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MAXI SCOOTERS

The RiDE

Maxi Scooter Test 2012 BMW’s pricey newcomer is the bike that could give maxi scooters the mainstream acceptance they’ve never had in the UK. But is it really any better than its established rivals? Words Stuart Barker Pictures Simon Hipperson

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ULTIMATE TOURERS

In the city all that underseat storage space comes into its own

Wide seats mean shorter riders may struggle to get their feet on the floor

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AXI SCOOTERS supposedly offer certain advantages over normal geared motorcycles. They’re easier to ride thanks to their twistand-go automatic gearboxes, they offer enough luggage space to leave your riding kit and helmet behind and, in some cases, they have lavish kit like heated seats and grips. But do they offer enough of an advantage to tempt motorcyclists away from their ‘real’ bikes? We took four leading models – Yamaha’s T-Max, Suzuki’s 650 Burgman ABS Executive, Honda’s demi-scooter Integra, and BMW’s C600 Sport – on a commute to Cambridge to find out. There’s no need to take time to get the feel of a maxi scooter: you really do just sit |

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T-Max engine is punchy enough to make the most of any gaps in the traffic

on them, twist the grip, and go. For marketing departments, that’s a strong point, but for me, as a bike rider, it’s a negative. I like changing gears. I like slipping the clutch, I like to use engine braking, and I like the fact that, on a motorcycle, I have to use both my hands and both my feet, not to mention body position, all the time to work in harmony with my machine and get the best out of it. I realise this within a few miles of the office as I sit on a dual carriageway with only my right hand actually doing anything. Granted, I’m enjoying the luxury of the Burgman 650 ABS Executive’s heated seat and grips on this cold autumnal morning, and the electronically adjustable screen is a further blessing, but I find myself getting bored very quickly. The Burgman does allow you to change gears manually by way of two buttons (one for

changing up, one for changing down) mounted on the left-hand bar but, after playing with this for a while, I switch back to automatic as the pushbutton system just seems a bit unnatural and unhelpful. The Burgman is top heavy and it’s no surprise with all the additional motors and associated weight that things like electrically operated mirrors must add. Handy for very tight filtering or parking maybe, but are they really necessary? You could fold them in just as easily yourself. The ride is smooth on the dual carriageway and if your commute takes in any such stretches then you’re going to want something like the Burgman, with all its inherent luxuries (including a DC socket for a sat nav system) to do the job. It’s more than happy cruising at motorway speeds and overtaking all but the fastest moving cars is a breeze, but it’s a bit big and heavy

All the scooters on test excelled in Cambridge’s busy city-centre streets

for round town and, as soon as you hit twisty A or B roads, you’ll notice that all weight (277 kilos) combined with the small 14 and 15-inch wheels makes for some fairly interesting and wallowing cornering. These problems are compounded with the extra weight of a pillion and, while your pillion will be comfy enough once in place, actually getting onto the pillion seat is not so easy, as the backrest gets in the way. Storage space is a strong point of the Suzuki. There are glove compartments in the dash that can hold a bottle of water, your wallet, or even just a rag to clean the screen, and underseat storage is impressive too (56 litres capacity), with easily enough room to fit two full-face helmets. Further exploration reveals some nice (if not unique) extra touches like a light under the rear seat – just like in a car boot – which is useful at night, and even the

There’s no need to take time to get the feel of a maxi scooter, you really do just sit on them and twist the grip rider’s backrest is adjustable so you can have more or less lumbar support as you ride. And if you find the 750mm seat height a bit too low, it can be raised by 5mm. ABS comes as standard too. Stepping onto BMW’s C600 Sport, the leap in performance over the Burgman is startling (although the 2013 Burgman may prove to be a little sprightlier). The 60bhp parallel twin is a joy to ride and it feels much more like a motorcycle in the way it handles. It’s helped by the fact that there’s

not as much weight to lug around and also because it’s just a more modern, sharper design all round. But, be warned, it’s not cheap. This is the Highline edition which includes heated grips and seat, daytime running lights, white LED indicators, and tyre pressure control, all of which adds another £850 onto the standard asking price of £9494, taking the total cost to £10,345. For a scooter. To put that into context, a brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 costs £10,999. And it doesn’t stop there – BMW also offer a C650 GT version which costs even more (see panel over the page). But if you’re happy to fork out 10 grand for a scooter, there’s a lot to like about the C600 Sport. It has ABS as standard and an ingenious storage system which makes use of the usually redundant space between the top of the rear wheel and the rear seat JANUARY 2013

