Remember the buzz generated by the Piaggio MP3? We saw all sorts of fuzzy pictures and spy photos before it was launched followed by lots of press coverage when it finally made it to the dealers. It was quite a machine, with 2 wheels up front in the now common reverse trike configuration but it also had something trikes usually lack, the ability to tilt, and videos of the MP3 proved it could traverse bumpy roads and gravel strewn corners with sure footed ease.
It took very little time to see lots of home grown variations, the mechanically inclined were attaching tilting front ends to all sorts of motorcycles and some of them worked very well. The idea seemed sound, the Piaggio looked good, … so what happened?
Did the concept come out at the wrong time? The economic downturn hit the motorcycle world pretty hard and companies have been having a tough time just keeping things going, let alone, introduce a new model, especially if it had a radical design change from what people were used to, so I think that played a big part. On the other hand, did the concept of tilting 3 wheelers fill a need or desire on the part of potential buyers strong enough to support continued development?
Personally, I think it’s a little of both. We haven’t seen a lot of all new models for several years, sure companies are still rolling out new bikes, but the pace has slowed. When the economy picks up a little speed, new model introductions will pick up, too. Then, as cool as the tilting 3 wheelers are, who is the target market? Older bikers who might buy a trike for the stability are probably not the same buyers who would look at a tilting trike. The young racer types don’t see 3 wheelers on the track and the cruiser guys don’t see them anywhere in the image they’re looking for, which may leave the scooter crowd where the concept made it to production in the first place. Then again, as we’ve noted before, the motorcycle world, for all of the rebel image it tries to convey, is a pretty conservative bunch when it comes to big changes. No one wants to be the first guy, unlike what happens in the high tech world where everyone shows off their latest gadget.
As I mentioned a long time back, seeing some tilting 3 wheel customs or sport bikes might be interesting enough to gain some traction for the idea but I’m not sure we’re going to see them. I guess we’ll have to wait for the economy to recover to see if that is the holdup or whether it’s a niche that now has all of the tilting trikes it needs. What do you think? Me? Forget the tilt, I want a Morgan.