One of the most unusual bikes i’ve rider is the Suzuki Burgman 650. It’s not like anything i’ve ridden before. On one hand it’s a twist a go scooter, on the other it’s a luxurious tourer. In reality, it’s both i guess.
The Burgman is powered by a silky smooth parallel twin 638cc engine putting out 55bhp and 62Nm of torque and it’s velvety smooth. if Suzuki told me it was a rotary engine i would have believed them. It’s mated to a Suzuki Electronic CVT gearbox (Continuously Variable Transmission).
What’s a CVT gearbox? It’s actually very simple. A conventional gearbox is a collection of different gears that mesh together when you select them, joining the engine to the wheels.There are only a few combinations, typically 6 forward. A CVT is very different. You have two pulleys and a v belt in between. The pulleys open and close creating an infinite number on combinations, or constantly variable gears. It’s computer controlled so when you need more acceleration or as the speed and torque loading changes, the pulleys move automatically. The result is a kind of blend of traditional twist and go scooter and an automatic car. The revs generally hover at around 3,500 rpm when you’re pottering, 5,000 rpm when you’re accelerating normally and 7,000 rpm and above when you accelerate hard.
Suzuki have fitted the bike with a power button. It doesn’t actually increase power but it does alter the gear ratios, increasing the revs. Where you would normally be pottering along at 3,500 rpm, with power mode engaged the revs rise by 1500 to 5,000 rpm. What that means is the bike is much more eager to accelerate, this is the sweet spot. When you want to overtake, it makes it a much safer and faster experience.
CVT gearboxes don’t strictly have gears, just two pulleys and a belt. However, Suzuki have given the bike a manual mode. In reality, it’s just a few positions in the CVT gearbox that give the impression of gears. In manual mode you use a couple of buttons on the left handlebar to change up and down. In use, you select up or down and it seamlessly changes ‘gear’. It’s unbelievably smooth but ultimately, i found it no better than in fully automatic.
Power is pretty linear although if you’re below 3,000 rpm, it take a while to wake up. From 5,000 rpm onwards it’s great.
Suzuki tell us the Burgman 650 will do a combined 60.5mpg. I took it on a 2 day road trip with a mix of motorway, A roads and B roads thrown in. 2 days luggage, my laptop, shoes and all manner of stuff crammed in the massive storage compartment under the seat and i’m no slim jim. It was pretty cold so liberal use of the heated grips, heated seats and 12v charger was in order and it was mighty windy so the bike was working hard. I wasn’t hanging about either and may or may not have been cruising at 90mph (when not stuck in 50mph roadworks).
Taking all that in to account, the Suzuki Burgman 650 still returned 55mpg over the 400 mile trip. I don’t doubt 60.5mpg is achievable in kinder circumstances.
Scooter or motorbike? It’s the eternal question. It rides on a 15” front and a 14” rear wheel and when i first set off, it felt a little odd. It’s probably down to the 15” & 14” wheels but the Burgman feels very lively. It turns in sharply and keenly, holds a nice line and is very easy to maneuver. Suspension is supple but not soft, like a french car. Damping is very good, and the ride quality is great. Pressing on on bumpy back roads it’s a little bumpy but it’s not a supermoto!
Tipping in to corners is easy, it’s eager to turn and even fun to throw around. I touched down the centre stand on the right a couple of times but I was being a little daring, I don’t expect your typical Burgman owner would ride like this.
Brakes are very good. I expected them to struggle with the weight and smaller disc diameter but no chance, they were very strong. Twin floating discs and twin pot Nissin calipers up front give a positive lever with good bite and really nice feel. Brakes were fade free and if you use front and rear brakes together (left lever is rear brake) your eyes almost pop out. Obviously ABS is standard.
Tyres are 120/70r15 front & 160/60r14 rear Bridgestone Battlax TH01F’s. These are an interesting tyre, softer front, harder rear and work very well, offering confidence and stability. Under braking it feels balanced and controlled, it doesn’t dive or push on.
A tall screen means motorway miles are a breeze. It’s electrically adjustable for height and in the highest position, the wind hardly touched me. In heavy wind it was very stable, hardly moving where a sports bike would have been all over the road. In windy conditions the screen moves on it’s rubber mounts a fair bit. It was a little unnerving at first and i was sure it was going to snap off but actually, it’s very secure and moves to absorb the shock load from the wind.
You sit up straight too which means you can see over the cars in front.
The riding position took me a bit of getting used to. Its feet forward, sit up straight but it’s so comfortable. The seat is plush and when you stop for fuel after an hour or two, you’re not stiff or aching. This is definitely a bike you could do a lot of miles on.
The dashboard is more like a car than a bike. There’s more information than you know what to do but it’s not intrusive or distracting. It tells you when you need to change the oil, oil level, air temp, water temp, the time, plus there’s a really good trip computer with information on fuel consumption, available range and more. It’s a classy dash.
Bars are positioned well, high but comfortable and there is a plethora of buttons that activate everything from heated grips, power mode, lights, horn, gear position (manual mode), indicators, electric folding mirrors. That’s a lot of buttons and switches but it’s all pretty straight forward and works well.
Suzuki updated the Burgman a few years ago and it is unchanged since. That’s not to say it’s outdated, it’s still relevant and doesn’t look old in my opinion. You could argue it’s still ahead of the game in the maxi scooter world.
Mine was pearlescent white and seemed to clear traffic surprisingly well. I can only assume, with the big white fairing, tall screen and lights on, people mistook it for a police bike and jumped out of the way. No bad thing. Build quality was excellent, no exposed wires, no dodgy catches or rattling, squeaky panels.
Is the Burgman in a class of its own? The Yamaha TMax has 535cc producing 45bhp and 53Nm or torque vs the Burgmans 55bhp and 62Nm. The TMax is £800 more expensive too.
There’s also the Kymco 550 with 53bhp and 55Nm torque and it’s a few hundred £’s cheaper than the Burgman, but it’s a Kymco.
There was only one negative; slow speed snatchiness. The clutch doesn’t disengage until you’re almost stationary and the revs have dropped to idle. What that means is at very slow speed, filtering or in traffic, it can be snatchy on and off the throttle.
Other than that, the Burgman 650 was a revelation. Different but great, very practical and fun.