Test Ride: Yamaha TMAX scooter

Bondo, at long last one of the Vesperadoes.

Bondo, at long last one of the Vesperadoes. Words: Steve Bond   Photos: Steve Bond/Yamaha

For years scooters just weren’t on my radar. There were a few scooterists (we called them “Vesperados”) buzzing around when I was in college, ridden by beret-wearing artsy types who smoked French cigarettes and frequented coffee bars and poetry readings. Just not my scene.

ADVERTISEMENT

But we’re seeing more scooters lately, and not just wheezy two-strokes with ropey suspension and donut tires or the proliferation of Chinese death traps that go from zero to 60 kph in um … never.

Nope, North Americans prefer maxi scooters. Large, manly machines with full-sized engines so you can keep ahead of guerilla warfare city traffic and zip along the freeways effortlessly. All the while keeping the rider shielded from the elements while transporting lots of necessary “stuff” in the locked storage compartment.

Yamaha’s TMAX supersport scooter has been around since 2001 and is extremely popular in Europe (especially Italy where they value sportiness and versatility) and has soldiered on for a decade with no major improvements.

Yamaha has been selling the T Max in Europe ever since 2001. It remained mainly unchanged up to its 2012 update.

Yamaha has been selling the TMAX in Europe ever since 2001. It remained mainly unchanged up to its 2012 update.

What’s New

In 2012 the TMAX got a complete redesign including a bump in displacement to 530cc, a sharper focus on handling and more modern and aggressive-looking bodywork.

The T Max has beefy front brakes, but no ABS.

The TMAX has beefy front brakes, but no ABS.

The DOHC 4-valve twin has a shim under bucket valve actuation system – just like modern sportbike engines. Pistons are lighter, it’s got new cams, the cylinder head breathes better courtesy of larger intake valves and the fuel injection system is new. A parallel twin naturally vibrate,s so the TMAX incorporates a third slave piston, driven by a central conrod to counterbalance nasty vibes.

Mr. T chucked some jewelry and gold chains along the way, losing four kg and now checks in at 197 (434 lbs) dry, a full 40 kg (88 lbs) less than BMW’s C600 sportmonger they introduced in 2012.

A lighter, die-cast aluminum frame ties everything together nicely, and the enclosed chain final drive system of old has been tossed in favour of a lightweight, low-maintenance belt. A new cast aluminum swingarm reduces unstrung weight at the hind end by 35 per cent, which aids handling.

Just the thing for taking your European fling out for a cruise.

Just the thing for taking your European fling out for a cruise. Tight pants and artsy hair not included. Photo: Yamaha

The new dash layout is legible and well thought-out. Thankfully, Yamaha sent the sweeping LCD tachometer to the duckpond (which is where they all belong) and the TMAX sports two large (albeit overly stylized) analogue gauges for speedo and tach. A center LCD display contains a bar-type fuel gauge, time, temperature, twin tripmeters, engine temp and a bunch of other stuff.

A pair of twin projector-type lamps light the way in front.

A pair of twin projector-type lamps light the way in front.

New bodywork is a bit more aerodynamic but basically, the styling has been freshened with an angular, modern design. Twin projector-type headlights now brighten the way up front, while a new upwards sweeping LED taillight brings up the rear.

The Ride

The TMAX is easy to ride. Pull either brake lever, hit the starter button, release the parking brake, twist the throttle and go. The slight “dead” spot right off idle on the original TMAX is gone, and it seems as if the CVT engages much quicker, with virtually no driveline lash.

The new engine pumps out a claimed 46 horsepower with 39 ft lbs of torque – just five ft.lbs less than Yamaha’s FZ6R, and almost two more than the popular 650 V Star cruiser. My seat of the pants dyno confirms the horsepower figures as from a stop, 100 kph came up in just under six “Steamboats.”

The T-Max's motor has shim-under-bucket valves, just like you'd find on a modern sportbike. The motor puts out about 46 hp - not bad for a scooter.

The TMAX’s motor has shim-under-bucket valves, just like you’d find on a modern sportbike. The motor puts out about 46 hp – not bad for a scooter. The intake valves are larger than the previous model, to help it breathe easier. Photo: Yamaha

Give the TMAX quarter throttle and you can easily keep up with the four-wheeled bottom feeders around town. Half throttle will leave them in the dust and full throttle will relieve you of your license in short order as the TMAX is really FAST. I’ve heard reports of riders seeing an easy 140 kph on a long, 401 on-ramp with the scooter still accelerating. But I can’t confirm that. Nope, not me.

