Scooter Achievement in Design AwardAs part of their efforts to broaden the motorcycling market, motorcycle manufacturers have been giving three-wheelers favor in trying to entice less-than-confident motorcyclist to join the fray. Harley-Davidson has embraced the trike with its new Tri-Glide touring machine, which is essentially a modified Electra Glide with two rear wheels. A completely different take is the Can-Am Spyder-its two wheels are placed in front of the rider. Both solutions offer an experience more rewarding than automobile travel, but lose much of the motorcycling feel as both vehicles stay upright through turns, rather than leaning.
A third and compelling variation on the theme is the intriguing Piaggio MP3 which successfully merges three wheels and motorcycling in a very distinct way. This iteration features two 12-inch wheels in front as part of a parallelogram front suspension that enables the machine to tilt conventionally in a turn. The four cast-aluminum arms, four hinges and two steering tubes allow independent action for each wheel, and the dual-tire stance provides an extremely stable platform, particularly in the low-traction conditions-cobblestone, railroad crossings, and rain-often found in Italy, where it was conceived and designed. Cornering the MP3 hard, the technology quickly removes any rider’s skepticism. It produces an authentic motorcycling experience, and enhances it by offering staggering confi dence- the dual front contact patch simply refuses to push or tuck. Braking is impressive as each front hub carries its own disc. At rest, the flip of a switch triggers a hydraulic mechanism that locks the bike upright. Once locked in place, dead-engine maneuvering of the MP3 is superior to two-wheelers, as the need to maintain balance is removed. With the hand-operated parking brake, the bike can be parked securely on steep hills. Available in 250, 400 and 500cc configurations, we prefer the sporting nature and aggressive styling of the 500, which has decidedly more acceleration and highway capability than its lower-displacement stable mates. ULTIMATE MOTORCYCLING FEBRUARY / MARCH 2009Photography by Don Williams and Piaggio