There's no two ways about it — whether you like it or not — big scooters are the latest trend in the world of motorcycles. With that in mind, we figured that it was a good time to try and get our hands on one of the so-called maxi-scooters for a long-term test, and try to figure out just what they're all about.
Suzuki agreed to our request for a long-term 650 V-Strom, so that negated the Burgmans (as we wouldn't want to do two long-termers with one company in the same year). That left us either the Honda Silverwing or Yamaha Majesty. Since the Ruckus was a long-termer last year, it seemed only logical to try for the Yamaha. We got it!
As with all our long-termers, we like to kick it off early in the season with an initial test. However, since the green light from Yamaha came at the end of last year, our only opportunity was to try and get a tester out in B.C. for a week while we were there for the Vancouver motorcycle show in mid-January. It would also be a good opportunity to catch up with a couple of friends (Patrick and Danette Harkness) and the rest of the CMGer crowd out there. After all, it's supposed to be quite mild in Vancouver in January, so why not?
THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS
Indeed, it was mild in Vancouver in mid-January, with temperatures hovering around the low double digits, but what I didn't bargain for was a local phenomenon called the “Pineapple Express”. Apparently this is a weather system ballooning off the Hawaiian Islands (thus the pineapple part), graphically illustrated by satellite photography, which shows a huge plume of cloud emanating from Hawaii and expanding north-eastwards to cover southern B.C.
On the ground this translates to a week of the most horrendous downpour that you could imagine. The sun had simply deserted Vancouver for the week, replaced by biblical precipitation that washed out roads, saw hillsides slide over houses and had me anxiously glued to the week's weather reports, looking for the slightest break in the pineapple's onslaught.
Confined to the four walls of Chez Harkness (thanks again to Pat and Danette for their hospitality), I had no option but to drink Patrick's hard-earned beer, molest the dog (aptly named Guinness) and occasionally peer out at the monsoon. It was relentless and I was left with no choice but to leave the test till the last moment, in the hope that this pineapple would eventually run out of juice.
It didn't of course, and so with only a couple of days left of my stay, I planned a weekend's ride up the ‘Sunshine' Coast (lying bastards), with a stopover at the small town of Lund. This is the end of the road as far as highway 101 is concerned, but its 130 Km and two ferry rides are well-liked by the local motorcycle community, and so — rain or not — seemed like an ideal way to absorb some of B.C.'s amazing scenery and get in a bit of a test to boot.
So it was on a very wet Saturday morning that Patrick (on his BMW R1150GS) and myself (on the Majesty scooter) reluctantly ventured out onto the rain-sodden Vancouver streets, destination Lund.
The first thing that strikes me when riding a big scoot is the required difference in riding style compared to a conventional bike. I could write a whole article about this … so I did (included as a separate piece, here). Thus, for the actual test part, I'll resist delving into that territory, rather just focus on the specifics of how the Majesty performed over the weekend.
The Majesty is powered by a 395cc, single cylindered four-stoke motor, with inbuilt counter-balancer to quell any vibes. It also comes with double overhead cams and four valves, along with liquid cooling (with fan assist) and fuel injection. Suzuki's identically priced (at $7,999.00) Bergman 400 has similar specs except that it comes with SOHC and 10 ccs less capacity.
As with all big scoots, the Majesty uses a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT), which matches gearing to peak power. I'm assuming the power peak on the Majesty must be around the 6,000 rpm mark, as opening the throttle quickly would see the revs climb rapidly to this point and then hold there as the speed of the scoot rises. It's a relatively quick ascent up to the 130 km/h mark, after which it's decidedly more leisurely.
Although Highway 101 included few straight stretches on which you can safely open a bike up, I did manage to push the Majesty to an indicated 160 Km/h – which was also about as much as I'd like to see, especially on that road. Still, what that translates to, is a comfortable cruising speed of 130 km/h, albeit with not much oomph left-on-tap beyond that.
Suspension up front is by a pair of telescopic forks, with a pair of standard shocks at the rear. I found these to be quite competent under the conditions tested, (relatively smooth surfaces) although the small wheels (14” front and 13” rear) did tend to fall into any potholes or dips, rather than ride over them. Not a particularly jarring experience, but a tad unsettling, especially if I was pushing the speed of the bike at the same time.
For braking, the Majesty has a single disc up front and another at the rear, which proved to be a good compromise. A hard squeeze on the front will scrub off speed at a rapid and controlled rate. It's not overly powerful — such that the fear of locking it up isn't an issue — and offers good feedback to the rider to ensure that you always feel in control. Likewise the back brake has enough retardation power to lock the rear if you pull really hard (a good thing in CMG books, as who doesn't want to slide sideways to a lurid stop?), but not too sharp that it becomes a liability in general use.
Interestingly, Yamaha have not gone with any linked braking or ABS, a choice I personally quite liked (as I like to do some hooligan things that these features preclude) but which may fly in the face of what the perceived market would like (i.e. staid, more sensible types).
Oh, and there's also a parking brake (large and proud under the left handlebar), to ensure that the bike won't roll away when parked at an incline, thanks to the automatic transmission. I forgot to see if it would do handbrake turns, but we have time to try that in the summer.
Where the Majesty is most at home is around town. Steering is quick, which lends it to weaving in and out of traffic and the urban scene in general. In fact it's quite a blast, as it has similar characteristics to the smaller scoots (i.e. you can get away with a lot of dubious activities), only with a chunk more power on tap.
Things change once you're out of the urban sprawl and able to open it up a bit. Here, the quick steering and small wheel combo switches to the negative, resulting in a bit of a vague feeling.
