2011 Yamaha TMAX
Italians are a surprising people. They can't seem to make a government last longer than a couple of days, they have to go home to have lunch and snooze in the middle of the day so they have four rush hours, they can't seem to find a place for the garbage lining the streets in their Southern cities, but dang, they can sure originate motoring masterpieces!
Although punctilious historians would dispute this factoid, Italians invented the modern street-legal supercar with the Ferrari. They also invented the traditional scooter, with the step through and the powertrain mostly hanging off the rear wheel a la Vespa.
Vespas, Lambrettas, and the rest of the Italian scooter culture is based on the essential logic that it's much better and easier and more economical to get around traffic clogged Rome or Milan on a sprightly, light, little 50cc to 150cc scooter than a huge Moto Guzzi transverse vee twin. Although North Americans have been a bit slow on the uptake, once we adopted the Italian coffee culture thanks to Starbucks, could their scooter culture be far behind?
As one of the more responsive manufacturers, Yamaha has not been blind to this trend, and currently markets more different scooters in the USA than any other Japanese brand. Their king of the hill is the mighty and impressive (if not outright scary) TMAX which can easily be called the King Kong of Vespas, or a Lambretta on HGH.
The 2011 Yamaha TMAX is propelled by a gargantuan (by scooter standards) 499cc liquid-cooled, fuel injected, four stroke, DOHC, four valve, forward inclined parallel twin. Yes, it's a twin. The rest of the vehicle also betrays the point that it was motorcycle engineers who designed this scooter. Among the very motorcycle and very un-scooterish aspects, the TMAX boasts 43mm front forks, 15 inch wheels, a controlled-fill, die-cast aluminum frame, 4-piston caliper dual front disc brakes, and a rear disc brake. Yes, the TMAX has three times as many disc brakes as the 2011 Honda VT750C2A Shadow Phantom as surprising as that may seem.
In some ways, the TMAX is more Gold Wing than Vespa. Luxury and convenience features such as position-adjustable rider backrest, a double glove box in the front apron, a storage box under the seat that holds a full-face helmet, and a high touring windshield really make you wonder if this really is a tourer that someone forgot to mount a gas tank to.
The gas tank is interestingly the one part motorcyclists will miss on the TMAX. Not because the TMAX has insufficient fuel capacity at 4 underseat gallons but because conventional riders are accustomed to using their knees on the fuel tank as a control surface. The first time you head into a corner and instinctively tuck your knee in and find nothing but air, you'll be so surprised you might smack into the guardrail.
The 2011 Yamaha TMAX is a great scooter but… does it have to be so big?
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2011 Yamaha TMAX At A Glance
Base MSRP: $10,999
Engine Displacement: 499 cc
Engine Type: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, parallel twin
Bore & Stroke: 66 x 73mm
Ignition Type: TCI / Electric Start
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Transmission Type: Fully automatic
Final Drive Type: Enclosed chain
Front Tire: 120/70R15
Rear Tire: 160/60R15
Wheelbase: 1,580mm (62.2'')
Saddle Height: 800mm (31.5'')
Curb Dry Weight: 222kg (488.4 lb)
Fuel Capacity (US): 15 litres
* Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released