports bike when the centre stand starts scrapping along the ground. A quick inspection revealed that the stand touches down well before the Nexus has got anywhere near the edge of the tyres. With a decent side stand included in the package and no chain to maintain, the centre stand is a little redundant. It's only benefit comes when you need to squeeze in to that last tiny space in one of London's limited bike parking bays without having to lean on the bike next door.
With just 40bhp the Nexus is never going to match the performance of the sports bikes whose riders it is trying to attract. The automatic transmission takes away the feeling of acceleration leaving you waiting for that sudden boost that comes with a manual change of gear, but you're soon brought back to the real world when you realise just how fast the indicated top speed of 112mph is approaching.
In a straight line the Gilera won't win any awards but get it in to a set of tight bends and it is a lot of fun. With the weight spread almost 50/50 between the front and rear wheel, the big scoot handles more like a bike than a maxi scooter with a very positive feel through the corner. Where it does start to get a little strange though is when you hit the breaks.
Gilera have blessed the Nexus with a linked break system that takes a bit of getting used to for the sports bike rider. As with all scooters both front and rear brakes are on the handle bars, but on the Nexus the right hand lever operates only one of the two front discs, while the left hand lever operates the other front disc and the rear disk at the same time.
The result is that the 'rear' brake is far more effective at slowing the big scooter than the front on its own. However once you get over the initial odd feeling it actually works quite well, leaving your right hand to operate the throttle while your left does all the breaking. You only really need to use both when that guy in the white van decides to pull out in front of you while chatting to his mate on his mobile phone.
The Nexus only really comes in to it's own though when you take it in to town. Gilera have really hit the nail on the head, combining the agility of a small scooter with enough power to keep you at the head of the pack when the roads get clearer. The low centre of gravity, upright sitting position and narrow width mean you can plough through traffic with ease. And without the need to worry about what gear you're in the Nexus lets you concentrate on cutting the perfect line through the jam.
The only place where the Gilera does loose out to the other big scooters is storage. There is only space for one full-face lid under the seat, which is a shame considering how well the scooter handles with a pillion. If storage is an issue you could always go for the optional 28 litre top box, but it would rather diminish the sporty styling.
The Gilera Nexus is never going to replace the fun of riding a sports bike but if you need a tool that is just as happy flitting through town as it is cruising at motorway speeds then the Nexus is definitely worth a look. And on those sunny summer nights you could always take the back roads home from work and arrive with a smile on your face.