Wrap-up: Yamaha Majesty

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Word: Jon Lewis Photos: Richard Seck

The Maj’s role at CMG was initially uncertain. Eventually we all got quite fond of her (although few may admit to it).

Okay, so we’ve just handed back our Majesty long-termer after almost a year of use, so its time to give some thoughts as to how it fared.

Back in January of this year, Editor ‘arris took it for an initial test up Highway 101 in beautiful British Columbia, but was somewhat held back by drenching rain and his inability to get his head into the ‘scooter groove’.

The Maj eventually found its way back to Ontario, and after a brief spell in the hands of Mr. Seck, was turned over to me upon my arrival in Canada from England. Hmhh, a scooter. Mine for the year you say? Thanks.

But initial thoughts soon gave way to an understanding relationship, as I took the Maj to explore my new surroundings, used it do my bike licensing test (all will be explained soon enough) and then ended the year by including it in the CMG Grand Fall Tour.

All in all we covered over 10,000 km, sent it back for two services and did just about anything that any self-respecting journalist could do with a 400 cc scooter. The following is a summary of what I concluded from our year together.

Note: our Majesty was fitted with some of the Yamaha OEM options, namely the larger screen, rear rack & top-case, and the heated grips. These were installed by Yamaha Canada.

MY POINT OF VIEW

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Throne.

Shell-shocked from a combination of heat, jet lag, and meeting Mr. Seck (not necessarily in that order), it was with a slightly wild eye that I first cast over the Majesty. I’d had a good look at the Yamaha website, so knew roughly what to expect – and wasn’t too far wrong.

The pointy end was rather futuristic, with fully faired-in headlamps and in-built indicators. The blunt end was “chunkier” than I’d imagined, the upside of which was a very plush-looking (and feeling, as it turned out) saddle. You can see why we refer to them as “big assed” – all the motive power and transmission have to live somewhere. The bodywork all fitted together with pleasing precision, with wrap-around LED rear lights neatly integrated the derriere.

Things were looking up.

Sitting on the Majesty, you first notice the comfy seat, which is important, as you can’t take much of your weight on your feet. Necessarily narrow (to allow the shorter rider to easily get feet down), the padding remains firm for a good 100 km without bum-shuffling, with the passenger portion good for at least half that. An adjustable backrest provides some lower-back support for the aged and arthritic amongst us.

Looking back on Editor ‘arris’s initial test comments, it is obvious that the Majesty is designed for those of us who fall into the “non-giant” height classification, and at 5’9″ I found plenty of space to move around without banging my knees on anything. Having said that, the ‘bars are relatively high-risers, and I found on my initial ride that they twisted my wrists somewhat, leading to some short-lived tendon pain. Thankfully, not much later I think I just became used to them, for I suffered no more.

Can you see the engine warning lights? I thought not.

Controls are all as per normal, with the rear brake where you would expect to find the clutch, and a parking brake (due to the CVT gearbox) just below it. This is cunningly designed to get in the way of your left hand when on, preventing you riding off with it engaged.

Footboards give a variety of foot-resting positions (for those of normal height), from the “easy rider” to the “chicken chaser”, allowing you to stretch your legs to get the circulation … er, circulating. The windscreen drafted a majority of the high-speed windblast (and bugs) over my helmet, whilst allowing me to see over the top rather than through it. Bar-mounted mirrors were a decent size and remained clear, although had the annoying habit of hitting the screen on full lock – a problem no amount of mirror stem adjustment would solve.

Instruments are noteworthy for a very useful (for the absent-minded amongst us) fuel countdown, starting a trip clock when the reserve supply cuts in. The only fly in the ointment was the cowling on the handlebar, which masks the engine warning lights. Although inconvenient, it’s relatively minor – once we removed the cowling (to fit a GPS), all lights were revealed.

THE RIDE

Watch out for potholes!Photo: Patrick Harkness

With its “chunky-feeling” 400 cc motor coupled to a CVT, acceleration was surprisingly brisk. No car ever out-accelerated me (and several tried) and on one particular sunny afternoon, a drama-free 165 km/h (indicated) was achieved. Cross-winds had as much affect on the Majesty as any other fully-faired bike that presents significant windage, but never pushed the Maj outside of its comfort zone.

