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From the Miami Herald, 6/24/04

Scooter could earn 'real-bike' status

Suzuki's new Burgman 650 is not your typical lightweight ride. It is one of a new generation of bigger, more capable scooters.

BY JAMES HESKETH

Special to The Herald

Might scooters be the next Volkswagen Beetle?

When the ''Bug'' first appeared in the U.S., Americans had a hard time accepting it as a real car. While U.S. carmakers kept building bigger and more powerful automobiles, the small German import was mostly favored by eccentrics and students who couldn't afford anything better.

But over time, the little V-Dub found its place in our hearts and in garages as people began to appreciate its convenience and economy as a commuter. Eventually, due to the success of the Beetle, Volkswagen became a major player in the American automobile market and later began producing larger, mainstream vehicles.

Among many motorcyclists, scooters likewise are not accepted as ''real bikes.'' They have traditionally been little more than economical commuters also for eccentrics and students who couldn't afford anything better.

But, over the past decade, as America reurbanizes itself, scooters are becoming a major form of transportation. Just as Volkswagen grew in size and power as Beetle popularity grew, scooters are doing the same.

Suzuki, last year, introduced its version of one of these new-generation ''Super Scooters'' -- the Burgman 650. It is a bike that blurs the line between scooter and motorcycle.

RARE POWER

Generally, three things separate scooters from motorcycles: scooters have step-through frames (like a traditional girls bicycle), light (50-250cc) displacement engines and a ''twist-and-go'' automatic transmission.

While the Burgman has the step-through frame of traditional scooters, it is powered by a 638cc, DOHC, eight-valve, 54-horsepower, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, counterbalanced, two-cylinder engine coupled to a sophisticated automatic transmission.

It's this tranny that really sets the bike apart from anything else on the road today, said Todd Sandival of from Palmetto Motorsports.

Suzuki's electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission gives the Burgman three modes of operation. This massive scooter has two settings when using it as a fully automatic twist-and-go scooter: With the push of a button, the rider can choose between a standard ''economy'' setting or a lower ''power'' setting that increases the rpm by 1,500 for extra oomph off the line or when passing another vehicle.

The third option is to manually shift through the five speeds with a handlebar-mounted thumb-switch, which acts like Porsche's Tiptronic-style shifter.

The manual option was fun to play with, but it didn't improve the bike's performance, at least on flat roads here in South Florida. It would, however, come in handy when riding in cities with steep hills, such as San Francisco, or when riding over mountains on a cross-country ride.

COAST-TO-COAST

The Burgman certainly has the power and comfort for coast-to-coast rides -- something no sane person would consider on a traditional scooter. Suzuki claims a top speed of 112 mph. While I can't confirm that, the Burgman had no trouble keeping up with aggressive I-95 drivers, and had plenty of power to put traffic behind me without much effort.

Long days in the saddle are possible with this bike. The driver's seat is plush and, without having to straddle a fuel tank or frame section, it is more comfortable to sit on than some furniture.

Traditional telescopic forks up front and twin shocks in back keep the ride smooth and comfortable on rough roads. The windshield does a good job of keeping wind flow down to a comfortable level and the wide-set mirror pods double as hand guards.

My wife said the passenger seat was one of the most comfortable she has ever sat on. But one drawback to this bike is that adding a passenger affects its handling. The front end felt light and the bike wiggled whenever my wife readjusted herself on the seat.

This is probably due to the fact that the majority of her weight was centered behind the rear axle, and that her seat is seven or eight inches higher than the driver's.

Another factor could be the size of the wheels: Most motorcycles ride on 17, 18 or even 19-inch wheels, while the Burgman sits on a 14-incher up front and a 15-inch rear. The smaller wheels may provide less rotational stability because the gyroscopic effect is lessened.

Whatever the reason, the wiggle wasn't so drastic that it would stop me from taking her for a long ride.

Storage on the Burgman is impressive: A large under-seat compartment can easily hold two full-face helmets, a couple bags of groceries or a briefcase. Three convenient under-dash compartments -- one is lockable and has a power outlet to charge electronics -- keeps necessities such as change for tolls and parking meters, a cell phone, a water bottle, gloves or lightweight rain gear handy.

A HEAVYWEIGHT

Even at 525-pounds (surprisingly, this is the heaviest bike in Suzuki's entire line) the Burgman's slow-speed handling is a pleasure due to the 29-inch seat height and low center of gravity. When riding alone, it was easy to make tight U-turns and maneuver around obstacles in packed parking lots.

Make no mistake about it: The Burgman is a real bike. It is much more than an economical commuter.

At $7,699 the Burgman is not the typical scooter for beginners or budget-conscious students but, like the VW owners of the '60s, former scooter riders who remember the fun and ease of riding small scoots but have since grown up and can afford high-quality bikes, would do well to look at this bike, too.

For more info go to http://www.suzukicycles.com and follow the links to the scooters.

James Hesketh writes about motorcycles for Wheels & Waves. He can be e-mailed at
 

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As mentioned in a previous thread, the article has a few facts wrong (the tire sizes for example), but overall is a good word for our machines.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
yeah, u can tell this guy rushed through it, but hay, at least we got the exposure, AND nobody but us guys will notice anyway
 

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Less mistakes in this article than most I have read, but a good article none the less.
 

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In September I'm planning a trip (as I've mentioned before in other threads) from the Canadian Border at Blaine, Washington to the Mexican Border at San Diego, California.

I'm taking a camera or two, and will write -- and hopefully sell -- a magazine article called Border to Borber By Scooter.

I'll include a specs and technical sidebar should whichever magazine buys it want to print it, and will try to avoid any errors. Since I'm actually an owner I hope I'll know my subject pretty well.
 

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Brian,
Sounds like a really good idea. Hopefully a magazine will publish it. I would really like to read about that trip and see some pics. Good luck 8)
 
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