Test Ride: Yamaha BW50

Words: Editor ‘Arris   Photos: Richard Seck

I like scooters. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the way that you sit “inside” them, legs together, as if perched on a chair at the dinner table. However, instead of a nutritious helping of Kraft Dinner, the open road is before you. Roads over which you gently glide, emitting a jolly “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” and a slight blue haze in your trail.

There’s an absurd jolliness to the experience that never fails to put a grin on my face. And if there’s one scooter that has the highest grin factor, it’s Yamaha’s legendary B-Wizz (or BW-S, to call it by its model name).

Our first introduction to this mite was half a decade ago when we figured that it would not only be a good idea to put a Team CMG together and compete in Alberta’s Numb Bum (a 24 hour ice race), but why not go ahead and do it all on a scooter? The previous model B-Wizz to be precise. We lost miserably, but I’ll bet we had the most fun of all the competitors that day.

So, it was with great interest that we got our grubbies on the all new 2002 B-Wizz late last year to see exactly what Yamaha had done to improve their super-scooter.

It’s just so much fun!

Looks-wise, the new 2002 is a different bike. It’s chunkier and everything is a bit bigger, with an emphasis put on two-up-ability. There are new bulging twin headlights – giving the bike that bug-eyed look, like it had just downed a dozen espressos. Its arse end is also noticeably fatter, signifying an adaptation that the old B-Wizz was noticeably lacking – room under the seat to store a helmet/ groceries. Thankfully, the trademark fat knobbly tires, plush suspension and hydraulic front disc remain.

Starting the B-Wizz requires that one of the brake levers must be applied in order to allow the electric boot to engage (although there’s a manual kick start as well). The 2002 model has moved to an automatic choke, which results in a quick initial fire up, but then leaves the Wizz revving madly for a minute or so before finally settling back to a sane idle. It’s actually quite amusing, buzzing like a mad bee, wired eyes glowing through the blue two-stroke haze of exhaust.

Disaster struck when CMG photographer, Mr. Seck, pushed the scooter off the centre stand during one of these Wizz-tizzy fits, only to have it pull away from his grip as the rear tire made contact with the ground. The Wizz duly lunged forward, wedging itself under one of the the Team CMG R1100S hard bags and snapping off its front fender

Oh dear.

According to Yamaha, this shouldn’t happen (the revving not the broken fender), but low and behold, thankfully even sans front fender, the Wizz still looked okay.

The single cylinder, fan-cooled, two stroke motor is all new. It has a higher compression ratio (up to 7.2: 1, from 7.0:1) and larger carb. The result is a very peppy feel, even pulling two-up quite respectfully. Where I thought I’d have to help it along with a bit of flailing foot power, opening the throttle to the stop saw just a moment’s hesitation, then a decided jump in revs as the v-belt automatic system adjusted for load, and away she went.

Left: Under seat storage is even big enough for baby.
Right: Baby is happy in womb-like space while dad goes down to the pub for a pint.

Although the seat is larger, it has a distinct step between rider and passenger parts, with the front section sloping forward. Inevitably, sitting on the rider part meant that I would slide forward and ended up wedged against the front fairing. In fact, surprisingly, although the 2002 model is physically bigger, it actually felt more cramped than the previous model.

Granted, I’m 6′ 4″ and probably outside of scooter design boundaries, but while riding, I either ended up with my legs splayed around the fairing, (less I wedged in and severely restricted steering with my knees bashing against the front signal lights), or sitting on the stepped bit of the seat to avoid the inevitable forward slide. The result was that I never truly felt comfortable.

The new model also lacks the rear fold-out passenger pegs, now incorporated into the main body moulding. These also doubled up as rear-set pegs, giving greater comfort options for the solo rider with the added bonus of better weight distribution for lurid wheelies.

“Grrrr”. Editor ‘arris manoeuvres the Wizz safely around another Toronto fender bender.

Unfortunately, although the motor and chassis could cope surprisingly well two up, the cramped quarters dictate that it’s either a temporary option or only suited to a pair of waifish dwarfs.

Earlier in the summer I had the dubious distinction of test riding a Tomos moped, thereby giving me something to compare the ‘Wizz to. At $2,399.00, the moped is $300.00 cheaper than the B-Wizz, but it’s like night and day when it comes to quality of components.

Where the Tomos would buckle and pogo over bumps, the Yam holds steady and absorbs the irregularities without trouble, thanks to its telescopic front forks and ‘heavy-duty’ single rear shock. Granted, coming down, two-up, after a speed bump would induce the strange effect of having the whole front end flex inwards. This is thanks to effectively sitting in a big “U” shaped frame, with two wheels attached to either side – the impact causing the open end of the “U” to close up ever so slightly. It’s actually quite entertaining, bringing a whole new meaning to “flex frame” technology.

The brakes too, are excellent. The 2002 Wizz has a larger 180 mm front disc which gives good feedback and a useful amount of braking force. It retains the drum at the rear, which is difficult to lock up in the dry, only allowing long, lurid slides in the wet. Overall, they balance well between functioning to save the over enthusiastic 16-year-old road warrior, yet they won’t scare grannies silly with the sound of screeching rubber.

Watch out for that truck!

I’m pleased that the 2002 also retains its trademark fat knobbly tires. The course tread enables a useful amount of grip both on asphalt as well as on gravel roads, and helps to give the B-Wizz its distinctive style.

The gauge pack is pretty basic with an optimistic speedo (good luck getting over 65), fuel gauge, the usual idiot lights and a useful low two stroke oil warning light. Since it’s an automatic, there are no foot controls, with the front and rear brake being taken care of at the handlebars. It’s positively a no-brainer!

All in all, Yamaha still have a fun, funky and very usable scooter. The addition of under-seat storage is welcome change, and although a lot of the styling is towards the more conventional, the two bulging 35 Watt lights keep the tradition going. However, the overall ergonomics have taken a slide for the worse, especially if you’re over three feet tall. With an additional 105mm to the wheelbase and 20mm taller seat height, why is it more cramped?

Well done Yamaha for making a great scooter, but can’t we keep the original as well?

Oh, and by the way, no babies were mentally scarred in the production of this story.


Some additional detailed shots …

It can even be taken into the local
The Team CMG Numb Bum B-Wizz in front of the new 2002
Front wheel & brake
Rear Wheel (spinning fanatically)
Tail light and rear rack



Yamaha BW50




49 cc

Engine type

Single cylinder two stroke, air-cooled


single 14mm

Final drive

Automatic, v-belt drive

Tires, front

120/90 – 10

Tires, rear

130/90 – 10

Brakes, front

Single 180 mm discs with single piston caliper

Brakes, rear


Seat height

765 mm (30.1″)


1275 mm (50.2″)

Wet weight

93 Kg (205lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

Yamaha Blue, Silver Metallic, Black

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