The Missing Motorcycle

Are you interested in minimalist motorcycling? Need just enough power to get up the hills and keep up with traffic? Forget the interstates. Super lightweight? Great gas mileage? Easy to maintain yourself? Low cost? Minimalist styling?

Good luck finding one.

There are a lot of great motorcycles and scooters that come close to the missing motorcycle, but nothing has quite done it for me. Until now.

That’s right!  Call the folks and wake up the kids. The new bike is just now arriving in the USA, the Kymco K-Pipe 125.


And it’s only by accident that this bike works for me at all because it’s designed for 16 year old riders. I haven’t been 16 for well over half a century. And to be honest, the folks are long gone and the kids are now grandparents themselves.

Nonetheless, I’m intrigued by the K Pipe 125.

It weighs in at 265 pounds, a little over half the F650 weight. I like that. A lot. My quarter-ton two wheeler is naturally unstable when those wheels aren’t turning, believe me. And try backing it up over soft ground. Pete Caroline rides a Stella Scooter after his Honda Shadow fell on him and broke his leg in three places. Light weight can be good.

The style is unique, not imitating anything or wanting to be something it isn’t. Neither retro not futuristic, it is a visually satisfying, minimalist take on the present.

The front end has a telescopic fork with what appears to be about 4 inches of travel, cast 17-inch 10-spoke rim with a 2.75 inch tire, and a single disc, 2-piston brake. The rear suspension is a monoshock, with a  3.5 inch tire again on the 17-inch 10 spoke rim with a drum brake. The shock travel is 28mm which probably means about 4 inches at the wheel. Rider reports claim the suspension is okay. I imagine tubeless tires on the cast rims.

The engine is a horizontal, air cooled, carbureted 123.7cc single with an overhead cam and semi-automatic shifting like the Honda Super Cub. It has 8.6:1 compression using regular gas from a 1.2 gallon tank, getting upwards of 90+ miles per gallon. But you wind up with only 8 horsepower at 7000 rpm. The Honda Ruckus has 5. My F650 has 48.

You might say the K Pipe 125 is a Honda Ruckus with big wheels, 60% more horsepower, 90% more torque, and 40% more weight.

Low Power Biking

For the K Pipe 125 to make sense, I think you have to embrace the mindset of low power biking. Why? At similar weight and geometry you can get $2500 used bikes that are a lot more powerful. Yamaha TW200, Yamaha XT225, Suzuki DR200, and with a bit more weight the TU250X. And even these more powerful bikes, when reviewed against other mainstream bikes, are described as not having much power.

Sure, you get a brand new machine for very little money, a unique style, superb gas mileage, and the lower center of gravity of a horizontal engine, but unless you can enjoy the bike with the small amount of power it won’t be worth it. In some situations even on secondary roads you won’t be able to keep up with traffic. You’ll want more power. You’ll get tired of it very quickly. Fifty miles may be all it takes.

On the other hand, Mike Saunders, gave up the big BMW for the Honda Ruckus and put about 40,000 miles on it.  There may be some real motorcycle magic in low power. Why is there even such a thing as the Pinball moped run?

I remember looking at a used Honda CT110, explaining I needed to hit 50-55 going by the airport on my runs to the store. “This bike is more for 40-45. Get a dirt bike.”

The Pipe will hit an honest 60 on that flat. Stock.  So 50-55 seems comfortably doable. I would have bought one had it been available then.

A lot of two lane roads in New Hampshire are pretty high speed, and traffic is apt to hit 70 in some places. You can either stay off those roads or pull over and let it go by. So the bike is going to drop you out of the high speed rat race. That could be a good thing as long as you can find the extra bit of time.

This slowed down, dropped out pace could be your ticket to the low power biking payoff.


