The maxi scooter has arrived. The success of the Burgman 400, Honda Foresight 250 and others, has spurred Piaggio/Vespa -the inventor of the modern scooter – to join forces with its 500cc X9 model.
With 110mph performance, an on-board radio and top value price of just £4,499 (March 2002), which is well below rivals like the Yamaha T-Max, or Honda Silver Wing 600, the Piaggio X9 is a tempting all-rounder. Alastair Walker tried a long distance commuter solution.
I´ll be honest right off the start; I like big scooters.
To me, there´s no sense in wrecking your treasured big motorbike by subjecting it to the relentless grind of everyday commuting. High mileage means rapid depreciation, the fork seals pop, the brakes get sticky in the calipers, the paint peels and the alloy goes a pleasant shade of cold porridge. Biking should be saved for high days and holidays – that way it´s pure fun.
The solution to cutting through 40 minutes of snarled up traffic, whilst carrying spare clothing, computer, phone etc is a big scooter, preferably something in the 250-400cc engine capacity group. But big scooters, like Honda´s Silver Wing and Yamaha´s T-Max, have made me stop and consider that maybe there´s a genuine alternative to buying a Pan-European ST1100, BMW 1150 Boxer, or Honda Deauville 650, should you want convenient touring, as well as daily commuting.
For about four-and-a-half grand then, the X9 500 ( actually a 460cc engine ) offers everyday 80mph motorway cruising, a saddle big enough for two people, plus excellent weather protection – the sort of fairing that you simply cannot get on any touring motorcycle. All for half the price of a Pan-European? There has to be a catch.
Well, nothing´s perfect, and though the Piaggio comes equipped with a hi-tech handlebar mounted radio/intercom system, linked brakes, electric main-stand etc. it can´t compete so well, when it comes to basic touring features, like luggage space.
In truth, there isn´t very much of it under the Piaggio´s flip up seat. Understandable, given the room a big 460cc single cylinder engine takes up, but still a major headache for anyone thinking of two-up touring on the X9. Spare waterproofs for two people, plus gloves, is about all you could squeeze under that very comfortable saddle. Which means you will have to fork out for a top box, to stash your clothes, bathroom stuff, maps etc.
Really, even though the X9´s top box is 45 litres in size, you would need panniers too, which would add lots of weight high up, at the back the scooter – definitely not good news, as it would accentuate the little weave that the X9 does on most long corners.
CAN YOU HANDLE IT?
Fact is, the X9 is one heavy bike, at around 188kgs, or about the same weight as a Kawasaki ZX9R sportsbike. It needs confidence when moving around your garage, or parking it. It also needs proper motorcycling skill to hustle it through corners, although it does carry the weight nice and low, so most of time, you don´t notice how heavy it is.
Despite being a bit lardy, the X9 doesn´t half go well. The automatic gearbox engages quick and clean at all speeds, and the X9 can get to an indicated 100kph ( about 60mph ) and around 6 or 7 seconds. That means it eats about 90% of so called hot hatches away from the lights in town, and on urban dual carriageways – much to annoyance of their drivers, who can´t handle being beaten by a scooter.
The X9 topped out ( on a private road of course ) at an indicated 180kph, which is something mental like 115mph in old money. Admittedly, that was slightly downhill, but there´s no doubt that the X9 can easily break the ton, which is going some for any scooter.
It also stops well, with triple disc brakes, utilising a linked system, a bit like the Honda Pan-European in fact. Very controllable and very safe, like the overall handling, which is more than good enough to taken on sad gits who don´t know how to ride their sportbikes. The X9 has loads of ground clearance and its 14 inch wheels are big enough to provide reasonable stability when attacking bends, up to about 80mph, when things get a little unsettled if you hit a bump.
The whole scooter feels solid, predictable on the road and very well made. Not many sub 125cc Italian scooters have ever impressed me with their finish and engineering quality of their components, but the X9 is obviously in a different league. It´s good that Piaggio seem serious about their maxi scooter project.
I did find myself very tempted, but having ridden the spacious Yamaha Majesty 250, which is 30mph slower, but superbly good on fuel compared to the Piaggio X9, I wonder if twin cylinder maxi-scooters are really the best solution to all round transport.
Sure, the X9 has an addictive side to its personality, with that rocketship engine helping you cut through traffic at top speed. It also handles its considerable weight very well on corners and the brakes are stunning – the best I´ve tried on any scooter.
But for me, it isn´t quite perfect. It lacks enough storage space and I would trade the radio and electric centrestand for that space, plus a top box as standard. In the end, the Piaggio X9 500´s biggest rival is probably the same company´s X9 250, which uses Honda´s Foresight 250 engine, and costs a thousand quid less. Apart from the Burgman 400 of course, which is still a great maxi-scoot for around £4500.
All the main manufacturers are raising their game in the big scooter market, and the X9 demonstrates that Piaggio have learned how to create something truly competitive. It is close to being brilliant, and at this price, it is definitely worth a test ride.
Get Piaggio bike insurance for the X9.
Engine Liquid cooled, SOHC, single cylinder, four stroke.
Bore and stroke N/A
Peak power 39bhp @ 7,250rpm
Gears None, Automatic
Steel tubular frame
Twin 35mm forks
Non adjustable Rear Suspension
Twin 260mm discs front
Single 240mm disc rear
Integral linked braking system on all three discs
DRY WEIGHT; 188kgs
WHEELS/TYRES; 120/70 14 inch front, 140/60 14 inch rear.
FUEL CAPACITY; 15 litres
ESTIMATED TOP SPEED; 110mph
BUYING INFO; 2 year warranty
COLOURS; Lemon Yellow, Platinum, or Ocean Blue