The Sachs MadAss was designed in Germany and built in China. But I'll be perfectly honest: when I discovered the made-in-China connection, a certain past experience dampened my enthusiasm— despite the fact that Sachs has been in business over 100 years. Regardless, I decided to give the bike a chance by arranging a test ride through my local distributor, Big Ass Motors in Northridge.
Swing a Leg Over: Tall for a Scooter, but Roomier Than You'd Think
It's easy to get acquainted with the MadAss 125; the key goes into the left side of the headlight assembly, the carbureted single-cylinder 124cc engine fires up immediately, and a pull of the clutch lever and a click down into first gear gets the bike going— hey, wait a second, this thing's got a manual gearbox? Though that feature might alienate many traditional scooter fans, it does hold appeal for a whole different subset of riders, a point which could (and should) actually work to the MadAss's benefit.
To straddle a MadAss 125, you've got to climb aboard a saddle that's 33.7 inches tall. That's quite high off the ground, especially for a scooter. But the upsides of the tall perch are comfortable ergonomics that are almost chair-like, and more leg extension than you'll encounter on almost any two-wheeler, especially those within the scooter genre. Look closely and you might notice some sloppy welds and a couple of cheap looking details like the plastic switchgear. But there are also a few unusual elements like the digital instrumentation and stainless steel underseat exhaust.
On the Road: "Uh, Oh" Followed by a "Duh!", Then a "Weeee!"
I embarked on my test ride with a bit of (aforementioned) skepticism, so it was a big bummer when—about 10 minutes into the ride—the engine sputtered and the bike slowed to a crawl, eventually coming to a complete stop. After sending out a distress signal to the dealership (one of several reasons why I always carry a cell phone when I ride!), an employee came out and inspected the bike. His diagnosis? I was out of gas. Whew! After a flip of the petcock, I had another 20 miles worth of fuel flowing from the reserve tank. And though no official fuel economy figure has been released, numbers between 80 mpg and 90 mpg are being reported for the MadAss.
After a quick refuel, the MadAss proved to be a pleasure to ride through the hilly reaches of the San Fernando Valley. Though it doesn’t produce outrageous thrust, the engine is strong enough for most stoplight scenarios, and I'm told there are numerous aftermarket engine tweaks available, including a turbo kit.
At full throttle in fourth gear, I achieved an indicated 55 mph on level ground, and around 59 mph on downhill stretches. Handling feels nimble, though the relaxed leg position puts the pegs somewhat close to pavement during hard leans, necessitating an inward foot posture to ensure there's no toe-to-asphalt contact in turns. Brakes are powerful, and the presence of a rear disc is a welcome departure from the drum brakes found on a majority of scooters in the same class. Shift action is a bit notchy, but I suspect there's room for loosening up once a few more miles have been logged.
The Bottom Line: A Bona Fide Outsider Bargain That Deserves a Chance
At the end of the day, is the $2,699 Sachs MadAss 125 worth your hard-earned dough? For the sake of comparison, Yamaha's Zuma 125 will run you $3,190; Honda's 108cc Elite is priced at $2,999, and Vespa's S 150 takes a $4,199 chunk out of your savings account. Considering that many scooters from major brands like Honda and Vespa are manufactured in emerging markets like China and Thailand, cross-shopping the Sachs MadAss 125 against the big boys doesn't seem like such an outrageous notion after all… and in fact, choosing this steel-framed scooter just might be a brilliant way to break from the crowd.
Though my time in the saddle of the Sachs MadAss was limited, I felt the ride revealed as much about my preconceived notions about Chinese-built products as it did the MadAss's positive attributes-- even if they're as yet unproven stateside.
I hope this unusual ride earns itself a slice of the U.S. market and develops a positive reputation for reliability, if only to offer a stylish and functional alternative to the usual scooter suspects.