As the popularity of the Honda Grom has shown, people love small-displacement play bikes. The little funsters always seem to make grown riders act like kids. Maybe it’s the lack of power, tiny dimensions, or the fact you can have so much fun around town with them and never break the speed limit. Before the Grom came around, however, the Sachs MadAss was on the scene. In this week’s Church of MO feature, we travel back to 2010, and the Madass’ introduction. Resident scooter expert, Steve Guzman, fills us in on what makes the MadAss such an appealing motorcycle for those who understand big fun can come in small packages.
Brand new and full of contradiction for 2010 is the Sachs MadAss 125. It’s compact and agile, yet stout and wildly aggressive looking, sort of like a pissed-off badger. Sachs went with a different animal analogy, a wild donkey. They also went with a different adjective, “mad” meaning furious or deranged. That, my friends, is how they came up with this fantastically eyebrow raising name.
Are you sure it’s a motorcycle? Well, you could call it the smallest naked street bike you’ve seen. You could almost hide it in a pack of bicycles chained to a bike rack. You could also call it the largest, manual shifting moped. The MadAss design draws a good bit of inspiration from an early relative, a 1939 moped called the Presto Saxonette. After 70 years of evolution we get a fresh new design that has built quite a feverish following since its inception back in 2004. Here’s why:
The genius of the MadAss lies in its simplicity. Weighing in at a sprightly 220 lbs, this bike would make even the most naked motorcycle blush. No fuel gage, no center stand, no storage compartments, racks or windshield, it’s “motorcycle” distilled to its purest form. Propelled by a 119.7cc, 4-stroke, 4 speed engine the MadAss is capable of reaching 56 mph right out of the box. A bone-stock MadAss is definitely no speed demon, but I found the riding performance to be fine for navigating the cityscape. I’ve been told that a handful of inexpensive bolt-on upgrades could push the upper limit to 75 mph without cracking the engine case.
Of course those sorts of shenanigans would reduce the 85+ mile per gallon fuel efficiency and possibly raise some environmental concerns. Exactly to what degree, you ask? We’ll continue conducting research on this as soon as our kit arrives. If you’re the tuning type, you’ll know that this particular engine design has been around for ages and lends itself to a plethora of bolt-on performance parts.
So, back to the subject of fuel, Sachs continues the “Mad Genius” theme by hiding the 1.3 gallon fuel tank in the bike’s tubular, steel spine frame. When the tank is empty, you get the sputter warning (remember there’s no fuel gauge) which tells you to switch over to the one pint reserve, at which point you’ve got 20 miles to find a gas station. When you finally do pull over and unlock your aircraft styled gas cap to begin refueling you’ll stand a pretty good chance of hearing someone say “Wow! That thing is cool!” or “Whoa, what is that?”. People know fun when they see it.
The MadAss features a light-weight, banana swingarm rear suspension, connecting to a preload adjustable mono shock, connecting to the bike’s frame all in a single, narrow plane. The front suspension is a standard hydraulic fork set up and one of few areas for improvement that I discovered. Hang on to that because I’ll summarize my improvement’s list in just a bit.
The 55w stacked projector beam headlights are straight out of the Streetfighter Bike Builder’s handbook. I prefer a wider field of view and found the low beam lighting to be a bit insufficient for my tastes. This gives me an excuse to begin customizing, I suppose.
The MadAss rides on a nice, sticky set of 16” tubeless tires mounted on alloy rims (yes, I agree, that a gnarly set of knobbies would be beautiful) and stops solidly thanks to an oversized set of front and rear hydraulic discs.
I had not done any long term testing for reliability, but my concerns there were quickly diminished after reading about a recent US coast-to-coast journey from a team calling themselves Dr.MadAss. A three thousand mile journey is pretty impressive and that’s nowhere near the 10,630 MadAss miles ridden by Australian motorcycle courier Nick Healey. It sounds like as long as you’re doing the maintenance, the MadAss will be doing the mileage.
Looking a gift horse in the mouth
Ok, it seems we’ve gushed a bit much in that first segment. Now let’s review the other side of this coin. What could be improved? The only storage on the MadAss is for gasoline. There are a couple of different luggage racks available currently and chances are pretty good that you’ll see lots of new accessories for the MadAss this spring, but you may want to get a good backpack if you need to haul a laptop.
Next on my list is the front suspension. The MadAss really dips during emergency stops and you’ll definitely want to stay away from the front brake if you find yourself having to brake around a turn. I recommend asking your dealer about swapping out the front fork oil for something a bit heavier; luckily a pretty inexpensive fix. If it’s still too soft you could consider upgrading the springs; also not very expensive.
Now on to ride comfort, which has been improved over the original MadAss with a bigger, better padded seat but it’s definitely not meant for touring. If you take a break every hour or so then rider fatigue shouldn’t be an issue.
While performance was satisfactory, I found the MadAss to be cold natured. There were times where I lost my riding group while choking the bike to warm it up. I’m told the issue here is that the carburetor needs a “fatter” pilot jet as well as some adjustments to the air / fuel mixture to fix the issue. I’ll be toying with these inexpensive options first to see if they make a difference.
Lastly, I did notice a couple of minor electrical glitches. The kickstand safety switch only killed the engine intermittently. Sometimes I’d put it down and the engine would stop, other times it just kept on putting. Also, after a few days of rapid up and down shifting, my neutral indicator light switch got stuck in the “on” position. These shouldn’t be issues at all, but they also sound like pretty quick fixes.
Let’s pin a tail on this donkey
Scooterists won’t like that there’s no storage or wind protection, motorcyclists won’t like that it gets more miles per gallon than miles per hour. But if you are new to the world of motorcycles or just need a light and nimble little campus bike, the MadAss fits the bill. The MadAss is also a great option for two-wheel commuters who had considered a scooter back in 2008, but just couldn’t imagine themselves riding one.
Overall I’m pleased with the MadAss. It’s simple to maintain, easy to tune, inexpensive to upgrade and looks great. I personally wouldn’t mind testing this bike as an automatic, not because I’m too lazy to shift, but as a benefit for riders coping with tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Oh, and another advantage to being tiny is that the MadAss is forgiving. Studies show that over 40% of motorcycle accidents involve no other vehicle. The MadAss is less likely to “get away” from you and if it does, you just pick it up, dust it off and keep going.
The 2010 MadAss comes in both a 50 and a 125 with your choice of Bright Silver, Flat Black, Sun Yellow, or Graphite. Look for an MSRP of $2,699 on the MadAss 125 and $1,999 for the MadAss 50.