RECALL CLICK HERE to read about the shifter recall for the Kymco K-Pipe.
Hmmmm, bit of an old looking “scooter” wouldn’t you say? It appears to me more like one of those motorcycle-things. I thought the same thing until I saw the factory owner’s manual from Kymco which clearly identifies the K-Pipe 125 as a scooter so it’s perfectly acceptable for me to review it here on JustGottaScoot.com. Yeah, that’s a stretch. I decided to review the Kymco K-Pipe 125 because it fits in the scooter rider continuum for many people. Many people who ride scooters aren’t familiar with manual clutch operation on a motorcycle and don’t especially want to be. Some scooter riders like to keep things small and a lot of motorcycles are big and top-heavy. There are certainly scooter riders who would like to add a motorcycle to their stable, but just want something for urban use and don’t have need for engine displacements beyond 150cc – 250cc.
I picked up the K-Pipe from Bob at Scooterville in Minneapolis and headed right down to Shell station at Franklin and Riverside to top off the tank with non-oxygenated fuel and begin my fuel economy tests.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
With a GPS unit installed and a full tank of fuel I started testing. The digital speedometer reads about 10% optimistic. That is to say when the speedometer indicates 33 MPH, the scooter is actually going 30 MPH. This is right in the normal range as very nearly all the scooters (and small motorcycles) we test are optimistic. The odometer was also 10% optimistic, indicating 11.9 miles over a GPS verified 11 mile ride. Top speed was about 50 MPH. The bike was new and not broken in AND the poor thing was carrying a 220 pound load (me), so MAYBE a top speed of 60 MPH (after break in) with a smaller rider would be achievable. Fuel economy was a very good 84 MPG. That’s with me riding the bike and NOT being especially gentle. I consider that to be excellent fuel economy and would likely get even better with time.
I’m sure a lot of you reading this have 125cc scooters that get better fuel economy. My wife’s Buddy 125 saw as much as 95 MPG. I think that after break-in with a 120 – 150 pound rider who is riding (ahem) gently, that similar fuel economy would be possible from the K-Pipe. It would also depend on your riding needs. Remember, unlike an automobile, a scooter or motorcycle will see its best fuel economy in urban riding and NOT at highway riding with the continuous higher speeds. I have owned several small displacement motorcycles over the years (admittedly, most were 200cc to 250cc) and often the best fuel economy I saw was in the 70MPG range. The 84 MPG I got during this test impresses me.
The Kymco K-Pipe 125 is a narrow, light-weight motorcycle that operates like pretty much every other modern motorcycle with one important difference – the gear changing manual of operation. If you’ve ridden a Honda Cub, Super Cub, Passport, SYM Symba or Fly Scout you’ll already be a step ahead on this. Those machines featured a form of centrifugal automatic clutch with a heel/toe rotary shifter. They had no left-hand clutch lever. The K-Pipe DOES have a left-hand clutch lever though it’s not absolutely mandatory that you utilize it for lower gears and short-shifting. The heel/toe shifter on the K-Pipe isn’t completely rotary (I’m pretty sure DOT has banned true rotary shifting), but it is easy to operate. Press down with your toe to upshift, press down with your heel to downshift or go into the neutral or “0” position. Not used to dealing with a clutch, especially on starts and stops? No problem, just don’t use it. That’s right, with the engine running and the geartrain in neutral, just press down with your toe. First gear will engage with a mild click and nothing more will happen. No lurching or stalling. With the bike in first, gently twist the throttle and off you’ll go. Step down again with your toe and second gear will engage. I was able to upshift and downshift without utilizing the manual clutch for 1st, 2nd and 3rd as long as I shifted at fairly low RPMs. I needed the manual clutch for 3rd to 4th shifting. I think this system would work quite well for those new to a conventional manual motorcycle. You know, like people who had only ridden CVT automatic scooters and such. Personally, I skipped the manual clutch when starting out from stops and utilized the clutch for everything else.
Aside from the aforementioned shifting, the K-Pipe’s controls are very similar to other scooters and small motorcycles. The dash display is digital and can display metric or imperial info. It was easy to see in everything but direct sunlight at a certain angle. The K-Pipe is carbureted with a choke control on the left-hand controls. It’s a bit cold-blooded but warms up quickly and required no utilization of the choke after the first start of the day. In addition to the conventional electric start, there is a kick-starter that was fairly easy to utilize.
Wheels are 17 inches front and rear. The front brake is a twin-pistol caliper disc while a drum brings up the rear. The fork front and monoshock rear suspension work well. The fuel tank holds just over one gallon and there is no “scooteresque” native storage on the K-Pipe. For comparison, I selected the Honda Grom and SYM Wolf. The Wolf is my current favourite small motorcycle. As similar as some of the specifications are across these three motorcycles, one area that stands out is pricing. The K-Pipe is $1,000 LESS THAN its nearest competitor. The one element that appears to be sacrificed in the name of price is engine power output – the K-Pipe is the lowest of the three. Looking at pounds per horsepower, The K-Pipe and the Grom are close at 28 and 25.4 pounds per horsepower respectively and the Wolf sits at 17.6.
