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2015 Yamaha TMAX: MD Ride Review

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The average American male has problems, apparently. As I blithely motored past a supersport on the California Interstate, and later a cruiser, both riders visibly bristled, and briefly tried to keep up. I was in a hurry, but neither rider could keep my scooter in view for very long. I was aggressively splitting traffic, but part of the reason was the ease with which this particular scooter could reach triple digit speeds.

Those two male riders may have questioned their manhood, even though the same circumstances would have gone unnoticed had I been aboard a superbike. Scooters seem to do that to a fair number of American motorcyclists.

The scooter in question is the 2015 Yamaha TMAX, which just might be the sportiest scooter on the planet. We loved it when we tested the first generation, and anxiously waited to get our hands on the re-designed TMAX introduced in Europe back in 2012, but kept out of the U.S. market until this year.

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The new TMAX gets a larger, more powerful 530cc parallel twin, together with inverted front forks and (for a scooter) very serious brakes. Radial-mount, four-piston calipers squeeze dual 267mm discs up front. A single disc does the job out back.

Other changes include revised bodywork up front, new mirrors and instrument panel. The new headlights are very bright LED units.

A “Smartkey” has a proximity sensor that allows you to turn the TMAX off or on, and lock it. A 12V outlet is standard.

Riding the new TMAX is a blast, and immediately reminiscent of the older model. The CVT transmission efficiently, and smoothly, transfers power from the twin cylinder engine to the rear wheel. Acceleration isn’t at sport bike levels, but there is plenty to blast ahead of city and highway traffic should you choose to do so. Like most CVTs, the on-power drone isn’t the most pleasant sound in your helmet.

The seat is comfortable and the ability to stretch your legs out is always appreciated on larger scooters. The seat height, however, is remarkably tall, preventing most riders from flat-footing at stops (and may be intimidating to shorter riders). Both the rider’s seat and passenger’s seat are generous and comfortably (firmly) padded. The underseat storage can hold one, large, full-face helmet, and is certainly nice to have.

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For the scooter category, the TMAX is about performance. Indeed, this machine has almost reached cult status in Europe. That engine is always able, even at higher speeds, to accelerate briskly, and the chassis inspires confidence both in the corners and while hard on the brakes.

The low center of gravity, together with the generous braking power, allows for very aggressive braking (without the typical fork dive). Good feedback from the tires helps here, as well.

The windscreen, and wind protection in general, add to the comfort factor, but this 5’11” test rider had to deal with noisy helmet-level buffeting at highway speeds.

The TMAX has excellent ground clearance and can be hustled through the twisties almost like a sport bike, although it does have a tendency to understeer. Once you calibrate to the rather lazy turn-in, no problems.

Gas mileage is not great for a scooter, but that is the trade-off for the higher performance offered by the TMAX. Ridden aggressively, we had trouble getting 100 miles between gasoline fill-ups. YMMV … literally.

The TMAX is a fun, sporty ride, but many American males won’t give it a chance.  For this reason, and others, the TMAX is not for everyone, but it doesn’t lack for performance or fun simply because it carries the designation “scooter”. It trades some fuel mileage for the performance that defines its character, however, which might be a negative for commuters and tourers who might otherwise consider a large displacement scooter.

Even if you don’t consider the TMAX an option for your personal garage, be on the lookout for an overtaking maneuver by an aggressive rider aboard the TMAX trying to make a point. The U.S. MSRP of the 2015 Yamaha TMAX is $10,490, and it is available in the single color pictured, Sonic Gray.  Visit Yamaha’s web site for details.

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61 Comments

  1. Vittorio says:

    I am seriously looking into buying one. Back in Italy where I am from this is the coolest scooter you can get. I have great hope that here it will not be undestood once again and the price will go down so I can jump on it. Back home the debate scooter vs motorcycle in the city and around has been solved in favor of the scooter about 20 years ago. America and the rest of the world, scooter and soccer: on these we will never understand each other 🙂

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “America and the rest of the world, scooter and soccer: on these we will never understand each other”

      Man, that’s funny!

  2. Tom says:

    I own the 2015 Yamaha TMAX 530 and after 1500 miles the engine break-in it turned into a monster, this test doesn’t give full credit cause its slow when new. I have owned the 2009 TMAX and the 2015 TMAX has much, much better low end power and QUICKER acceleration.
    I do run super 94 octane gas, the TMAX requires 91 or better octane. Give the engine some time to break-in before you judge it the next time.

  3. mg3 says:

    I have a question for you folks who have scooters. How are you treated by CAR and TRUCK drivers out on the road? Do you get blown by just for being there, or do they give you the same level of ‘road respect’ that they give regular motorcycles (which I know is sometimes ‘not much’)? Just wanted to know if there is a difference on a scooter.

