User Rating: Excellent
Handling And Control:
Quality and Craftsmanship:
Pros: A rare and worthy motor bike that is fully fun but everything but typical
Cons: A bit rough in the rough
The Bottom Line: If high performance, luxurious but practical, no hassle motorized two-wheeling is in your future and you’re a true individual, think Burgman 400.
I#146ve found a new love. She#146s classy yet sporty. She#146s got curves in all the right places. She#146s ready to go out for a night on the town while she#146s equally ready to take you into work when you#146re running late. I want to take her on vacation to places far away and I want to take her for ice cream down the block.
And did I mention my wife likes her too? My new love and I are no adulterers. She#146s my new Burgman and I#146m her rider.
It#146s doubtful you#146ve ever seen one of these on the streets. This bike is one of the rarest vehicle types on the roads and highways in America. Not quite a motorcycle but definitely not a Vespa, the Burgman 400 represents a class of motor vehicles known as super- or maxi-scooters. Powered by engines with displacements from 250 to 650 cubic centimeters, those who ride these large motor bikes range from college students to business men and women to retirees.
Their demography is all over the map and they live on every continent. For Burgman riders, one thing they all share, however, is the bike and the famous Burgman grin on their face. Indeed, the word most often used by riders to describe their scooter is #147fun.#148
The Burgman 400 is created and built by the same folks who make some of the fastest, most powerful two-wheelers on the road #150 Suzuki. Large scooters are popular and sell in greater number overseas. Known as the Sky Wave in Japan and Europe, the family ranges in engine displacement from 125 cc#146s and upwards.
The Burgman 400 is one of two maxi-scooters it offers in the U.S. The other is the Burgman 650, the world#146s largest, most powerful scooter with, as its name suggests, 650 sized engine.
While the term #147scooter#148 might conjure up images of a couple morons riding two-up on a 50 cc mini-bike a la Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in the movie Dumb and Dumber, maxi-scooters are typically larger than full-sized motorcycles, weigh between 350 and 550 pounds, and can post 0 #150 60 MPH times faster than many motorcycles. They still retain the scooter nomenclature for a number of characteristics including a step-through frame, automatic transmission, hand controls for both front and rear brakes, a floor board, built-in storage, and (mostly) a swing-arm mounted engine.
Those features make scooters especially appealing for those who want to hit the road without the hassle of having to shift. Owners especially like the storage and other conveniences and comforts a scooter might offer.
In the few write-ups of bikes in the maxi-scooter class, reviewers have tended to be experienced motorcycle riders and with that comes the bias of passing judgment on a completely different type of vehicle. It#146s as if a dragster racer were put in the position of reviewing luxury sedans. While the obvious similarities between a motorcycle and scooter are apparent, the motivations to ride each may be wildly separated.
Being a brand new motor bike rider, the Burgman being my first motorized bike, I#146m probably as qualified as any other to offer my thoughts on this scooter. Although surprisingly many motorcycle riders switch to maxi-scooters, most of the Burgman owners will be first-time riders such as myself and they won#146t have the benefit nor the bias of past rides. So let#146s begin in earnest.
Why Buy A Burgman?
Oh sure, you could use logic and reason to try to convince a resistant spouse why you need to spend a few thousand dollars on a vehicle. It won#146t work. Face it, she#146s smarter than you are.
Even with gas pushing over $3 per gallon and car prices and maintenance costs have you considering a second mortgage, it#146s still a hard to impossible sell. Instead you just have to call in favors, Karma, blackmail or whatever ruthless tactics you might have up your sleeve.
Besides you did paint the entire house yourself when the quotes came in over $5000 and that thing you call a truck you#146re driving should have been replaced years ago but you#146ve told your wife, #147she#146s still got another year or two in her#148 meanwhile she#146s driving the late model luxury car. Fair is fair and, what the heck, she spends more on shoes in a month than you do on your dumb hobbies in a year. But, still, why buy the Burgman?
OK, if you NEED practicality, you#146ll find it gets around 55 miles per gallon, uses regular gas, can use the diamond (car pool) lane and, at least in California, can #147lane split#148 all the way to work. You didn#146t hear it from me but Burgman riders have reported that on a flat straight-away on the #147super slab#148 as my motorized gear heads are wont to say, they#146ve attained speeds approaching triple digits — something Carrey and Daniels didn#146t dream of in the movie.
Your 45 minute commute instantly becomes 25 minutes. That should be compelling enough.
But let#146s get back to that #147fun#148 thing I mentioned. There#146s something electric about twisting a throttle and feeling yourself gaining speed fairly quickly without coordinating left hand and foot in the shifting choreography that is the ritual of motorcycle riding. Granted, shifting becomes brainless on a motorcycle in time and most motorcyclists ENJOY the tactile and power sensations they get by running up and down the gears.
Still, the effort does take time, even if only a moment, and in that brief time when that big V-twin rider next to you is enjoying that klunk as his transmission falls into first gear when the light turns green, you#146re already across the far side of the intersection with smooth and seamless acceleration. I find that I#146m far and away the first vehicle off the line at traffic lights and with the silky transmission of power, near constant engine speed, and relative quiet of all the works, I find I#146m also busting through the posted speed limit when I glance at the speedometer.
