Cape Town - Once in a long while a motorcycle surprises you by just how far above its weight it punches. In the early 1980s there was the Yamaha RD350 LC, a simple, straightforward two-stroke twin that made most 750 sports bikes look silly.
Ten years later there was the BMW F650 GS, an all-round adventure bike that in most ways did the job better than its R1200 GS sibling. And now there’s the Yamaha Mio, a basic 113cc scooter that does everything way better than you’d expect.
Its fan-cooled, carburettor-fed, two-valve, belt-drive engine delivers just 5.98kW (I’ve seen sound systems with more output!) and 7.53Nm yet it will run a steady 80km/h true speed on the flat and 60 up steep hills, carrying more than its own weight in payload, while depleting our fossil-fuel reserves at only 3.22 litres per 100km.
It accelerates as fast as or (usually) a little faster than the average GTI Joe in his 1.4-litre hatch up to an indicated 80km/h, which is enough to keep you out of trouble in the daily lemming luge, although you have to work hard for anything above that.
I squeezed out a needle’s width less than 100km/h on the clock on a perfectly flat, straight stretch of the M5 at 5am on a cold, utterly windstill morning (folded like a paperclip and hiding behind Colin Edwards’ autograph*) but was disappointed when the GPS revealed its true speed as 87.6km/h, indicating an unacceptable speedometer error of more than 11 percent.
It’s tiny - just 400mm across at its widest point (not counting the handlebars) on a 1240mm wheelbase and tipping the scales at 95kg fuelled up and ready to go – yet it has the roomiest footwell in its class, more than adequate for an overweight 1.8-metre journalist.
But there’s a trade-off for its diminutive size; unlike most of its competitors the storage compartment under the saddle won’t take anything bigger than a packet of sandwiches - proof enough that in the country of its birth (Indonesia) helmets are strictly optional.
The slim saddle is also more suited to Indonesian schoolgirls than aging Westerners but nicely padded and more than adequately comfortable for round-towning.
It runs ridiculously narrow 14” tyres (70mm in front, 80mm at the rear) and turns in like a ferret after a rat, yet it’s reassuringly stable on Cape Town’s notoriously unkempt suburban streets - or flat out on the freeway!
The suspension is a bit bouncy for a rider who weighs more than the bike but adequately damped for inner-city roads in far-eastern countries, although it can be a bit tricky in Sarf Effrica – and it’s a little sensitive to side-winds, which is not altogether surprising.
FOOTBALL-SIZED FUEL TANK
The 130mm drum back brake is stronger than the 172mm single-piston disc front brake, traditional in an industry where all the vehicles have a rearwards weight bias and most riders are self-taught.
Yamaha claims that the football-sized fuel tank (also under the saddle) will hold 4.1 litres but I established by inadvertently running the Mio dry one morning on the way to work that I takes exactly 3.6 - but at 3.22 litres per 100km (even when hanging on the cable most of the time) that still gives a tank range of considerably more than 100km.
The Mio has old-fashioned instruments - just a speedometer and a fuel gauge, both analogue and both wildly optimistic - plus indicator and high-beam repeaters in a very neat triangular pod, which is backlit even when the lights are off. That’s another giveaway of its third-world ancestry: European and US-market scooters are not allowed to have headlight switches.
The only thing I missed was a clock – and that’s more a comment on our Western lifestyle than a criticism of the Yamaha guys in Karawang, West Java, who built the Mio.
They’ve put together a well-made, durable little bike that earned respect after riding it full-time for nearly two weeks. The test bike showed signs of a very hard life but everything was holding together and working perfectly.
At R9500 on the road, that’s hard to fault.
Engine: 113c fan-cooled four-stroke single.
Bore x stroke: 50 x 57.9mm.
Compression ratio: 8.8:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with two overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 5.98kW at 8000rpm.
Torque: 7.53Nm at 6500rpm.
Induction: NCV24 slide carburettor.
Ignition: DC - CDI digital electronic.
Starting: Electric and kick.
Clutch: Automatic centrifugal dry clutch.
Transmission: Constantly variable V-belt transmission.
Front Suspension: 26mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic shock absorber.
Front brakes: 172mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 130mm single-leading shoe drum brake.
Front tyre: 70/90 - 14 tube type.
Rear tyre: 80/90 - 14 tube type.
Seat height: 745mm.
Kerb weight: 95kg.
Fuel tank (measured): 3.6 litres.
Top speed (measured): 87.6km/h.
Fuel consumption (measured): 3.22 litres per 100km
Price: R9500 on the road.
Bike from: Yamaha Distributors.
*This particular Mio was loaned to Grand Prix rider Colin Edwards as paddock transport when he was at Kyalami as an instructor for an advanced riding course and apparently wound up being thrashed around the circuit by some of the world’s fastest riders; afterwards, as a thank-you, Edwards autographed the bike.