The age of the touring scooter is here, with an ever increasing range of scooters in the 400cc-600cc bracket to chose from.
But do these sleek, 100mph super-scooters make a viable alternative to an all rounder type of motorbike, or a pocket tourer like the Honda Deauville 650?
Insidebikes.com editor Alastair took a week aboard the Majesty 400, commuting, touring and zooming along some of his fave backroads, to find the answer.
I’m a big fan of big scooters. I love the way you simply sit back, relax, twist the throttle and get to where you’re going without any fuss. Thing is, those who keep banging on about how great it is to commute by motorcycle are barking up the wrong tree – commuting on a machine like my own VFR800 for example simply wrecks the thing, and costs more than travelling to work in my car.
A scooter however is a design which is specifically aimed at those who want transport, rather than the visceral, adrenaline-fuelled thrills of riding a big fast motorbike. Of course the super-scooter neatly bridges the gap between the two concepts and I would say that an engine around 400cc is probably the optimum size for the job too.
Yamaha’s four stroke, single cylinder Majesty motor is ultra smooth, fuel injected, 4 valve head and pumps out about 34bhp, at 7250rpm. After a little lag away from standstill, it engages the automatic drive and accelerates decently fast, eventually topping out at about 100mph if you have the urge. More importantly, it will cruise all day at 80mph on a motorway, whilst returning an astonishingly good rate of fuel consumption, generally in the 60-70mpg range. Impressive stuff, especially for a machine which weighs more than a 1000cc Fireblade, at 197kgs.
The Majesty 400 has plenty of midrange for a scooter, although the autobox delivery means it lacks the sheer zing that you might get from say a 600cc Honda Hornet, which is in the same price bracket (The Majesty 400 is £4600 OTR) but you would be surprised at how fast the scooter can cover ground. Not everything to do with making progress on two wheels is governed by how rapidly the vehicle can slingshot from 40mph-80mph – the Majesty 400 has an ace up its sleeve; slick handling.
A question of balance
Underneath the plastic panels of the Majesty (which I find functional but dull to look at personally) there is a very substantial aluminium alloy frame, featuring plenty of bracing around the engine at the back, plus a twin shock suspension set up for the rear wheel. This goes a long way, I believe, to eradicating much of the `weaving’ that many super-scooters exhibit at corner speeds above 60mph. The Majesty isn’t quite as precise a handler as say a Suzuki SV650, but it is very close and the confidence which the stable chassis gives you soon translates into rapid A to B progress.
Upfront, superb single disc brake also allow you to brake really late, considering the weight of the scoot, and stay well ahead of any gti boy VW Golf drivers who fancy their chances on twisty B roads. This isn’t quite a sports scooter, but it has got an adroit, well balanced set of handling and braking characteristics which let an experienced rider have fun, at sane speeds. I was very impressed and would rate the scooter as being sharper than the Piaggio X9 500, or the Aprilia Leonardo 250, which I rode a few years ago.
But the Majesty is really a mid-sized touring bike underneath its scooter-shaped skin and the proof is in the details, like the seating, the weather protection, the luggage capacity and things like the parking brake.
There’s plenty of room under the seat for waterproofs, for two people, or stashing a full face helmet. There are additional cubby hole pockets, set near the steering column up at the front too. The plush saddle has an adjustable backrest for the rider, but the pillion has to choose from the accessory catalogue, or wait until you stump up for a topbox and pillion pad. The grab handles for the pillion were nice and wide too, so people of all sizes could find a grip that suited them.
When it rains, the screen on the Majesty is big enough to keep the worst away, although like most of them, it is too low to prevent helmet battering from the wind which flows over the lip of the screen. There’s a tall windscreen option available however, as well as heated handlebar grips.
On the road, in what passes for a British summer, the Majesty’s bodywork is just wide enough to push wind and rain away from your main body area, although your sleeves will soon get soaked. In general, I would say it matches the weather protection that a touring motorcycle offers, except for stuff like Gold Wings, but the bonus is that your feet stay nice and dry in the scooter’s footwells. A very useful benefit on longer rides, or winter commuting.
If you build it, they will come
In Italy, Spain and other countries, the maxi scooter is a viable alternative to a small city car for many commuters. It is also becoming an increasing choice in the UK for ’semi retired’ bikers, who find that a 60 year old body simply cannot handle the physical demands of a sports-tourer, or a `naked’ retro.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but British motorcycle riders have a real mental problem when it comes to scooters. Many would rather spend another £2000-£4000 on a lumbering touring bike, which they cannot complete a U-turn safely on, then ride their 1200cc beast at speeds of 65-75mph, whilst the bike’s engine chins unleaded at 45mpg. To add another illogical twist, their pillion passengers would often be more comfortable on the scooter! But as any `true’ biker will tell you, scooters are for Mods and girls, look like bidets on wheels, they don’t handle, blah-blah-blah…
But why buy something to do a job which isn’t quite right? You can use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but you’re better off with nutcrackers. In the same way, the Majesty 400 is a better, cheaper (in the long run) touring machine than a Deauville 650, which is arguably its nearest rival. I rode a Deauville 3000 miles to Budapest and back last year – which left me physically shattered, albeit still smiling. Fact is, I could have done the same trip, on less fuel and in far greater rider comfort on this scooter. The only advantage the Deauville has over the Majesty is its ’motorbike’ type handling – and maybe another 15mph in outright speed.
The only ingredient missing with the Majesty, and other super-scooters, is panache, a certain style – they look bland, boring even, bit like a Deauville possibly… Once Yamaha solve that problem and make the Majesty 400 look `cool’ slightly, then they’ll start to win hundreds, rather than dozens, of converts. Until then, most bikers will stick to bikes, mainly because it’s what they know. But there’s a great unknown out there, a million miles of touring roads to explore and you could see it all on a scooter…just twist `n’ go..
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha majesty 400.
Engine Single cylinder, four stroke, 4 valve, liquid cooled
Bore and stroke 83mm X 73mm
Carbs None, Digital fuel injection
Gears None, automatic
Chassis Frame; Aluminium alloy diamond type
Forks 41m Telescopic, non adjustable
Rear Suspension Twin shock, adjustable for pre-load
Brakes Single front disc, single rear disc
Wheels/Tyres 120/80 14 inch front, 150/70 13 inch rear
Dry Weight 197kgs
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Estimated top speed 105mph
Estimated average fuel consumption 65mpg
Equipment Mirrors, three luggage storage areas, parking handbrake, fuel gauge, trip calculator, digital clock, adjustable rider backrest
Optional extras Top box, pillion backrest, heated grips, taller windscreen, wider legshields, luggage insert bags
Price £4600 OTR July 2004