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The Piaggio solution to daily commute.

Byline: HARRIET RIDLEY

FANCY slashing the time and expense of your daily commute with a maxi-scooter, but don't fancy splashing out on a full motorcycle licence? Piaggio has a solution with its brand new solution: the MP3 LT 400.

You'll all have heard of, and probably even seen, Piaggio's wacky invention of a few years' back, the MP3. It's the three-wheeled scooter with a tilt mechanism that lets the twin front wheels lean independently so the MP3 behaves like a motorcycle.

Well Piaggio has increased the distance between the front wheels by a few mil and added a footbrake to get round a loophole in the law. The 400cc MP3 LT is now classed as a trike and can be ridden on a car licence, without even a CBT. And guess what, you don't even need a helmet! Although I'd never go without... Whether it's wise to ride what is essentially a 400cc maxi-scooter without proper training is another matter. The MP3 behaves like a powered-two-wheeler - it leans into corners, it's slim enough to filter through traffic and it will topple over if you don't put your feet down (unless you lock the suspension, but more on that later... ) Although the MP3 is more stable through corners than your average scooter, the high-tech mechanism makes it heavier too and this weight is carried pretty high. It dissolves as you ride along at a decent pace, but it's noticeable as you trickle along through traffic. This could sap the confidence of a new rider.

And the modern fuel-injected 400cc engine is fast. I wouldn't recommend simply jumping on one of these with zero rider training, which isn't there just to annoy you and make you spend money. It's there to provide you with basic knowledge that'll keep you safe on our roads.

Piaggio seems to agree with this and has incorporated into the price of the MP3 LT the cost of a CBT course. Now that's one big thumbs-up to the Piaggio Group.

In case you hadn't come across one yet, Piaggio's MP3 has three wheels: one at the back, and two at the front that are operated by this high-tech tilt mechanism. In the unlocked position the suspension tilts so that the two front wheels move independently but act as one. Press a button on the handlebars and the suspension locks, so the MP3 stands up on its own. There's even a handbrake at the front to stop the MP3 rolling when parked up.

You can lock the suspension as you creep up to a red light so you don't even have to put your feet down, which I love. Then twist the throttle and the suspension unlocks so you can carry on riding it like a normal scooter.

The front wheels of the standard MP3 are less than 420mm apart so it's legally classed as a two-wheeler. But this distance has been increased to 465mm on the LT so that it qualifies as a trike - although the difference isn't noticeable when you ride it.

Along with the new pedal that operates the rear brake (the left lever does too so you can choose which one to use), the LT gets linked brakes. Stamp on the footbrake or squeeze the left lever and the front brake will also kick into action (and vice versa), giving you optimum stopping distances - Piaggio claims they're 20% shorter than on an average scooter.

This is a great added safety feature for someone new to biking, especially given the swift performance of the modern 400cc fuel-injected Piaggio engine. Power comes in smoothly and strongly as you twist the throttle, comfortably reaching safe motorway speeds and beyond.

Up until now car licence holders with a CBT were restricted to riding 50cc or 125cc models with rubbish-looking L-plates. So they're in for a treat with this new MP3.

pounds 6,495 is a lot for a big twist-and-go, but Piaggio's MP3 LT is a high-quality machine with the usual outstanding Piaggio build quality. It's sturdy, packed with technology and looks great, and comes with all the practicality of a maxi-scooter. Just look at the space inside that integrated top box which operates like the boot of a sophisticated executive car. Start commuting on an MP3 and you'll never look back.

I've always believed two wheels are best. I could never quite see the attraction of the three-wheeled MP3. But with the LT 400, Piaggio has given every new rider a true reason to go MP3.

Visit www.piaggiotestrides.co.uk to book a test ride..

Piaggio MP3 LT 400 Engine: Piaggio MASTER (QUASAR) single cylinder, 4 stroke, 398.9cc, electronic fuel injection, liquid-cooled Performance: 34bhp at 7,500rpm, 37.6Nm at 5,500rpm Frame: High strength tubular steel double cradle Front suspension: Tilting parallelogram with four aluminium arms supporting two steering tubes.

Cantilever stub axles on leading suspension linkages Rear suspension: Two double acting hydraulic shock absorbers with spring preload adjustment Brakes: (F) Two 240mm discs, (R) One 240mm disc Tyres: (F) Tubeless 120/70-12", (R) Tubeless 140/70-14" Seat height: 785mm Tank capacity: 12 litres fast facts
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 19, 2009
Words:851
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