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Vespa's very sporty three wheeled scooter

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May 17, 2006

Vespa's very sporty three wheeled scooter

Vespa's very sporty three wheeled scooter

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May 18, 2006 Piaggio launched the first Vespa model in 1946, creating an iconic presence in the personal transport revolution that evolved in the following decades. Sixty years on, the Italian company has come up with another revolutionary product: the PIAGGIO MP3, a three-wheeler with two independent tilting front wheels that operate in a “carving” motion. The PIAGGIO MP3 provides safety, road grip and stability levels that no two-wheeler can match, with lean angles of 40 degrees or more possible from novice riders. Available in 125 and 250 forms initially, we’re licking our lips at the prospect of the 500 version.

The two front wheels of the PIAGGIO MP3 re-define the very concept of ride stability to provide an unprecedented riding experience. The front assembly, with two independent tilting wheels, is far more stable than any scooter. The PIAGGIO MP3 grips the road even when tailing other vehicles, providing top performance in total safety.

The full extent of this three-wheeler’s stability can be tested on wet asphalt or tough riding conditions that would sorely challenge a traditional two-wheeler. In town and city traffic the PIAGGIO MP3 has no equal in terms of safety. It takes on cobblestone streets, patchy asphalt and tram tracks with the greatest of ease, remaining safe and stable all the while.

With its compact super-scooter size and exceptional manoeuvrability, the PIAGGIO MP3 is at home in town traffic. It’s a cinch to park: an electro-hydraulic suspension locking system means there is no need to put the vehicle on its stand.

The PIAGGIO MP3 requires far less braking space than any scooter — the three-disk braking system and exceptional front-end road holding reduce braking space by 20 per cent compared to the best scooters.

The PIAGGIO MP3 comes into its own when heading out of town. Its road grip, cornering safety and tilt angle are unprecedented for a scooter, adding to the pleasure of riding different road surfaces at high speed.

Cycle parts The cycle parts are the key element of the PIAGGIO MP3 project. Innovative technical features and top-grade components make the PIAGGIO MP3 a truly unique vehicle that re-invents the entire scooter concept.

The PIAGGIO MP3 frame in high-tensile steel tubes is the result of the best CAD technology and computerized FEM (Finite Element Method) analysis. Elements such as frame strength and weight were precisely defined and tested from the initial phases of the project, with the suitability of each solution checked at every stage. The innovative parallelogram suspension, an original Piaggio design, is anchored to the frame. The tilt mechanism is composed of four cast-aluminium control arms with four hinges fixed to the central tube and two guide tubes on either side of the parallelogram, connected to the arms via suspension pins and ball bearings. The tubes on the right and left enclose the steering tube in a classic singlearm setup.

The PIAGGIO MP3 uses three 12” wheels with large tyres — 120/70 front, 130/70 rear. Together with the revolutionary front suspension, the wheels provide a tilt angle of up to 40° while riding like any normal two wheeler and simultaneously ensuring better road grip on any surface, especially slippery tracks. The parallelogram suspension also ensures increased stability at high speeds: the PIAGGIO MP3 grips the road firmly, with no wobbling, even when tailing large vehicles.

At the rear, the cycle parts feature a singlearm suspension with two dual effect hydraulic shock absorbers, a helicoidal spring and four-position preload.

Besides its exceptional stability, the PIAGGIO MP3 also provides brilliant braking thanks to three powerful linked brakes, 240 mm in diameter, and the parallelogram suspension. The result is record deceleration (about 8 m per second) with braking space reduced by over 20 per cent on normal road surfaces and as much as 24 per cent on slippery roads compared to a traditional two-wheel scooter.

Design

The PIAGGIO MP3 has innovative, eye-catching styling while maintaining a clear resemblance to the Piaggio GT (Gran Turismo) range. The new two-wheel front assembly doesn’t detract in the least from the PIAGGIO MP3’s sleek styling. Its size and proportions are those of a normal compact GT scooter, with an overall front-end width of only 420 mm.

As a result, the Piaggio MP3 can be type-approved as a standard two wheeled motorcycle.

CAD-designed down to the last detail, the PIAGGIO MP3 body offered excellent protection starting from the wind tunnel, where it was extensively tested. The front-end design is genuinely innovative in terms of technical features and concept, with car-style bodywork treatment. The headlamps and front fairing merge to form a single unit that enhances the vehicle’s dynamic look as well as providing extra rider protection.

Shock-resistant splashguards on either side of the front shield protect the rider and the vehicle. The rear loading section has been designed to offer maximum comfort and storage capacity: a boot lid painted the same colour as the bodywork provides access to the under seat storage. A substantial 65-litre storage capacity and dual access to the storage area, from the boot lid as well as by flipping up the seat, make the PIAGGIO MP3 extremely practical. The storage area comfortably holds two full-face helmets, a small bag and objects up to a metre in length. The under seat storage also has a courtesy light and a seat cover for use when parking in rainy weather.

