by Victor Wanchena
It all started innocently enough. A few friends chatting during the annual motorcycle show. The conversation was, as most that day, very motorcycle oriented. Someone commented on a story he had read in a British cycle magazine. Seems they were quite proud of the fact they had taken a 1000cc bike and torture tested it over 2 days by putting 700 miles on it. We all laughed. On good days we could do that before noon and 350 miles a day on a 1000cc was downright average. Well as fate would have it someone spouted something about how a challenge would be to do it on something small like a scooter. Well, one thing led to another and I find myself out at 3am making my second lap around the metro area on the interstate, 900 miles on the odometer so far.
After the birth of the initial idea the details were quickly hammered out. We would run a scooter no bigger than 250cc as far as we could in 24 hours. The goal was to put a thousand miles on in the span of one day. The 1000 in 24 concept has its roots in the Ironbutt Association’s Saddle Sore award for successfully riding a motorcycle 1000 miles in 24 hours, a benchmark for endurance riding. The riding would be continuous rain or shine. The only stops would be for rider change offs and fuel stops. We would use a team of eight riders going two hours at a time. The decision to use a large team came from the fact that everyone that heard about our plan wanted to be a part of such a history-making venture. We would run it early summer to hopefully avoid temperature extremes.
Last on the list we needed to find a sucker, I mean willing donor, that would allow us to torture their machine for a day straight. In stepped Bob Hedstrom of Scooterville and the Kymco People 250. We approached Bob and pitched the idea to him. He nonchalantly agreed. We explained it to him again in case the convention center din had reduced his willpower to say no. He not only said yes but also was excited. Bob was very passionate about how well built the Kymco scooters are and knew this would be a great way to demonstrate it.
The Kwang Yang Motor Co or Kymco is based in Taiwan and has a long tradition of building quality machines. Kymco started by building engines and parts for Honda from 1963 into the early 90’s. During that time they started their own brand and expanded internationally. With their seven manufacturing facilities in Taiwan, Kymco produces over one million units per year including motorcycles, scooters and ATVs. Kymco is imported to the US through STR, who has a respectable market share, upwards of 10% of the US scooter market.
The scooter Bob selected for us is the People 250. It is one of the new generation of big-wheeled scooters. The large wheels give the People better stability at highway speed and mean that the top speed of the scooter is relatively high, but more on that latter. Otherwise the scooter was completely stock. Bob uncrated it, put just a few break-in miles on it and surrendered it to us.
And we’re off. I take the first shift and head north on I-94 to about St. Cloud then turn around. After just about an hour I return and hand off to the next in line. I am amazed I just ran 70 miles in the space of an hour on a scooter. The looks I got were great. I am fully geared up, slightly tucked in and running up the freeway on a machine that weighs just a little more than I do. Several drivers were very emasculated by the thought of being passed by a scooter and had to speed up to avoid that disgrace. The hand off went smoothly and on it went, hour after hour. The miles continued to pile up in an uneventful way. About 5 hours into this, Bob Hedstrom calls to see how the run is progressing. I told him that all was well and that we had over 300 miles on the People already. “You mean 300 kilometers?” asked Bob. “No, we’re over 300 miles.” I replied. He was impressed.
Into the night the People soldiered on. The MMM corporate headquarters served as a base of operations. The coffee pot and grill ran round the clock to keep the riders fueled. The pit crew ready for each returning rider and handoff. The miles kept building and building. By early the next morning we had broke the 1000-mile mark and the scooter was still going strong. No need to stop now, we had hours and miles to go so we continued. And when the 24 hour timer started beeping the Kymco rolled into the driveway with over 1466 miles having rolled under it’s tires in the space of just 24 hours. To put that distance in perspective, we rode the Kymco the equivalent of all the way into Mexico or to Florida and on a single cylinder 250cc scooter to boot. Our average speed for the entire trip was 61miles an hour including rider hand offs and fuel stops. Our fuel economy had been just shy of 50 mpg.
Try as we might, the only item we managed to break was an exhaust bracket. At about hour 22 the scooter went from quiet to very loud, as the nuts holding the exhaust on had vibrated off. This was traced to a bolt that came loose and caused the bracket to give under the increased stress. It was quickly repaired but did cost us some time overall. That being said, the reliability of this machine is phenomenal. Considering that large men, read 200, 250 and 300 pounds, rode the People 250 by holding the throttle wide open for 2 hours at a crack and the only thing we could break was an exhaust bracket is downright amazing! I felt that the belt drive CVT transmission would be the weak link but it never hiccupped in the least. Further proof of the well-built nature of the People 250 is that over the course of 24 hours it did not use any oil. It was checked at every rider hand-off but remained good for the duration despite having a mere on the clock 200 miles when delivered. We essentially tried to break the People 250 but were really unsuccessful. The Kymco shattered all our preconceived notions about scooters and what they are capable of doing. A big MMM thanks to Bob Hedstrom and Scooterville for giving us the chance to try and wreck a Kymco. Further adventures may be on the horizion….
