Piaggio Fly 150
The quick-turning Piaggio Fly 150 represented the scooter contingent of our Newbie comparo. Although it didn't have the performance capabilities of its competitors, the 150cc machine was a formidable cross-town commuter and errand runner.
The Piaggio Fly 150 was the screwball wild-card entry in our $4000 Newbie Bike Shootout. There's no denying that there is a major difference between a regular motorcycle and a scooter, but they got two wheels and an engine, so they are fair game. Also, scooters represent a growing segment of the two-wheeled population, owing to their ease of use and newbie-friendly controls. The Fly 150 proved to be a formidable newbie competitor for the scooter inclined.
The Fly 150 is a shaft-driven scooter powered by a 150cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine. Right out of the box I found the Piaggio a fun ride. There is something intrinsic in the joy of being the little twerp riding around town on a small scooter. Out on the open road, the Fly 150 doesn't run anything down, but you can ring it out to 55 mph after counting up to 13-Mississippis. It holds its own and, in its true abode, like parking lots and stop-light central, the little machine rips. A definite upgrade from the 50cc two-stroke machines that require strategic route planning to avoid anything over 45 mph, the Fly 150 can tackle just about any road that isn't a major highway or have an "I" prefix attached.
While it does take a while to get it topped out at 55 mph (60 mph if you have a cooperative tailwind and a generous decline at your disposal) the Piaggio has plenty of low to mid-range zip for a 150cc-powered machine. But the zip can also get the better of you, as I found out with a lackadaisical roll off the centerstand. Which reminds me, the fly has no sidestand, so rolling it up onto the center unit was necessary at every stop. Lacking the convenience of a sidestand for quick stops, hosting the tank-empty 254-lb Fly up onto the centerstand got quickly annoying.
The Fly 150's underseat storage holds a full-face helmet, but just barely, with the seat bursting at the seams.
Sitting astride the Fly 150 scooter, the rider doesn't feel as small as might be expected. This is due to the Fly's 30.9-inch seat height being the second highest of our test bike group. The Piaggio's seat is comfortable and plush, although the underseat storage capabilities left much to be desired. A full-face helmet tucked away underseat causes the seat to burst at the seams when closed (I know I have a big head, but a size-large helmet isn't freakish by any means). The underseat storage is also supplemented by a front compartment opened by pushing in the key when in the on position. The small amount of storage offered by a scooter enhance its convenience as an errand-runner, but another inch or two of underseat storage space would have made a big difference on the Fly.
I used to say scooters are idiot simple to ride, but due to an embarrassing parking lot get-off, I can say an idiot will still run into trouble if they are not paying attention. That said, without the trouble of having to pull in a clutch, the twist-and-go controls are a definite advantage for quick city commuting and less intimidating for the beginner. The Fly 150 is also very quiet while running, for those newbs who find loud pipes obnoxious. The only quirk to the easy controls on the Fly is the lack of a choke, so firing it up in the morning requires a little throttle play.
The Piaggio's control panel includes an analog speedo with a digital clock resting beneath a handy fuel gauge, which keeps tabs on the 1.9-gallon tank.
The Fly 150's dashboard instrument panel feels a bit cheap with its hard plastic enclosure, but I found the information display to be second-best next to the Ninja. An analog speedo on the left is mirrored on the right by a helpful fuel gauge to keep track of the 1.9-gallon tank. Four idiot lights are divvied up between the two far sides, with turnsignal indicators on the extreme flanks. The blinking turnsignal reminder is helpful for the forgetful newb, but the Fly's actual turnsignal control continues the cheap plastic feel of the dashboard.
During our kart track and obstacle course sessions, the Piaggio shined through the slalom and the scooter was the most popular pick when testers were asked what machine they would choose to take the DMW endorsement test. Tight low-speed maneuvers are the Fly 150's moments of triumph, with its short 52.4-inch wheelbase carving around cones and figure eights with ease. On the compact kart track, the Piaggio excelled with its quick steering response.
For some testers the scooter was just too different. "I don't like the scooter because it feels strange to be sitting with my feet in front of me like I am on a chair," said Laura (above). "It feels sort of squirrely."
The components on the Fly aren't spectacular but appropriate for the job at hand. A 32mm telescopic front fork is complimented by a preload-adjustable rear shock, and the suspenders handle whatever reasonable blips and bumps any sane person would throw at the Fly and its 12-inch wheels with tubeless tires. As far as stopping goes, a 200mm front disc with floating two-piston caliper brings the Piaggio to a halt working in tandem with rear drum brake. A healthy pull on both levers activates an abrupt stop, although a few of our testers did mention the rear brake lever on the handlebar replacing the usual clutch took a while getting used to.
Out of all the machines ever to set foot in our garage, few have got the razzing the baby blue Piaggio got from our co-workers, though not because we don't like scooters around here. No, the source of the Piaggio's woes came from its foo-foo color scheme. Maybe I possess metrosexual tendencies I have yet to explore, because, while it wouldn't be my first choice in colors, I thought the baby blue hue had a nice mod flavor to it. It turns out our blue tester's colors are only available in Europe, with the U.S. version of the Fly 150 available in Dragon Red and Excalibur Grey.
One of our testers picked the Piaggio as the beginner machine he would purchase out of the four, reasoning he would get the most practical us out of it.
One of our testers, Erick (above), picked the Piaggio as the bike he would purchase out of the four, due to its practicality in everyday use.
"The Piaggio was fun - not sure if it's the silliness factor or not," explained MCUSA marketing guru, Erick Barney. "It was actually very smooth, although it could use more power. I would get the most use out of it and the Piaggio would be great for running quick errands."
As a cross-town errand runner or office commuter, the Fly would be a well-suited tool and its easy-riding controls make it a nice fit for riders looking to ease their way into the motorcycle world. At $3,399 the Piaggio rings in at about $800 more than Yamaha's 125cc Vino, but the Fly is one of the largest-displacement scooters to slip in under the $4000 mark. If scooters are your thing, the Fly 150 would be an excellent first ride.