by Stephen Heller
Snatching the throttle as the light turns from red to green, I follow the arc of the on ramp over the lanes of traffic on Highway 94 before I am a part of it. Nothing else has moved except my wrist as I hunker down behind the windshield, avoiding the cool summer day and the rain it brings with it. Ahhh, the beauty of an automatic scooter as the needle moves past 60, the orange Xciting 500 and I slide past a semi. There is a little bit of a rumble from the big single and some belt chatter from the CVT as I accelerate down 94 on my way to loop around Lake Pepin. Although not one for maxi scooters, I could really get used to this.
The Xciting 500 is, ahem, an exciting and significant step for Kymco because it is the largest displacement that we have seen from the manufacturer and it is their first scooter that is competing with the Honda Silver Wing and the Suzuki Burgman. While it has previously been proven in these pages that the Kymco People 250 will do exceedingly well on the highway as well as the city streets, riders still don’t think that a 250cc scooter is large enough for them. The 500cc Xciting will make those people take a good hard look at what is coming out of Taiwan.
Kwang Yang Motor Company, Kymco to us, was founded in 1963 by Honda to make parts and is now angling to be one of the major OEMs producing Motorcycles, Scooters and ATVs. The overall quality of their products has made them very successful in the rest of the world. And with the rapidly growing scooter market in the US, they are making themselves a success here, too.
Cruising down Hwy 94 into St Paul, this bike is eating up the road and is absolutely in its element on the freeway going 65 mph. The four-position backrest I have adjusted to be as far back as possible. This gives me enough room to stretch my legs straight out in front of me, cruiser style.
I find it funny that on many of the automatic scooters that I have ridden, there is a big tachometer. The Xciting is no different. The 3-inch Speedo is flanked on the left by the tach and on the right by the fuel gauge and the radiator coolant temperature. All of the gauges are easy to read and there are various other lights that show you if your side stand is down, the seat is open, or if you still have your cell phone charging in the under seat charger. Yes, there is a holder for your phone under the seat, too, Mr. Fancy pants. The dash is very well finished and my only beef with it is a pretty big one. MPH is secondary on the speedometer. This means you can be sure that you are going 100 km/h, but only kind of sure that you are going 55 mph. But even the 100 km/h you are seeing can be called into question comparing the speedo to a GPS at 55mph, the speedo was off about 8 mph. This surprised me because the Xciting 250 and the 500 are the first Kymco scooters to use a magnetic pick-up to track speed similar to the BMW. When I tested the Xciting 250, the speedo was more accurate than the mechanical ones on the other Kymco 250s. Satellite navigation systems are becoming ubiquitous on cruising motorcycles and scooters and it would be very helpful to have an accurate speedometer.
The Xciting is equipped with dual disk brakes on the front, which makes for great stopping power without fade. I had set the adjustable levers to 3 out of four to give me a comfortable feel without locking them up too easily.
Earlier, navigating through the city streets of Minneapolis, the bike performed better than I expected. Pushing the Xciting out of the garage was harder than rolling a corpse, but riding at low speed the scooter performed more like an NFL linebacker. Large, yes. But it was still agile and balanced. Inching up to stoplights in traffic was painless at less than 5mph and there was no point where I was worried that the scooter couldn’t be controlled. When finally stopping at lights, a toe was all it took to keep the 440 lb bike steady. The bike has a low center of gravity because the gas is located under the floorboards.
Turning off of 94 onto Highway 61, the rain starts to get a bit harder, the integrated windscreen is doing an admirable job deflecting the wind and rain over my shoulders. I do miss the passive air vents of the People 250 and the Grand Vista, that direct the heated radiator air onto my hands and arms.
North of Hastings and knowing that the Wisconsin side of the river will mean slower speeds I decide to “see what this thing will do.” Well, that little voice of reason in the back of my head spoke a little bit louder then my spirit of adventure and I didn’t get to see what 500cc in the hands of Kymco engineers would do. But I do believe the reported 100+ top speed to be a strong possibility.
