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Large Displacement Scooters – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

As a life-long motorcycle enthusiast, I didn’t know what to think when I was first asked whether I would like to test a large displacement scooter.  Ultimately, I tested several, including the Honda Siver Wing, as well as both Suzuki Burgmans (the 650 and the 400).  I even tested (along with Barry Winfield) the 3-wheeled Piaggio MP3 500ie.  I enjoyed riding them all. So much so, I even considered purchasing a Burgman 400 for short trips .  A combination of features impressed me, including  (1) leg room (I love being able to shift my foot position, and even stretch out my legs on some of the models), (2) automatic transmission with both brakes operated by hand levers (the low center of gravity and the hand brakes, in particular, permitted extremely aggressive, short stops with great feel and no dive), (3) underseat storage (the Burgman, for instance, could swallow two full-face helmets or a healthy portion of groceries without the added width or hassle of saddlebags), and (4) complete wind protection for my lower body.

Riding a scooter rarely made me question my manhood.  I do recall stopping at a Starbucks with my friend Willy who was aboard a Suzuki GSX-R750 at the time.  We walked in to order some java and an attractive young woman at the counter saw our helmets and told us she rode a Kawasaki ZX6-R.  She then asked “What are you guys riding?” As Willy described his Suzuki sportbike, I began to think about how I would describe the scooter I was aboard without being embarrassed.  In the end, I just chuckled and said I was on a scooter.

What I would like is feedback from our readers who have owned, or ridden large displacement scooters after years of riding motorcycles.  You can certainly post a comment if you haven’t ridden one, but I really want to know what people think that have ridden a scooter after years on a “real” motorcycle.  EICMA is just around the corner, and there are plenty of big bore scooters about to be unveiled, including a new Yamaha T-Max, the Aprilia SRV 850 we told you about a few days ago, and at least two models from BMW. Honda is further bluring the line between motorcycles and scooters with its new Integra.

79 Comments

  1. conchscooter says:

    I loved the comfort of my Vespa GTS 250 with power and ease of use never dreamed of in the earlier vespas I rode years ago. After ten thousnan d miles it kept failing, blowing regulators and and leaving me stranded. I sold it and bought a Bonneville. 56,000 miles later in four years the Bonneville is perfect, with windshield and luggage and no problems. It has the power and comfort and hauling ability to be a real daily rider and its easy to use around town with a sit up riding position smooth clutch and slick gearbox.
    The biggest disadvantage of the Vespa which was capable of 85 mph (65 with headwinds) was the lack of respect from other motorists who cut me off, tailgated and felt obliged to get ahead of the “moped” on the highway. The Bonneville gets respect. I borrow my wife’s ET4 150 vespa for fun but my Bonneville is my daily joy.

  2. Sam Camden says:

    I’ve been riding two wheeled conveyances since 1958. I started out on Cushman motor scooters, first a ’58 Highlander, then a ’60 Super Eagle. I then moved to motorcycles beginning with a Triumph 500, a succession of 250s, 350s, 450s, 550s, 750s, Goldwing and my last one an 1100 Honda Shadow Spirit. I loved ‘em all, some more than others. I’ve ridden all over this country, camping, visiting friends, visit relatives, riding solo just to ride, riding in groups, all because it was a PURE BLAST. I almost gave riding about 3-years ago. My age, along with it’s attendant health issues made riding bikes just to painful to keep going. My wife suggested I try a scooter. I laughed. The mention of scooter brought to mind the little 50cc buzzers. I couldn’t picture myself on one. She said no, I mean the big ones. I asked, what big ones? She said Honda and Suzuki had some really big ones. So, I ventured out and found the Silver Wing and the two Burgmans. That day I bought a used ’06 650 Burgman. After 3 years of owner ship and riding, all I can say is, “Why the hell didn’t I do it earlier”? I’ve had more fun, enjoyment, and a sheer blast than I’ve had in years. It’s more comfortable than any bike, except maybe the Wing (and the Wing only for a few things), I’ve ever owned. Yes, I would like to see some weight taken off, the chassis made stiffer, the wheel size up an inch on both ends, and some other things done to it. But, it’s simply a wonderful machine as it stands. I’ll ride it anywhere I’ve ever taken the Wing, and the comfort is actually greater. Mileage is way above all but my smaller bikes. I had a 450 Suzuki that got over 75mpg running between 65 and 75 on the highway, consistently. Yes, I’m a scooter man again, and proud of it!