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unit. When you open the seat, there’s a pushdown compartment big enough to take a full-face helmet. This obviously needs to be retracted before you ride off again but it’s a great use of space and works well. What doesn’t work so well is the manually adjustable screen which feels too agricultural for a 10 grand machine. Bonus points to the Burgman. Styling-wise, the BMW looks so much more contemporary than the Burgman too, aided by a single-sided swingarm, a cool matt-finish paint job, and sharp, angular features. Overall, the bike impressed road tester Matt Hull. “It’s really, really good,” he grins, stepping off it. “Nice suspension, instant throttle – even though it’s an automated box – loads of power. It’s great fun and the closest thing to a motorbike out of all four. The manually operated screen is massively overcomplicated though and that kind of lets the BMW down, especially since the Burgman has an electrically adjustable screen and doesn’t cost anywhere near as much.” There’s no denying that this is a greatperforming and high-spec scooter (screen aside) but you can’t help feeling that it’s still only a scooter and should be priced accordingly. Urban mobility for the

masses? More like the select few. Jumping onto the Honda Integra – mechanically very similar to the more motorcycle-like NC700S and X – the lack of creature comforts is immediately apparent. There’s no adjustable screen, no heated grips, no heated seat. To be fair, this is reflected in the price – at £7600 it’s £2745 cheaper than the BMW which does feature all of the above, but then, so does the Burgman and it only costs £575 more than the Honda. But the real downside of the Integra is that it doesn’t even have enough storage space for a full-face helmet. Surely this negates the one huge advantage that maxi

We all agree that we’re not confident cornering in an upright riding position scooters usually have over normal bikes – the ability to be able to store your kit in them while you go about your business. This is a serious oversight on the Honda and earned it a big thumbs-down. On a more positive note, the Integra is smaller, lighter, and less bulky than the

ON-THE-ROAD PRICE £10,345 (£9495 for standard version) ENGINE 647cc parallel twin, l/c POWER 60bhp TORQUE 48ft TRANSMISSION CVT, chain TYRES 120/70-15; 160/60-15 KERB WEIGHT 249kg SEAT HEIGHT 810mm FUEL TANK 16 litres 1 Storage unit under seat can be expanded at a standstill 2 Unlike Burgman, screen needs adjusting manually 3 Dash echoes BMW’s bike range 4 Heated seat comes as standard 5 Cubbyholes are a decent size but lock is suspect

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Yamaha T-Max

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SPECIF ICATI O N S ON-THE-ROAD PRICE £8699 ENGINE 530cc parallel twin, l/c POWER 46.5bhp TORQUE 39.2 ft TRANSMISSION CVT, belt TYRES 120/70-15; 160/60-15 KERB WEIGHT 217kg SEAT HEIGHT 800mm FUEL TANK 15 litres 1 Storage space is big enough to be practical 2 Parking brake is handy3 As is the storage drawer4 Clocks are easy to read 5 Backstop can cramp the rider

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BMW C600 SPORT

Burgman and the Yamaha T-Max, so it’s better for nipping in and out of tight spaces around town and makes short work of the frenzied cycle traffic in Cambridge. It also has ABS brakes as standard. Ben Lindley certainly preferred the Honda for town work. “The Burgman is a bit of a barge,” he says. “It’s long and very flabby to throw around. It’s really comfortable but I prefer the Integra for riding round town. The riding position feels a bit higher and the screen doesn’t seem to obscure my vision which I found was a bit of an issue on the Burgman, even on its lowest setting. The Suzuki’s screen somehow just made me feel removed from the action. The Integra screen is not adjustable but it really did a good job for me. I’m not sure I could tell much difference between the Drive and Sport modes on the Honda but I do think it looks very distinctive. The modes that Lindley refers to are threefold: Drive, Sport and Manual. Both the Drive and Sport modes are fully automatic but, as Lindley says, it’s hard to feel any increase in performance like you’re supposed to when engaging the Sport mode. The Manual mode allows you to control the gears via two paddles on the left-hand bar (one for changing up, one for

