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Weird front tricycle scooter for sale now

Piaggio MP3.jpg

Saw one of these on Burnet Rd. in Austin today. It’s a Piaggio MP3. Apparently the front wheels “loosen up” at speed to allow for cornering, but are stiff at idle so you don’t have to hold the bike up with your legs. There are, supposedly, other advantages as well. I’m no bike expert, but it seems like an interesting novelty. Glad, as always, of comments from those in the know.

42 thoughts on “Weird front tricycle scooter for sale now

  1. My grandfather bought one about 6 months ago from the first patch. I had a chance to ride it recently and wasn’t thrilled at all. You sit in it like it’s a moped and the handling is completely different from any kind of cycle I’ve ridden. The wheel lock at lower speeds is set manually and if you don’t have the bike level, your wheels will lock at an angle and you’re forced to accelerate to unlock them again and correct. Shifting weight on it is awkward as you’re sitting legs forward and not straddling, so there’s no real sense of being on the bike in a controlled manner. Doing 65 on a moped-like seat is scary, especially when turning and you’ve got nothing to hug with your knees to stay on the bike.. except your knees.

    The concept is interesting, but execution is a bit off for a real motorcycle alternative. More like a supped up moped.

  2. I’m on vacation in Paris for the week and they are super popular. I can’t figure out what they are for given that they look very dangerous cornering/braking.

    1. I’ve seen those in the area as well (live in Wells Branch, just north of Burnet Rd for non-Austinites). Glad to know where there’s a dealer.

      And the commenter in Paris is right: they’re everywhere over there. I saw them on my vacation there in March. I think they’re pretty nice. From what I saw, they certainly have an advantage over 2-wheeled scooters, particularly in a high-traffic area (which I think most of paris is. ;) where some nimbleness is helpful. You can steer them easier than a 2-wheeler, it seems. More turning, less leaning.

  3. There is an Aprilia/Piaggio shop in New Braunfels, just south of Austin TX that has had these MP3s in stock for some time now. When I bought my Aprilia motorcycle in the summer of 2008 the shop owner showed me one by doing doughnuts in it across the shop floor. They seem like a fun little ride if two wheels scares you, but I’ll take a real motorcycle over a scooter any day.

  4. Ya know there is a hybrid due out soon (if not already).

    Yeah, it’s pretty much a moped. They’ve been selling these at dealer around the corner from me for over a year now. As far as a commuter vehicle it’s pretty slick. Under seat storage, it’s got a wider profile for being seen in traffic a bit better. The third wheel does lend itself to 33% more grip for turning, which can be a good thing in urban areas when it’s damp and you’re cornering over manhole covers.

    From everything I’ve heard about the MP3 over the year is that it has poor brakes stopping further than it’s 2 wheeled cousin.

    Harley has a patent in the works for an inverted trike and Can-Am’s Spyder has been around for a while too.

    1. IANAEngineer, but…
      You went from 2 wheels to 3, so that would be 50% more contact patches, not 33%. If the contact patch is the same size, then I guess 50% more friction.

      But, if you take the same mass, and distribute it over 3 wheels rather than 2, you’ve got less weight on each wheel, so maybe it is only 33%…

      1. The size of a vehicle’s combined area of contact patch is a function of exactly 2 factors: weight of vehicle and the pressure in the tires, nothing more.

        It’s a common belief that more or larger tires equates to a larger sum contact patch. While large tires and large contact patches actually do go hand-in-hand, it’s not for the obvious reasons. To get a larger contact patch, you need to decrease the pressure in the tires. But after you’ve done that, if you were to leave the tires the same size, they would overheat, because they would be bending more as the flat contact patch rotates. Larger tires have to bend less to produce a given size contact patch, producing less heat, and they have larger area of heat dissipation. But to get a bigger contact patch in the first place, they MUST be inflated to a lower pressure.

        So using 2 front tires compared to a single front tire of the same size, the MP3’s tires can be designed to run at lower pressures at any given speed. So it could very well have 50% more contact patch. But then again, the size of contact patch is not perfectly related to cornering grip on pavement, anyway. The 33% comes partly from increased contact patch, and partly due to having an additional contact patch with independent suspension.

  5. you can find it in europe for at least 3 years

    it seems that since you don’t go to far on the right or on the left they are much more stable than normal scooters(that’s how we named this in … French)
    but it goes back very quickly to a scooter behaviour after reaching this angular limit and it start to slip.

  6. First ignore the third wheel and just think of it as a scooter in 125, 250 and 500cc sizes. It’s comfortable, good storage under the seat, automatic gearbox just like other big scooters like the Suzuki Burgman, Yamaha TMax or Honda Reflex. And the 500 version will do 90-100 mph or so and can easily keep up with freeway traffic.

