Comparison Test:
Yamaha BWS50R vs. Honda Dio SR50

by Piero Zambotti


Honda left, Yamaha right.

Scooters, basic motorised two wheeled transportation at nearly its simplest form, are completely ignored here in capitalist Amerika, which is funny because they're everywhere in many other congested cities around the globe. Perhaps many North Americans simply think bigger is better, and that scooters, and smaller motorcycles for that matter, are no fun. Anyway, since we at OMG believe that placing two enthusiastic motorcyclists on a pair of two wheeled vehicles will make for a cool ride, regardless of engine sizes/power, a Yamaha BWS50R and Honda SR50 Dio were needed for scientific proof of the aforementioned hypothesis...

Wheelies, burnouts, off-road excursions, and general urban terrorism were carried out in the most objective of fashions; and a spin off of this scooter abuse was the inspiration for the famous Numb Bum effort, in which the BWS50R pictured here was raced for 24 hours on a frozen lake in Northern Alberta in mid February. Scooter abuse at its highest and undoubtedly coolest form, I'm sure you'd agree... Anyhow, enough rambling, what are the bikes like?

Appearance wise, the two couldn't be more different; while the Yamaha is kind of a hot rod with its blacked out paint, dual headlights, cute little Grimeca mag wheels with pseudo knobbies, and tidy front disc brake, the Honda is your basic and bland scooter shape and style. The red/white/baby blue paint of the Honda makes it look like it was carefully carved out of a one big chunk of plastic...


The Dio has an handy storage space big enough for a helmet

Both scoots start very easily, but the Honda smokes more when cold and won't warm up as fast as the Yamaha. The latter scoot fires up and is ready to go in less than a minute, but the Honda takes at least a couple minutes before it'll rev properly. The Honda has an auto choke that decides for itself when the motor is cold or not, and it worked problem free. Although both machines are quiet, the BWS has a really cool muted two stroke crackle from its expansion chamber, while the Hondas sound never gives any clue to what kind of powerplant is turning the wheel; it's the quieter of the two and really does sound just like a Hoover Carpet Cleaner...

Upon first ride, the first quirk you notice with these things is that they ain't made for big people, the Honda especially. The Yamaha has less legroom, but a bigger seat, as well as passenger capability and accommodation. The Honda is skimpier and physically smaller in almost every dimension compared to the BWS, and its maximum load is a lowish 200lb. Editor Rob was a laughing stock when on the Dio. His over 200lb weight (just over .. Ed) flattening the poor scoot's springs, his legs pried against the handlebars, jutting out to the side of the legshield. He was almost unsafe on the thing because the bars were at the level of his legs meaning that he could barely steer. This meant, not even a block into the ride, that we had to switch scooters so our meathead editor wouldn't ram a car or something... (Just you watch it Fireblade boy - Ed).


Dave wheelies the "Whizz"

The second scooter quirk you notice is the absence of gears and a clutch, as these machines have an auto clutch that connects to a snowmobile style variable ratio belt transmission (a CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission) that provide drive. Acceleration is not strong, with the maximum acceleration of both being exactly the average acceleration rate of most of the vehicles taking off from stoplights these days. Downtown this was okay, and by timing the stoplight and throttle accordingly, you could actually be ahead of most of the cars off the lights if they didn't know you were racing them. The latter point should emphasise just how slow these scooters are, but funnily enough, what's rather tedious on your own becomes a complete riot when another scooter is up against you at the lights...

You and your opponent are intensely concentrating on the soon to turn green stoplight, throttle wrists twitching, holding engine rpm right on the auto clutch engagement point, both scooters just inching forward as their auto clutch's verge on the fury of approximately four pavement wrinkling rear wheel horsepower (actually the Yamaha put out 4.3 bhp on the Dynoworks dyno). The light turns green and throttle cables are stretched as opponents frantically use their legs to gain a slight advantage, paddling wildly to help the tiny motors off the line... Welcome to the world of urban scooter drag racing!

With equal weight riders, possessing equal scooter drag racing ability, the Honda out accelerated the Yamaha every time, and felt faster, further proof of how sporty looks and sound don't mean shit. Really though, there isn't much of a difference, and flat out both scoots are even, both topping out around 65km/h. Both in acceleration and top speed, the Yamaha feels like it's carrying a restriction somewhere in the engine, for it doesn't quite have a proper powerband, the power curve flattening out quite a bit before its top speed. Downhill, the BWS pulled 75km/h though. Whatever, in stock form the Honda has the better engine, with smoother, more gradual clutch engagement, more acceleration, and a more sophisticated feel than the Yam. A serious defect of the Honda is the fact that when popping really high wheelies, the carb starves for gas just at the point where you just had that front wheel nailed to the perfect balance position. This bogs the motor, and rudely drops the front wheel. Honda has engineered the Dio with an anti wheelie feature; thankfully the Yamaha has no such problems...


