There is one motorcycle axiom I’ve learned after cruising around the local scene for the past six months on our Kymco Super 9 test machine. The only thing that will attract more attention and gawking onlookers than a chrome-laden custom is a sporty 50cc scooter-hooligan machine that uses public roadways as its playground.
I know, you wouldn’t be caught dead on one, or so everybody says. Heck, even my buddy Dan, whose metrosexual sensibilities allow him to put product in his hair and own a rodent-sized dog, won’t even consider mounting a wee-little scooter and riding it around town.
I, on the other hand, could care less and see scooters as the perfect opportunity to have a little hooligan-fun on a miser’s budget. Sure, full-fledged sportbikes are a riot, but you can’t really ride the piss out of them without putting yourself in danger and risking a stint in the klink. Scooters, on the other hand, can be rocked full-tilt by people of varying levels. Even riders who pride themselves on tearing up MX tracks on a daily basis erupt into fits of giggles while ripping on a scooter.
So you can imagine the number of people who were looking to take a spin on the citrus-orange Kymco Super 9 swelled with passing seconds after arriving in the MCUSA garage. One look at the 9 and it’s clear this isn’t a retro-styled Vespa clone, but rather a high-performance 50cc two-stroke machine intended to put a smile on your face and adrenaline in your veins.
Stepping through the scooter it’s obvious why user-friendly two wheelers like this one are so appealing to so many people around the globe. They’re extremely light (210 lbs.), easy to ride and typically come with an assortment of cool features. The futuristic race-inspired bodywork looks like it would be more at home on the track than the streets of Anytown, USA. A cool, low-profile halogen headlamp is nestled in the front of the bike, while the controls and instrument cluster are positioned in clear view atop the handlebars. If you didn’t know better, this little bike looks like it could do 100 mph without breaking a sweat.
However, thumbing the electric starter (the Super 9 also has a kick starter) brings things back to reality, as the 49cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engine comes to life with the acoustic mechanical splendor of an electric weed-eater. In stock form, the bike is so quiet it’s difficult to tell if it’s running due to the restrictive pipe attached from the factory.
Twist the throttle and the little scooter moves as quickly as you’d expect an undersized motor to carry a 190-lb. kid. The continuously variable transmission means there’s no shifting required, and the Super 9 cruises up 28 mph relatively quickly before pulling no further. It’s fun, but this level of speed is simply not acceptable for a scooter that looks this cool. Manufacturers go to moderate pains to make sure the two-stroke machines meet emissions standards and, as a result, don’t provide performance that might give someone the idea they could ride with the flow of freeway traffic.
We pulled the Super 9 into the garage to see if we couldn’t make a few modifications that would allow the scooter to reach its full potential. One of the noticeable performance problems was that the Super 9 only revved halfway to redline. We found out that a rev-limiter attached to the CDI unit was standing in the way of a good time. Once we pulled the circuit restrictor off, we reassembled the guts of the scooter and took it out for another spin. Yup, it was a little bit better and we could see it approaching redline, but it wouldn’t pull past the 35-mph mark.
A little more research revealed that Kymco inserts a bushing in the clutch which has a groove machined into the center. That groove works with the centrifugal clutch to restrict the top-speed of the scooter. Luckily we discovered that the device can be replaced with a grooveless bushing and, voila!, the happy scooter goes from mild to wild.
The bushing replacement was relatively easy, requiring we only remove the belt/clutch cover in order to perform the delicate operation. Click Here to see Scooter Therapy’s suggested removal instructions. Once back together, we hopped on and we had the scoot up 55 in less than 20 seconds. With this expanded performance envelope, we could navigate all the roads in town and potentially get busted for speeding. But, come on, who’s going to bust a scooter for speeding?!!!
Rocking and rolling through traffic at speed is surprisingly fun on a scooter. You can stuff it into places where most full-sized bikes can’t go. Trips in town that usually take 10-15 minutes are miraculously reduced to seven, not because you’re speeding (well, maybe a little), but because you can maneuver through traffic with supreme ease.
The Super 9’s 12-inch wheels combine with a traditional fork to deliver superb maneuverability and response for a scooter. The rear monoshock soaks up bumps and undulations with ease and also tracks well through corners. We found ourselves pushing the scooter pretty hard into corners and the Super 9 responded admirably.
Bringing a hulking 400-lb. mass of scoot and rider to a stop are twin-piston disc brakes in the front and rear. The binders on this little scoot are nuts, and leaving mini black strips on the pavement from the rear tire is as easy as clamping down on the right-side handlebar lever. The front brake is on the left where a clutch usually resides, and it has enough power to rotate the scooter into a stoppie when in the hands of a hooligan.
All of the controls are easily accessible including the two brake levers, the start button and the headlight, as well as the European-standard passing signal that flashes the headlight when approaching slower traffic ahead. The instrument cluster is easily visible, displaying speed, rpm, fuel level, and a series of idiot lights that indicate low oil levels, turn signals and high beams.
The ergonomics of the Super 9 scooter are quite agreeable for people of all shapes and sizes. While seated, even the shortest people can feel comfortable thanks to the 32-inch seat height and relatively light weight. Taller riders have room for their added length in the roomy footwell area. The oversized seat is very comfortable, and the aluminum rear footpegs provide decent passenger accommodations. Traveling with another reduces acceleration considerably, but maintaining in-town traffic speeds is not a problem.
The best feature of the Super 9 isn’t what’s on the bike but what’s not. Underneath the wide, plush seat is a virtual abyss of cargo space. Riders could easily put a full face helmet in the storage area and still have room left over for a few assorted sundry items. Grocery shopping on two wheels can be done without a Goldwing.
Also under the seat is where all the maintenance is taken care of. Despite the fact that the Super 9 is a two-stroke, no mixing is necessary. Simply pour oil into the oil reservoir and put gas in the tank and the Kymco automatically mixes the oil in with the fuel. We went through five tanks of gas before replenishing the oil tank.
No parking space? No problem. The Super 9 can fit just about anywhere thanks to it’s diminutive stature.
Of course, if the fun factor isn’t enough to justify owning one of these bad boys, the fuel consumption, or lack thereof, should be reason enough to make the purchase. We regularly logged between 90 and 100 miles before the 1.5-gallon tank was depleted. That’s right, we were getting close to 65 miles to the gallon and there’s nothing more fun than paying for gas with pocket change.
The cherry on top of the Kymco Super 9 package is the fact that it is backed by a two-year unlimited mileage warranty. While the price tag of $2,259 is a little higher than many of its competitors, the Kymco is still a phenomenal deal. Heck, with all the money you’ll save in gas, the Super 9 will pay for itself in just two summers. And if the frugality doesn’t win you over, the grin-factor should be reason enough to convince you to join the legions of scooter owners.
Big Thanks goes out to STR Motorsports for the use of the Kymco Super 9.
Share your thoughts on the ’04 Kymco Super 9 in the MCUSA Forum. Click Here