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Scooter Review

Gilera Fuoco 500 Review

If it's time to take your riding experience to the next level then it's time to ride the Gilera Fuoco 500

Allen Drysdale

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The Gilera Fuoco is the big daddy of the MP3 family. Sure it has the same three wheeled front end ensuring supreme grip, and yes it has that same polarising effect that the whole MP3 range has on all who see it. But the Gilera takes the big daddy title with its aggressive praying-mantis-come-Tomb-Raider-ATV front end, and its ‘bigger and better than the rest’ 492 cc twin spark engine.

But firstly style. I’ve now had the Fuoco near on a month and over that time I have never talked about a single scooter as much. A quick run down to the shops can become an hour long expedition as curios onlookers gather around to gaze over the Fuoco, and after a short period of trepidation comes the question “what is it?”

You see, nothing else compares to the Fuoco’s tubular front end; the aggressive look could be more at home on the set of a Mad Max or Tomb Raider flick. The exposed handlebars and rear rack area just add to the robust and utilitarian design. Even standing still, the Fuoco has an imposing and powerful stance. So when you’re riding the Fuoco, you can’t be shy, and if you are, maybe wear a full face helmet with a tinted visor as everybody will have an opinion or a question. So be ready.

It’s the two wheels up front though, that creates the most interest. The Piaggio group’s MP3 range has been available here for quite some time, but they’re still seen as a curiosity rather than the dynamic and technical masterpiece they actually are. Never have I ridden anything that inspires front end confidence like the Fuoco. It has an amazing ability to ensure unwavering stability and grip, guaranteeing where you point it, is the path you’ll take.

You ride the Fuoco just like any other two wheeled machine. A common misconception is the fact that some think the front end is self balancing, but its not. The front is in no way friction or spring loaded or self righting. The MP3’s and Fuoco’s are not trikes as we commonly know them. Once out of the locked mode the Fuoco is free to move from side to side with a fluidity that belies its imposing visual appearance. Sure, you need to get used to the feeling of a little extra weight up front, but if you were riding the Fuoco on a daily basis, then you would become accustomed to it in no time at all.

Any road surface, and I mean any road surface, becomes less of a hazard both in your mind, and in reality. Potholes, roundabouts, tram tracks, manhole covers and wet surfaces are just a thing of the past for us regular two wheeled jockeys. Both front wheels working in unison to give twice the footprint of any common two wheeler, resulting  in a tenacious grip through corners and under brakes that will just blow your mind.  The twin rear shocks work well to complement the Fuoco’s amazing front end, and offer ample adjustability for carrying a pillion if required.

The Fuoco is the ultimate road warrior. Around town it’s an amazing point to point machine. Initially you might think it’s a little wide for some gaps, but you soon grasp the fact the Fuoco is only about as wide as its handlebars. So don’t disregard the Fuoco as a city dweller, as torturous urban conditions are exactly what it is designed to master. On the open road the Fuoco’s bigger engine capacity devours country miles, although the factory fitted ‘shorty’ screen will leave you a little exposed. This is easily remedied with the taller screen available from the Gilera options catalogue, making freeway travel a comfortable and realistic expectation.

And while we are talking about the Fuoco in motion we need to give the twin spark engine a deserved mention. I’ve ridden my fair share of scooters powered by the venerable Piaggio ‘Master’ engine, and the twin spark version that drives the Fuoco is an absolute gem. Powerful, smooth and rev-happy is something I wouldn’t normally associate with the Italian big singles, yet the Fuoco changes this perception and feels somewhat refined. The Fuoco’s twin spark plugs ensure a clean and thorough detonation of the air/fuel mix, which increases power while reducing fuel consumption and emissions.  It really is a pleasure to ride, and let me reiterate; riding the big Gilera around the city is no chore as this engine’s torque and sense of urgency will do what you want, when you want, with a level of refinement that separate’s itself from other large single cylinder machines.

Seating on the Fuoco is relaxed and comfortable. The seat cushion is flat but not too firm, and it’s an easy reach to the exposed ATV inspired bars. Everything is in the right position for ease of use, and the only extra on the Fuoco you need to worry about is the switch to electronically lock and unlock the front end. You can do this when moving slowly or when stationary which is a gem when parking or just stopped at the lights. The centre stand has become obsolete! A twist on the throttle overrides the electronic locking feature, so you don’t inadvertently go barrelling into the first corner with the scooter upright like a bar stool, and a pressure sensor in the seat prevents the engine from revving (and thus unlocking the front end) if you’re not actually sitting on the scoot.

Storage was something else that also surprised me. Knowing that the Fuoco was missing the rear ‘boot’ of its MP3 siblings I was still impressed by the amount of storage space. A full face helmet and other goodies like a jacket will fit easily underneath the Fuoco seat, safely locked away. And if you do need to carry more, then you have plenty of tie-down points and storage options on the rear rack.

The multi function dash gives you all the information at a glance. And if you need to check your tripmeter or you want to see how cold it is, you the flick through the different settings using the mode switch on the handlebar, well within reach. A huge analogue speedo and tachometer arrangement complement the Gilera brands sporting heritage, and provide an easy visual reference, at a glance.

The Fuoco has come under fire for the rear end not keeping up with the technically superior front end, or the Fuoco being too heavy and needing more power. Many will say you can never have enough grunt, but riding one up or two up, the power and torque of the Fuoco was ample. I was more than impressed with the 492cc twin spark engine; comparing it to the older ‘Master’ unit, and for me its chalk and cheese. The criticism of its handling on the other hand, would only be an issue up against a purpose built sports bike in a race track type environment. The Fuoco is a machine in its own league; so sure footed, it’s crazy and not once could I find the limit of the Fuoco’s grip in normal riding conditions.

So there you have it.  The only reason you could ever discount the Gilera would be if it’s outlandish style was just a little too much to live with. At $13990, some may say that’s a little rich; but live with it, as I have over an extended period, and you’ll see the Gilera oozes value. The extra grip, confidence inspiring handling and increased levels of safety that the Gilera has over a standard two wheeled machine just makes that difference for me. And not to mention all the other scooter features we love like storage, protection and the ease of twist and go.

The Gilera Fuoco 500, you get my vote any day of the week.
 

 

 

 

 

published 25/08/2009

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