Costa takes the “should we or shouldn’t we import it” Peugeot Blackstat 125 Compressor on the Mad Bastard Rally. A 125 supercharged scooter? Now that’s mad!
|SIDEBAR – Superchargers|
The more air/fuel mixture you can introduce into a cylinder of a given size, the more power it will produce.
A good way of doing this is to get more air into the engine either by supercharging or turbocharging.
Both methods physically force air into the intake system, which produces much higher boost pressure, and thus more power.
A turbocharger uses an exhaust-gas-driven turbine (free drive power) to drive another turbine that is used to pressurize the incoming air-fuel mixture, but can suffer a slight ‘lag’.
A supercharger is driven mechanically off the crankshaft resulting in instant boost, but taking away some of the engine power to spin it.
Having run the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally in the past, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the biennial event this year.
And if you think riding an open-class sport bike on a racetrack is challenging, well, that’s nothing compared to this gruelling ride that not only tests your endurance, but your sanity as well (it’s the Mad Bastard, remember?).
I rode the last one like a true mad bastard — on a 50 cc moped, a 1970 Motobecane, taking me a sanity-testing 19 hours to complete the 680-kilometre loop.
This year I had planned to ride my 1980 Puch Maxi, claiming two bug-splatting horsepower — so says a decal on the side cover.
However, since I had helped with the routing this year during our 16-inch scooter comparison test, I was now deemed ineligible to compete. I still wanted to ride it, but without a chance of winning, my Puch Maxi was starting to look a little too mad.
Quintessential opportunity-seeker Editor ’Arris therefore suggested I
turn the ride into a test. I agreed, albeit reluctantly, but insisted
we at least test something unique.
Peugeot (who made a comeback into Canada late last year, after last being imported sometime in the early ’80s) seemed an ideal candidate to supply a machine, so we called the importer, CMI (www.cmitech.ca), who suggested we try the Peugeot Blacksat 125.
Well, I wasn’t too keen on giving up my pedals for a full-sized touring scooter (where’s the madness in that?) — until the Peugeot rep mentioned that the Blacksat was supercharged …
Now, if there’s one thing that will pry me off a 50 quicker than you can say ‘blow me’, it’s anything with a supercharger. The deal was done and the Mad Bastard was starting to look all the more interesting.
The Blacksat is based on the Satelis 125 model (the main difference between the two being the blower), however it’s not part of Peugeot’s Canadian line-up just yet. CMI imported this particular Blacksat to test the market, making it the only one in the country. It was a unique ride indeed.
Immediately noticeable when looking at the Blacksat, aside from its European styling and understated blackout finish, was its sizable presence — being about as big as a Burgman 400.
Build quality was above average, with tight-fitting body panels and well-finished components throughout.
Being a non-production machine, however, the Blacksat lacked a handlebar-mounted kill switch, and the fuel filler hole was large enough to fit your fist through (which does little to contain fuel vapours or splash back when filling).
The bike also had one of those troublesome pop-up side stands that threatens to leave your pride and joy on its side at the slightest touch.
But, peeking out just beneath the left-rear body panel was the pièce de résistance: a Busch roots-type supercharger!
The Satelis 125’s un-blown liquid-cooled, two-valve single produces 15 horsepower. The Blacksat’s belt-driven supercharger bumps that to 20 hp. Pretty impressive when considering that the sporty Honda CBR125R pumps out roughly 14 ponies.
ONCE YOU GO BLACK, YOU CAN’T GO BACK
Since I’m not officially competing in the Mad Bastard I take a leisurely start at 5:45 am, after the Straight Jacket and the Heavily Medicated classes have departed in the pre-dawn hours.
The Blacksat runs flawlessly, its fuel injection displaying no glitches, but there’s a faint yet distinctive whine when accelerating, giving away the supercharger — just in case you missed it hiding below the bodywork.
Performance isn’t outstanding until you remember you’re on a machine that displaces a mere eighth of a litre. Having tested a trio of four-stroke scooters just prior to riding this Peugeot I can attest that its power is about on par with the Sym HD200, which displaces 171 cc and also claims 20 hp.
