Many years ago, I had the chance to interview Jeffry De Vries, an ex-World Superbike racer who, at the time, was the chief motorcycle tester for Yamaha Europe. This man had ridden and developed basically every motorcycle Yamaha had produced for the last 20-something years.
Naturally, I asked him what was the best bike he'd tested. And his response was instant and definitive: the TMAX maxi-scooter. The first time he rode an early prototype before its 2001 launch, he told me, it was just about spot on – and they've only gotten better from there. He'd just bought his third one.
It was the first of the maxi-scoots that combined the practical nature of the scooter with the handling characteristics of a motorcycle. Taking the heavy engine off the swingarm gave it vastly superior suspension response, and moving the engine further forward on the bike made it turn much more neutrally. It still had a CVT transmission, but the 500cc engine gave it far more poke than a regular scooter. And it offered comfy seating for two and bulk underseat storage for day-to-day practicalities.
Small wonder, I suppose, that the TMAX has floated around the top-10 selling bikes in Europe ever since, particularly thanks to its gigantic popularity in Italy. Over six generations, it's sold more than 250,000 units. Which makes us wonder why we haven't seen a Ducati Maxi-Scoot yet. Don't answer that.
The 2017 Yamaha TMAX lineup included a standard model, a slightly spiffier SX model, and a fully-optioned luxury DX model. And now the brand has announced a further specification to add to the stable – the SX Sport Edition.
It's far from a huge update. The Sport Edition gets an Akrapovic exhaust with TMAX written on it, so it'll sound a little nicer, plus a short sports-cut screen and a "sporty" license plate holder. And that's about it.
It shares things like keyless ignition, traction control, a 12-volt charging socket, two-mode throttle mapping and My TMAX Connect with the regular SX model. The connectivity software gives you a bunch of Bluetooth abilities, plus the ability to track your bike, and geofence the area it'll work in, if you're letting somebody else ride it, for example.
It doesn't get cruise control like the DX, or an electronically adjustable screen, and there's no mention of any extra power from the 530cc motor to give it the kind of kick in the pants you might expect from a Sport version. The standard model makes about 45 horses, putting it significantly down on, say BMW's C650, which makes 60 hp.
But the truth is, these Maxi-scoots do have a definite sporting capability worth celebrating, if put in the right hands. They grip and handle well enough to be superb fun on a twisty road, with the added bonuses that you can hold the throttle wide open almost the whole time, fit your helmet under the seat, and any sportsbike riders you happen to overtake will be honor-bound to commit seppuku at the shame of it all. And that's what I call fun.
Pricing and availability is TBA.
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