Two wheels good, three wheels better?

Straits Times reporter Zaihan Mohamed Yusof heads to Japan for a five-day road trip on the three-wheel Adiva AD3 400 scooter.
The roof and wiper-equipped windscreen make the AD3 the right bike for wet weather.
The roof and wiper-equipped windscreen make the AD3 the right bike for wet weather.PHOTO: ADIVA JAPAN

The Adiva AD3 400 three-wheeler allows you to enjoy bends without fear

My test of the 2017 Adiva AD3 400 scooter here coincided with Typhoon Talim making landfall.

While my riding group was not caught in Talim's crosshairs, we nonetheless experienced the tail-end of the typhoon as it swept northwards towards Hokkaido .

Luckily, the fuel-injected 399cc AD3 - a scooter with two front wheels and one at the rear - was the right bike for the job.

On our first day of riding, it rained heavily for 24 hours. Strong crosswinds, slippery roads, poor visibility and the cold were among our challenges as our convoy of seven Adiva scooters headed south-west from Narita Airport towards Shizuoka prefecture on a 750km loop.

But for the first time in my life, I felt "protected" on a motorcycle. Except for my forearms and feet, my torso and, most importantly, my underwear were spared the damp discomfort, thanks to the AD3's roof and wiper-equipped windscreen.

Under those conditions, I did not envy the handful of Japanese bikers who were braving the elements on two-wheelers. I realised I was wrong in thinking that three-wheeled scooters have no place on roads as they are usually long, heavy and wide.

The AD3 is 2.17m long and 0.66m wide, with a wheelbase of 1.56m. Its close rival, the three-wheeled Piaggio MP3, is slightly longer and wider, but has a wheelbase that is 10mm shorter.

  • SPECS / ADIVA AD3 400

  • Price: $14,000 without COE

    Engine: 399cc 4-valve, single cylinder

    Transmission: Continuously variable transmission, belt-drive

    Power: 36.7bhp at 7,250rpm

    Torque: 38.1Nm at 5,500rpm

    0-100kmh: Unavailable

    Top speed: Unavailable

    Fuel consumption: 4 litres/100km

    Agent: Mah

Except in the city or small towns where manoeuvring the AD3 past traffic became tedious, the scooter, with its continuously variable transmission, was easy to ride. Just twist and go.

I appreciated its generous rear boot space. Inside a compartment below the handlebar was where I stashed sandwiches, two small bottles of warm coffee, plus lithium powerbanks which I connected to a USB port on the dashboard.

As I cruised at between 80 and 120kmh on the expressways, the hot air from the front-mounted radiator warmed my wet ankles and hands via small vents.

Unlike the 200cc AD3, which has a Kymco engine, the 400 has a Peugeot engine, which produces 36.7bhp at 7,250rpm and 38.1Nm of torque at 5,500rpm.

While its horsepower figure is similar to what a 350cc dirtbike makes, the AD3 is set back during acceleration by its relatively high dry weight of 257kg.

When the skies cleared on the third day, I quickly learnt that the extra front wheel was added insurance when it came to attacking double-apex turns on mountain roads.

Although the AD3 has a higher centre of gravity than the Piaggio MP3, I never once worried about losing traction, especially on dry surfaces which allowed the 13-inch Maxxis front tyres to warm up quickly.

Keeping some throttle before leaning into bends ensured I had momentum.

The AD3's "front independent tilting suspension system", which essentially uses a shock laid horizontally instead of vertically like on the MP3's front wheels, handled reasonably well.

While front-and rear-end damping were adequate, only big bumps unsettled the smaller front wheels.

Without a tachometer, it was hard to tell at which point the AD3 started becoming lively. It felt as if the bike pulled strongly between 50 and 80kmh.

On longer rides, taller riders may find the AD3's cockpit a little cramped, with little room to stretch their legs. And I kept knocking my helmet against the retractable roof.

The AD3's dashboard has two analogue clocks - one with a speedometer and the other features an unpredictable fuel gauge and temperature gauge.

To its credit, the AD3, which has an 11-litre underseat fuel tank and good fuel efficiency, covered between 22 and 25km on a litre of fuel.

Sure, it does not possess anti-lock brakes or traction control. But who needs them when you are unlikely to lose your balance on a three-wheeler?

What caught my eye was that the 400 has steel-braided hoses - a good thing - for both front and rear brakes.

Strangely, its single rear brake calliper commands better stopping power than the dual brake callipers upfront.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Two wheels good, three wheels better?'. Print Edition | Subscribe