The engine pulls very smoothly and progressively; however, it is quite the fuel glutton when compared with the Sym. On average, the Blacksat consumed 4.2 L/100km (68 mpg), which was respectable, but still way off the 3.6 litre consumption of the bigger Sym.
Another drawback was the reduced under-seat storage capacity, a result of the larger airbox and added plumbing that feed the blower. Where the standard Satelis 125 claims storage room for two full-face helmets, the Blacksat halves that to just one.
Thankfully, there is a useful storage compartment on the inner fairing panel, which is large enough to swallow a couple of 500 ml bottles of water with room to spare.
With a 14-inch front and 13-inch rear wheel, the Blacksat doesn’t handle as well as the 16-inch-wheeled scooters, proving somewhat choppy over sharp bumps, though it turns effortlessly and provides confidence-inspiring stability even when tapped out at an indicated 130 km/h.
Probably the oddest feature is its braking system, which boasts ABS as standard but does so in the oddest of fashions.Both handlebar-mounted brake levers are independently linked to the front and rear brakes, which seems a little redundant as both brake levers seem to do the same thing.
That is until you get to the ABS bit, which is activated only by the right lever (the left supplying non-ABS braking).
I tested the brakes on a stretch of dirt road, and when using the right lever alone or both levers at the same time, the ABS activated, producing hard, lock-free stops. When I used only the left brake lever I was able to lock both wheels.
This odd configuration is also evident in the different feel at the levers. When at a stop, the left lever feels firm and normal, while the right lever is very spongy, coming almost to the handlebar if squeezed moderately hard. Curiously, the right lever feels normal when used in motion, indicating some sort of servo mechanism is at work in the system.
I relied mostly on the right brake lever to slow the machine, though the left lever did provide eyeball-bulging stops on pavement with lighter effort than the ABS lever.
By midday, I have supercharged my way past every competitor, and I arrive at the finish by 4 p.m. — just over 10 hours after my departure. A marked improvement on my last foray into madness but somewhat uneventful and quite un-mad.
TO BE BLOWN OR NOT TO BE BLOWN …
After a day in the saddle of the blown Peugeot, I pondered what the benefit of pressurizing the intake tract on such a machine was. Especially when the Blacksat performs no better than a naturally aspirated scooter of slightly larger engine displacement, and without the ease or convenience.
The addition of the supercharger reduces the luggage capacity, increases the fuel consumption, and most of all, it increases the cost of the machine.
A Blacksat sells in Europe for €5,299 (about $8,100), compared to €3,599 ($5,500) for a Satelis 125. Canadian pricing is said to be just under $11,000.
I figured that some gearhead engineer at Peugeot with some time to spare must have developed the machine in the basement of the design department. But apparently that wasn’t the case.
In France, the Blacksat’s primary market, a motorcycle license isn’t necessary to operate any machine displacing less than 125 cc, similar to the regulations regarding machines displacing less than 50 cc in some provinces here.
In that context, the Blacksat offers the performance and versatility of a 200 cc machine without the licensing or insurance hurdles, something that simply doesn’t apply in Canada.
This is why the bike won’t really work in Canada (save for maybe the odd collector), and why CMI will likely only bring in a very limited number of them, which at least assures exclusivity. But that doesn’t matter, really, because if you must have a scooter to tote around a baguette and some cheese, you can probably find one among Peugeot’s many other offerings that are now available in Canada, even if none of them are blown.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep on eye on what Peugeot releases in the future. Perhaps a more Canadian-suited supercharged 50 for the 2011 Mad Bastard?
|Bike||Peugeot Blacksat 125|
|Engine type||Four-stroke dohc single, liquid-cooled|
|Horsepower (crank – claimed)||20 at 8,000 rpm|
|Torque (claimed)||12.2 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||13.5 L|
|Carburetion||Fuel injection with Busch supercharger|
|Brakes, front||Single 260 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||Single 210 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Seat height||784 mm (30.9 “)|
|Wheelbase||1,500 mm (59 “)|
|Dry weight (claimed)||171 kg (377 lb)|