    • Turboman says:

      I have a freeway legal Honda PCX150 that goes about 76mph top speed. I get the same respect I did on my ZX10R or other motorycles I’ve owned. Would be nice to have a louder exhaust when splitting lanes tho, even tho I have an aftermarket exhaust on my PCX150, it is chambered, and therefore reasonably quiet.

    • Gordon L Belyea says:

      After 30 years riding motorcycles, I now ride an Aprilia Scarabeo 200. While it can hold 70 mph easily, I find that around town (where I’m not doing 70 mph!) I get tailgated far more than on any of my motorcycles. I wonder if cagers mistake the scoot for an e-bike, and think to teach an interloper a lesson; or, perhaps as usual, folks in cars just aren’t thinking much at all.

      • mg3 says:

        Not surprised to hear that Gordon. I’m on Long Island and there are so many stressed out cagers here that I don’t even enjoy my SV650 all that much any more. I’m no slouch, but I guess I don’t drive fast enough for them. They are always creeping up behind me. Tail-gating is an offence that should get more attention from the police than it does. It’s probably a very difficult thing to prosecute though. Nothing scares me more than to see some car or truck so close in my rearview mirror, especially if he/she is on the phone.

  4. Kent says:

    What are the advantages of a scooter?
    WHat I see here is a 10k bike with some storage and small wheels and terrible range.

    When compared to sub $10k bikes – Wee Strom, 690 Duke, F07, NX700, CB500 – I can’t think of a single reason to buy a scooter.

    I’m not mocking them, (or as the article clearly states) I’m not concerned about my image or manhood.
    Seriously asking – what’s the advantage of this scooter, over any of those bikes I just listed?

    • West says:

      I rode a SilverWing 600 years ago and it was a hoot! I almost bought a Reflex this summer; then looked at a 400 Burgman. The ease of in-town cruising (imo) is the prime advantage of scootering. In the end, I opted not to go with a CVT…

      Instead, I got a leftover 2014 Honda CB500F, threw a big ugly top case on it, and now for half the price of the TMax I get 60mpg, 40L og storage and decent acceleration.

      • Kent says:

        I still just see a bike with small wheels and terrible range.

        If it had a low seat, or an actual advantage over a bike (for some people) I would understand. I just don’t get it.

        • todd says:

          I think it’s for people who don’t want to be bothered with spending 20 minutes to learn how to shift. The small wheels and large empty spaces inside are there because, well, scooters always had those.

    • Turboman says:

      I agree. Scooters give up some things by their design, so they BETTER accel at what they are supposed to! My Honda PCX 150 gets great MPG, mid 70’s when full throttle freeway driving to 107mpg when going for max fuel economy and that includes freeway riding, although with some drafting and tucking down.

      Underseat storage is a plus on scooters, suspension travel and power output is the negative. Light weight and maneuverability are a plus with scooters too. I have taken my son on a 2 hour freeway trip each way on my PCX 150 and avg’d 70mph there and back on the flats.

      NC700X is great for MPG, although if buying something boring, might as well buy a CB300F and get similar MPG as the NC700x and save $4k. V-Strom 650, CB500 all in the upper 50’s MPG…which is still good of course.

    • EZMark says:

      Comfortable seating position, unlimited positions for my feet, built in storage in the fairing and under the seat, easy step thru mounting when my arthritic hips don’t feel like swinging a leg over.
      Basically, you get all the advantages of the $20,000+ baggers that are the rage right now but in a bike with almost half the weight for less than half the price. And it handles fantastic, something you can’t say about a bagger.

  5. vtwinsrbest says:

    Still no ABS? C’mon Yamaha, it’s 2015 already. And while you’re at it put it on your high end cruisers for crying out loud!

  6. Peter Power says:

    After owning many sportsbikes and sports tourers over the years I finally dropped my predjudices and got myself a 2011 500 TMax. I can honestly say I should have bought one years ago,it’s not only eminently practical with underseat storage and glove boxes on the dash etc. but it’s also great fun to ride, with enough power and great handling and brakes.
    I go to bike nights and hear some of the sports bike and cruiser riders revving up their bikes like the attention-seekers they are, and my TMax just burbles quietly along. When I get there I can put helmet, gloves and jacket in my topbox or under the seat and walk about dressed like a human being, quietly smiling at the one-piece leather clad figures suffering in the stifling heat.
    The TMax might be looked upon by many as a “pussy scooter” “girls bike” etc, but it does everything I need and when I get there I’m not bent over double or walking like a cowboy. They really are great “bikes”. Value for money? It’s all relative and with the TMax, despite what others may say, you do get quite a lot for your money.

