I was working away in my office, when suddenly Editor ‘Arris burst in, slapping down a piece of paper and saying he had a job for me. Which was rather odd all in all, since I work from home and I don’t recall ever having given him my address.
Still, putting aside a little breaking and entering for the moment, I scanned the piece of paper and grew somewhat excited…. or Xcited rather, since in fact I’d be reviewing the Kymco Xciting 500Ri. And to add that unique twist, I’d also be getting a chance to ride it both as a solo machine and a prototype Xciting/Cozy sidecar rig.
I’ve always thought maxi scooters blur the lines a bit between motorcycles and scooters. (Which could explain Xciting being spelled without the E…. the vowel went missing in all of the blurriness.)
On one hand, you have a machine with larger tires, greater weight and stability, much more power and able to put down miles more comfortably than a smaller displacement, urban oriented scooter.
On the other hand, you still have a step-through design and a CVT automatic transmission, and a general layout that’s leaning more towards comfort and ease of riding than “sportability” or offroad ability – it’s still clearly a concrete-loving beast, even if some of the concrete happens to be whizzing by at a somewhat frightening pace.
So when given the chance to try out a Xciting 500 for a week or so – and more than that, both a solo Xciting and an Xciting/Sidecar combo prototype – I had to jump at the chance to put it through its paces – all in the name of serious journalistic investigation of course. The silly grin on my face was purely coincidental.
Home Ergonomics: B+(A well designed machine, with a decent fit and finish)
The seat was comfortable for my 6’2″ frame with an adjustable backrest, but may prove to be more of a challenge for inseam-challenged riders, as the overall machine is a touch on the tall side.
The seat did seem a bit firm, but nothing that a sheepskin or a bit of additional padding couldn’t resolve on a longer ride or if your rear end is more sensitive than mine (years of severe butt-kickings have left my posterior sensitivity challenged).
Lighting is good, controls are well laid out, dials and gauges are visible and easy to read. The mirrors were particularly good, giving excellent rear and side visibility.
It loses some minor quibbly points for a speedo that isn’t particular accurate – GPS showed it to be around 10 percent off at 100 km/h – and a parking brake that was a little bit fiddly to release , however it gets points for even having a parking brake, since as an automatic you can’t put it into first gear when parking on a slope.
(This bike gets decent mileage, but it’s not efficient enough to run halfway around the world on some fumes you soaked up in a dry rag while passing by the local gas station).
The solo rig (with a quick mileage test) showed about 23.8 km/l for mileage with a quick test. When running the sidecar, this mileage went down to about 18.5 km/l – still a respectable figure, given how much drag and weight the sidecar adds to the overall machine.
At 12.8l, the gas tank is a bit on the small side, which makes for more frequent gas stops when configured as a sidecar machine. If you were going to take this scooter cross-country, an extra gas can would be a must-have accessory.
Locker Tidiness: A-
(Good storage with extras.)
Plenty of storage on this scooter – the underseat compartment will take a full face helmet with a little bit left over (and the underseat storage comes complete with lighting and a cellphone holder/accessory charger socket for those who need to give their GPS/cellphone/smartphone a quick top up while riding). There is an additional small storage container in the front legshield, and yet another under the front of the seat.
If you add in the sidecar, you gain the ability to pick up a couple week’s worth of groceries (which I actually did, filling the sidecar with the traditional CMG diet of bacon rinds and various caffeine-related products) in the sidecar tub.
The Cozy sidecar also comes complete with a lockable trunk behind the seat – handy if you need to store your riding gear before heading off somewhere.
Accelerated Studies: A
(It’ll go fast enough for anything this side of legal.)
Even as a sidecar rig a good twist of the throttle gets you right up to speed, and it’ll go fast enough to get you into trouble with the local law enforcement if you aren’t paying attention.
The throttle, while not exactly snapping your spine with endless acceleration, will nonetheless get you up to speed quickly even with the weight of a sidecar added.
As a solo machine, it has enough control that you won’t end up getting into trouble, even if you are transitioning from a much smaller displacement scooter.
Decelerated studies: A
(Very good braking.)
It rained every time I took the machine out without the sidecar, but braking in the wet is good, with sticky tires that provide a healthy amount of grip in the rain and firm, controlled controls that make coming to a controlled stop easy and effective.
Without a sidecar brake, the sidecar rig did veer to one side – but this is normal and easily corrected, and the brakes handled the extra weight and inertia without any drama despite some spirited stopping necessary when driving in downtown Toronto.
