Tested: Yamaha T-Max 530
SPORTIEST MAXI SCOOTER: Yamaha's T-Max 530 gets even sportier with a performance and handling boost making it one of sportiest maxi scooter yet.
Author: DRIES VAN DER WALT
Since its introduction in 2001, Yamaha's T-Max 50 has had the distinction of being viewed as the sportier of the maxi scooters and it seems that with a boost in performance and handling, the latest incarnation the T-Max 530, Yamaha is intent on holding that title.
The T-Max has in my opinion, always been the looker among maxi scooters and the new model with its somewhat edgier styling has only reinforced my view.
In front, the two smaller projector headlamps and squared-off indicators endow the bike with a purposeful look, while the plastics blend in well with the overall design to form a coherent visual appearance.
The windshield is slightly shorter than on the previous model and can be manually set into either of two positions. I found that it worked perfectly for me in its factory position, with very little buffeting on my helmet at high speed. Seating position is natural and relaxed for my average-height frame, although a taller rider might find it a tad cramped.
As the nomenclature indicates, the T-Max engine has been bored out from 499 cm3 to 530 cm3. While this has resulted in a power output increase of only 1kW, torque has jumped from 45Nm to 52.3Nm. At the same time, Yamaha has reduced the scooter's weight through the use of a lighter and more efficient engine components, as well as a die-cast aluminium chassis instead of a tubular steel frame (the first aluminium frame on a scooter).
These changes predict even sportier handling and performance and the T-Max didn't disappoint me on the road.
The increased torque (now available at lower revs) gives the bike a noticeable boost in acceleration, especially in the 40 - 90km/h speed range.
The result is performance that feels much livelier than the specifications would indicate. Barring the lack of gear changing and the seating positions, it is easy to forget you are riding a scooter and not a conventional bike – the T-Max responds and handles much better than one would expect from a single-speeder. One of the contributing factors in the handling department is the fact that the T-Max has ample ground clearance, which allows you to chuck it into a corner with gusto without fearing that the stand might scrape or catch on something.
On a CVT bike with its lack of engine braking proper brakes are crucial. In the case of the T-Max, a 282mm rear disc brake working in combination with dual 267mm front disc brakes and four-pot front callipers take care of the stopping department with impressive efficiency.
An ABS option is also available for even greater braking power.
Unfortunately, the T-Max is not all good news. Yamaha seems to have sacrificed practicality in favour of sportiness, and the T-Max lacks luggage room in comparison with its competitors.
Although Yamaha claims that the underseat luggage box can swallow a full-face lid, the seat wouldn't close with my XL-size helmet inside. A deep, narrow lockable cubbyhole promises to be convenient, but the lid is so flimsy that I would be reluctant to use it on a daily basis.
The ultimate sales killer might well be the price. At R105000 the T-Max approaches mid-size sportbike price points, and I am not sure that many South Africans will opt for a scooter if they can buy a high-performance conventional bike for almost the same money. This is a pity, because all told the T-Max remains an excellent bike that deserves more appreciation than it is likely to get.
With the imminent launch of BMW's entries into this market segment, Yamaha is about to face stiff competition for the title of the sportiest maxi scooter (I suspect the upgrade of the T-Max is a direct response to BMW's plans) and it will be interesting to see what the future brings.
Whatever that may be, the fact remains that the T-Max is a competent bike and an exciting portent for the future of maxi scooters.
Yamaha T-Max 530 price: R105 000
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