  7. EZMark says:

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with all your scooters mileage. My 09 Tmax has a 4 gallon tank and gets 50mpg religiously and I run the crap out of it. I have numerous friends with 650 Burgmans and they all get 50+mpg. The 2nd gen Burgy gets over 60mpg.

    I’ve owned 45 motorcycles and the Tmax is my favorite of them all. I’ve had faster bikes and I’ve had bikes that got more compliments for their looks. But I’ve never had a bike I’ve enjoyed RIDING more.

    • Hot Dog says:

      WTH? Run! Save yourself EZ, I’ll hold them back as long as I can!

    • EZMark says:

      I do have to agree that $10.5g is a lot of money for 530cc, and it doesn’t even have ABS.
      I’ll have to wait until they discount them a few grand and I’ll upgrade from my 09.

  8. Auphliam says:

    So, feet forward + big cushy seat on a cruiser = terribly designed poseur machine…feet forward + big cushy seat on a scooter = Awesome!

    100 mile range on a scooter = sporty new engine…100 mile range on an electric = Nobody’s going to buy a bike to go 100 miles

    Man, its tough keeping up with all the internet forum bike shaming rules *smh

    • sliphorn says:

      The TMAX is foot forward if you want to put your feet in that position. Otherwise you can position them anywhere along the length of the floorboard. I don’t know what’s up with the 100 mile range on this TMAX, but I know the range is much better on mine, 160 miles no problem.

  9. Colors says:

    Even if I don’t like scooters, even if I think they are for chicks, even if they somehow made one cool. They’ll never make one cool enough to make me drop 10k on it. It’s still a scooter and I can buy a hellova lot of motorcycle for 10 grand. Knock about 8 thousand off of that for a new price and I’ll see if I can find one used for 1200 to commute on… that is I would commute on it if I were an uncool and a chick. 😛

  10. Cycleruss says:

    One great factor of a scooter that never gets mentioned, is the absence of engine heat on the rider.
    I ride my Yamaha Majesty 400 to work in daytime temperature s in the 90’s with high humidity.
    I never have engine heat or heat from the pavement to contend with.
    I can’t say that about my two other motorcycles.
    I ride my motorcycles on the weekend for enjoyment, but the scooter is the go to workhorse for everyday use. Buy a used one and enjoy the benefits.
    Excellent rain/wind protection, carry almost anything, multiple positions for your feet.
    And NO ENGINE HEAT on you.

  11. Simon Evans says:

    On congested city and extra-urban streets the scooter makes total sense. It is a 2-wheeled car, with many of the advantages of a bike with none of the disadvantages of so many. In Europe (and particularly France) the TMAX is the top selling scooter. Full Stop. Forget your nifty fifties, your 125’s and 200’s, this ‘ped outsells them all.

    Conversely, I don’t really see the point on `merican pavement: Lane splitting is a dangerous game to play, journey distances can be greater (and for shorter commutes you certainly don’t need a 530cc sports scooter) and weather protection and storage space is compromised over larger-bodied but less sporty machines. The Burgman has more than 60 liters of storage space in the trunk alone.
    The other issue is, as noted one of fuel range. One thing that hasn’t significantly improved throughout the whole of the TMAX’s life is the fuel consumption. Realistically, even a sports scooter should be capable of well over 70 US mpg these days, no matter how hard it’s thrashed.

    That being said, there are particular skills involved in running big-engined CVT’ s and it is normal for European users to see beyond 50 US-equivalent mpg. Perhaps some refined riding technique might be required if the experience isn’t there?

    • Hot Dog says:

      When I wring the neck of my TMAX, I get 40 mpg. When I’m putting along and not doing much stop and go, I get 55 mpg. The TMAX makes one want to twist the throttle cuz it’s a hoot and handles so nicely.

  12. Todd says:

    I’ve owned quite a few scooters, mostly in the 50-200cc range and have ridden a few of the modern big ones. The only ones I truly enjoyed riding were the ones with manual transmissions. My Vespa 200 was fast enough for a 90 mile commute on the highway, got nearly 80 mpg, and was super easy to service with only one latch holding the engine cover on. The best feature was the split rims. I once bought a new tire on the way home and changed it in the store parking lot in 15 minutes using only the tools in the kit.

    If they gave this scooter a 5 or 6 speed manual, took off 50 pounds of plastic and gave it more than a one gallon gas tank for half the price, I’d be more interested.

