Piaggio MP3

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I was surpised to see a significant population of Piaggio MP3 scooters in Paris. This one is apparently a 500ie. Notice the heated leg cover shroud. A lot of bikes have them around here. Another option is muffs and/or heated grips. Judging by the look of heavy use on these fabric additions, I’d say they leave them on all year and ride year ’round. In the summer they keep the rain off, and in winter…cold rain, I imagine.

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Here’s another one right next to it. I’ts not in front of a dealership, by the way.

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That’s right, it’s a third one just up the rue.

I am really drawn to the apparent practicality of these machines. All weather riding, stable front end with two wheels on the pavement, ABS, plenty of storage, automatic transmission, and lockable tilt brake.

From what I’ve read you can lock the tilt of the scooter (using a switch on the throttle grip) when the speed gets below about 6 mph, and when you start up with it locked it will automatically release at 6 mph. With some practice, you can avoid putting your feet down altogether, making the leg shield that much more effective. Using the tilt lock, you don’t have to use the side stand or center stand.

You still have the scooter motor large unsprung weight on the rear wheel, so bumps are not absorbed as well as the F650, for example. And you still need to be able to handle a big heavy scooter.

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Motorcycle Economics: Part One

The 1997 BMW F650 that I ride was initially bought by a motorcyclist for his wife, who crashed it, doing mainly cosmetic damage. She became disillusioned with motorcycles. The next owner put a couple thousand miles on the bike and decided he didn’t like it. I’m guessing the vibration of the big single was disappointing. When I got it, the bike was 17 years old and only had 3600 miles on it.

In the last year, I have ridden the F650 almost 5000 miles. My longest trip has been 62 miles and I don’t commute on it. I am semi-retired, though, and the motorcycle is our second vehicle, ridden year ’round when conditions permit. The bike is an integral part of the family finances, not a superfluous appendage.

When ends don’t meet, you can either find a way to get more money or learn to make do with less. While raising children, you are driven towards the former solution, but in semi-retirement mode the latter can also work. We decided to go down to one good car plus the bike, saving the high cost of another car or truck. My friend just got a deal on a demo Ford F150 for $55K. A decent used truck with 100K miles on it is upwards of 10K, but in New England, rust will often claim your vehicle before you can wear it out, and $2400 a year in repair bills is all too familiar.

A motorcycle will not rust out if you keep it in a ventilated, relatively dry space, use ACF50 on it, keep it clean with spray wax, and generally avoid the winter roads that are kicking up wet salt. I have a 1997 BMW with rust on the bottom ground-contact surfaces of the center stand, and slight superficial oxidation on the exposed ends of the front axle and shifter shaft. I replaced one clip nut near the battery box and the exhaust header nuts are next on the list. Anti-seize compound is excellent protection for fasteners. Worst case, any part that can rust can also be replaced.

I paid $2500 for the F650 with 3600 miles on it, a little cosmetic damage in the form of a slightly dented stainless steel muffler and a couple small tears in the seat cover, carbs in need of cleaning, and 17 year old tires. With any old motorcycle, the rubber parts generally need to be replaced. Nonetheless, the bike ran pretty well initially, looked great and I have gradually improved it over time.

Part Two talks about doing your own motorcycle maintenance.

The Ural

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For a couple of months I have been seeing a fantastic shiny military green Ural sidecar rig cruising past my house. The Urals are unmistakable, especially if you have seen Indiana Jones, practically any world war II movie, or the new Mortdecai ,starring Johnny Depp. This one looks brand new and 75 years old at the same time. As it turns out it is neither.

Walking near my house, I passed a man doing some work at a neighbor’s. We struck up a conversation and he mentioned he had the Ural. He had recognized me as one of the dual sport riders in the neighborhood. The Ural is a 1992, before they were officially imported into the USA, drum brakes, carbureted, single wheel drive, and very low miles when he got it. He cleaned the carbs, did some ignition work, and eventually got it running smoothly.

Compared to the F650, I can see some significant advantages to the Ural. You aren’t going to drop it, it will stand up by itself when stopped so you don’t have to ever put your feet down, it has a reverse gear, you can more easily carry a passenger and more gear, and it comes standard with a huge cool factor. Not to mention a spare tire that will fit any of the wheels.

Like the F650, it is a blast to ride, similar displacement, requires a motorcycle license, easy to work on, world-wide presence, and off-road capable,

Some things that might be considered disadvantages are 35 mpg fuel economy, a low 50 mph sweet spot (70 mph max), $13K-$16K to buy new, hard to steer, and a whole different riding paradigm. The main thing you lose is the easy two-wheeled lean of a regular motorcycle, which is, arguably, everything.

Fascinating. Under the right circumstances, I can imagine going for the Ural.

Incidentally, Brian also mentioned the dirt Sandwich Notch Road through part of the White Mountain Forest. Easier to do that than going further north to hit the paved, but curvy Kankamangus.