In New Hampshire the slower roads are often the roughest roads. They never got a proper base and drainage in the first place so they remain vulnerable to frost heaves in winter and the residual bumpiness in the summer. Car suspensions are good enough to speed over a lot of this roughness, especially if the driver ignores the invisible wear and tear on the vehicle. The K Pipe doesn’t have the suspension of the optimal DR650, for example, so you will want to go slower, slower than the fair number of cars and trucks that will come up behind you, wanting to get by you in those long stretches of no passing.

Hills are going to cause similar problems.

The result is a more general awkwardness in trying to blend in with traffic than I was thinking before. I would need to more fully adopt a dropped-out attitude.

Another Update:

A couple weeks ago I spotted a new KPipe 125 on Weirs Boulevard, heading towards Laconia. It was ridden by a petite young woman and the bike didn’t look too small.

I also visited Rochester MotorSports and took a look at a couple of them up close.


I thought the build quality looked good. There were elastic stop nuts on the suspension parts in places where you would expect them. The nuts might back off a little with vibration but would not spin off the bolt. The bike looked durable.

I sat on it and it was very light compared to the F650. If you really need light, this qualifies.  The seat is narrower and a bit lower than my bike and I could easily flat foot it. It was next to the Honda Groms and I liked the comparatively big wheels on the KPipe.

Even with the big wheels, though, the bike feels small in the sense that there is a lot less in front of me than there is on the F650. I didn’t ride it, but I suspect 55 would be about as fast as you would want to go.

I was surprised to see a manual clutch on the left grip, like a regular motorcycle. Apparently you can shift it with or without the manual clutch. The salesman said the shift pattern is reversed from the normal and he didn’t mention the related recall that I have read about elsewhere. Apparently you can buy a bike, register it, and ride it with the reverse shift pattern. Just something to get used to, but I suppose the next batch will shift normally.

I’m still liking this minimalist bike.




The BMW F650 “Tiger”

The original F650 was designed in the early 1990’s by Martin Logmore, working in the motorcycle division of BMW. The first version came out in 1994 for Europe, and with some changes, 1997 in the USA. All of them built by Aprilia in Italy.

Martin was kind enough to leave off part of the design so it could be completed by someone like me. How cool is that?


Yes, that’s right. The blank area just below the seat. Forward of that spot is the engine cover with a substantial open area revealing the top of the engine. On the other side of the bike you access the fuel petcock through a similar opening. But the panel in question has a dull flat area where you would perhaps expect another opening, revealing nifty motorcycle parts behind, but the actual parts behind are more ugly than nifty.  It seems like something visual, a graphic at least, needs to be there.

Something round? It can’t be arbitrary. It needs to belong there. Like the Iron Butt Association roundel available to members of the club for $35. But to get it, I would have to ride 1000 miles in under 24 hours.


So my plan is to ride to Buffalo, New York for a great burger at the Wellington Pub on Hertel Ave. and a quick visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station in the Pierce Arrow Museum, get a validation that I was there and then beat it back to New Hampshire for a time stamp fill-up at the same station I was at earlier that morning.

But I see on Google Maps it’s just under 500 miles one way. It’s too close for a clean handling of the requirements. This plan needs work, but it’s still feasible.

The more you play around with something round the more you see an “eye”. An homage to the Bronson Bike in that respect?


But it’s pretty fierce. It would escalate a minor design lapse into “scaring chipmunks and small children” status.

By the way, I don’t waste big chunks of time on this problem. No, just countless little chunks, over the last year or so.

My friend Steve put me onto something called “vinyl auto wrap”. It’s a thin, colored/textured adhesive backed film with a release sheet. It’s relatively easy to move it around until you press it hard onto the vehicle surface. And you can easily peel it off. I bought a 24 x 48 inch sheet of light gray on eBay for $8 including shipping. It has sort of a brushed steel striation effect in one direction. Now I can experiment with some graphic schemes on the actual bike.


Well, that’s where I’m at. A bit of a “tiger” effect. Yeah, I like that. I now have an F650 Tiger.