  13. DCE says:

    Low-cost 150/250cc scooters (especially with 16″ wheels) makes sense to me as urban commuters and short tourers. I don’t get this vehicle. It weighs 485 lb, has a 31.5″ seat height (but a cruiserish seating position), only 4.7″ of suspension travel, and a too-low handlebar. The only advantage I can see in this over the MT-07 is that it has a CVT. Why not put the CVT in a version of the MT-07 for a much better bike and much lower cost?

    • Dave says:

      Re: “Why not put the CVT in a version of the MT-07 for a much better bike and much lower cost?”

      Because Europe. The people who buy these in great enough numbers to justify their production don’t accept conventional motorcycles and would not view an MT07 as better.

      • Jim MIn says:

        We in the U.S. tend to forget that we are actually a relatively small market for all motorcycle manufacturers, and have much less pull on the market than out outsized egos would like. Motorcycle and scooter sales in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and China, alone, outpace all U.S. sales many times over, and outpace Europe, as well. We are no longer the target market, and while we are not ignored, trends elsewhere carry much greater weight than we do.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I don’t think there are many TMAXes running around Malaysia, Indonesia, India or China. I don’t know that for sure, but I’d bet on it.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Better” is relative. An FZ-07 with a CVT still wouldn’t have the cargo capacity or wind protection of the TMAX which are two of the main reasons that scooter buyers I know go for scooters over motorcycles.

  14. Vern says:

    Cool, clone a 2002 Silver Wing and tart it up with some modern farkles. Give it what looks like less storage and much worse gas mileage. Having owned a Burgman and a Silver Wing, you can buy a used model for less than a third of the T-max new and get a better experience and still have a lot of money for gas for years.
    Also, embarrassing cruisers and sport bikes is the BEST!

  15. Johnny ro says:

    I wanted a T-max but bought a 1st Gen AN650, 4 years ago. No T-max’s available stateside.

    Gave it up after 2. k miles, because
    -have to step through space that could hold enough gas to go more than 100 miles. OK its a scooter but I was thinking of conformal tanks and gave up.
    -too much engine braking, throttle is a go/stop switch, fixed on next gen? No fix on 1st gen.
    -too much work to check the valves, all that bodywork.

    It did what they said it did. Lots of cool tinkering mods on the forum.

    My AN had almost fake rear shocks. $200 later, plus darkside tire, fixed. No regrets there.

    Had crap forks, bought Racetech but did not get to install before sale.

    T-max looks to have decent suspension.

    Bad wind mgt, did homemade Madstad, helped a lot.

    $500 aftermarket seat, should not have to buy that.

    These points if applicable to T-max spoil it for me. All I see is better suspension and maybe brakes, from the review above.

    T-max is costly for sure. 10.5k USD? They are gathering the “Wanters.” I wish them well. Really. More wanters = good for all.

    Prefer SR400 and am waiting patiently for a clean used example. I an carry my helmet into the building. For cargo I have a car.

  16. Bill says:

    if its comfort you want, get a car
    if its practicality you want, get a car
    if its lets have some occasional fun, get a jeep
    if, there is something nagging at your soul, everyday, causing you to paw through magazines, internet articles, twist your head to look at one on the road, observe-judge-and compare everyone one you see while all you do is wait till you can ride one again….
    ….get a motorcycle

  17. toad says:

    I just don’t think I could deal with the limited range.Is there a 200 plus cc scooter that gets worse mpg?

  18. Mike says:

    Where’s the showdown/comparison with BMW’s C600 Sport Scooter? Or the Vespa GTS 350 Sport?

  19. ABQ says:

    I’ve had a Burgman 650 and a Honda Silverwing 600. I can verify that they are practical for daily driving, carrying the grocery’s, day trips and touring. They will also speed pass surprised cruisers. I had gone 120mph on the Burgman 650 and would regularly go 100mph. Maxi-scooters are a gas.

  20. Hot Dog says:

    Ok, I’ll jump in on this one. I’ve got a 09′ TMAX and it’s my go to machine in the city and for short runs. It’ll haul 3 cases of beer and as far as fat chicks, I can only handle one but maybe the TMAX could do more. The CVT engages smoothly from a stop and ramps up speed, once fully engaged. It’ll hit triple digits very fast and almost rails in the sweepers. It has a very good view, from the seat, to view distracted drivers and handles traffic like a hot knife in butter.

    If you need “approval” from other bikers to ride this bike, perhaps you should stay in the clubhouse with the other lemmings. It’s my 2 wheel truck, not my only bike, but I’ll never go without a urban assault scooter like my TMAX.

  21. Lonerider says:

    It’s true, at least for me, big scooters are a lot of fun. The fact that a scooter is looked as an underdog add to the fun factor. I never owned a scooter, big or small. Even if they are very practical in an urban environment, i’d opt for a small bike like a CB300F with a small top case for approximately .. the third of the price of the TMax.