Through Lake City and Nelson, I piled up the miles. I was sorry to see that the Heller Bar in Nelson had closed, replaced by the Backwoods Grill. Twenty miles south of the Twin Cities, I finally gaze down at the gas gauge only to see that not only is the needle in the red, but the idiot light is on. I really don’t feel like leaving a bike that isn’t even mine along the side of the road and I really don’t feel like walking, anywhere. Spying a church steeple with other buildings bunched around it, I hoped there would be a gas station nearby. Pointing the scooter in that direction, I find a place to fill up, but it may not have been all that necessary. Strange; only 2.5 gallons to overflow a 3.8-gallon tank when the idiot light is on. This gas gauge is incredibly pessimistic. I could have driven the bike all the way back to Scooterville and have them fill it up again.
The Xciting 500 is a nicely featured bike with an engine that rivals any of its Japanese counterparts. People who plan on touring a lot with this scooter may be disappointed with the small amount of storage space. There is a small, non- locking storage compartment in the front of the seat that I have personally dubbed the “cod piece.” The under seat storage is pretty small, my extra jacket, rain gear, gloves and some snacks pretty much filled the whole thing up.
The fit and finish is at the same high standard as all of the Kymco scooters. The orange paint job on the bike tested looked fabulous and the body panels were all tight fitting and not at all cheap looking.
Every thing on the Xciting 500 is controlled by the key; which makes it easy, but also complicates things. Turning the key to the left opens the seat and also locks the steering. Turning to the left opens the gas tank filler top. In between these is the ignition. Attention must be paid or you will pop open your gas tank when you really want to get something out from under the seat. And I always had to look to find the ignition.
by Tammy Wanchena
Xciting it is and Xcited I was when I was asked to test ride the Kymco Xciting 500. Membership has its privileges, and putting miles on someone else’s bike simply reinforces the fact that I married well. I would allow my senior editor and husband, Victor, to ride the bike home from Scooterville, and then it would be mine and mine alone for the next three days.
My first impression of the Xciting was “Wow! It’s orange! I love orange!” Styled very similar to the Suzuki Burgman and the Honda Silver Wing, the Kymco Xciting 500 looks more like a fast and fun little sport bike than the scooters my friends and I ride. The front sports a 15” tire, with a 14” tire in the rear. The instrument cluster holds a few surprises, which I will expand on later. Beneath that, there is a parking brake and a small storage compartment. The sassy, metallic orange paint job is immaculate and really stands out in a parking lot. I couldn’t wait to get home and ride this fabulous new scooter!
I follow Victor home from Scooterville, and I can’t help thinking he looks like a giant frog. His extremely long legs are bent at the knee and his knees are above his elbows and spread out beyond the bike’s frame. His green Aerostitch doesn’t help matters. This is clearly not the bike for Victor! Victor is 6’8” tall and his legs kept hitting the handlebars; especially when taking turns. I watched him struggle for a comfortable riding position the entire ride home.
Being 5’6” tall, with a 29” inseam, I would not have these same concerns. After adjusting the suspension to its lowest setting, I was still on the balls of my feet, but very comfortable with the amount of weight between my legs. I was pleasantly surprised to find the same, upright seating position I have become so fond of, to be true of this bike. And my bended knees came nowhere close to the handlebars. I started her up. No choke to mess with here; we’re talking automatic, baby! I can not stress enough how much I adore riding an automatic! So much so, that the first time I rode one, I wound up purchasing the bike. I headed out on the road, heavy with the anticipation that comes with being responsible for someone else’s something expensive. At the end of the driveway I turned right and….what’s this? I turned the handlebars, and the wheel turned to the right, but the fairing stayed flesh with the bike. This is the first time I have ever ridden a bike with frame mounted fairing, and it took a couple hours to get used to.