Midnight, the bewitching hour. Since I pulled the 12 til 2 am shift I figured the best way to keep me and the Kymco away from the bar crowd was to get us the Hell outta Dodge. And quick. The People 250 was more than happy to oblige…
I figured a Westbound run up I-94 was in order, so a few ticks after Midnight the Kymco and I left the clandestine bunker of MMM and headed off into the night. The previous riders had almost no reports of rain, but I was not to be so lucky. We sailed up the ramp onto the freeway and I couldn’t help but think this thing’s got WAY more power than I had expected. Of course I had low expectations of how quick a scooter should be. I was sailing up I-94 passing, and getting passed a couple times, and I was getting use to the 250 and really starting to enjoy it. And then things took a turn for the worse. I had been watching the lightning off in the distance, and figured I would be getting wet at some point, but the storms ahead looked like they might just miss me. I little rain around Monticello (are we in Monticello already?) and we looked to be in the clear. Around St. Cloud I found out we were going to get more than just a little wet. As the rain fell harder and harder and the winds picked up I started to back off the throttle a bit and the storm just kept a comin’.We rocked and rolled through the storm and all I could think about was the opening credits to Gilligan’s Island where the S.S. Minnow encounters a violent storm. Yes, that’s pretty much what it felt like although the 250 held its ground remarkably well and the Kymco was not lost…
By the time we reached the St.Joseph exit we were out of the storm and at the 1 hour turn-around point so that’s what we did. Other riders had mentioned the scooter’s gas gauge and the needle’s tendency to stay on the full mark and then plummet to E. When the needle started dropping like the big ball on New Year’s Eve, I found the nearest gas station and pulled in. Back on the interstate I settled in for the trip back and braced myself for another pounding, but was treated to only a moderate rain. The rest was smooth sailin’. I rolled in a little after 2 and my ride was done for the night. What a great way to spend a couple of hours and in that time I had grown fond of the Kymco People 250. Even now, I’m looking at my garage and thinking “it really wouldn’t take up THAT much space….”
Now that the Scooter 1K is over and I have more miles on this Kymco scooter than I have on my big, fancy, supersport-touring motorcycle for the year, it’s easy to see the attraction of a scooter for quick, relatively inexpensive and worry free transit on a daily basis. True, nearly every mile I rode (of 264 miles in four hours) was WFO, but the fact that it handled it so well just proves that this is more than just an urban commuting machine. I hit a max of 79.6 mph (GPS measured) and it held about 65 mph while climbing Charpentier’s Ton-Up Hill. That makes it a viable SUB-urban option, too.
“I can’t believe I am passing a tractor trailer on a step-thru scooter on the freeway.” The last scooter I was on was a PUCH and that was when Nancy Reagan was president. After my ride on the Kymco People 250 I can tall you the scooter has changed from a glorified bicycle to a motorbike with form, function and speed. Over the course of our 24-hour ride, I was on the scoot for about 4 hours and just under 400 km (260 miles). As Sev pulled up the well-oiled machine of MMM kicked in. Scooter up on the center stand, kill engine, check oil, this is all happening as I was pulling on my helmet, zipping up and swinging a leg over the seat. With a thumb up from the pit crew, last minute instructions and a firm open hand swat on the butt I was off to leap over my first hurdle. What the hell am I supposed to do with me feet?
It’s an automatic! No foot controls? Break levers are up on the bar and twist the throttle to go. Simple. A couple of stop signs later I am merging onto I-94 heading towards Monticello and I am keeping up with traffic nicely. Acceleration was pretty darn good considering it was moving an 1/8 o’ ton of fun through the air. Heck, I was even passing some traffic. I had had a couple of sprinkles up thru Augusta but after that my evening and early morning rides were flawless. I found that the scoot could hold her own up to about 80 miles per hour. After that, there was no more twist in the wrist. For daily commuting the People 250 would be ideal. She has plenty of [room for] junk in her trunk and her get up and go will make commuting a breeze. You could even take it to Duluth and at least be able to keep up with traffic.
The 16-inch wheels made the People 250 float over the road. It was stable, it was nimble and it was a step through scooter that made people turn their heads. I can only assume that they too had last been on a PUCH and having witnessed a scooter on the freeway keeping up with traffic I am sure that their next thought was “Where do I get one of those”. Scooterville, of course, and thank you for supplying the People 250.
