by Jeremy Wilker
KYMCO SUPER 9
If you are a long-time reader of this column, you probably know I’ve been riding vintage Vespas for the past five years and I am very fond of the metal-bodied vintage Italian scooter. It being my first love, I naively thought (much like a young teenager) it would be my only love. Then, out of the great white north of Canada, came a sleek and well-balanced Lambretta lassie and I was given the riding experience of my life. Riding that machine, feeling the thrust of the engine tied to the perfect center-of-gravity design, was exhilarating and I found myself sneaking out to the garage to ride the Lammie instead of the Vespa. I was cheating and the enjoyment was greater than the guilt. The Lambretta was just a more refined experience compared to the plain, almost crude, power of the Vespa P200. Although, to be honest, the more I rode her, the more my palms and hands went numb from her constant vibration. It is true that no relationship is perfect and I eventually realized she was just an infatuation, a temporary fling. She rode off with another boy and I made up with my old flame. Until a few weeks ago, that is…
I recently got my hands on the Kymco Super 9, a fully automatic 50cc scooter with liquid-cooling and dual disc brakes. The difference a modern scooter can have is amazing! Before I get into my experiences and feelings about this high-tech scooter, I should tell you more about Kymco, the company.
Kymco is actually an acronym for Kwang Yang Motor Company, the largest motorcycle and scooter manufacturer in Taiwan. Founded in 1963, Kymco exports some 33% of its bikes to 35 other countries and has surpassed the 7.5 million unit mark in production. That’s a lot of bikes and scooters! According to sources, Kymco used to produce engines for Honda and currently does so for Malaguti scooters, which I found interesting as their advertising claims over and over the benefits of all things Italian. Kymco has also received numerous quality awards over the years.
My first exposure to Kymco scooters was back in February of 2000 when I journeyed to South Africa and rented a Top Boy 100cc scooter and cruised along the coastline of the Indian Ocean (a most fabulous experience which I highly recommend). I was very impressed with the speed, power, handling, and general features of this heretofore unknown scooter. In fact, I had to triple-check that it was indeed doing over 70+ miles per hour as my P200, at twice the size, could only manage about 65 mph. Upon return I wasted no time in telling everyone about these fabulous scooters from Kymco.
The first thing most people notice about the Super 9 is its style – it is rather aggressive looking. It looks futuristic, like a Transformer (so said an acquaintance). Or maybe like a bug (so said another). It looks like it is a fast, tough machine. And it is &emdash; for a 50cc scooter. In fact, the Super 9 matches or exceeds acceleration performance of the Vespa ET4 150cc scooter! This machine is bigger than most comparable models, sitting taller and weighing a bit heavier than other scooters of the same displacement. The height of the seat and headset is a good thing, however, as even a person of over six-foot in height can ride without discomfort. A person with a short inseam, however, will have trouble reaching the ground at rest. Ample, but not excessive, foot room on the floorboard is welcome. The comfortable and big-enough-for-two seat is constructed such that it almost forces good riding posture and the reach and position of the handlebars is very natural.
Underneath the locking seat you’ll find the fuel tank (92 or above unleaded), oil tank (high-grade synthetic, please) and capacious storage – large enough for a full-face helmet and other items. Carrying groceries, lunch, or travel/overnight gear isn’t a problem. Two pegs on the frame also fit into sockets underneath the seat for securing helmets when not riding. Set into the middle of the floorboard is another locking storage space which is much smaller but could house gloves, glasses, tools, etc.
The whole bike is constructed of very high-quality parts but a few little things caught my attention. The machined metal handlebar ends, for example, really turn me on. A small touch, but damn, a really nice touch. Having both a side stand and a center stand is also very considerate depending on your preference. The kick starter is also reassuring but you’ll probably never use it except to see if it works. The exhaust is very impressive looking with its size and chrome and it remains a very quiet bike, even when wound out. And the headlight! Wow. After the old-car style light on the Vespa P200, which is just adequate enough, I was blown away by the huge pool of light thrown by the Super 9 headlight. Fabulous for night riding! The high beam also lights up most of the street but is probably too much for in-town riding. Finally, the blinkers are a joy to use with their audible clicking. It is so common to see Vespa riders with their blinkers left on and Bajaj owners cringe at the garbage-truck-in-reverse beeping sound of their blinkers. The Super 9 blinkers are just right. Although, U.S. regulations require the addition of blinkers just under the handlebars, which almost detracts from the visual style of the scooter. Thankfully you can remove them and hook up the built-in signals.