A belt final drive puts power to the rear tire.

A belt final drive puts power to the sporty rear tire.

A full 120mm of travel on the 43mm front forks soak up bumps while the rear shock (that’s extended rather than compressed by the swingarm) has 116mm of travel. This longish travel (for a scooter) allows for more controlled damping and TMAX never lost its composure over choppy bumps and frost heaves.

The large 15-inch wheels are now lighter and shod with sticky sport rubber (a 120 front and a 160 rear!) that give the TMAX motorcycle-like handling. And I’m not talking cruisers or standards here either – it really does corner like a sportbike, although with its long-ish wheelbase, tight corners require lots of lean angle. Apply a touch of front brake to aid turn-in and the TMAX bends easily into the corners without the pitching and pogoing you expect when flogging a scooter.

A low center of gravity helps the scooter's handling.

A low center of gravity helps the scooter’s handling.

The low center of gravity combined with the fairly long (1580mm) wheelbase really helps with handling and stability as it’s rock solid, never wavering from the line you choose. Putting the TMAX on the centerstand is not a cause for grunting and groaning – it’s dead easy.

Bondo's a fan of the scooter's dash, including those oversized analogue clocks.

Bondo’s a fan of the scooter’s dash, including those oversized analogue clocks.

Even the brakes are sportbike-inspired with dual floating 267 mm front discs squeezed by R6-type monoblock calipers (no ABS option though – tsk tsk). Just grab a handful of right lever and the TMAX stops in an amazingly short distance with virtually no nosedive. Just be careful coming to a stop and resist the urge to pull in the “clutch.” This will apply the rear brake and stop the bike like you’ve hit a wall. Don’t ask how I know this.

The riding position for six-footers is a bit cramped, but you have the option of putting feet either on the running boards or the angled floorboards. A built-in backrest gives the rider some support but unfortunately, it’s right where taller riders want to plant their derriere, locking us in place. During tight left turns, the parking brake swivel bracket will dent your left kneecap, leaving bruises and welts unless you stick your knee out.

The T Max is a surprisingly fast machine on the street.

The T Max is a surprisingly fast machine on the street. Photo: Yamaha

The illuminated, underseat storage area swallows one full-face helmet (most maxi scooters will take two) and a few other essentials such as raingear and extra gloves. Oddly, there is no accessory outlet, although Yamaha thoughtfully supplies a small locking cable for security. The TMAX also has two smallish compartments up on the inner fairing suitable for wallet, cellphone sunglasses, etc. Wind and weather protection is excellent as I got caught out in a sudden rainstorm (without raingear, of course) and remained relatively dry as long as I was moving.

Bondo found he couldn't get more than one full-face helmet into the trunk.

Bondo found he couldn’t get more than one full-face helmet into the trunk.

The windscreen adjusts over a couple of positions, although an Allen key is required. Both brake levers are five-position adjustable so those with tiny little mitts will be able to find a comfortable position.

In Yurp, where gas has been much loot per liter for a decade or more, scooters don’t languish in the garage after the nine to five grind.

Euros don’t only commute on their scoots (now there’s a catchy slogan), they use them for recreational riding and touring too. So yes, the TMAX is sporty and fun but the practical set should take note that my fuel consumption averaged 4.8 to 5.0L / 100km, indicating a potential 300km from the 15-liter tank.

The T Max offers the performance of a mid-range sport tourer with all the comfort and practicality of a scooter.

The TMAX offers the performance of a mid-range sport tourer with all the comfort and practicality of a scooter.

Conclusions

Ten grand seems a lot for a scooter but the TMAX offers the performance and handling of a middleweight sport-touring motorcycle, but the ease of operation, economy, cargo capacity and weather protection of a large scooter.

The seat has a built-in backrest, but Bondo found it interfered with his seating position. Serves him right, the lanky hoser.

The seat has a built-in backrest, but Bondo found it interfered with his seating position. Serves him right, the lanky hoser.

Honestly, if I ever get to the point where I can’t swing a leg over a motorcycle, I’d take something like the TMAX over any three-wheeled abortion currently available with the exception of Piaggio’s MP3. If you can’t lean it, then it ain’t worth riding and you might as well get a convertible.

In North America, about the only competition the TMAX has is BMW’s C600 Sport maxi scooter (see CMG’s review here). Pricing is almost identical (the Beemer is $10,990 but comes with ABS and a three year warranty with roadside assistance as standard).

Handling, performance and braking should also be similar so it boils down to whether you want a Euroscooter or one of Japanese manufacture.