Highway cruising speed was a truck-dodging and licence-preserving 125 km/h, the point at which acceleration became blunted – the price you pay for the comprehensive weather protection. Vibes are few and far between – no doubt due to the engine balancer – although the characteristic single-cylinder “thump” was still pleasingly evident.

In a previous editorial, Mr. Harris voiced some words of caution on the handling of scooters in general, and in particular the assertion by at least one manufacturer that larger capacity scooters should more accurately be defined as sport-tourers.

With the benefit of my recent intensive scooter immersion, I would tend to agree with his Editorship. Granted, the Majesty is a well-balanced machine with decent suspension and tires, but even these qualities do not a sport-tourer make. The small-diameter wheels, relatively high weight and short-travel suspension have their limitations – namely high-speed corners, especially when combined with multiple bumps. Enter a little too hot and you will find yourself with some rather unsettling pitching and bouncing (a bit like riding an over-inflated Space Hopper) which could be enough to cause an inexperienced rider to panic and do something daft.

Feel free to get sporty, but be aware of all things pitch-like.

Having experienced this behaviour many times (strange what some people do for kicks), I found that the Majesty always tended to hold its line, but you are definitely dicing with the devil – a couple of unfortunately-placed potholes could conceivably end up bouncing you off-line and into the ditch!

Techniques for minimizing this behaviour include placing your feet as far back as possible (and thus gripping the bodywork as tight as possible with your heels), braking well before the corner (and then smoothly accelerating through it), and finally doing your utmost to minimize your weight on the bars.

I’d hazard a guess that most Majesty owners would likely not push the bike into this territory, but it’s such a well-balanced machine that the more enthusiastic rider may unwittingly find themselves mid-corner on a Space Hopper and not know quite what to do.


LIVING WITH MAJ

LIFE ON EASY STREET

Dry helmet = good thing.

From my experience, motorcyclists don’t generally buy what is necessarily practical, rather what sparks their imagination and tickles their emotion. We all do it, and as a result have come to accept maintenance costs that, well, maybe we shouldn’t.

How about new tires every 2,000 km – good rubber is worth every penny. Chains every 6,000 km – well, they’re relatively cheap. Ten litre capacity gas tank – hey, the saddle is so painful I’ll be glad of the break! The list goes on.

The Majesty gives you a taste for the dark (read convenient) side, from the plush saddle, twist ’n’go throttle (easy-peasy), numerous storage areas (two glove-boxes – one lockable) and an underseat compartment – with courtesy light, of course – that will hold two crash helmets with ease, etc, etc. It just goes out of its way to be useful.

Neither is there a chain to adjust or lubricate, and cleaning (not that I did much) is as simple as a car. That leaves you with the engine oil (it didn’t use any), coolant (same) and tire pressures (ooh, the rear tire needed some air … once). If low maintenance is your holy grail, consider your search over.

But maintenance ease is only part of the equation. Having a Majesty sitting in your driveway all year means that you start to notice gut feelings when it comes to reaching for the keys before setting out on a journey.

Admittedly, the Z750 was happier than the Maj on the track …

An example: last summer, I had to visit Toronto and the MBS Rally nerve centre. My choices were either a Kawasaki Z750 or the Majesty. Being an engineer by training, my decision was weighed up using a set of criteria (see table below) where the higher the number, the better.

What the ratings don’t show is that the Kawasaki has no weather protection, a single hard-as-nails saddle (with no capacity for throw-overs) and a rather disconcerting sperm-count-reducing engine vibration.

I also had to do the majority of the trip on Ontario’s 401, where I tend to travel at around 125 km/h – easily manageable on the Majesty. Luggage included spare clothing, waterproofs, lap-top and personals – all easily swallowed up by Maj’s under-seat storage and top case – and I still had room on the pillion seat for a case of beer.

Perfect.

  Overall Comfort Fuel Consumption Luggage Capacity Required Top Speed
Majesty 400 8/10 9/10 10/10 Fast enough
Kawasaki Z 750 6/10 7/10 2/10 Effing quick

Of course – as tends to be the CMG way – I was told that I had to show up on the Kawasaki, so the journey ended with me knackered, with a painful back (all luggage in a backpack), numb fingers and high-speed revolving testicles.