When it comes down to stopping these fire breathing hotrods from their astronomical top speeds, the Yamaha has a huge advantage with its disc brake over the Hondas skimpy little front drum. The BWS has brakes not simply above average for a scooter, but more effective brakes than many motorcycles I've tried, and that coupled with sticky tires and good weight distribution makes for truly wicked braking. The Honda loses out big time here. It was alarming how routine braking almost had the Dio's front tire squealing, and hard braking would nearly bottom out the fork, and had the front tire just howling to the point that if you were riding the Yamaha a car length ahead, the squealing was clearly audible even though the Honda's front wheel wasn't locked! As far as back brakes go, both little drums on both machines were fine.

The Yam's brick wall brakes emphasize another one of its strong points: suspension. Well damped, and not too softly sprung, the Yam's front fork is very good, even to the point that farting around on fire-roads and trails off road at a sane pace didn't overload it. Under hard braking, the BWS soaked up bumps beautifully, the rear suspension complementing the excellent front pretty well. The Honda was much more softly sprung, and had no damping compared to the Yamaha; its squishy fork leaked oil, and both front and rear suspensions bottomed regularly. Just riding the Honda off a five inch curb bottomed the rear shock! This, along with the scoot's small dimensions, emphasizes the fact that the Honda is made for small people.

The ultimate test for the Yamaha's handling was when I tried it on a go kart track at one of my NFC race weekends last year. After the racing, I did a couple laps on the scooter to compare it to a YSR, performance wise, thinking that it would be fairly close. How wrong I was! The BWS instantly suffered ground clearance probs from its centre stand, expansion chamber, and passenger pegs, dragging them easily on the track, and didn't feel anywhere near the race prepped YSR. To be fair though, Polini and other aftermarket distributors (mainly European) carry a lot of BWS parts that would make the Yamaha a serious track/off road machine. Don't laugh, scooter motocross and roadracing are taken very seriously across the pond... (yeah, we're hoping to get the Yam into the Nifty Fifty race series. A scooter class no less! Anybody else interested? - Ed)


 Making use of the "Diomps" extra space

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Yamaha is far better than the Honda in handling, braking, cornering, and most performance tests, but the Honda has distinct advantages in traditional scooter use. Its best feature is the helmet storage trunk under the seat; it's something all scooters should have, and is amazingly useful around town. With the seat open and trunk empty, the mainly white Dio looks some kind of toilet on a wheeled platform, and could be useful with a roll of toilet paper off the bars... Really though, you don't have to drag your helmet around or leave it dangling off a helmet lock, you can simply lock it away unseen inside this cool plastic scooter. After buying groceries or whatever, remove the helmet to ride, and replace with stuff, which in my case was 4L of milk, 2 soup cans, and 2 pasta boxes with lots of space to spare. No bungees, cargo nets, or tankbags needed. The trunk is even weather sealed, and was watertight. The Honda also had a “glove compartment” right under the bars, and all kinds of stuff can be stored there as well. The Yamaha, by comparison, has no storage areas at all, except for a rack behind the seat, which the Honda has as well.

From a practical point of view, the Honda scores big time, but the Yamaha does have the very useful passenger seat. Amazingly, around town I was told that the extra seat was comfortable, and the BWS was still not dangerously underpowered, under-suspended, or under-braked for downtown.

Something that sucks about both these scoots is the fuel range. Both won't carry more than $2 worth of gas, and only go about 60-70km before fuel gauges (useful!) read empty. One tank of two stroke oil lasts around 500km for both.

The Yamaha easily blows off the Honda in any performance test except for acceleration and engine refinement, has a passenger seat, better build quality, and a price not too much higher, so it is the winner of the comparison. Along with a rather flat feeling motor, which could be cured by removing whatever the restriction is or buying some aftermarket speed parts, the lack of storage space is the Yamaha's only other shortcoming, and objectively, the only strong selling point for the Honda.

This CMG experiment proved scooters are cool. These things deserve to sell better. The Yamaha is especially fun, and if only Honda would bug out that anti wheelie feature in the Dio, it would be almost as much fun. Further proof two enthusiastic motorcyclists on any type of equally powered machinery is a recipe for a blast of a ride...

Piero Zambotti

Thanks to Dave Behrend for assisting in testing the scooters and participating in the photo shoot

© 1997 Canadian Motorcycle Guide