(Good handling, though the solo bike is on the heavy side for a downtown scooter.)
I found the solo rig handled nicely, even when I was wheeling around in the rain. Very gusty winds hardly touched the machine, and it always felt well-planted – not sporty but quite comfortable for a long-distance ride.
As a sidecar rig, it tracks straight and accelerates and brakes very well indeed. It has perhaps a touch more steering effort than some rigs with the stock rake, but the Xciting has nice wide handlebars that give plenty of leverage when steering it as a sidecar machine (sidecar machines need to be steered through turns rather than leaned, so more upper body effort is necessary when guiding them through long sweepers).
Social Studies: B
(Not a bad looker, but doesn’t stand out.)
This is a decent looking machine; personally I think it looks better with the sidecar than as a solo machine. It’s well put together – but doesn’t really stand out terribly from any of the other maxi scooters in terms of cosmetics.
Yamaha offers their 400 cc Majesty for $7,499 and have just added their new T-Max 530cc but that’ll set you back $10,499. Then there’s Suzuki’s long running Burgman, with the 400 coming in at $7,999 and the 650 at $11,099. And then of course BMW have come into the market with their C600/650s but have yet to announce a price.
At a MSRP of $6,995 Kymco seem to have the edge on price and offer good quality and a two year warranty to boot.
Even with a sidecar added, you’re still looking at less money than a Ural sidecar rig (the only purpose-built sidecar machine on the market currently), with a higher top speed, and less fuel consumption. Of course, the Xciting has practically no offroad abilities, due to lower ground clearance, so this isn’t a perfect comparison.
Extra Vehicular Activities
It used to be that the ability to add a sidecar was just something that was assumed. Bikes in the 1940’s and 1950s would have frames strong and flexible enough to handle the requirements of a sidecar, and most manufacturers had factory sidecar options, or sidecars designed to basically bolt right onto the machine so you could take the family out for a spin or a holiday weekend.
This changed around the 1960s, when frames became lighter in the name of performance and more and more motorcycles were designed and sold without any provision for sidecar attachment. Today, even Harley Davidson has recently decided to drop sidecars as a factory option.
So where does that leave us with a modern CVT machine like the Kymco Xciting 500? Well, what most sidecar installers will do (in this case Ken Beach at Old Vintage Cranks, in Hillsburgh, ON.) is make a subframe that allows the sidecar frame to be attached to the scooter, adding both structural strength and mounting points. The Xciting I tested was in fact a prototype machine – being constructed to develop kits which include many of the necessary components and the subframe necessary to attach a Cozy sidecar to the Xciting 500.
Proper mounting is very important on any modern bike – since the frames are not designed for sidecar use frame damage can occur or undesirable handling characteristics can appear if things are not setup properly.
According to Ken, a Cozy sidecar plus installation would come in around the $5,000 mark – with the Xciting being extra of course. So this then leads us to the question – is it worth it? As a sidecar enthusiast myself, I’d be firmly in the “Yes” camp on that question.
Adding a sidecar extends the riding season, since you don’t have to worry about falling down on icy bits, and adds quite a bit more storage space and passenger carrying ability. Plus after you get used to the unique driving characteristics of a sidecar rig, it’s downright fun in its own way, especially when you learn to “fly the chair” – the sidecar equivalent to a wheelie.
That being said, you do have to keep in mind it will take more work to park, especially since the machine lacks a reverse gear, and you won’t be tucking it into the tiny space behind the dumpster at work when you pull up every day.
This machine would likely suit a 50/50 highway/urban rider best rather than a strictly downtown rider – someone who needs the extra weight and power for at-speed highway cruising but also wants the convenience of a CVT and step-through design.
And as a sidecar, it’s easy to drive, accelerates and tracks quite well, making it a great choice as a no fuss sidecar urban commuter.
So in conclusion – for this report card I’d put the pupil in overachiever territory. It’s reliable, with a good turn of speed and a decent price point – and does enough things well enough that if only having one bike is a requirement the Xciting might just be the machine for you.
|Bike||Kymco Xciting 500 Ri|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder|
|Tank Capacity||12.8 litres|
|Final drive||Automatic CVT|
|Brakes, front||Dual-slotted discs, dual-piston caliper, optional ABS|
|Brakes, rear||Single ventilated disc, dual-piston caliper|
|Seat height||765 mm|
|Wet weight*||n/a (200 kg dry weight)|