The most advanced calculation programmes and three-dimensional measurements were carried out from the initial phase of the PIAGGIO MP3 project to enhance the vehicle’s ergonomics.

The result is a vehicle that offers top-of-the-line comfort, safety and ease of use. The front shield provides exceptional protection. An extremely comfortable seat adapted to riders of any size has been made to measure for the PIAGGIO MP3. Generous padding and the shape of the built-in backrest provide perfectly ergonomical seating, while saddle height of a mere 780 mm from the ground makes the vehicle easy to manoeuvre in any circumstances. The optimal height difference between the front and the rear parts of the saddle and ideally located rear handgrips ensure passenger comfort and protection. A handy remote control button on the ignition key opens the seat lock and the rear boot lid.

Comfortable, agile, fun and easy to park: with the PIAGGIO MP3, parking hassles are a thing of the past. Because of its innovative three-wheel concept, the PIAGGIO MP3 is equipped with a revolutionary electro-hydraulic front suspension locking system that keeps the vehicle upright without using the usual central stand (which is, however, also available). The rider simply presses a switch on the handlebar to activate the system that stops the tilt mechanism and park without using the stand. An electro-actuator activates a central clamp on the tilt mechanism and generates hydraulic pressure to lock the suspension dampers.

Once the rider has pressed the handlebar switch, the control unit only activates the electro-actuator if the vehicle is travelling at a speed in the range of 23 kph to 10 kph. The exact speed at which this takes place depends on the level of deceleration: the greater the deceleration, the higher the speed at which the tilt mechanism locks. Additionally, the mechanism will not lock unless the butterfly valve is closed and the engine is running at below 3000 rpm.

To ensure rider safety, the tilt mechanism not only shuts off by pressing the handlebar switch, but is also automatically deactivated if vehicle speed exceeds 15 kph, if the butterfly valve is not fully closed or if engine rpm is higher than 3000. A lever on the inside of the front shield actions the parking brake, making it safe to park without using the stand even on sloping ground and making it possible to park the two front wheels where there is a height difference of up to 20 cm.

The PIAGGIO MP3 dashboard provides comprehensive, at-a-glance trip information. It includes a speedometer, fuel gauge, cooling liquid temperature indicator, clock and partial and total mileage. Other features are a fuel reserve indicator, oil pressure, turn signals, low and high beam, seat or boot lid open warning and an Immobilizer LED. The rider can open the fuel cap and rear boot lid with a single twist of the key in the ignition unit.

Engines

The PIAGGIO MP3 is available in two engine displacements, a Piaggio Quasar 250 i.e. and a Leader 125.

The Quasar 250 i.e. is the all-new Piaggio 4-stroke, 4-valve, liquid-cooled engine that already meets Euro 3 standards. The new Quasar electronic injection series is the result of the Piaggio engine division’s commitment to creating a truly top quality, environment-friendly engine. The advanced closed loop injection with a Lambda sensor, together with a three-way catalytic converter and electronic ignition control system, considerably reduces emissions as well as fuel consumption and provides immediate throttle response. As a result, the PIAGGIO MP3 is fun to ride, quick off the mark in town traffic and comfortable with short motorway trips as well as extended touring.

The PIAGGIO MP3 125cc version uses a latest-generation 4-stroke, 4-valve, liquid-cooled Leader engine, also compatible with Euro 3 standards. The improved variator provides for an even smoother and more progressive power output, enhancing the easy-ride features of this engine category, perfectly suited to town commutes.

The PIAGGIO MP3 has an exceptional distance range thanks to low fuel consumption by both engines (about 25 km/l) and a sizeable 12-litre fuel tank.

Accessories

    Piaggio has lined up a set of innovative dedicated accessories to suit the exceptional PIAGGIO MP3 and let the rider personalise the vehicle in many different ways to further enhance comfort.

    Piaggio’s Winter Pack makes it possible to use the PIAGGIO MP3 all year round, with protection in all seasons including sub-zero winter temperatures. The Winter Pack includes:

    An extra-large winter windscreen that offers total protection. Equipped with hand protectors, the winter windscreen has been given a special surface treatment that causes rain to slide off, ensuring optimal visibility.

    Thermal winter tyres made of a special composite that make it possible to use the PIAGGIO MP3 on slippery roads.

    Heated leg cover. Battery-powered pads create a snug feel under the canvas. Heated waistcoat. Battery-powered heated pads provide extra protection in particularly cold weather.

    The innovative PIAGGIO MP3 also comes with a range of optional high-tech accessories: TOM TOM Rider GPS navigator with wireless Bluetooth link and 3.5” LCD screen. Piaggio X-Jet Bluetooth Intercom helmet with a built-in communication system to let rider and passenger talk or use a mobile phone in total safety.

    Disk lock anti-theft device with siren.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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