When we first started talking about doing an endurance run the only criteria was that the bike needed to be something generally thought to be unsuitable for long distance riding. I was thinking we would get a scooter or a moped and ride around Lake Harriet until we were asked to stop then move to Calhoun, then to Isles… To me, a 250cc scooter fell into this category. When I broached the subject with Bob Hedstrom he assured me his scooters could keep up with traffic on the interstate. I think I said something clever like, “You’re kidding!” Well, he wasn’t. After a couple of circles on the cul-de-sac, I jumped straight on 94 and had no problem at all keeping up. I even passed several cars and trucks! The bike was stable, handled well, and had great brakes. Because of the automatic clutch, it’s pretty quiet, too. My mind changed instantly from “I think I can take two hours on this thing” to “I wish I had two more hours!” I was surprised at how easy it was to ride and how comfortable it was. I’m 6-3 225 which puts me in the middle of the pack for height and weight of the people who were riding. Two hours on a lot of bikes can be a crippling experience. I had no fatigue or pain at all after riding the Kymco. The fit and finish were also excellent. I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about it at all and that’s so not like me. Without question I would ride this bike to Sturgis or in the Minnesota 1000.
I had fun actually passing vehicles that doddered along at 65 mph. The People 250 did lose two or three mph when climbing grades, but never dropped below a corrected 68 mph while on the boil. Amazing! The only drama I encountered was when I met a Mullet driving his ratty T-top 80s GM sedan. Evidently the threat to his masculinity when passed by a man on a scooter wearing a riding suit and full face was too much, for he floored the mighty 3.8l V-6 and passed me on the right. I chuckled as he took the next exit. Sure showed me. I then started hunting for a “funeral procession” of cruisers to pass. You’ve all been blocked by these clowns; doing 55 in the fast lane, riding two-abreast, showing the world how bad they are. Unfortunately, I came across no other riders during my leg. The only other machine I even saw was a cruiser rider heading the opposite direction. He didn’t return my wave.
The People 250 is designed for errand running, commuting to class or work and short drives. While our test was brief, I can see that it is well-suited for these tasks. The People 250 has a full fairing and tall windshield for decent weather protection. The floor boards are wide and covered with a rubber mat that provides both traction when wet and easy cleaning. Most notably, there are twin vents in the ‘dash’ that you can use to direct excess engine heat onto your hands or torso. I found that even at 72 mph, the fairing provided a large enough bubble of still air to ‘keep the heat in.’ Hot day? Simply close the vents.
It seemed innocent enough at the time. It was late March during the International Motorcycle Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center when I was approached by Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly with the idea of running one of our 250cc Kymco scooters around the clock. Scooterville was entering its third season of selling Kymco Motorsports products. I had total confidence in the reliability of the bikes and this seemed like a great opportunity to document their durability. When the Kymco People 250 was introduced in late May, my first short ride told me we had our contestant.
Having never been involved in any marathon riding sessions, I couldn’t quite grasp the notion of Ironbutt rides. Why? Because it’s there? To pile up unnecessary miles on your bike? The test began at 1:00PM on a Tuesday. Because of my commitment to work and family I wasn’t able to get to Victor’s house until 9:30 that evening. I wasn’t prepared for my own reaction to the madness. When I walked into the garage I sensed a certain electricity in the air. I saw the mileage log tallied on the wall already reading over 400 miles in just 7 hours. I sensed the excitement of the other riders involved. By the time my People 250, thick with all manner of bug species plastered on its front, rolled into the garage at 10 PM for a quick oil check and rider exchange, I was completely consumed with the idea of piling on as many miles as possible. I hung around for a couple hours to share some stories and to map out a route for my shift the next morning.
When I hopped on the scooter at 6:00 AM I was feeling like a player in a contest. One goal. Pile on the miles. I headed up I-94 toward St. Cloud. The beginning of my route which would take me on secondary highways north to Princeton, west toward St. Cloud, and south to Monticello before heading back into town. The bike felt better than it had just a couple days earlier when I dropped it off for the marathon. It easily reached 75 MPH and was topping out around 80. I was tempted to scrap my route for a wide open run up 94 where I wouldn’t encounter any traffic signals or stop signs. I stayed with the program until, reaching Monticello with 45 minutes remaining on my shift, I headed west on Hwy 10 to tack on more miles. No sense in coming back early. My fuel stop turned into a pit-stop race to get my credit card out, fill the tank, and get back on the road. Two minutes. At the end of my two hour shift I found myself wanting more. What had begun as a basic endurance test for one of our models changed me. The logic of an around-the-clock run may still escape me, but the desire is definitely there.