Another challenge I had to face was that there was a big hump in the middle of the floorboard. On my scooter, you can step right through. You can scratch your itchy right ankle with your left foot while riding. You can set shopping bags between your feet. On the Kymco Xciting 500, there is a large hump, which I assume is part of the frame, which makes mounting and dismounting the bike a little trickier; at least with arthritis. I found it easiest to dismount the bike with the side stand down. There is a baggage hook at the top of the hump that seems impractical and out of place to me; though in all fairness, I never tested it out. But the bike provides other storage to allow that baggage a little more security. There are two “small boxes”; one in the front below the instrument panel and to the left, and one in front of the seat. They remind me of two underdeveloped glove boxes; great in theory, but neither one is large enough to hold more than a pair of glasses. According to the manual, the front small box will hold a maximum 3.3 lbs and the center small box, a maximum 6.6 lbs. I can’t imagine anything small enough to fit in these boxes that could weigh more than a pound.
For more substantial storage, lift the seat and you can fit a reported 22 lbs of cargo beneath it. A full face helmet, jacket and gloves will all fit under the seat. You will also find a tool kit, helmet hook, center compartment light, cell phone holder and cell phone charger under the seat. With bungee cords and the rear carrier, you can haul another 11 lbs. This brings our maximum recommended cargo weight up to 42 lbs. Another cool factor with the seat is its adjustable back rest, which can easily be adjusted according to the rider’s preference. However, this seat is not a comfortable one and your butt will hurt after a short hour’s ride. And if you plan to ride with a passenger, bare in mind that this Kymco’s maximum weight capacity is only 330 lbs.
Indicators on the instrument panel will warn you when your oil pressure, (maintenance free) battery, or fuel is low. You will be warned if your seat is not fully locked, your parking brake is applied, your high beams are on, your side stand is down, or your cell phone socket is in use. There is a check engine lamp to report any abnormalities. This is the first scooter I have seen with a tachometer. And, of course, we have the basics: right / left turn signals, speedometer, coolant temperature gauge, odometer, and clock. The speedometer is very difficult to read and I am not sure it was entirely accurate. Kilometers per hour are its dominant markings, while the miles per hour numbers are extremely small and close together. I rode past one of those Johnny Law devices which reported my speed at 38 m.p.h., while the speedo read closer to 45 m.p.h. I had an easier time measuring my speed in relation to other vehicles on the road then I did reading the speedometer.
A turn of the key will open your seat, as well as your gas cap. The Xciting comes equipped with a very peculiar safety feature I have never seen before. This is a flat, rectangular shaped metal key of sorts that you can slip into the underside of the key fob, closing off the keyhole, and discouraging theft.
The Xciting’s brakes are powerful; easily controlled, and quick to respond at any speed. The left handlebar possesses the combination brake lever, and the right handlebar has the front brake lever. The throttle control is both friendly and flawless, and the bike’s power is more than manageable for even the novice rider. Vibrations are barely noticeable and she purrs quietly at idle speeds. The bike weighs 473 lbs dry, but you would never guess it as the weight is distributed as such that I had no problems maneuvering it on to its center stand.
I loved this bike. I loved its sleek and sexy lines and its fabulous color. I loved the way she handled. I LOVED that it’s an automatic! My only complaints, none of which would prevent me from buying this bike, are its uncomfortable seat and the middle hump in the floorboard. And I do wish the LED taillight was a bit bigger and brighter. Comfortable at freeway speeds and getting excellent gas mileage, this bike would make a terrific daily commuter for both the novice and the experienced rider.
Staying true to MMM’s “ride it like you stole it” attitude toward borrowed bikes, I put the Kymco Xciting 500 to the test. For three days I rode many miles through extremely cold, rainy, crappy weather in search of a premature pumpkin patch to pose the bike in front of for its cover shot. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find any pumpkins ready to pose yet in early September. But I didn’t need an excuse to motivate this fair weather rider to ride in unfair conditions. Not this time. The Kymco Xciting 500 was all the encouragement I needed.
Seleted Competition: Aprilia Scarabeo 500, Honda Silver Wing, Suzuki Burgman 400, Yamaha Majesty