by Tammy Wanchena
If Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, came to life, he would ride a scooter. I can see it now. Collar up on his pink Izod shirt, cargo pants and Birkenstocks; his hair not moving an inch as he glides into the Starbucks parking lot with a big, perfect grin on his face. Just in time for his secret rendezvous with Gary.
That was the opinion I used to possess about scooters. I had a lot of misconceptions about motorcycling before my husband and his peers educated me. All Harley riders were Hells Angels wanna-bes. All female riders were butch. All sport bike riders were compensating for something. And scooters were reserved for preps and mama’s boys. I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. When I first started dating the senior editor of this rag almost ten years ago, people would ask me what kind of bike my boyfriend rode. I would proudly answer, “a Cordoba”! Actually, I was confused by the “Corbin” seat on his bike. Well, the first step towards recovery is admitting you are wrong.
Fast-forward to nine years later and we are running a motorcycle magazine from our home. I have been a licensed rider for seven years now and have owned five different motorcycles. I have traveled more than half of the United States from the seat of a bike. And, I am pleased to announce that all of my uninformed prejudices have been swept under the garage mat. However, I still have had very little passion for motorcycling compared to my peers. Until recently, that is.
I have found my perfect bike. And, surprise, it’s a scooter! Remember the test ride in MMM issue #69? The guys rode a 2004 Kymco People 250cc scooter almost 1,500 miles in twenty-four hours. Well, that’s mine now. Ken, eat your heart out! For the first time since I got my license, I want to ride everywhere! Purchasing this scooter has solved every problem or insecurity I had about riding.
I remember the instructors of my safety course warning the class that a large percentage of all motorcycle accidents occur in the first few years of riding. I suspect this is largely due to people buying the wrong bike. A bike that suits their taste, but handles way beyond their skill level. Over half the attendants of my class had already purchased huge, fast, expensive machines over 1000 cc, before they knew whether they could handle the 50cc training bikes. Every bike I owned before purchasing my scooter was an unpredictable old rat that I had no problem with crashing. I was overdue for a bike I could rely on to get me safely from point A to point B without breaking down.
The Kymco People 250 is made in Taiwan. It is incredibly lightweight and easy to manage. Weighing in at 367 pounds, she is far from intimidating. Even with a full gas tank, the bike feels practically weightless compared to most machines, and is incredibly easy to maneuver around traffic. Granted, the gas tank only holds 2.1 gallons. But that 2.1 gallons will last for more than 100 miles before you need to fill up again. I made the trip from Maple Grove to Duluth and only had to fill up once. The gas gauge and warning light on the instrument panel make it easy to know when it’s time to fill up and a reserve tank is unnecessary.
That trip to Duluth taught me that this is not a bike for long distance riding. My butt was incredibly sore after only four hours of highways and byways. Strong cornering is a breeze, but strong breezes are not. While I have no problem in corners, I find I need to put a little added pressure on the handlebars in order to maintain my lane position in strong winds. Despite it’s blowing around, the bike is quite stable thanks to the scooter’s 16-inch wheels.
Believe it or not, the People 250 will easily hit 80 miles per hour. She is extremely comfortable at high speeds and literally glides on air. The transition from low to higher speeds is a smooth and gradual one and easily controllable.
The best part of the Kymco’s plight with anorexia, is that in spite of her being just a little too tall for me, I can easily handle the bike at stops, on tiptoes. My shorter inseam is a non-factor when it comes to riding. The seat height of 30.9 inches allows me to rest both feet flat and comfortably sit upright with posture that would make mother proud. There is little need to lean forward, and no need at all to leave your seat when leaning into turns. The seat is plenty long and wide enough to transport an adult passenger. I often switch back and forth, from the rider’s portion of the seat to the passenger’s several times on longer rides and I will likely replace the stock seat one day. I’m considering a “Cordoba”.
The headlights provide adequate light for nighttime driving, but are nothing extraordinary. The horn could be louder. Colors options are limited to grey or wine. I am very pleased with the front and rear brakes. Not ABS, but easily controlled. At a purchase cost of $3,999, she is quite affordable. But there are two features that this bike provides that make the Kymco People 250 the perfect bike for me. No clutch and major storage!
I love to shop! Anyone who knows me will confirm this well known fact. And I love the amount of storage this little scooter provides! I added a 28-liter trunk to the back, which will easily hold more than a helmet. Under the seat, I can easily store at least another 40-liters worth of merchandise. And there is even a little hook at my feet to hold any bag with a handle. When you add easy to find parking and plenty of storage space together that makes this one heck of a good little commuter bike!
And now for my absolute number one favorite feature. How can you beat a bike that’s an automatic? No shifting gears! No sticky clutch! Just ease on the throttle and go. Some say it’s cheating, but I consider it a LUXURY! Originally it was hard to adapt to finding the rear brake where the clutch should be. I almost flew over the handlebars more than once grabbing for the nonexistent clutch and coming to an abrupt halt. But the benefits of riding an automatic were well worth retraining myself. My car is not a manual. Why should my bike be? Even the choke is automatic! And no kick-start! Life is good.
So what changed my mind about scooters? What made me want to join the ranks of preppies and mama’s boys? The test ride. When I met my husband, I knew he was “the one”. When I rode the Kymco, I knew she was “the one”. I know I am not the only one who had misconceptions about scooters. This is confirmed by the shameful looks I receive, rather than waves, from passing fellow riders. If you are looking for a race, or traveling across the country, this may not be the bike for you. But this was definitely the bike for me.
by Victor Wanchena
The scooter, once considered only the domain of Mods and college students, the scooter is seeing a great resurgence in the US. A combination of highly refined scooters, rising gas prices, and the fact they’re just plain fun has scooter sales on the raise. And with good reason. The price, quality and ease of use make buying a scooter easier than ever. This month’s test ride typifies all those qualities. The Kymco People 250 is an incredibly fun machine that combines style, value and quality, always a winning formula.