I have ridden all three machines, the Wolf extensively, and can say with confidence that the K-Pipe seems to be the outstanding value in the pack.
Looking at the specifications of the Kymco K-Pipe I expected it to feel “taller” than it does. The seat is 31 inches from the ground, but it’s narrow (the seat and the bike) and light, so a touch of lean to be flat-footed didn’t feel bad at all. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of hundred pounds of compression (notice I didn’t say fat?) to lower the suspension and seat height. In any event, the “tall” seat of the K-Pipe didn’t bother me at all. I quite like the heel/toe and clutch lever optional shifting. I’ve ridden a LOT of Honda Cubs and clones, so it’s a brief reacquaintance rather than a learning curve for me. The riding position is a touch forward and a bit folded under. The seat, though narrow and thin, was not uncomfortable for me. I suspect someone with longer legs might find it rather cramped. T
Starting was easy with minimal-to-no choke required. It takes just a moment for the K-Pipe to warm up. You may experience a stall at the first stop sign, but it will start right back up and likely be idling smoothly by the second stop sign. As mentioned earlier, the shifting scheme makes taking off from a stop effortless. I found myself rarely utilizing the clutch lever on take-off, but DID clutch on subsequent shifts. Acceleration was adequate, maybe not quite as good as a comparable 125cc CVT scooter, but keeping up with city traffic was never a concern. Handling was good, better than a stock Honda Grom and the capabilities of the chassis exceed the engine capabilities. The front disc brake was strong enough and easy to modulate. The drum rear was adequate and did show just a bit of fade after repeated use.
The seating position and riding ergonomics were good…. for me. I suspect a taller person would feel rather folded up. There’s not a lot of leg room once one’s feet are on the pegs and the narrow seat a slight forward pitch. The handlebar and hand controls were just the right height and width with mirrors that gave decent rearward visibility. I did a mix of city commuting and parkway cruising during this review and the only time the “scooter snob” in me came out was when I had stuff to haul. The lack of native storage only really bothered me once – I had my man-purse over my shoulder and had to bungee and electronic toolbox to the passenger seat. The toolbox didn’t seem all that secure and I felt it shift a bit while riding. In fairness, it made the journey with no issues. That’s pretty much my only complaint and the same “issue” would be true of most any motorcycle with no luggage added on.
Lighting was decent and everything worked as expected on the K-Pipe. The digital dash was easy to see in all conditions except direct sunlight that hit at just the right (wrong) angle. I had a few other riders try out the K-Pipe and they all liked the machine. The motorcyclists got a kick out of the shifter set-up and scooterists were thrilled to not have to clutch from a stop.
Fit & Finish
Kymco has a good reputation for building (mostly) quality machines. The only really questionable thing about Kymco products in the USA is the relative lack of marketing and often odd English language naming. “Bet & Win”? Really??? Even “K-Pipe” doesn’t do anything for me. I’m sure that the odd names must have something to do with the low sales numbers of some Kymco models. The Bet & Win was an awesome scooter, easily the equal of the Honda Elite, yet it never saw much success in this market.
Kymco has obviously put some effort into the K-Pipe. Rather than utilize an existing frame, they made the “spinal column” frame specifically for the K-Pipe. I don’t think the $1,999 MSRP would be possible if the K-Pipe were manufactured in Taiwan, but Kymco has a demonstrated ability to manufacture in mainland China while maintaining good quality control. I would say that the component and build quality seems very good for a machine in this price range, but its actually pretty good for a machine in ANY price range. I expect that time will validate my opinion on the high quality of the K-Pipe. Welds look good, fit of components is good, operation of controls feels good, everything about the K-Pipe speaks to higher quality than one would expect from the price.
Despite what Kymco says on the cover of the owner’s manual, the K-Pipe 125 is not a scooter. It’s a small displacement light weight motorcycle that is easy and fun to ride. The K-Pipe is an outstanding value and it would be a great way to introduce a new rider to motorcycles. It’s also a wonderful choice for an experienced rider looking for a good city machine.
Once again, a big THANK YOU to Bob Hedstom and Scooterville for facilitating this review.
The NTSB has issued a recall on certain Kymco K-Pipe 125 motorcycles to change the shift order. Apparently, the “press toe down” to upshift and “press heel down” to downshift is too complicated and different for us poor, dim North Americans to comprehend, to say nothing of dealing with. As such, Mommy – I mean the federal government – is going to protect us poor unwashed masses by forcing Kymco to change the shift set-up on the K-Pipe. CLICK HERE to read about the recall. Aren’t you glad that millions and millions of Honda Cub riders around the world are so much smarter and more capable than we poor dim North Americans? Isn’t it great that Mommy is going to take care of this for us?