Minis in Spades

The engines and frames are small but the fun is big on the mini-motorcycles making a comeback on the American scene. The latest from Kymco throws in a retro look that offers a styling nostalgia for when motorcycling was first becoming culturally popular.

by Ramblin' Kinda Guy

Back before I was a teenager, in the days of steam-powered TV, Volkswagen led the world in advertising genius. In fact, many advertising pros today consider the VW agency work from a half-century ago to be foundational to a lot of modern salesmanship. One of the most famous showed a man driving the VW Beetle (“Bug”) through the snow to get to his job as the driver of a snowplow. The narrator asks if you “ever wondered what the man who drives the snow plow drives to the snow plow?” Another ad, for several years, ended with the Beetle price tag on screen at $1995 with the narrative intoning, “Still the only new car in America under two thousand dollars.”

You can’t even get a new motorcycle for that in 2017, or a decent used one. But now there is something on the market for under $3000, and we confess to being intrigued. Although it only beat the $3000 mark by a buck with a $2999 price tag, the Kymco Spade is an interesting single cylinder retro mini. The tires look fit for the backend of muscled-up street cruiser but they are only 12-inches tall with a seat that is 28-inches above the point where the rubber meets the road. The 1500cc engine was designed to put the Spade in the same category as the Kawasaki Z125 and the Honda Grom.

Kymco’s spec sheet claims only 12.5 horsepower at 7000 rpm but that puts it above the 8.3 and 8.7 of the Kawasaki. But the major difference in the three minis is style. The Spade has a lot of the Triumph throwback look to when motorcycling as a past time was nascent on American roads while the other two Japanese minis seem designed to be slick street demons that race between millennial tech jobs and dance clubs. Most testers indicate the Spade strains to get beyond 60 mph with an average-sized adult male onboard.

But there will be a market for these minis. They are likely to help millennials gain an interest in motorcycling until they graduate to larger engine displacements and the rush of the endless open road. Might make a nice second bike, too, for commutes, errands, or just a quick run out to get the wind on you.

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