Sigh.

TESTING TIMES WITH CVT

Remember – mirror, signal, manoeuvre.

Having been duped into believing that my UK bike licence would be valid for exchange in Ontario, upon arrival at my local licensing centre I was dismayed to find that although the car section was valid, there was no exchange for the bike licence part! As I had ridden to the licensing centre, I was rather peeved to find that I had been rendered unlicensed – and possibly unemployable as a motorcycle journalist – in one fell swoop.

In true British fashion (and with the spirit of the Blitz still coursing through my veins) I decided to take the bull by the horns and take the Ontario road-knowledge test there and then! Twenty minutes of boning-up allowed me to sail through with only a couple of demerits. I then booked my M2 test (the basic on-road and ’round-the-pylons test), safe in the knowledge that I had the Majesty to see me through.

Test day came all too soon and I found myself trying to manoeuvre the Majesty through a set of closely-spaced cones in a figure-eight motion. Apart from demanding a lot of concentration from me, I in turn demanded a lot form the Majesty’s auto clutch too.

But how can you abuse the clutch on an automatic bike, I hear you ask?

Well, this automatic tranny (and I believe most other auto CVT bikes are the same) still needs some sort of transmission coupling/decoupling device, usually provided by a centrifugal clutch. Normally, you raise the revs to about 2,500 rpm and the clutch bites, driving the CVT and hence (after a brief pause) the bike accelerates just as you would want it to.

The transmission kept it together despite my (ab)use.

This is all fine and dandy in most situations, but in your riding test you don’t really want to accelerate to more than a walking pace. This makes progress a little unsteady, as when you roll off the throttle, the transmission disengages, giving you freewheel. You then open the throttle again, start to accelerate at 2,500 rpm, so you release again, and freewheel once more.

This is exactly what you don’t want to happen whilst zipping around pylons!

The solution, I found, was to use a considerable amount of rear brake, while keeping the throttle open (thus holding the bike back), with the rpms somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm to keep the drive going.

Suffice to say, the guys who made it round the course the easiest were on cruisers, with their low c of g, wide bars, big torquey motors, conventional transmission, and low idle speed. This gave them the ability to trickle around in first gear, regulating speed with the rear brake and clutch as necessary.

My attempt was a little more frenetic, having to stop upright a couple of times in the process – hardly ideal – but I still managed it first time and passed the test … much to the relief of Editor ‘arris.

SCOOT-O-TOURING

Although I had just experienced a personal skill test on the Maj, no better test for a bike was ever devised than to take it on a long tour. You have no choice but to live with its foibles, day in and day out. If something isn’t right, a tour will shine a 1,000 watt spotlight on it.

So that’s precisely what we did (the tour, not the spotlight).

And what better tour than the CMG Grand Fall Colours Tour? Here, the Majesty was in the fine company of the three STs (Triumph Sprint ST, Honda ST 1300 and BMW’s R1200ST), not for direct comparison of course, but to get an idea as to whether the Majesty could cut it as a touring bike.

Now the quicker-witted amongst you will have already realized that there was no way the Maj was going to keep-up with the STs, and you’d be right. Where the Majesty would happily run up to 125 km/h, the others could hold 200 km/h all day long (not that we tried, as that would be illegal, and very irresponsible).

Mr. Seck and I rode it in turn and compared notes throughout the five days that we were in Pennsylvania and New York State, but wisely I kept my personal effects in the Majesty throughout. I say “wisely” as the Maj seems to be pretty watertight when all around were soggy throw-overs, and “in the Majesty” because my entire luggage fitted inside either the under-seat compartment or top-case. The only additional luggage was a tail pack containing my everyday items, which I could have wedged under the seat had I needed to carry a passenger.

Whenever it was my turn on the Majesty, a little mental adjustment was necessary to get into the “scooter zone”, but once in that happy place, you could sit back, chill your boots and enjoy the outstanding scenery.

And thus the days passed – the Majesty positioning itself as rear gunner, but never very far behind.