New to the US market, Kymco has been around for over 40 years. The Taiwanese company started as a vendor of parts and motors for Honda. Along the way they launched their own line of scooters and expanded their market across the globe. Despite the lack of name recognition Kymco scooters are third in sales in the US only following Honda and Yamaha.
Readers were introduced to the People 250 last year when MMM torture tested one, running it just shy of 1500 miles in 24 hours. Any questions about the quality of the Kymco products or the strength of their engineering was laid to rest. Over the course of the 24 hours large men (we calculated the average size to be about 230 lbs) rode with the poor scooter’s throttle pinned wide open. Stopping only to refuel and change riders we tried really hard to break what wasn’t ours. The People 250 performed magnificently, the only part we could break was the exhaust and that was due to bolts that had vibrated loose.
The heart of the People 250 is a valiant 251cc liquid cooled single cylinder motor. It’s a single cam motor with two-valves per cylinder and produces a mighty 18.5 horsepower at 7000 rpm. Now before you snicker, that is a very well used 18.5 ponies and that still works out to 74 horsepower per liter, a respectable number especially for a single cam motor. The engine, in conventional scooter form, is integrated along with the transmission and final drive as one unit. Power is fed from the engine to the CVT style automatic transmission. Its variable pulleys are to designed to keep the engine pulling at optimum rpms. The bottom line is the system is seamless. Simply roll on the throttle and go. From a dead stop to top end there is nothing but smooth acceleration. There is very little vibration present regardless of road or engine speed.
In keeping with the simplicity for the rider concept the People 250 uses an automatic choke. When staring the scooter, especially when cold, use place it on the center stand. Turn the ignition on and hold the brake. Thumb the starter and the motor comes to life. Immediately the rear wheel begins to spin as the motor warms up. Once the engine has reached operating temp the engine and wheel will drop to idle and away you go.
An interesting feature of the Kymco People line is the large 16” wheels. Most scooters use much smaller 10” or 12” wheels. Sparing everyone the remedial physics lesson the larger wheels on the People give it a much more stable feeling on the highway. This is in contrast to other scooters with smaller wheels that can feel twitchy especially at highway speeds.
The suspension is standard forks up front and twin shocks in the rear. They do a fine job of soaking up most road irregularities. Larger bumps do over whelm the suspension transmitting a good jolt to the rider. In fairness the People does have a short wheelbase and not a lot of suspension travel. Brakes are single disks front and rear. Interestingly, due to the automatic transmission there are no foot controls. The clutch lever on the left handlebar is replaced with the rear brake lever. This can be a comical change for riders used to having a clutch on a conventional motorcycle, but is easily overcome.
The full coverage bodywork wraps the People 250. Styled in a rather the vintage European look the People is a handsome machine with A full coverage front fairing protects the rider for the weather and dirt. Located in front of the rider is the multi-function ignition switch. It not only turns the bike on but also opens the gas cap and the under seat storage. It’s a nice concept but can be a little problematic at times. Once you click the seat open it swing forward to reveal a cavernous under seat storage. Large enough to hold a ? helmet and jacket or an afternoons worth of purchases (furniture shops excluded) this nice feature makes the People that much more useful. Included in this storage is a 12-volt power source and a place to set a cell phone for charging, very convenient.
The instrument panel is very full featured for a scooter. There is a large speedo along with a temp and fuel gauge. There is a row warning lights above the include the standard ones as well as one for the cell phone charger and one that indicates when the seat is not latched, which is strangely marked “MET-IN”. The odometer reads in kilometers and doesn’t include a trip meter but does have an indicator that reminds you when the scooter is due for service.
Riding the People 250 is simply a joy. The lightweight combined with good power means it’s very agile. Zipping through crowed streets and traffic is a breeze. The large wheels give it a very stable feel even at when traveling above 70 mph. The drive train is located very low and that low center of gravity keeps the People from feeling heavy at stops or in slow speed maneuvers. High speeds were no sweat either; it easy cruises at freeway speeds. Veteran riders will find the seating position different with your legs together directly in front of you, riders new to the sport will not notice.
All of this combines to make a very user-friendly machine that is the definition of urban friendly transportation. The People 250 would make a fine addition to anyone’s garage.
Selected Competition: Aprilia Scarabeo, Honda Helix, Reflex & Big Ruckus, Yamaha Morphous.
2005 Kymco People 250
Warranty: 24 months / 20,000 kilometers
Engine: SOHC, single-cylinder
Bore/Stroke: 72.7 mm/60mm
Compression Ratio: 10.3:1
Valves: 4 valves-per-cylinder
HP (claimed): 18.6 bhp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque (claimed): 14.4 ft/lbs @ 5500 rpm
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Starter: Electric starter
Gear Box: Automatic CVT
Final Drive: Belt
Front Tire: 110/70 – 16
Front Brakes: Single disc
Front Suspension: Telescopic forks
Rear Tire: 140/70 – 16
Rear Brake: Single disc
Rear Suspension: Dual shock
Frame: Steel Tube
Wheelbase: 59.6 in
Seat Height: 30.9 in
Dry Weight (claimed): 367 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 2.1 gal
Colors: Wine & Grey