The manual is easy to read and is accurately translated to English. The drawback to living in the U.S. is that the rest of the world uses the metric system so figuring out recommended tire air pressure, for example, takes a moment of calculation. The speedometer features kilometers first and miles second and the odometer is in kilometers – memorize those conversion tables! The best part of the small glove box is the warning molded into the plastic: “Do not place items which is easy to be humid.” Well, it amused me.
Hopping on the Super 9 and cruising around town is where all the above comes together in a very enjoyable riding experience. Kymco’s engine is amazingly smooth and, for a 50cc displacement, quite powerful. The Super 9 jumps right off the line. Not like a crotch-rocket, but faster than a car or truck. It does seem to have the most power right at the start and then the ride up to the top end limit is smooth and even. The rev limiter keeps you at 8,000 rpm or less, even if you try to push it, say, by going top speed down a big hill. What is top speed on the Super 9? Impressively, top speed is about 50 mph &emdash; not too shabby for a ‘small’ scooter. I jokingly asked a Harley Sportster 1200 friend of mine why her bike won’t go 1200 mph and got no response. I know, she’d blow me away if she opened the throttle…
The dual disc brakes along with the light weight (234 lbs) means this scooter can stop on a proverbial dime – much faster than anything traveling around you, for certain, so use them judiciously. After years of riding my Vespa with its drum brakes, this is such an exciting improvement. Fingertip stopping control is something all scooterists should enjoy.
I love riding this scooter! The suspension is great (adjustable with three settings), stopping power is awesome, and the riding position is comfortable even after three hours or more. The balance is fabulous, making me feel like I can just lean over, put my knee out, and take corners like a racer. In fact, many people in the scooter racing arena are starting to compete with Super 9 scooters due to the power and liquid cooling. The automatic transmission is responsive and seems to make riding more fun by omitting the shifting distraction. Sure, I like manual transmissions as much as anyone, but just focusing on the ride, the scenery, is really what it’s all about. The smooth powerband means going up steep inclines is consistent, even with a passenger on back (and having a passenger on the Super 9 is very easy with the spacious seat and flip-down foot pegs). I know I’ve mentioned before my love of high-efficiency motors (ie: cheap to fill the tank) and the Super 9, in my riding experience, gets about 82 miles per gallon! You gotta love that.
Boy, that’s a lot of positive ink there… So what would I change about the Super 9? This scooter is just begging to go faster! I’d most definitely produce this model in a 100cc or 125cc size. That would be, well, super. I’d maybe lower the seat height down an inch or two. I’d tweak the security lock ever so slightly to a more convenient position. And did I mention I’d make the engine larger? Thankfully, third-party companies have sprung into action and are constructing upgrade kits as I write this. Adding a Technigas exhaust will give you another 5-7 mph and takes about 15 minutes to install. Changing out the piston and carb gives you even more performance by taking you from 50cc to 70cc and moving your carb diameter from 12mm to 19.5mm, meaning you’ll be moving at over 70 mph! Kevlar belts, different variators, etc, etc. There are a plethora of options if you feel the need for more speed.
If all the Kymco scooters are as spectacular as the Super 9, and my experience and what I’ve heard support this judgment, this line is one of the best modern automatic scooter values in the marketplace. Try one for yourself and see if you agree.
Don’t forget – The Regulars Scooter Club 3rd annual “Skooter Du” rally takes place August 9-11th, 2002, here in the Twin Cities. Live music, contests and events, tons of goodies thanks to our awesome sponsors, fun and scenic rides and lots and lots of scooters! Join us. We’ll be kicking things off Friday night at the Triple Rock Bar and on Saturday morning at 9:30 am we’ll gather at the Como Park Pavilion for the day’s ride and festivities! Saturday night at Grumpy’s Downtown we’ll have contests, prizes and live music from five bands ($3.00 cover).
Until the next time, Ride Safe, Ride Often.
The Twin Cities’ Vintage Scooter Club, The Regulars, meets on the first and third Sundays of each month at Pizza Luce in Uptown Minneapolis (32nd and Lyndale Ave) at 2:00 pm for socializing and riding — as long as weather permits. Join us! The website is located at http://www.minnescoota.com or send me a message – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com