  3. john says:

    I’ve owned a Goldwing and recently traded in my Silver Wing wtih 16k on it. I got two SYM HD 200 scooters. The Silver Wing was great to ride–and felt more comfortable than the Goldwing. But the SYM HD 200 has really impressed me–so much–I bought a second one. It goes 72 mph and gets @ 75 mpg. Will a couple of Aerostitch bags and the helmet under-seat storage–it’s very enjoyable to ride. I’m sold on the scooter as opposed to a motorcycle. The ease and mobility of the HD 200 makes riding so much easier to deal with. the maintenance is simple/cheap. I wasn’t sure the SYM had enough power–but when one won the 2008 Cannonball Scooter Classic–riding from San Francisco to Maryland in nine days (3300 miles)–I was sold.

  4. Alan says:

    I’m coming up on 17 or 18 bikes owned in 10 years of riding. My Burgman 650 Exec is # 16, with almost 20,000 miles on it now. I’ve owned and ridden everything from cruisers to liter+ sportbikes; and my Burgman makes me as happy or happier than any of them. It’s easily in the top 2 or 3 bikes I’ve owned.

    I love, Love, LOVE being able to suit-up, ride to somewhere (like dinner, a movie theater, a dealership) and being able to take off all of my gear and comfortably store it in the trunk and the top box. It’s so liberating to not have to carry all my stuff with me – making the scoot something that adds real functionality and convenience to my life.

    In heavy traffic there is nothing I would rather be on. The auto-trans makes me feel pity for riders suffering their stiff clutches. The upright riding position helps me see traffic patterns, and I’m better-able to take advantage of gaps in traffic. Also, I’m always in the right gear; and don’t have to futz with clunky gear-boxes like what’s in my Bandit 1250.

    Most impressive to me is that it is almost impossible to blow a corner on the scooter. On my other bikes, if I come into a corner too hot or in the wrong gear, I have to coast around it because it would upset the chassis too much to downshift mid-corner. Not so with the Burgman. I can brake deep and hard (with confidence provided by ABS, and stability provided by the long wheelbase and being able to brace my body-weight against the upward-angled floorboards), and when I finally get my speed in check, the gearing is in the right place that I can still power-out smoothly and purposefully. This is something that really has to be experienced to appreciate.

    After 4 years of ownership, I did add a conventional motorcycle to the stable – said Bandit 1250. This was mostly for the suspension comfort and riding position comfort (I can’t get my legs underneath me enough on the Burgman). If the Burgman 650 were about 20% more powerful, with more compliant suspension and the ability to ride it more like the standard UJM riding position (instead of an almost cruiser-like one), I think that would be motorcycle nirvana.

  5. Thomas in NJ says:

    I have had bikes on the road for the last 35 years and recently purchased a Kymco Downtown 300i. With this I now no longer ride my current bike, 1984 Honda V65 Magna. I have put over 5,000 miles this season, way more than I had in one season with any other bike. I can say is the bike is so much more usefull and much easier on my aging body.

    While the gut wrenching power is not there these in no way take away the fun of two wheels. Actually not having to fight the ellements adds to your enjoyment. Cagers seem to be more interested and respect these more too with gas prices being what they are.

    Another advantage is I will ride down to 45F with the scooter. At 65F I have to think twice about taking the V65 out. Being caught in the rain is an inconvenience with the scooter rather than an excersize in torture with the MC……

  6. Paul Godwin says:

    I have a Aprlia Scarabeo 300 now, hopefully you can class that as ‘maxi’ enough. lol.

    I’ve ridden bikes since 16, some 20 yrs, had F650, KLR650, GSX600, FJ1200, CB-1, an din 3yrs am on my 3rd scooter.

    I don’t get to ride much socially now with the family growing so it’s used as primary transport, wind or rain, on the motorways sitting on 110kph.

