Gilera are well known for building sporty ground breaking scooters, the original two stroke Gilera Runner 180 paved the way for the automatic scooter boom of the late 1990’s, then the flagship Gilera Nexus 500 set new standards, they also broke the mould with their GP800 but let’s not forget about the Gilera Fuoco 500, an aggressive looking three wheeled machine if ever we saw one.
The Fuoco is the twisted offspring of the excellent Piaggio MP3. Take the three wheeled technology from the proven MP3 and build an aggressive looking urban vehicle around a 40hp Piaggio engine and you end up with the Fuoco 500. If looks could kill this scooter would be deadly, it’s a fantastic, Mad Max style creation for modern road warriors.
There’s no mistaking that the Fuoco is a great looking scooter, from the front it has the appearance of an SUV, with black bull bars protecting the aggressively styled fairing and radiator. The rear end may not be quite as radical as the front but it has a pair of neat tail lights and a spacious luggage area behind the dual seat. The underseat storage area isn’t quite as big as on some scooters but it’s still a useful space to stow your weapons…erm, I mean the shopping. You also get a nice digital screen on the instrument panel, which shows everything from temperature and fuel level to trip distance and time. There is also a separate speedo and rev counter, as well as a host of warning lamps, including the all important amber tilt lock light, which lets you know when the tilting body is locked.
The art of riding with your feet up is a bit strange to begin with but after a few minutes you learn to trust the locking mechanism and with a push of a button you can coast to a standstill without touching the floor. Twist the throttle again and it releases automatically and you’re away, wicked. Beware though because if you let the scooter tilt fully at a standstill its weight will tip it over. The Fuoco utilises the 492cc twin spark Piaggio Master engine but the unusual front end means the Fuoco is quite a weighty beast and at 244kg it’s not surprising that it takes a few seconds for the scooter to get into its stride from a standing start. Saying that though it’s not a slow scooter and once you hit the midrange there’s plenty of fun to be had, it’ll do a top speed of around 90mph.
In traffic the Fuoco will filter as well as any large scooter and is easy to handle once you get used to locking the body. Just like the Piaggio MP3, the Fuoco is an exceptional bit of kit and you can lean it as far and as hard as you dare. After trying as hard as possible to part company with the machine whilst doing multiple tight circuits on a gravel covered car park (try doing that on a conventional scooter) I gave it up as a bad job and tried to upset the scooter by performing massive skids from about 45 mph. Using only the rear brake, it was possible to leave a huge dark line on the tarmac and steer the scooter wherever you want it to go, perfect for real emergency stops. Use the twin front brakes and the rear together in anger and you can stop it faster than almost any other scooter on the road, superb and great fun!
The thing about the parallelogram front suspension and extra wheel is that it’s more than just a gimmick, it may look different (which will attract some buyers for novelty alone) but it also works. As a safety aid it is a great addition but it’s not the kind of safety device that hinders your enjoyment, think of it as an extra ten miles per hour around your favourite bend and you’ll start to realise why it makes sense. If anything the extra traction provided by the third wheel adds a little bit of excitement to what can sometimes be ‘just another ride.’
Since it’s launch in Berlin in 2007 the Fuoco has gathered fans around the world but the model (along with most of the Gilera range) was phased out in the UK. Parent company Piaggio have chosen to concentrate on the MP3 and Yourban range instead. There are still quite a few used models about though and you can pick a 2008 model up from as little as £2600, which is quite a lot of scooter for the money. Have a good look around a used Fuoco though, that front end will be expensive if it goes wrong. The Fuoco can only be ridden on a full bike licence, although some dealers/owners have modified the front end to make it meet (albeit loosely) the requirements of a trike. If you’ve not got a full bike licence but can drive a car you’re better off looking at an MP3/Yourban LT, which does meet the law, although we’d still advise you to take some form of bike training for your own safety.