I thrashed the little Piaggios and found their roadholding exceptional but, with the MP3 range limited to 125 and 250cc, I wondered how much better the technology would feel with proper power.
Answer: It feels good. Leaping astride an unfamiliar motorcycle, pegging the throttle open and pointing it at a sharp bend is not normally my style but I made an exception. The Fuoco accelerated eagerly and I pitched into the roundabout at 60km/h. The exhaust touched the tarmac but the tyres didn't flinch. In fact the risk of a front-end skid is, for all practical purposes, eliminated
With twice as much
rubber in contact with the road, the Fuoco
tilts and grips with Tigger-ish enthusiasm but
resolutely refuses to bounce.
Ride quality is smoothed by the separate shock absorber on each of the parallel front wheels. These devour bumps, even two-up, making the Fuoco comfortable as well as frisky on pot-holed streets.
That extra rubber comes into its own again when you apply the brakes. Emergency stopping distances are about 20 percent better than on a two-wheeler and, though it is possible to lock both the front wheels and the rear one, there is no risk of falling off if you do.
Riding the Fuoco in town is a breeze, not least because of the brilliant "roll lock" suspension-locking system. It works like this: as speed drops below 10km/h warning light and beeping audio alert on the instrument panel combine to inform the rider that they can stabilise the scooter. This is achieved by flicking a switch on the right handlebar. Result? No need to put your foot down to keep the Fuoco upright at standstill.
With the lock engaged, those tilting front wheels lock firmly in position.
'Please, what is it?'
Pulling up beside car drivers is fun. The Fuoco's additional wheel, enormous front bumper and twin headlights are striking even to the unobservant. So is its big, comfy seat but little compares to the look of astonishment when you pull up at the front of the queue and sit there with no visible means of support.
In nearly 20km of urban riding I drew pointing, stares and a man who just lowered his window and said "Please. What is it?" With practice, I managed to lock at an angle to the vertical and remain seated while canted over. There is no risk. The lock is released as soon as you open the throttle. You cannot accelerate away with your suspension and steering frozen.
You can always guarantee being at the front of the queue because the Fuoco retains scooter dimensions. The single-cylinder 500cc engine used here is a slightly enlarged version of the unit deployed on the Piaggio X9 and Gilera Nexus two-wheelers (32cc bigger). It whisks the Fuoco away from the lights at a rate cars cannot match and which surprises motorcyclists.
Then it pounds up to a motorway maximum of about 160km/h and cruises comfortably at 140. I didn't feel intimidated in the fast lane. In my mirrors I could see the occupants of the Micra behind debating exactly what was pulling away from them.
Gilera is the giant Piaggio group's sporty marque and the Fuoco is quick enough to justify the branding. Is it practical? In terms of comfort and safety it certainly is. You can hustle this machine over greasy, wet cobbles without risking a tumble. The riding position is relaxed enough for long journeys and cockpit instrumentation is excellent.
Luggage space is limited though; you cannot fit a laptop into the underseat storage compartment but there is a rear platform.
In the end this motorcyclist will always choose two wheels over three. I've spent too long learning to corner properly to really cherish a machine that helps a novice to lean like a GP racer. My suspicion is that most people who have the full licence required to ride this cute hybrid will agree.
Whatever, that's subjective. The Fuoco is fast, safe and expensive. It attracts envy and fits into motorcycle parking spaces. - The Independent, London