Gallery

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC

The seat has a built-in backrest, but Bondo found it interfered with his seating position. Serves him right, the lanky hoser.

SONY DSC

The T Max offers the performance of a mid-range sport tourer with all the comfort and practicality of a scooter.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
2013-Yamaha-TMAX1
2013-Yamaha-TMAX2
2013-Yamaha-TMAX3
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Yamaha has been selling the T Max in Europe ever since 2001. It remained mainly unchanged up to its 2012 update.

SONY DSC
action

The T Max is a surprisingly fast machine on the street.

beauty shot

Just the thing for taking your European fling out for a cruise.

beltdrive

A belt final drive puts power to the rear tire.

bits
composite

The T-Max's motor has shim-under-bucket valves, just like you'd find on a modern sportbike. The motor puts out about 46 hp - not bad for a scooter.

DSC02052
DSC02062
DSC02063
DSC02065
DSC02067

Bondo, at long last one of the Vesperadoes.

DSC02069
DSC02071

A low center of gravity helps the scooter's handling.

DSC02073

The 43 mm front forks have 120 mm of travel.

DSC02075
SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Bondo found he couldn't get more than one full-face helmet into the trunk.

SONY DSC

A pair of twin projector-type lamps light the way in front.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

The T Max has beefy front brakes, but no ABS.

instruments

Bondo's a fan of the scooter's dash, including those oversized analogue clocks.

SONY DSC
tmax comosite

The T Max has a die-cast aluminum frame. Bondo found (right) he couldn't get more than one full-face helmet into the underseat trunk.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC
SONY DSCSONY DSCThe seat has a built-in backrest, but Bondo found it interfered with his seating position. Serves him right, the lanky hoser.The T Max offers the performance of a mid-range sport tourer with all the comfort and practicality of a scooter.SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC2013-Yamaha-TMAX12013-Yamaha-TMAX22013-Yamaha-TMAX3SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCYamaha has been selling the T Max in Europe ever since 2001. It remained mainly unchanged up to its 2012 update.SONY DSCThe T Max is a surprisingly fast machine on the street.Just the thing for taking your European fling out for a cruise.A belt final drive puts power to the rear tire.bitsThe T-Max's motor has shim-under-bucket valves, just like you'd find on a modern sportbike. The motor puts out about 46 hp - not bad for a scooter.DSC02052DSC02062DSC02063DSC02065Bondo, at long last one of the Vesperadoes.DSC02069A low center of gravity helps the scooter's handling.The 43 mm front forks have 120 mm of travel.DSC02075SONY DSCBondo found he couldn't get more than one full-face helmet into the trunk.A pair of twin projector-type lamps light the way in front.SONY DSCThe T Max has beefy front brakes, but no ABS.Bondo's a fan of the scooter's dash, including those oversized analogue clocks.SONY DSCThe T Max has a die-cast aluminum frame. Bondo found (right) he couldn't get more than one full-face helmet into the underseat trunk.SONY DSCSONY DSC


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike 2012 Yamaha TMAX
MSRP $10,499
Displacement 530cc
Engine type Inline twin, DOHC, four stroke, 8-valve, liquid-cooled
Power (crank)* 46 hp
Torque* 39 lbs-ft
Tank Capacity 15 liters
Carburetion Mikuni 34mm throttle body EFI
Final drive Belt
Tires, front 120/70-R15
Tires, rear 160/60-R15
Brakes, front Dual 267mm dics, four piston monoblock calipers
Brakes, rear Single 282mm disc, single piston caliper
Seat height 800mm (31.5 inches)
Wheelbase 1,580mm (62.2 inches)
Wet weight* 218kg (481 lbs)
Colours Matte Metallic Dark Gray
Warranty One year
* claimed

2 thoughts on “Test Ride: Yamaha TMAX scooter”

  1. I read this whole darn article looking for a pic of Steve wearing a beret .
    He missed a couple of ‘mentions’ when he slagged ‘convertibles’..Remember the Fortress 2000 (popular 4 wheel electric scooter favoured by the 80 + crowd ) as probably the ‘final’ option for the wind in the hair generation. Just sayin’

  2. “Honestly, if I ever get to the point where I can’t swing a leg over a motorcycle, I’d take something like the TMAX over any three-wheeled abortion currently available with the exception of Piaggio’s MP3. If you can’t lean it, then it ain’t worth riding and you might as well get a convertible.”

    Yeah, but the 500cc MP3s weren’t imported this year, leaving only the rice-burners to choose from.

Join the conversation! / Participez!