SPE CI FI CATI ON S

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changing down) but, while it does give you something to play with on longer rides, it’s quite fiddly and awkward to use and I soon find myself switching back to automatic. Even in auto mode, there’s a distinct snatchy feeling from the box as it shifts gears. It doesn’t massively detract from the ride but it is noticeable. The larger 17-inch wheels on the Integra (the other scooters have either 14-inch or 15-inch wheels) do help to make it feel more like a motorcycle in terms of handling and there’s no doubt you can actually have some fun throwing it around twistier back roads, but the lack of storage space really detracts from its plus points. Like all the scooters on test, the Integra has a parking brake to prevent it rolling off the sidestand on sloped parking areas. The Yamaha T-Max is second only to the

The larger 17in wheels on the Integra help it feel more like a motorcycle

BMW in terms of performance thanks to a 30cc and 3bhp power hike on the 2012 model, but hustling it along back roads between Cambridge and Peterborough on the world’s best selling maxi scooter highlights another issue associated with these machines: riding position. As motorcycle riders, all four of us agree that we’re not as confident cornering in an upright seating position with feet forward – or at least, neutral – on the footboards. The boards may be comfortable on motorways and even allow you to stretch your legs and shift position on long rides, but when it comes to cornering the upright position leaves you feeling detached from what’s going on with the front end. Lack of engine braking is another issue: relying solely on the brakes to slow down can lead to a nervous feeling that you’re having to put too much faith in the front tyre gripping rather than using the engine to assist in the slowing down process. And it’s not just me – fellow test rider Caroline Barrett, who usually rides a Yamaha R6, echoes my thoughts. “I didn’t trust the T-Max at first going round corners

TH E OTHE R BMW SCOOTE R

BMW C650 GT

If your commute is more out-of-town than around town, you might want to consider BMW’s alternative take on the C600 Sport. The standard version of the C650GT costs £9797 but this Highline Edition features heated grips and seat, daytime running lights and tyre pressure control and costs an additional £750 at £10,545. By anyone’s standards that’s a lot of money for a scooter, but the GT claims to have the largest storage capacity of anything in its class. It’s also 18 kilos heavier than the Sport. ABS comes as standard on both models but you also have the option of a fitted alarm for an extra £205. If you’re looking for a luxury scooter that will make your commute as comfortable and practical as possible you’ll struggle to find better. JANUARY 2013

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SUZUKI BURGMAN 650

…O R TRY TH ESE

SUZUKI BURGMAN 400Z

The 400 Burgman is only a little smaller than the 650, with a huge underseat storage area big enough for two full-face helmets plus some shopping, and the seat itself is large and comfortable. The single-cylinder engine is of course less powerful than the 650’s twin, but it’s also lighter, a difference you can feel on the road. This version has ABS (a lower-spec version minus ABS costs £5515) but the twin-front, single-rear disc set-up gives brilliant stopping power either way. The wheels are an inch smaller than the 650’s, and ride suffers accordingly.

SPECIF ICATIO N S PRICE £6399 ENGINE 400cc dohc single, l/c TRANSMISSION CVT TYRES 120/80-14; 150/70-13 KERB WEIGHT 225kg SEAT HEIGHT 710mm FUEL TANK 13.5 litres 1

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SPECIF ICATIO N S

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ON-THE-ROAD PRICE £8175 ENGINE 638cc parallel twin, l/c POWER 54bhp TORQUE 45.7ft TRANSMISSION CVT, gears TYRES 120/70-15; 160/60-14 KERB WEIGHT 277kg SEAT HEIGHT 750mm FUEL TANK 15 litres 1 Underseat storage is big enough to swallow a couple of lids 2 Heated grips come as standard 3 Dash is spartan 4 This button retracts the mirrors

but I sort of got more used to it. Maybe it’s because you’re sitting so upright, I don’t know, but I’m not nearly as confident on the T-Max as I am on my R6. But then, I don’t suppose they’re made for aggressive or fast cornering are they? So the sort of people who are going to buy these probably won’t be so concerned about that.” Barrett says she definitely isn’t the sort who would part with upwards of £7000 for a maxi scooter. “If I was going to live in a city, I’d just keep my R6 and have a cheap, lightweight little scooter to get around on. I wouldn’t swap my bike for one of these.”