    I test ride a few years ago the 650 Burgman and the first gen of the TMax. The major upset is the price. Scooters are not exciting for me. So, spending ten thousands for a practical and no exciting toy seems like buying a second car. What would be the point?

  22. Butch says:

    I bought a used Honda Elite 250 on a whim a few years back and I must say It was a hoot to ride.
    Quick off the line and top speed of 70, whenI tucked it in.
    The 12″ wheels sucked though.
    If you haven’t ridden a modern big wheeled scooter, you may be pleasantly surprised.
    Better tires, brakes and suspension than the old scoots.
    My neighbor tours all over the US on one of these : http://www.cycleworld.com/2009/06/29/riding-impression-2009-piaggio-bv-tourer-250/
    He loves it.
    5 grand for a new one.

  23. Gary says:

    If I needed to commute into or out of an urban area to get to work every day, which I do (but only on a contract basis) I could totally see buying a scooter. Ultra practical. Holds all your gear without the need for trunk/panniers, and narrow enough to split lanes. When you get to work, take your gear out and toss your helmet in and you’re done. But if I were to go that route, I’d want the Burgermonger. The idea of a “sporty” scooter does not compute … at least not for me. I’d opt for something practical.

  24. mkv says:

    So why didnt yamaha implement this “smartkey” on their 20k R1?

  25. dan says:

    People who’ve never had a scooter don’t appreciate their comfort and practicality, nothing beats them for urban transportation. I have my motorcycle for weekend trips, but for commuting and popping around town during the week the scooter is always the ride of choice.

  26. goodlyRun says:

    10gs? Geez..

  27. Sean says:

    Not that these bike don’t have their place but IMO they are mini-vans of the 2 wheeled variety. Practical yes, but a 530 cc twin with a CVT pushing around almost 500lbs of Toyota Sienna plastic is not my idea of performance, fun, or style. But to each their own. If you love your scooter ride on, have fun no hating here.

  28. Mark R says:

    I’d like one, but it would need a liter motor to look at seriously for me.

  29. Grover says:

    You could buy a lot of great motorcycles for $10,500. Pass

  30. Jeremy in TX says:

    I never warmed up to scooters. It’s not that I have a phobia of being seen on one like a lot of riders do here, I’ve just never found them to be more appealing than a comparable motorcycle. Of course, I might feel differently if I lived in a city center somewhere. But then that being the hypothetical case, I think I would have something more along the lines of a 150cc scooter than this behemoth. Yet then I would think to myself, “A Grom or CRF250L would be so much more fun than this 150cc scooter.

  31. allworld says:

    I had a 2009 T-Max and loved it, it’s still in the family and going strong. On days that I am stuck in traffic I wish I never gave it away.

    • flyangler says:

      I’ll bet you can’t say the same about your Linhai 300.

      • allworld says:

        Actually it is still running……… I put 25K miles on it and only paid 2K for it delivered…:)
        Of all the Cheap Chinese Scooters, Linhai is one of the better, IMO

  32. Gary says:

    Is it better at urban lane-splitting than the Burgman? Kind of surprising that the compartment does not hold two helmets. But I guess if the payoff is a narrower profile that fits in tighter slots, it may be worth it. Ballsy move trying to market a “sporty” scooter in the U.S.

    • Dave says:

      Part of the T-Max’s performance advantage is that the engine mounted to the chassis, with the rear wheel suspended conventionally on a swing arm. This is likely where the storage space is consumed.

      BMW and Aprilia both have “sport” scooters (Aprilia’s is especially sporty). Would be interesting to see them directly compared.

      • RevD says:

        The Burgman 650 and BMW 650’s have chassis mounted engines and swing arms as well. The sportier of the BMW’s (C600) has meager storage as well so appears that it’s more related to body design than drive train layout.

        Check YouTube. There is a video of the BMW, Aprilia and Tmax going head to head.
        Spoiler alert: There is no replacement for displacement (but the Tmax holds its own)

  33. Tank says:

    If I could afford one, I would buy one. I had a Burgman 400 and my biggest complaint is maintenance. Just changing the spark plug was a hassle. The filters is another story.

  34. Brett says:

    Your point is taken about not everyone can warm up to a scooter, although the low center of gravity is a great benefit. Not having ridden one, do you mount by putting your foot through to open frame, or swing a leg over like a normal bike? It looks like wasted space if the latter. To further your cause, perhaps if you removed the muffler, throw a couple of fringed saddlebags over the rear and wore a half helmet you would get more approval.