Let us suppose you’ve ridden motorcycles all you life and, apart from needing shopping transport to the local supermarket, the idea of straddling a scooter has never entered your head. So how can this thing – Yamaha Tmax DX – cost 529,000 THB?
After a day riding one round Bangkok and its environs, I have an answer. It looks like a scooter, but it functions like a thin car. By that I mean it’s a two-wheeled vehicle with about 85 percent of the short-distance advantage of a car (comfort, capable or operation without thought, tech overkill, no great need to wear special clothing), and 90 percent of the advantages of a motorcycle (acceleration, filtering). Why would you buy a halve a million baht scooter? Well, if you can afford it, and you want to get to work on time, why wouldn’t you?
The first Yamaha Tmax came along in 2001. Since then Yamaha have sold 250,000 units, mainly to south European countries, where it’s a consistent best seller. The uptight north Europeans are proving slower to catch on, partly because of the colder weather. In Thailand the whole idea of maxi-scooters is also slowly picking up, partly perhaps because of the big bike culture is a little way behind than that of some other countries.
The basic Yamaha Tmax idea is proper forks, brakes, cast aluminum frame, suspension and swingarm, with a high quality ‘interior’ and a 530cc powertrain chosen to balance performance with lightness. The latest model we talk about here – the luxury-spec Yamaha Tmax DX – adds a car-type dash, less weight, better weight distribution and lots of electronics: keyless ignition, ABS, traction control, two riding modes, cruise control, electric screen, heated seat and grips. There’s a locking centerstand too, because criminals appreciate the Yamaha Tmax for the same reasons honest people do.
I am not an instinctive scooter fan, but the Yamaha Tmax DX works amazingly well. Transmission? Flawless, even down to 1km/h. Ability to out-drag traffic from the traffic lights? No bother. You can, moreover, nip pretty sharpish past a car doing 100km/h. In fact, with a 140 to 150km/h cruising potential you can hassle drivers in the fast lane. Stability over bumpy roads? It’s fine, even under high-speed provocation. Fast corners? Grip, turn-in, stability and sheer speed are all way better than you would expect. Even cornering clearance is pretty good, though the centerstand goes down in the end. Truth is, you could take a Yamaha Tmax down a country road and keep up with – even pass – most other motorcycles.
Despite all this, I don’t want a Yamaha Tmax. I can see it’s brilliantly developed as a modern sportbike; I just happen to prefer gears, and the freedom to brace a knee against a fuel tank in corners. And that initially luxurious riding position puts all you weight through the base of your spine.
But it I had to do a daily commute from Bangkok sub-burbs to downtown, a Yamaha Tmax DX would probably be unbeatable.