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Scooter Review

Yamaha XP500 TMAX Review

From a standing start, the T-Max has the potential to surprise just about every four-wheeled vehicle and most two-wheelers as well.

Words by TRENT NIKOLIC, photography by LOU MARTIN

The young punk on the R6 keeps checking his rear vision mirror, wondering what’s going on. You know the type.

Riding in shorts, sneakers, no gloves and a singlet. He can’t seem to grasp the fact that there’s an annoying but urprisingly large scooter following him round every bend and not disappearing into his rear vision mirror every time he gets on the gas. In fact, the big Yamaha actually seems to be gaining on him.

That’s how it is on the Yamaha T-Max. It might be a scooter on the outside, but underneath it’s got the heart and handling characteristics of a sportsbike.

You’d scarcely believe it, but since we last rode the T-Max in 2006, it’s gotten even bigger in some areas and in others it has shrunk: it’s now 5kg lighter! The rear wheel size is up to 15-inches and the front forks are also slightly larger in diameter, which together with the die-cast/fabricated aluminium frame replacing the old tubular steel unit, delivers an improved ride and more stability. The fuel tank has been enlarged to 15 litres and that’s no bad thing, because after five minutes aboard the T-Max, you’ll be looking for excuses to keep riding.

The seat has been resculpted for extra rider comfort and passengers haven’t been forgotten either with new handgrips for pillions. The windscreen has also been redesigned and offers better protection than that of the outgoing model. Last time we rode the T-Max, we commented on the alluring rasp emitted by the 499cc motor with each concerted twist of the throttle and the new model delivers an even sweeter note thanks to an all new muffler.

The model updates don’t stop there either. Both front and rear fairings have been redesigned and there’s even additional storage now too. The T-Max follows the Yamaha mantra of looking blisteringly fast standing still, but in contrast to many of its scooter brethren, the T-Max actually delivers.

The liquid cooled, four-stroke, 499cc, fuel-injected motor remains positioned slightly further back and lower down than in most scooters and its improved torque flow will encourage you to use every bit of the power on offer.

The styling is a ‘love it or hate it’ design with the tall screen and large fairing that surrounds the headlamps making the front look rather bulky from some angles. Head on, the T-Max puts forward an interesting face. In contrast, the rear end is somewhat smoother and sleeker. The fairing may be bulky, but weather protection is excellent and there’s little of the buffeting you’d expect even when stronger cross winds come into play.

Practicality has always been high on the list of scooter owners and the T-Max is even more useful than the previous model. There are extremely handy storage pockets on either side of the front fairing that will swallow up wallets, mobile phones, sunglasses and keys with ease and in the left compartment, there’s a slide in drawer that safely houses credit cards and the like.

The ignition lock operates the seat lock and it’s a little clumsy when you’re in a hurry trying to find the correct position for the handlebars in order to activate the seat lock. Having said that, that’s our only real gripe with the T-Max. Once found, lift the front section and the rear-hinged seat lifts effortlessly on its hydraulic strut to reveal an enormous storage compartment large enough to store a helmet and a few shopping bags without fuss. Further evidence of the T-Max’s ergonomic friendliness is the fact that the underseat compartment is illuminated and lined with a removable carpet trim. The hinged flap at the front of the seat lifts forward for easy access to the fuel filler.

There’s both a centrestand and sidestand. While the centrestand is easy to use when you lift the T-Max onto it, it’s a little more complex to get off. Due to the width of the seat, it’s hard to get enough grip under your feet, so we found it easier to take the scooter off the centrestand, while standing next to it using the grab handle.

On the move, the T-Max is undoubtedly in its element. The automatic belt transmission works beautifully in tandem with the throttle control and delivers crisp, snatch free acceleration from a standing start or roll on from partial throttle openings. From a standing start, the T-Max has the potential to surprise just about every fourwheeled vehicle and most two-wheelers as well. Blessed with a low centre of gravity and long wheelbase, there’s simply a smooth controllable surge of acceleration that will fast leave the traffic in your rear view mirrors.

The ride is surprisingly firm, yet well damped with the T-Max soaking up Sydney’s below average roads in its stride. Twin telescopic forks take care of the ride up front, while a double-sided swing arm (that incorporates the belt and final drive) pivots on the engine crankcase out back. The rear spring is mounted horizontally under the engine and keeps the rear tyre from skittering about over ruts and bumps. Your confidence will grow with each kilometre thanks to impressive grip from the OE Bridgestones and lean angle is only limited by the sound of the centrestand dragging on the tarmac.

You’ll almost certainly find yourself doing this!

While the acceleration is impressive, the braking performance is perhaps even more so. Twin disc brakes up front work in concert with a single disc at the rear to deliver straight, accurate braking with a large dollop of engine braking also helping to arrest speed rapidly. If you’ve only ever ridden two-stroke twist and go scooters, you’ll be mightily impressed by the T-Max.

When you’re aboard the T-Max, there’s no more concern about avoiding motorways, highways and longer journeys. This maxi is aimed fair and square at the rider that not only has the weekday commute in mind, but is also looking for a bike that can revel in longer rides, hit the highway with confidence and carry a pillion without raising a sweat. ✽

As published in TW SCOOTER MAGAZINE - 18/03/2008
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