Although he wouldn’t be tempted to buy one either, Matt Hull was impressed enough with the T-Max to draw favourable comparisons with the BMW. “It’s really nice, pretty fast, and has good handling, despite the small wheels. The Yamaha is just as good as the BMW in 90 per cent of what it does but the BMW is just that bit sharper, more agile, and better on the brakes. If the T-Max was three grand cheaper than the BMW I’d go for it, but it’s only £796 cheaper than the standard C600 Sport (though £1646 cheaper than the Highline edition) so it’s a close run thing.”

DAELIM S3 ADVANCE 250

This is a striking-looking full-size scooter from Korean motorcycle and scooter makers Daelim. Its 250 engine is the smallest here, but in town it feels like it’s in the same ballpark as the others. It’s only when you hit the national speed limit that it’s outclassed, with the suspension as well as the engine feeling less than impressive. The underseat storage area is big enough for an open-face helmet but not a full-face, while the pushbutton seat release makes you wonder why they don’t all do that. And look at the price!

SPECIF ICATIO N S ON-THE-ROAD PRICE £3299 ENGINE 247cc 4v single, l/c TRANSMISSION CVT TYRES 120/70-14; 140/60-13 DRY WEIGHT 167kg SEAT HEIGHT 745mm FUEL TANK 12.7 litres JANUARY 2013

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HONDA INTEGRA

SPECIF ICATI O N S ON-THE-ROAD PRICE £7600 ENGINE 670cc parallel twin, 4v per cyl, l/c POWER 51bhp TORQUE 45.7ft TRANSMISSION 6spd dual clutch, chain TYRES 120/70-17; 160/60-17 KERB WEIGHT 238kg SEAT HEIGHT 790mm FUEL TANK 14.1 litres 1 Underseat storage area is tiny – there’s not even enough space for a crash helmet 2 In auto mode the dual clutch system feels snatchy 3 Dash is simple and uncluttered 4 Mode button is awkward to use with gloves 5 Nissin brakes combine power and feel

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The bike that effectively created this class is still a highly competent machine but, overall, it just feels a little dated in the present company and, as it starts to get very cold and wet on the run home on the Yamaha, I find myself wishing I had chosen the Burgman or BMW for the luxury of their heated grips and seats. If you’re buying a maxi scooter to commute all year round on, you really will need to consider those facilities because it makes a huge difference in terms of rider comfort. There are other benefits to owning a maxi scooter, like slightly better weather protection (thanks to taller screens and bodywork that shields your legs from the worst of the rain), better mpg (you can expect anything from 40 to 60mpg depending on how you ride and how much weight you’re carrying), and cheaper insurance. But is it enough to tempt bikers away from bikes? After a full day riding four of the best maxi scooters on the market on a variety of roads, I put this crucial question to the three road testers who joined me in assessing them. Here’s what they think about the bikes: |

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SO WO U LD YOU B U Y O N E? Matt Hull

“No, I wouldn’t buy one. The idea is sound, but they offer no real benefits, apart from storage capacity, compared to a bike. Changing gear is all they really eradicate and that’s not exactly a chore is it? And I nearly dropped more bikes today than I’ve ever done before! They need to be lighter, easier to get on (for pillions in particular), and more user-friendly, as well as a lot, lot, cheaper. “The good points are that none of them felt like I thought they would: gone is the old wishy-washy front-end vagueness that these things used to have and, even with their small wheels, they still inspired some confidence. They also go like stink – apart from the Burgman. “These things should be really easy to use and manoeuvre but the manufacturers put all sorts of whistles and bells on them that just make them really heavy and I think that’s a downside. Keep them simple, keep them light – and make them a lot bloody cheaper.”

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Caroline Barrett

“I don’t quite see the point in them. While I had some fun, they didn’t have the nimbleness or power of a motorbike and they felt very heavy and cumbersome for scooters. I didn’t feel the street cred of riding through town that you get with a sexy sports bike or even a funky scooter like a Vespa or Lambretta and I was shocked at how difficult they were to manoeuvre. That said, they are pretty easy to ride, once you’re moving.”

Ben Lindley

“I’m crazy for the thrilling, visceral experience that riding a bike delivers, and it’s an experience I’m in charge of. “I understand the commuting-made-easy and great fuel economy niche that these maxi scooters aim to fill, but for me the automatic gearboxes and adjustable screens shield me not only from the bad weather and motorcycling’s perceived complications, but also from the thrill of the ride as well.”


Maxi Scooter Test - RiDE January 2013