Seeing the Piaggio MP3 in person, and a short demonstration from a Piaggio representative, answered a lot of questions about the scooter, and warranted a separate post.
Since the first leaked footage of the MP3, I’ve been pointing out that the machine does not, in fact, balance on three wheels like a tricycle, eliminating the need to put your feet down at lights. If the dual front wheels tilt, I assumed, then (unless the parking brake was activated), the machine could easily fall over on its side. Technically, I was right, and the Piaggio representative pointed out a few marks where it had been dropped a couple times at the Minneapolis show.
But what I did not know, nor had I ever seen explained, is that the MP3 is actually designed to lock the wheel-tilting mechanism at low speeds and stops. You actually, in most cases, can leave your feet on the floorboards! As you accelerate, the tilt mechanism unlocks, so that once you hit about 15-20mph, the wheels are free to tilt. As you come to a stop, they once again lock into place. A manual override button (photo above) will lock or unlock the wheels when necessary, for instance when parking on a hill, the wheels can be tilted for stability. The centerstand, the representative said, is nearly unnecessary other than for long-term storage.
This was a real revelation, many times I’ve questioned the hype that the MP3 would be a good choice for beginners, because I had no idea the wheel tilt was tied to the speed. I was wrong, it probably would make a beginner feel quite at ease.
That said, under the right conditions, it can still be dropped, at speed or at rest, and it is one giant, heavy machine. The thought of even more electric sensors and gizmos in what already seemed like a ridiculously complicated suspension make me shudder when I think of the expensive repairs for a very minor front-end collision. Electrical failure or a dead battery would seemingly pose some interesting new problems. Looking at the MP3 really drove it home that modern scooters have very little in common with the simple two-stroke Vespas I’m used to, and home maintenance is a thing of the past. The MP3 is just as complicated as a modern car, though–unlike a car–there will be a very small pool of qualified technicians capable of maintaining and repairing it.
On the other hand, it is attractive, well-designed and -built, and it felt amazingly comfortable, so even with its high price tag, it might be a big seller. I am still entirely unqualified to comment on its handling and agility, having never ridden it, but I suspect that will be another revelation. Hopefully, that revelation will come soon.