On the four-laner, where the curves are generally gentle, it's not so much of an issue and the Majesty was quite a fun ride – managing to cruise comfortably with the traffic and stay within its comfort zones. However, get off the highway and into the twisties (say on a road like the 101), and that vagueness becomes a limiting factor because you're just not quite sure exactly what it's going to do.
This character wasn't helped at all on my wet ride, as the rear tire (IRC MB67s) had a tendency to slide an inch or two in some corners, especially when riding at a decent clip. Granted, it was very wet and the road rather gnarly, but after a couple of sphincter-clenching moments I decided to not try and investigate its sporty potential any further. I'm not sure where scooter tire technology is at the moment, but we'll certainly be checking out the options during our tenure with the Majesty over the year.
PROTECT AND SERVE
As for comfort, you'll no doubt be expecting me to say that I found it a tad cramped for my 6'4” body. And yes, I did, but with the seat fully back (remove and refit four Allen screws underneath), and knees together whenever doing a tight turn, I managed to be able to turn the bars with minimal knee bashing – save for the parking brake lever, which hung low off the left handlebar.
Since the seat comes with an inbuilt rider backrest (as with most big scoots), sliding back onto the passenger portion of the seat isn't possible, and you're effectively locked into one position, although legs can be stretched out either side of the front fairing for relief. However, by the end of the first day I was starting to get used to the positioning. At a guess, I'd say that the Majesty is suited best up to about the six footer mark, although we're going to take a look at possible seat adaptations on our long-termer to see if we can squeeze a little more room out of it.
The one thing that I had plenty of time to check is wet-weather protection! It's pretty good, and the non-adjustable screen is low enough to be able to look over it, though it does generate a goodly amount of noise at speed, so earplugs are a must.
The rest of the fairing protects the rider very well, although there's no coverage for the hands — which would quickly get wet, then cold (heated grips please!) — and I somehow managed to get a wet lower back/arse, although I'm not sure how. [Funny… I know how my newborn manages to get a wet lower back/arse – CopyEd].
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
The clocks are well laid out, an analogue speedo and tach sandwiching the LCD readout in the centre, which shows fuel (a series of bars – seemingly accurate), engine temp, clock/ambient temp and an odometer with two set-able trips. There's a couple of small stash compartments to either side for odds and ends (one lockable and one not) with the fuel filler located under a cover in the channel between the rider's legs.
Yamaha recommend using regular fuel, of which the Majesty will take up to 14 litres. With an average consumption of 20.13 Km/L (4.97 L/100Km), that translates to a range of 280 km, with the low fuel warning coming on at the 220 km mark. According to the manual this means that you have about 2.8 litres remaining, which should give you about another 60 km before you run dry. Once you hit the low fuel warning point, the odometer starts to tally the number of kilometres covered, which is useful, but disconcerting if you don't know exactly how many you have left.
Of course, no scooter is complete without a large storage space under the seat and the Majesty claims 60 litres worth –– sufficient to hold two full face helmets … although we can't confirm this as we only had one with us at the time.
We can confirm that it's waterproof, has a little vanity light that comes on when it opens, but will not accommodate someone who's 6'4” and 230lbs … well, with the seat closed anyway. Which meant that we don't know if the vanity light goes off when it closes, although things certainly went dark when Mr. Seck tried to slam it shut. Some stars too.
LIFE WITH HER HEIGHNESS
So that's about all we know about the Majesty to date. I'm somewhat relieved that I can be made to fit and happy to know that it'll zip around town with ease or cruise the multi-lane highway with the rest of traffic. As for its prowess in the twistier stuff, well, we'll try messing with suspension settings and getting some stickier rubber, but it's probably best not to push it too far in such circumstances.
Of course it's going to be recruited for Mad Bastard Rally duties in June (I'm not doing it again on a fifty – been there, done that) and we'll bring it on a few tours to see how it really copes with more extensive trips. It would also seem like a good idea to grab some of the competition and do a big comparo.
Finally, Yamaha have agreed to supply us with whatever accessories (see below) we'd like to try, although there are some other bits out there that have grabbed our attention as well – an aftermarket pipe being the obvious one. Personally, I'm going to take at look at how to adapt the seat for a few extra inches of room so that I can use that parking brake on the go a bit more effectively … What? No, I wouldn't do that. That's irresponsible. :)
Keep tuned to CMG for updates and the wrap-up of how she coped at the end of the year.
If you didn't click on the link to the piece about what defines a big scooter, click here. Go on, you know you want to.
Even just a little?
LUND HOTEL - for the accommodation in Lund.
VANCOUVER AIRPORT CONFERENCE RESORT – for Mr. Seck's accommodation in Vancouver.
CHEZ HARKNESS - for Editor 'arris' deluxe living in Vancouver.
GA CHECKPOINT - for prepping the bike and allowing us to drop it off even though they were closed.
YAMAHA CANADA - for getting the Majesty out there in the first place.
Yamaha has some accessories available to customize the Majesty, most of which we should be getting on our long-termer so that we can appraise how they do. Unfortunately a tiara and crown jewels do not seem to be part of them. Options include:
Top Case ($225.95) – 44 litres of additional carrying capacity, colour matched to your steed. You'll also need the rear rack to mount it.
Rear Rack ($274.95) – Seems a tad expensive for a rack, pushing the top-box option to a tad under $500.00!
Heated Grips ($382.95) – Again, that's a chunk o' change for heated grips. Might be worth taking a look at some cheaper aftermarket options.
Passenger Backrest ($109.95) – Not badly priced to keep your friend feeling more secure and comfortable.
Leg Shield ($119.95) – Basically a bit of plastic that gives you extra protection from the weather. I assume that they come in a pair?
Tall Screen ($242.95) – More protection for the rest of you!