Derbi GPR 50R

Tempest in a teacup

Derbi GPR 50R on-road action
Spain's Derbi (it stands for DERivative of BIcycles) has a rich racing history that includes numerous 50cc roadracing World Championships. Here, CW ad man Andy Leisner, former 250 GP pilot and all of 5-foot-7, 140 pounds, assumes the speed-tuck position.Jeff Allen

The downside of riding this GPR 50R is that I was acting like a freak and looking like a Shriner. The upside is that I was having so much fun I didn’t care. The pair of little 245-pound two-strokes sent to us by importers Cosmopolitan Motors brought out the unlicensed 15-year-old in me. “Cool transpo’, dude!”

In some states, they'd be considered mopeds, yet these were more like mini sportbikes. Light, simple, yet really trick little pocket-rockets with features you just wouldn't expect from a $2950 "moped." Such as: twin-spar steel frame; Showa inverted fork; rising-rate-linked Showa monoshock; front and rear disc brakes with braided-steel lines; full fairing; oil-injection; electric start; and six-speed transmission. Except that, as 50cc two-strokes, they were likely to be slower than a Sports Editor on deadline. Still, I found them irresistible, and glommed onto one forthwith.

The first surprise was that I fit—this is no Yamaha YSR50, but a nearly full-sized bike (seat height is 30.3 inches). The second surprise was that I didn't completely sack the suspension when I got on. Cool.

Couldn’t wait to hit the road. I pictured myself getting into some nice drags with immigrants riding trashed Huffy 10-speeds to work, or going head-to-head with some road-bike-riding, shaved-leg Lance Armstrong-wannabe. Turns out it was no contest. Rev to 8000 on the big front-and-center tach, and fan, fan, fan the clutch as you twist the life out of the Toys-R-Us-like right handgrip. Ha! Smoked ’em. In more ways than one…

So while the little-moped-that-could probably has less bottom-end torque than the starter motor on my dad’s old Lincoln, it turns out once you get this baby rolling, you’re really rolling. I went on the prowl for bigger fish. The ’68 Microbus with the Dead Head at the wheel? Cake. Sure, my reaction time was better, but I still pulled away once we got moving. In fact, you can beat normal traffic off the line—as long as it doesn’t want to beat you. Want a better 60-foot time? Put down the cheese puffs!

Derbi GPR 50R static side view
Looks like a Cagiva Mito 50, you say? You don’t say? Trust us, it does. Derbi makes the Mito for Cagiva in Spain. Same bike, different labels.Jeff Allen

Slicing through traffic was unbelievably easy due to the small size and mega-quick steering, thanks in part to its diminutive 51.7-inch wheelbase. The freeway was even do-able as long as you got the right drafting partner (SUVs work best). With a tow, I pinned the 120-kph (clicks only) speedo at the 11,000-rpm redline in sixth gear—that’s like 75 mph. Flat ground, no draft got 60-65 mph (and 62 mpg, no less).

Wow! This was a 50? Well, no. The fastest 50 I'd ever ridden actually displaced 75cc. Cosmo (800/523-2522) sells a "kitted" big-bore GPR for the same price as the standard bike, and sent us one of each. The dyno proved the benefit of 50 percent more displacement. Stock—after we removed the restrictor hidden in the headpipe—delivered 5.6 horsepower and 3.9 foot-pounds of torque at 7500 rpm. The 75, meanwhile, cranked out 9.3 horses and 6.4 ft.-lbs.

Obliged to ride the stocker, I found it was about what I expected in the first place: slow. Admittedly, at a sasquatch-like 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, I'm not exactly the target demographic. The 75, however, was actually a usable and very fun motorcycle. The under-tank, lockable storage area (1.9 gallons of fuel is carried under the passenger pad) can hold, for instance, a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs. A 12-pack fits, no problemo.

While it may be great for blasting down to the market for supplies, the real fun is on a twisty road, the tighter the better. I’ve never ridden anything that turns this quickly and easily. Damping is pretty rudimentary and suspension is prone to bottoming with Yor Tankness aboard, but stability never suffered, just occasionally my spine. Momentum and corner speed ruled the day, and you can really flick this thing in and lean with confidence. The brakes work well, but who needs ’em?

The only fly in the two-stroke ointment is the fact that the bikes have yet to be DOT-certified. A Cosmo rep said the most likely route to a license plate would be to follow the same “kit-bike” channels you would with a dual-sport conversion. Which essentially means, best of luck to you.

In the end, you could cough up more than 10 large for a Suzuki Hayabusa, but that'd just be an excuse to keep eating. What you need is a kitted Derbi, an Alex Criville-replica helmet and a case of Slim Fast. That wicked-sounding leaf blower you hear behind you on Racer Road? That's me. Gimme a tow, would you?