And that#146s thanks to the typical scooter#146s Continuously Variable Transmission, CVT. The technology involves a simple but clever design that uses a V belt to span the crankshaft and drive train between two pulleys of variable width. The geometry is controlled by engine speed and load and allows the engine to work at its best power range to accelerate and maintain speed.
A CVT can be 98% efficient and with greater reliability in belt design, is being considered in more larger application. Honda, Suzuki and other motorcycle makers are considering CVT for more powerful motorcycle designs. In a much more powerful form the CVTs already provide automatic gearing in some small cars.
On the power side of the CVT is a electronically fuel-injected, single overhead cam, four valve, water cooled 385 cc engine. It#146s got plenty of power that is apparent at take off and at city speeds. However, it#146s no demon and passing trucks at highway speeds on an uphill will take some patience and skills while using momentum and gap judgment to your fullest.
Just watch that speedo because you#146ll find yourself moving quicker than you think you are.
Being a long time bicycle rider and having experience with riding a tandem bicycle, I found the transition from handling a loaded tandem to handling the Burgman nearly transparent. In fact, I found that handling the tandem takes more skill than handling the heavier Burgman. Its lightweight aluminum, five-spoked, 13-inch wheels make it highly maneuverable at slow speeds typical of urban riding but feel stable at highway speeds.
With its smallish wheels, horizontally oriented engine mounted low, on the swing arm, gas tank and most all mechanicals mounted as far down on the frame as possible, the low center of gravity provides confidence inspiring stability. With no experience on motorcycles but with years on a bicycle, I felt the handling was natural. Slow speed maneuvering felt neutral with the bike having no tendency to fall into the turn or fighting the turn by wanting to stand up.
A bit of appropriate counter-steering put the bike on a predictable line at speed. Sweeping graceful turns come easy as well as swerves to avoid potholes and road debris.
And you#146ll want to avoid those potholes as the Burgman#146s one weakness come into play. Because the engine is mounted on the swing arm, that unsprung weight and the limited travel in the front and rear suspension, about 100 mm#146s a piece, make for a harsh ride over rough pavement. You#146ll feel every expansion joint and suffer sloppy asphalt work.
Suzuki provides a nicely accessible and easily adjusted, no tools needed, hydraulic rear suspension pre-tensioner but I found no setting completely mitigates the bumpiness. But even as the feeling isn#146t Body By Fisher Buick soft, the bike remains on line and tracks nicely in corners without wallowing.
With over 440 pounds plus a no-longer-svelte rider and the bike#146s inclination to get to speed quickly, prudence and good sense mean you#146d like to reign in that velocity when needed. And you do so on the Burgman. With a single hydraulic disc brake for both front and rear, slowing and stopping is done without much adventure or excitement #150 the best way to stop.
The brakes are Suzuki#146s linked set up with the right hand lever controlling two pistons of the 260 mm front disc and the left hand lever controlling the rear 210 mm disc and a split second later, applying pressure to a another set of pistons on the front disc. It#146s not ABS but the brakes stop sure with good modulation and with no feeling of premature lock up. Having ridden in steady rain, I felt no diminished braking capacity.
The supplied windshield is nicely formed and at an appropriate height to deflect nearly all the wind around this 5 foot, 8 inch rider. Only the top of my helmet seems to encounter any wind and it was well managed without buffeting. With the help of generous fairings I stayed surprisingly dry in an unexpected thunder shower and my legs remained bone dry while I kept my knees inboard.
Even though there probably is an optimal location of placing my feet on the floorboard, I found that just about any location I placed my feet wasn#146t susceptible to rain or splash. The benefit of a floorboard on a scooter as opposed to a peg on a bike is the infinite number of foot rest positions #150 something to consider when you want to be in the saddle for hours.
If I didn#146t live in California I would consider buying a larger windshield such as that offered by Givi or optional hand guards to keep my hands dry in the rain. And speaking of the saddle, I found the seat on the Burgman among the most comfortable and well-placed. The Burgman 400 comes standard with a stepped saddle including a pillion back rest (sissy bar).
The driver#146s position has a backrest that is nicely formed and supportive and is adjustable fore and aft without needing tools.
Where minimalism is a desirable design feature for motorcycle displays with, perhaps, a speedometer and neutral indicator the only important indication for some riders, it#146s quite the contrary for maxi-scooters and the Burgman 400 may have the one of the most comprehensive, luxurious and well considered panel of all. The look is more reminiscent of that on your Lexus than that of any you#146ve seen on any motorcycle.
Included are easy-to-read analog tachometer, speedometer, coolant temperature gauge and very accurate fuel gauge. There#146s a digital odometer and two tripometers and digital clock. That#146s styling. There are also a number of indicator lights such as high beam indicator and turn signal reminder, parking brake reminder plus a set of idiot lights. All are well placed and easy to see day and night.