    Now add the third wheel with a tilting mechanism. It rides almost exactly the same. If you ride a bike you can ride this with no real adjustment. But because of that third wheel it’s almost impossible to make the front slide. If you lock up the front wheel or lose traction on the front wheel on a conventional M/C or scoot, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall off. But on this you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to get away with it.

    And then finally there’s the party trick. With a little practice you can use the manual tilt lock so you never need to put your feet down when you come to a stop at traffic lights.

    The downside is extra weight and a little less performance than a 2 wheeled version. And perhaps a little less easy to filter through dense traffic where that’s common behaviour. And finally there’s a little less leg room available.

    And no, it’s not a motorcycle, it’s a scooter. But big scooters are actually just as cool in their own way.

    All of that may be hard to understand in the USA. But its all well understood in Europe and these things are getting to be commonplace, even in London.

  7. forgot to say that they are mainly use by well dress business man who want a quick and relatively safe way to travel
    messenger still mainly use 2 wheel scooter to go quick between cars. MP3 scooter is not so slim

    but a nice lady on a mp3 yep…

  8. So, not to be a finicky word critic, but I’m going to be a finicky word critic.

    Most state DMVs define a moped as a motorcycle with 50cc or less displacement not capable of exceeding 30mph on flat pavement. Clearly, this vehicle is not a moped.

    The term “scooter” has no specific definition to the DMV, so if you want to call this a scooter, that’s fine.

    In Europe, they usually refer to what we Americans call a “scooter” as a “step-through” motorcycle. A motorcycle is simple a two-wheeled motor vehicle. Riders comfortable with the traditional step-over style motorcycle frequently feel unstable on a step-through model because they are accustomed to gripping the bike with their legs for stability. Once you get used to a step-through, however, it feels safe and stable. Naturally, aggressive sport riders will rightly want and need more to hang on to, but casual riders need not feel like a step-through style motorcycle is somehow unsafe.

    Most DMVs put trikes into the same vehicle class as motorcycles (and requiring the same special license endorsements for those states that have them).

  9. I’ve owned one for just over 2 years. It’s quite nice. Very fun to ride. Looks cool and gets lots of attention at the gas pump…however, at about 58mpg I don’t go to the pumps all that often.

  10. It countersteers. If you don’t look down, you may forget there are 2 wheels up front. That is until you hit a slick or sandy spot and don’t wipeout.

  11. One important thing to add is: You are allowed (at least here in germany) to drive that thing with an ordinary car license, so no need for a dedicated motorcycle one. The three-wheeled bike is treated here just as any other multi-wheeled vehicle (~car;trike). I read somewhere that this was the intention of the manufacturer to reach a new target group.

  12. First – nomenclature

    A moped has pedals – hence the “ped” part of moped.

    The only difference really between scooters and motorcycles is the step-through design. Most scooters have automatic transmissions, most motorcycles are manual, but there are manual scooters just as there are automatic motorcycles.

    The real kicker is this, scooters are not beginner motorcycles anymore than cars are beginner trucks. They are different vehicles. Please stop thinking of scooters this way.

    Thanks.

  13. Being a longtime motorcycle rider and magazine reader, I’m shocked at the clear, intelligent and relevant comments posted here. Obviously Make readers are a different sort. Re scooters, motorcycles, mopeds, etc., my rule has always been “anything with two wheels is good”…now I’ve got to modify that in certain cases to include 3 wheels. Maybe my rule should be “anything that leans into corners is good”.

  14. Okay, sure, but looks more like a solution in search of a problem. I’m not exactly sure why putting a foot down at a stop needs fixing. Might be handy if you break your legs all the time, I guess.

    Probably mostly sells on novelty.

    1. I would add to the scooter definition that scooters have also usually smaller wheels than motorcycles.
      The concept behind them, at least here in Italy (but I think it’s the same all over Europe), is that with motorcycles you have a pure, powerful, but “rougher” ride, while with vespas and bigger scooters you basically still run on 2 wheels but can behave and be dressed as if you were in a car.
      That’s why for scooters you even have removable windshields, blankets (official accessories covering the legs) and you can see aberrancies like bmw C1 where the scooter has actually a roof (!), front and rear windshields, and safety belts.
      As for the MP3, the main point is the “survival rate” over badly paved roads, manholes, under heavy rain. On that the enthusiastic comments are unanimous. Downsides are fuel consumption and lesser manoeuvrability between traffic lanes.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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