    I love the storage of under seat, also have a 40ltr box that i can attach to it also. If i had the money sure I’d like a bike but that would be as well as and more so if it was a GS BM again – one of the bigger ones. I love it, and i’d easily look at getting a Burger or Majesty or similar after this one. I like the style, the seating and the ‘power’.

    Once you get over, the dicks in cars who want to race you and the comments you get especially when you have a go coz someone tries to share your lane, it’s fine.

  7. manwall says:

    Nothing wrong with riding a scooter. Only a problem if you’re riding one and you lie about it.

  8. Simon Evans says:

    As with so many things, bigger is not better and as owner of everything `maxi` including a 250, 400 and SigFiddy Burgman all the `normal` rules do not apply to automo’cycling. I once was forced to take the 400 on a cross-country trip in place of the BMW R1100GS purchased for such journeys: Arrived half an hour earlier, in better comfort – and having spent considerably less on fuel – then the purpose-designed Beemer…
    But the issue is that the increase in capacity rapidly takes the maxi-scoot out of the bounds of practicality and 500-650cc is the sweet spot. The GP800 (soon-to-be Aprilia 850 in a posh-frock-but-same-knickers) is simply not practical or economical enough to be a scooter, and not powerful or good-handling enough to be a mo’sickle.
    Law of diminishing returns. I still think the TMax represents the best all-round solution, but if the 400′s were just 30 kilos lighter, with 10% more power, better aerodynamics and 100 mpg there would be the optimum solution. They don’t need to make the 650 into an 800, Suzuki only need to make it 50 kilos lighter and with better suspension out-the-box, improved aerodynamics for 80+mpg and it would be spot-on.

  9. DannyG says:

    I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1972 and have ridden every category of bike in the last 39 years, with a preference for standards, dual sports and adventure touring machines. Due to a hand injury on a dirt bike and a 53 year old back that has been acting up, I decided to stop riding off road for a while and stick to street. I’m riding a Yamaha T-Max now and it is one of the most enjoyable bikes I have ever owned. It has motorcycle-quality suspension and handling, excellent brakes and better acceleration than I expected. I have no chicken strips on my rear tire and it has very sporty cornering. It is easy to turn in and holds its line with rock solid stability in the twisties. I have come to think of the T-Max has a hybrid sportbike/maxi-scooter. Excellent dynamic performance, none of the “hinged in the middle” feel one might expect from a scooter, and all the comforts that a maxi-scooter offers – an excellent automatic CVT transmission, lockable under-seat storage plus console storage, very comfortable riding position and seat, excellent aerodynamics and wind protection and 56 mpg. It is an impresssive machine that works for me. When I ride it, I get the same thrills and enjoyment that I would expect from riding a good motorcycle.

  10. DennisRiser says:

    I started on scooters as a kid in Spain. When ever I ride one it brings me back. I am now 46 years old. I have owned many bikes. From liter bikes(YZF-R1′s) to dual purpose(BMW R1200GS and KLR650′s) bike. Over 20 bikes of all kinds. What I have learned is I love to ride. Fast or slow. I put 25,000 miles on my GS this season. And I would have been jkust as happy to do it on a Maxi Scooter. Touring is about the world, not the bike to me. My GS is going this week. A Maxi Scooter may replace it in the spring.

  11. Nate says:

    ” EICMA is just around the corner, and there are plenty of big bore scooters about to be unveiled, including a new Yamaha T-Max, the Aprilia SRV 850 we told you about a few days ago, and at least two models from BMW. ”

    BMW? You did? I did a site search that reported no results in the last 2 years even. Where can I read about these new bikes?

  12. kirk66 says:

    At 45yo, riding history of 29ys and 12yrs as a motorcycle insurance agent I can tell you I have mad respect for maxi-scooters. I have a group of geezers that are former ARMA and AMA racers that go by nick names like Turbo Bill and NY Ed. These 65yo and older geezers take semi-hotrodded (exhaust, slight motor work and suspension) Burgmans and tear up the squids that ride the loop and Blood Mtn in N GA. When you see a 70yo dude in full race leathers knee down a Burgman and pass 600 ss bikes how can you not respect that? If I were to pick a scooter I would go for the T-Max. But that new Honda Integra Scoot looks promising.

