By David Harrington
OK, you got me. Only the owner’s manual says this is a “scooter”. The Kymco K-Pipe 125 is a motorcycle, though one with operation that is both different and easier than most other motorcycles. So why the “scooter” reference? The K-Pipe is a small, light motorcycle being offered by a company better known for scooters in the US market. I believe it would also make an excellent transition for scooter riders seeking an urban motorcycle alternative.
I picked up the K-Pipe from Scooterville in Minneapolis and immediately began testing. Fuel tank topped off and GPS mounted, the first thing I noticed was that both the digital speedometer and odometer read about 10% optimistic. That is to say when the speedometer displayed 40 MPH, the actual speed was more like 36 MPH. The three most common questions I am asked about scooters (and small motorcycles) are: What does it cost? How fast does it go? What’s the fuel economy? $1,999, 50 MPH, and 84 MPG. Two of those are astounding – the price (at least $1,000 less than the nearest competition) and the mileage. This bike was new and carrying 220 lbs of rider and STILL managed to produce excellent fuel economy. The K-Pipe weighs in at 224 pounds and is powered by an air-cooled, carburetor fed, 123.7cc SOHC 2-valve 4-stroke engine putting out about 8HP and 6FtLbs of torque. Not exactly a barn burner of acceleration or top end, but more than adequate to get around in city traffic. That power is transferred to the rear wheel through a manualish (more on that in a minute) four-speed transmission via chain drive. Telescopic forks, a 2.75 – 17 tire and a single disc brake make up the front end while a mono-shock, 3.5 – 17 tire and drum brakes take care of the rear. Wheelbase is 50.8 inches and the seat height is 31 inches though it’s a pretty skinny bike so “leg spread” doesn’t contribute much to how tall the bike feels. Luckily the fuel economy is good because that little tank only holds 1.2 gallons. Controls are conventional (except for shifting) and include both electric start and a kick starter. Now, about that shifting…
If you’ve ridden a Honda Cub, Super Cub, Passport, SYM Symba or Fly Scout you’ll already be a step ahead on this. Those machines featured some form of centrifugal automatic clutch with a heel/toe rotary shifter. They had no left-hand clutch lever. The K-Pipe DOES have a left-hand clutch lever though it’s not absolutely mandatory that you utilize it for lower gears and short-shifting. The heel/toe shifter on the K-Pipe isn’t completely rotary (I’m pretty sure DOT has banned true rotary shifting), but it is easy to operate. Press down with your toe to upshift, press down with your heel to downshift or go into the neutral or “0” position. Not used to dealing with a clutch, especially on starts and stops? No problem, just don’t use it. That’s right, with the engine running and the geartrain in neutral, just press down with your toe. First gear will engage with a mild click and nothing more will happen. No lurching or stalling. With the bike in first, gently twist the throttle and off you’ll go. Step down again with your toe and second gear will engage. I was able to upshift and downshift without utilizing the manual clutch for 1st, 2nd and 3rd as long as I shifted at fairly low RPMs. I needed the manual clutch for 3rd to 4th shifting. I think this system would work quite well for those new to a conventional manual motorcycle. You know, like people who had only ridden CVT automatic scooters and such. Personally, I skipped the manual clutch when starting out from stops and utilized the clutch for everything else.
The K-Pipe was cold-blooded in an almost vintage Hondaesque way. First start of the day may involve some stalling and choke fiddling, but after a couple of minutes of warming up it ran like a champ. Power was just adequate (remember, I’m 220 lbs) but fine in urban traffic. The seat was tallish for me (5’ 8”) but not bad. The riding position is a touch forward and there’s not a great deal of leg room. Taller riders may feel a little folded. Handling was quite good, better than a Honda Grom by rather a lot. Groms feel like mush to me and the front end bottoms out all too easily. Braking was more than adequate and easy to modulate with only slight fading apparent in the rear.
I liked the K-Pipe, more than I expected to. The last Kymco motorcycle that I rode was a Quannon 150 and that machine was disappointing. The Honda Grom is a fun machine, but one needs to invest in a fair amount of aftermarket to make it a good ride and it’s expensive. My personal favorite small displacement new motorcycle is the SYM Wolf 150 but it’s $1,000 more expensive than the K-Pipe. Yeah, a grand. The Kymco K-Pipe represents an exceptional value and I believe it would be a good choice for someone starting out, transitioning, or simply wanting a small light bike to run around town.
Again, a big thank you to Scooterville in Minneapolis for facilitating this review.
Twin Cities scooterist David Harrington owns and operates JustGottaScoot.com