2018 Suzuki Burgman 400 | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
Because sometimes the best results can come from where you least expect it
No hello, no greeting, just “I’ve got the perfect bike for you”, is what he said when I answered Dobie’s call. “It’s a scooter.” I was silent. “Trust me, you’ll love it,” and he hung up.
I’ve only very recently obtained my motorcycle licence and I’d never considered riding a scooter. Like many people, I think of them as a bit of a soft approach to motorcycling, taking the easy way out. But, as I would learn, when you narrow it down and look at the facts, scooters can be superior in many areas and deserve an open-minded appraisal.
Nowadays with the cost of living increasing and our wallets forever lighter, cost of ownership (fuel, insurance, maintenance) needs to be low and, if it’s playing the role of a household’s second vehicle, then storage, comfort, practicality and convenience needs to be high. Throw in the oh-so easy to use twist-and-go continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the fact that it sits in the upper end of the performance scale for learner-approved machines, then all of a sudden it’s a pretty attractive proposition.
In 1998, Suzuki wanted a scooter that was comfortable, had decent power, plenty of storage and elegant styling. The resulting Burgman 400 earned a formidable reputation overseas as both a commuter and a capable tourer, with the capability of carrying two people for decent periods of time. Almost two decades later, in 2006, the Burgman 400 received a major update with slimmed-down sporty styling and, again in 2017, it received improved performance through considerable weight loss while still maintaining its highly regarded reputation for luxury, quality, comfort and convenience.
The Burgman was my first time on the road as a learner rider. There, I said it. Walking up to it for the first time, I was both excited and nervous – and before I even through a leg (geddit?), my first thought was ‘this thing is big!’
At a length of just over 2.2m and a width of 760mm – it was significantly bigger than the 125cc I’d ridden a month earlier. Suzuki shaved just under 7kg off the previous model to give the Burgman a wet weight of 215kg – pretty heavy for a learner-approved scoot, but which puts it in the ballpark of its Yamaha YP400 Majesty and Piaggio X10 350 rivals.
It was time to find out what I’d got myself into. I sat on the bike, familiarised myself with the controls, glanced up the ramp I was to negotiate and took a deep breath. I turned the key, pressed the starter and was glad to hear a distinctive but deep scooter engine sound – there was no turning back.
I found the throttle’s pick-up point and the nerves kicked in. As I rode up the ramp, out of the garage and to my first corner, my arms felt like they were going everywhere. I stopped, calmed myself and accelerated off once more.
If you’ve ever ridden in the thick of Sydney’s CBD (yes, talk about a baptism of fire – thanks Dobie), you know you’re always dancing with danger. My second-ever corner was a hill start and onto a very busy main road and my heart was racing. After an excessively wide turn followed thankfully by a handful of green lights, I was able to settle in and get a feel for this riding lark. Within minutes, I found myself changing a few lanes, weaving in and out of traffic, acceleration and braking came easy and I was having a ball. All made so by the fact that I was on an intuitive, comfortable and easy-to-use machine – I was hooked!
- Twist ’n’ go ease
- Sporty looks
- Cheap second vehicle
Words Dale Johnson Photography Zane Pavelic