Scooters may not be your thing but the Gilera Fuoco 500ie is not your usual scooter. It turns heads and has people scratching them. Three wheels – what’s all that about? I don’t blame you for being sceptical but grab a test ride and I promise you will be sold on the idea.
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The Fuoco – careful with the pronunciation – puts fun into riding with a capital ‘F’ and revolutionises every ride, wet or dry. OK, it might be a scooter but you’ve got to admit it’s funkier than a 70s party night and looks decidedly evil in either of its matt black or emotion red colour options.
Before we get on to those all important twin front wheels let’s look at the bike’s motivating force. Under those panels lurks a latest generation Piaggio 492cc, twin spark Master engine. It’s an impressive lump – a torquey, water-cooled single with fuel injection and automatic transmission. It has a hefty 244kg load to haul but it still pulls quite well and with no time consuming, rev sapping gears to worry about the power is available on tap. Gilera claim 40hp at 7250rpm and although that’s not breathtaking it will put three digits on the clock.
The clever part about the Fuoco is that weird looking front end. The system was pioneered by Italjet before their demise and Piaggio cleverly bought the idea and tried it out on their MP3 range before Gilera launched a proper grownup version with all the unruly attitude of a teenage mutant.
The twin front wheels operate on a parallelogram system, which allows the triangular footprint to lean to 40 degrees and still keep more than enough rubber on the Tarmac. The extra wheel leaves the Fuoco well planted at any angle, in even the wettest conditions. Knee down in the rain anybody? The tilting body can be locked into the upright position by flicking a thumb-operated switch. A safety mechanism means it can only be locked as you coast to a standstill, or while stationary but with a bit of practice you can soon ride without ever putting your feet on the ground. Sure it is a strange sensation but great once you master it. Twist the throttle and the body automatically unlocks and you’re away again.
So what’s it really like to ride? Imagine piloting a conventional scooter on damp roads or gravel covered car parks, on cold fresh tyres and being able to lean until the stand or exhaust hits the deck and you’ll get some idea of how different this scooter feels.
You can do the seemingly impossible in perfect safety. Your mind will be fighting off the instinctive reaction to slow down but the Fuoco will bully you into pushing yourself well beyond your usual comfort zone. The Fuoco laughs at rain. You can push almost as hard in the wet as you can in the dry and that front end just won’t let go. How about extreme braking? The twin front discs are powerful enough to produce stoppies but I found childish skids were more fun. Lock the rear end up and you can produce perfectly straight 20ft long skid marks without a care in the world. But be warned – it’s a bit addictive so get some new rubber on order!
Riding a Fuoco will always put a smile on your face. You can hold a perfect line around the fastest corners and although you’ve got the added safety of the third wheel to keep you out of trouble it doesn’t hinder your enjoyment and you’re still left feeling the same excitement of cornering you would on a conventional bike. Superb!
On a practical level the Fuoco has a large flat rear carrier with plenty of metalwork to bungee your luggage on to and a decent underseat storage area that is useful for keeping things like waterproofs. As a long distance machine you’ll find the Fuoco quite comfortable, although legroom isn’t quite as generous as it could be.
Instrument wise it comes with a conventional speedo and rev counter placed symmetrically either side of the central computer screen, which gives readings for temperature, trip, fuel, time and a whole load of other functions. There’s also an amber warning light to let you know if the scooter is in the locked position or not – handy for when you pull up trying to look cool and fall flat on your face when you realise the body wasn’t locked after all.
Although the machine looks quite bulky and cumbersome it’s not actually any wider than a conventional maxi scooter so you can still filter and get through most gaps in traffic. But it does take a bit of getting used to before you feel confident enough to ride through the smaller spaces without putting a foot down.
The Gilera Fuoco should appeal to riders of all abilities, from complete novices with a full licence to experienced thrill seekers with an eye for something out of the ordinary. Take a test ride and see what you think.
■ Engine: Engine: 492cc single cylinder Master 4-stroke with double ignition, 4 valves, and electronic fuel injection
■ Claimed power: 40hp @ 7250rpm
■ Transmission: CVT automatic
■ Frame: Double cradle steel trellis
■ Suspension: Front, parallelogram composed of four aluminium arms supporting two steering tubes, cantilevered suspension. Travel: 85mm. Electro-hydraulic suspension locking system. Rear, oscillating engine fixed to the frame with a swinging arm and two dual effect hydraulic shock absorbers with four-position spring preload. Travel: 110mm
■ Brakes: Hydraulic 240mm disc brakes on front wheels with two piston calipers, operated by right lever. Single 280mm rear hydraulic disc with floating two-piston caliper operated by left lever. Parking brake locks rear wheel
■ Tyres: Front 120/70-12 51S. Rear: 140/70-14 68S
■ Weights and measures: Weight 244kg, length 2160mm, width: 775mm, wheelbase
1550mm, seat height 785mm, fuel capacity 12 litres (including reserve)
■ Price: £5499
■ Contact: www.gilerafuoco.com