  13. Belkwinith says:

    I have been riding a Piaggio BV 500 for 3 years now and the experience has been nothing short of awesome. With 500cc’s of power I can take my scooter anywhere a motorcycle can go and then some. In urban traffic, the easy stop and go is a dream. If I want my scooter to go faster, I simply twist and go. If I want it to slow down, I simply let off the throttle. Some speak of lower cc scooters lack of power, but in an urban situation, power is not as necessary as manuverabily. With the BV 500 I can ride with the big bikes and I am looking forward to the innovations coming down the pike with the BMW scooter as well as the Honda Integra. These scooters have found a market with me. If you doubt my scooter’s abilities, come riding with me during rush hour down the Chicago Tollways..the ride is still enjoyable no matter what they throw at you.

  14. toad says:

    I’ve commuted on a 250 (Currently a Daelim S250) for 13 years now. I’ve always owned motorcycles but like a scooter better for commuting. The combination of weather protection, gas mileage and built in storage make it better than my Buell Ulysses for my 7 mile commute. If I could have only one, I’d go with the scooter.

  15. I’m really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written

  16. ross says:

    Owned a Vespa GTS250 for several years until all dealer support dried up and blew away. Rode my friends Burgman 400 for many miles. LOVED them both especially the Vespa. I will probably be getting another one now that tendonitis is taking it’s toll on my clutch hand.
    I’d really like to see a larger displacement scoot with minimal bodywork. Maybe a “standard” Vespa style with a 500 cc engine. Or perhaps the Japs or Koreans could come up with something a bit less futuristic

  17. Jeremy in TX says:

    I had the opportunity to spend a long “test ride”on a Burgman 650 owned by a member of a group I ride with every now and then. It is so big that when parked among the other bikes, you would not immediately recognize it as a scooter. In fact, people have come to investigate and praise the machine during stops until they got a good look at the profile and realized it was a scooter and turned their heads in shame in the same way a guy turns his gaze from a “hot chick” after his buddy informs him he is salivating over jailbait.

    The big Burg won’t set the road on fire, but it is plenty powerful, handles well (once you finally get it into your head that that lever over there is NOT a clutch), is extrordinarily comfortable and has a lot of storage space. On top of that, the weight is low making the beast feel very light and manoeuverable regardless of speed.

    Despite a scooter’s merits, it isn’t for me. The big scoot taught me exactly what I like about motorcycling: I like hugging a bike between my knees coaxing it around corners. I like the viceral feel of “communicating” with the machine via rpms, clutching and gear selection, and dammit if I want the thrill of powering the front wheel up just a bit squirting out of a corner, I want to be able to do it. The Burgman could do none of this. It was practical and even fun, but, for me anyway, it was not emotional. I want to stradle it, clutch it and shift it. However, since the scoot at least handles quite well, I would choose it over most cruisers out there.

    I’ll take a real motorcycle for as long as I am physically able to ride it. Should I become too stiff and too fragile with age to cope with traditional motorcycle ergonomics, I would certainly own a big scooter. Until then, please don’t take my clutch away.

  18. LoganC says:

    I have ridden for 40 years, owned many types of bikes (my last motorcycle being a ZX-11)and have over 400k miles on 2 wheels. My knees just can’t handle the fixed peg position for long periods any longer and I did not want the heaviness of a cruiser or tourer. I bought a Burgman 400 in 2009 as a lark really. I thought that something to drive around town would be great. Well that year I took it to Colorado and other interstate road trips (live in Dallas)and put 8k miles on it. I loved it except it needed a tad more power so in 2010 I bought a Burgman 650. Now the love afair started. I have rigged it with Givi bags (side and top) and all the motorcycle electronics. Been to Colorado twice on my summer trips and I can say that I have found the perfect ride. Comfort, good gas mileage, sufficient power, exceptional legroom, just the right weight… what more can I say? Every where I go, people come up and want to talk about my “scooter”. First they ask, “What is it?” and once I tell them about the 650 Burgman, they are impressed. They say it sounds like a motorcycle. I tell them it basically is with a scooter body. Now if they made a Burgman as an 800 and made it more sporty, I would be first in line to get it. Until then, I am a very happy “Scooter” owner.