During this test, we suffered weather that can only be described as ‘persistently inclement’, dampening our spirits a little and our undergarments even more. However, with its heated grips, substantial fairing and extended screen (with extra hand protection), the Majesty kept off most of what the weather threw at us, keeping hands (adjustably) warm and legs & feet relatively dry. Also, no matter how hard the rain hit us, the under-seat luggage was always dry.

Sadly, not all these benefits were present in the STs, making a stint on the Maj quite welcome when the clouds let loose. Now, when the sun did pop its head out (once, I think), the tables were turned, as the STs gunned off ahead and attacked the twisties with all the confidence that big wheels, long-travel suspension and something big between your legs to grip onto (oh-er) can offer.

The final day for me was a run from Roscoe, NY to Westport, ON (around 500 km) burdened by streaming cold, high winds and yes, you guessed it, plenty of rain. With my Rukka done up tight, heated grips on high and ‘leccy vest set to ‘scorchio’, I gunned the Majesty out onto the highway, intent on a fast and easy trip home.

Although my average speed ended up being a paltry 70 km/h, when you take into account the three gas stops, one border crossing and a sit-down, slap-up lunch, the highway average speed was more like 135 km/h. I doubt I would have made it home any faster (or as safely) had I been on either of the STs, and certainly not as dry or warm …

CONCLUSION

The Majesty has surprised me with its all-round abilities – it is comfortable, economical, easy to ride, and can carry an impressive amount of luggage under cover. It took me on innumerable trips along the highways and county roads and impressed me in some way or other on virtually every one.

To sum up, the Majesty is a very well-conceived, intelligently-executed scooter, with some well thought-out design features. Its limitations are few and centre around the wheel size and suspension design – necessary due to the packaging restrictions caused by the under-seat storage areas and motor/transmission location.

I do have reservations about its high-speed handling on uneven surfaces, but suspect it is one of those limitations that is something of a scooter characteristic, maybe brought into sharper relief by its otherwise high standards in all other areas.

But as we all know too well, everything in life is a compromise, and some are better than others.


RUNNING COSTS

Servicing is due at six-monthly (or 6,000 km) intervals after the initial 1,000 km/one month check-up. Oil changes are due when the dash indicator illuminates (approx 5,000 km), with a filter change due every 20,000 km. Valve clearances are checked at 42,000 km. V-belt changes are due when wear indicator illuminates.

Servicing work done over the 10,355 km we had it:

Description Cost Tax Total
1,000 km (or 1 Month) 1st Service $139.00 $20.85 $159.85
7,000 km (or 6 Months) Interim Service $249.00 $37.35 $286.35
Front tire approximately 50% worn (includes fitting + balancing) $55.98 * $8.40 $64.38
Rear tire 100% worn (includes fitting + balancing) $132.95 $19.95 $152.90
    TOTAL $663.48

*Note: The front tire did not need replacement at this point, hence only 50% of its replacement cost was apportioned.

Fuel Consumption:

High: 6.18 litres / 100 km (Electric vest + grips on, strong head winds)

Low: 4.66 litres / 100 km (Highway riding, good weather)

No oil or coolant was used. No recall actions were required or performed.

ISSUES

And there it was, until it was gone.

We had a couple of glitches with our Majesty:

1) Occasionally it suffered from a sticky starter switch/solenoid/relay, requiring a number of presses to get the motor fired-up – and yes, I do know you need to hold the brake on for the starter motor to operate.

2) Occasional stalling directly after cold starting. This required restarting while you were on the go. However – due to the set-up of the control system – you have to apply the rear brake to restart it. This causes the bike to stop, when all you want to do is keep going and get the motor firing again.

3) The ignition switch surround disappeared during the trailer ride back from the MBS Rally. When questioned later, Editor ‘arris admitted that it had first become dislodged during the ride to the Rally HQ – where he re-fitted it – apparently unsuccessfully.

4) The compartment the fuel filler neck resides in is a water trap if the drain hole gets blocked – on a number of occasions this filled-up after heavy downpours, until eventually rectified by Yamaha.

Had the Majesty been residing closer to Toronto, (and hence been more convenient to Yamaha Canada) I’m sure the stalling and intermittent starting could have been rectified without pain, but as you may have gathered, the problems occurred rarely enough to not be a problem … to me anyway.

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