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Maxi-Scooters = Maxi-Blast!

Written by: Stephen Sacks, MBA, P. Eng.

- Stephen started motorcycling in 1968. When he's not riding he leads a Telecom Marketing Consulting firm. He lives in the country so he can enjoy motorcycling, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, and powerboating.

There’s a lot going on when it comes to motorcycles in Canada.  There are touring, sport, off-road and a million other categories.  Motorcycles are all the rage, and with the latest addition of safety and convenience features like ABS, energy-absorption chassis, embedded rear-view helmet mirrors, Bluetooth stereo intercoms, and more, who wouldn’t want a motorcycle?


What? Sissy-bikes? I don’t think so. Think again…

Yamaha's TMAX

Today’s maxi-scooters, with anywhere from 300 to 850cc, will keep up to any touring bike or cruiser, with at least their level of comfort.  But, the scooter’s CVT transmission means the driver doesn’t need to shift, as motorcyclists do.  That may not seem like an issue (“hey, I’ve shifted for years and years and it’s second nature to me”), but in a drag race, the similar displacement scooter will beat the motorcycle every day of the week – with not a millisecond wasted on shifting!

Hmmmm… The maxi-scooter will also handle as well as any motorcycle, but you knew that.   They have low cg’s because their motors, fuel systems and drivetrains are low.  With 13” – 16” wheels, their center-of-roll is also low, so you’ll see some max-scooters keeping up with sport-bike handling. Take a look at this Honda Silverwing in a slalom:

(NOTE: Do yourself a favour and MUTE your sound before launching this video!)

What you didn’t know was the inherent storage space of all maxi-scooters - most of them will hide two helmets, an e-book, a laptop, a smartphone (and charge it, too), and 100 condoms. Sure, they can also have rearward ‘top boxes’ and many do, but many find they ruin the aesthetic look of the machines, and don’t use them.  But, should you want side bags, they’re plenty galore:

Suzuki Burgman with side-bags

What about their mileage?  Really, are you thinking of gas mileage when you ride, or choose your ride?  Probably not.  But, in any case, maxi-scooters will again get you at least as far on a litre of gas as any motorcycle.  So, there’s no problem there, either.

Maxi-scooters are even beginning to look like sport-bikes. I’m not referring to those vintage looking Vespas, no. Take a look at the new breed of scoots: Yamaha’s T-Max, Honda’s Forza, BMW’s C650, Kymco’s 300i, and you’ll see what I mean. You can do 1,000 kilometers on these ‘bikes’ without creasing your jeans!

So, what’s the downside of these great, misunderstood machines? Ah…here’s the rub:

1./ CANADIAN ‘MARKETERS’:  Maxi-scooters are in just about every country of the world, whether 1st or 2nd or 10th world countries. They’re efficient, fun, fast, sporty, and amazingly reliable and convenient.  In many countries, these machines are peoples’ only mode of transport. And ‘almost’ every country gets the latest and greatest models – except Canada. In every sense, we’re the equivalent of a European country, where you can buy the best of the best from Italy, Japan, Taiwan, or France.  Yet Italy’s Piaggio chooses to bring in very few of its latest gen max-scooters.  Instead of bringing in their world-beating X10-350, they brought in their BV-350.  Other than styling and name, it’s a great bike, but would you ride a bike called ‘the Beverley’?  I didn’t think so.  It comes down to being lumped in with the States, and they too, haven’t received the latest generations of these great machine from around the world. We do have the market - witness that Chrysler/FIAT’s 500 sales in Canada blew the doors off their U.S sales counterparts! So, it ends up being the marketing departments that just don’t see clearly. Yup, it’s as simple as that… marketers missing their mark and sand-bagging their sales targets.

Take a look below and tell me what you think:

2./ PREJUDICE:  Try out a maxi-scooter.  Wait – you want me to drive one? SURE. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean. And no, you don’t need to be Italian to ride one. (“Two men ride into a car wash; which one is Italian?  The one on the scooter”).

When motorcycle journalists tried the previously-mentioned Piaggio BV-350, they commented that “roll-on and mid-range acceleration should be reviewd by the FDA as a drug…. 33 horses and torque to match under 400 pounds means giggling-fun acceleration”. Yup, it’ll keep up to a cruiser, maybe even a similar-cc sport-bike. Twist that throttle, and you’re gone!  No lag, no shifts, now waiting…. Just right-now, effortless acceleration! What a blast! Try this on a more powerful scooter, like the T-Max or the BMW, and the acceleration gets even better. This is max-adrenaline on a maxi-scoot!  I have a Can-Am Spyder and a max-scooter, and while the raw power of the Can-Am suggests it will out-accelerate the scoot, that’s never been the case.

Give it a head-to-head ride comparison: yup, take the challenge. When it comes to your next bike, before you plunk down the bills for that cruiser, take it out for a ride. Now, look at a T-Max or Majesty or BMW or others, and take one or more of them out for a ride. Which ride was more fun with the higher level of comfort and satisfaction? You may choose the motorcycle or the maxi-scooter, but at least now you’ll know when you see that scoot pass you on your next highway trip, why you made the decision you made.

So, if we can get these manufacturers (just about all of them) to get off their butts and actually check out Canadian pent-up demand, you can get the chance to actually try one of the latest gems out.  Will you be shocked!

So we’ve now come to a spot where you may be asking “How do I choose the best max-scoot for me?”

Read on…in our next session.
Keep those wheels on the road.