Put the Bee Wee 50 on shopping list
Bikes like these are used by Grand Prix riders, says Paul Owen.
Near the bottom of the pecking order on the road, a couple of rungs above pedestrians and cyclists, you’ll find 50cc motor-scooters which are capable of being ridden on a car licence provided that they are limited to a maximum speed of 55kmh.
When the offer of test-riding the new Yamaha Bee Wee 50 came through, I considered it carefully, given that there are obviously many more enjoyable bikes to sample, so of which happen to be other Yamahas.
Would the most affordable bearer of the tuning fork brand put me at risk of life and limb?
Would it require a vigorous paddling along with my feet to get it up a steep hill? Is it utilitarian transport only with little capability of providing riding pleasure? The answer is none of the above. I had a definite, if somewhat perverse, experience of freedom and mobility while riding the little four-stroke 50.
It’s a great way to release one’s self from the tyranny of public transport, and it’s probably a more environmentally friendly option to boot. For most of our public transport systems pay little heed to the emissions they create.
Our diesel bus fleet lags well behind Europe’s in the fitment of pollution-busting gear, and only a percentage of the buses on our roads can claim to achieve even lowly Euro 3 compliance.
As for our electric trains and buses, all they do is transfer their CO2 outputs to coal-fired power stations like the massive one in Huntly.
Then there’s the effect that the use of something like a 50cc scoot, en masse, has on urban traffic flow. It’s been proven that a 10 per cent increase in motorbike use results in a 30 per cent reduction in journey time for all users of urban roads.
That’s an awful lot of fuel saved by the users of four-wheelers to get around our cities, purely because 10 per cent of them have chosen to leave the car at home and ride a motorised bicycle to work.
So even though the current licence rules pertaining to the use of 50cc scooters date back to a time when the moped (remember those?) was a popular commuting option in the 1950s, they have my blessing.
Getting a proper motorcycle licence and speedier bike still remains the better plan to my mind; however for those not wishing to trouble themselves with all that official palaver, the $2999 Bee Wee 50 is a convenient and viable option.
That it looks just like its air-cooled Bee Wee 125 sibling (ie funky and vaguely military) and has fat tyres that appear offroad capable, only increases the fun factor.
The newest and smallest-capacity Bee Wee is Yamaha’s response to incoming new emission rules that will effectively kill off the use of two-stroke engines in new models come 2014.
The new 49cc liquid-cooled three-valve four-cycle single is optimised to minimise fuel use, and by association, CO2 emissions. Yamaha claim fuel use of just 1.8 litres per 100km (155mpg), and my time with the BW50F would appear to bear this out.
For the needle of the fuel gauge never budged from ‘‘F’’ during my afternoon ride of the BW, despite my operating it at full throttle for most of that time.
The WFO riding style resulted in an indicated speed of 70kmh in 80kmh speed zones, and a perfectly-legal 50kmh when ascending steep city streets.
It’s worth mentioning that this Bee Wee Five-Oh had the restrictive washer removed from the CVT transmission which would normally limit the bike to 55kmh to comply with the moped rules that allow it to be operated with a car licence.
Given that a faster bike is normally a safer bike, I’d be sorely tempted to remove this washer before passing the first easy step towards acquiring a motorcycle licence.
The Bee Wee’s suspension is basic but adequate for the modest speeds the bike can achieve.
Meanwhile the brakes are just what The Doctor ordered (I can definitely see Signor Rossi using one of these to get around the MotoGP pits now that he’s back with Yamaha); the front disc has strong stopping power that is easily managed, and the rear drum plays a commendable supporting role. Naturally, a bike this minimal is a doddle to chuck around and manoeuvre in and out of parking spaces.
Like the 125 version, the Bee Wee 50 has a comfy seat and legible, wellpositioned mirrors.
Unlike the 125, there’s room under the seat for a full-face helmet.
Seems scoots with smaller engines have other advantages than just their stupendous economy with fuel.
While I’d personally encourage anyone to spend another $1300 on the 125 and get a proper licence to operate it, the Bee Wee 50 will be more than enough for anyone doing just short hops on urban streets.
It is also the most environmentallyfriendly petrol-propelled vehicle on the NZ market at present, and should be on the shopping lists of all who claim to actually give a damn.
Are you reading this, Doctor Norman?
Yamaha Bee Wee 50.