A nice feature is a oil change indicator light that can be reset to intervals between 300 to 3600 miles in 300-mile increments.
And yes, I said parking brake. If the Earth were flat you wouldn#146t need or want one. But ask anyone who has tried to park a two-wheeled anything on an incline about this irksome problem.
It can be a balancing act and more than one rider of a bike without a parking brake has returned to find his bike sideways after tipping because the bike rolled a bit. With both a side-stand and center-stand, along with the use of the parking brake you can always find a safe and stable way to park your Burgman. The brake is easily applied with a lever on the right side of the fairing.
You#146ll also find the center-stand helpful when parking on an unstable surface such as dirt or gravel where a sidestand alone could sink and allow the bike to fall.
Attention to detail is just about everywhere on the Burgman. Even the ignition key slot is protected against the elements and tampering by a sliding cover that can only be engaged and released by inserting and turning the keyed boss on the back end of the ignition key. It#146s all easier than it sounds and it makes sense and provides peace of mind.
The ignition switch serves a number of functions other than turning the bike on and off. By turning the key one position left of off, you lock the handlebars. Turning the key one more position to the left keeps the handlebars locked but turns on the rear lights #150 a safety feature if you have to leave your bike on the side of the highway at night.
The key, when depressed and turned fully to the right opens the seat trunk.
And what a trunk it is. When the seat tips up and is held in place by a pneumatic piston, a light under the seat illuminates 53 liters of well designed storage space that can fit two full helmets. Within the space is a tool kit for maintenance and emergency repair.
I normally store a safety vest and extra clothing layers in this capacious space. My laptop, lunch, and briefcase are easily swallowed and kept bone dry. This storage area may be the single most compelling reason to get a scooter #147for practical reasons.#148 But it doesn#146t end there. Upfront are three separate storage areas. Not nearly as spacious but convenient enough.
The first resembles a glove compartment that is lockable. While the space accommodates the battery, there#146s plenty of room for gloves, paperwork, garage door opener, cell phone, etc. And you can be charging that cell phone as your ride by connecting it to the power socket inside. The two remaining storage compartments are above and are just large enough to hold sunglasses or a PDA.
The compartments are secured with an odd but interesting swinging lid that isn#146t lockable.
Altogether, the flight deck looks clean, neat, and, with the handlebars nicely covered in a molded plastic sheathing, #147finished.#148 Except for the mirrors. They appear to be an after thought. I believe during the final design review for the Burgman someone asked, #147Hey, aren#146t bikes supposed to have mirrors?#148 #147Oops.#148 Anyway, the mirrors, as out-of-place as they look, are fully functional, placed well outboard and provide a full view out the back.
They can be moved in for that lane splitting you didn#146t hear me talk about.
I recommend buying a decent alarm system that detects shock and movement as the bike is relatively lightweight and can targeted by really strong and motivated thieves.
Eye of the beholder
A motorcycling traditionalist will find a million reasons not to consider a maxi-scooter, most of which are unfounded. To many, a motorcycle must look #147just so.#148 The Burgman is not intended for them in design and in marketing effort. You either like the looks of a maxi-scooter or you don#146t. While all look similar, the Burgman 400 has a sleek, modern, sporty but functional look that is, above all, friendly.
Its well finished, luxuriously applied metallic paint (in silver or blue) is classy albeit subdued. With plastic Tupperware paneling that hides the mechanicals, smallish wheels, a low seat height (27.7 inches), no protruding pegs and levers, and inviting passenger compartment, many can#146t help but to be drawn.
But what will my friends say?
As I have indicated, there are a lot of reasons to like and buy this bike. But it#146s not for everyone. If you need to ride what others are riding, buy what others are riding.
While there are a thousand ways to modify a Ducati Monster or Harley Fat Boy along with the buckets of cash needed to do so, it#146ll still be a Ducati Monster or Harley Fat Boy. Nothing against Ducati or Harley. I love #145em. All ten thousand of them I see on the road. I don#146t need to go from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds with my groinals bunched up against a steel tank nor do I need the attention, lifestyle and commitment of riding a big black and chromy V-twin.
But if the benefits and features of a Burgman tug at you AND you want to ride something relatively novel AND you don#146t want to spend a fortune and all your free time changing your bike, buy a stock Burgman, ride it, and love it.
The first sport bike rider was ultra cool. The first Harley rider was ultra individualistic. Today, they#146re just one of thousands. Practically invisible. A Burgman rider oozes individualism without surrendering performance and convenience.
Kinda of a nice place to be, eh?
Note: In all states the Burgman 400 is technically considered a motorcycle requires a full motorcycle license endorsement. Suzuki, this reviewer, and about a zillion motor bike operators recommend taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation, MSF, beginner class if this is your first motor bike. Find a class in your state here: http://www.msf-usa.org/
For more information in an interactive forum inhabited by some very friendly and smart folks, visit www.burgmanusa.com.
Recommend this product? Yes
Amount Paid (US$): 4500
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