An endless ribbon of mountain switchbacks. Corner after corner despatched into the rearview mirrors, where another grinning TMAX rider is rapidly filling the glass. I’m in his sights, he’s breathing down my neck. I’m trail braking the rear for extra stability through the turns, hot on the wheels of the rider just in front.
Living for the moment, riding in a gang but not the kind of gang you see terrorising cities on videos taken from CCTV footage. This is a gang of bike and scooter journalists, having a good day at work. Putting the 2020 Yamaha TMAX 560 TechMax through a decent 240km ride around Portugal. A howling gang of twin-cylinder sports scooters.
Top of the class
As an out and out scooter freak, I find the launch of something like the sixth-generation TMAX quite interesting. This is the class-leading machine, a sports scooter that invented the class it sits at the top of (although the school bullies have been trying to knock it off its perch recently).
The new TMAX is being ridden by some of the most well-respected bike journalists in the world (and us). Even more interesting is the fact that one of them actually owns a 2017 TMAX, it’s his weapon of choice. He uses it as his main mode of transport, despite having every bike in the world at his disposal. His car sits covered by a duvet in the garage and hasn’t moved since January. The TMAX still makes him smile every time he rides it, as did the new 2020 machine on the launch.
What’s new pussycat?
It’s only two years since Yamaha updated the TMAX but imitation is the best form of flattery – or so they say. Kymco released the AK550 not long after the 2017 TMAX 530 and the two are very similar in many ways, it was getting hard to choose between them. Yamaha needed to up their game and they have…
They’ve upped capacity to 560cc, a result of a larger bore size (68mm up to 70mm), larger 27mm inlet valves have been used and a 12-hole injector delivering fuel directly into the back of the inlet valve for increased combustion. It has new pistons. The clutch has been reconfigured to make it engage at 4,000 rpm, rather than 4,300 rpm. The gear ratio has also been lowered from 2.659 to 2.543. The TMAX has a new belt. Routing for the coolant has been revised, giving a reduction in the coolant needed, whilst the radiator itself is 6% larger.
The result gives a 3.5% power hike, 6% more torque and a 5 km increase in top speed, more importantly, it improves acceleration and mid-range power. The mighty TMAX still complies with A2 licencing regs though, a very important part of its DNA.
The TMAX also retains the D-Mode switchable mapping, giving a choice of Sport or Town riding modes. The 2-into-1 exhaust has been revised, it’s 28% thinner and the sound has been re-tuned to make it more prominent. Yamaha have also built this scooter to Euro 5 specs, so they’re already ahead of the game. Oh and whilst making it bigger and faster they’ve also made it more fuel-efficient, it now sips fuel at 4.8 kml, rather than 5.3 kml. Well done Yamaha.
The new TMAX retains the same instruments and keyless ignition of its predecessor. It’s a simple and easy to use system so there was no need to change it. Simply have the key in your pocket and you can unlock the scooter and start it. When the scooter is locked it also locks the centre stand making it (in theory) harder to steal.
In a world where we’re afraid to leave our scooters parked up, any extra security is a bonus. The Yamaha comes with the Vodaphone powered, MyTMAX Connect app, which includes a powerful tracking system. The app also gives trip and ride statistics, lean angles, acceleration and lots of other nerdy info for bragging about later in the pub. After the first year, it’ll cost the rider a yearly subscription but on a desirable £11k scooter it’s money well spent. It’s pre-fitted, make sure you activate and use it.
The TechMax isn’t called ‘Tech’ for fun, it comes with a few toys, heated seat, heated grips, cruise control and an electric screen. They’re the kind of gadgets you expect on an £11648 top of the range scooter. The heated gubbins have three settings and they work very well, my backside and fingers were toasty warm on the damp ride back to the hotel.
The 2020 TMAX has a slightly larger underseat space than the 2018 model. I can fit my full-faced Arai in easily enough. It’s not Burgman huge but this isn’t built as a tourer. Fit a top box if you need extra carrying capacity. On a practical note – thanks to the upswept exhaust you can’t really chuck a set of panniers over the seat, so a top box is well worth having.
Although the design (at first glance) hasn’t changed massively the new model is sharper than before. The tail has been shortened, there’s a distinctive new ‘T-shaped LED rear light. The scooter now has full LED lighting, with the front indicators being sunk into the front fairing. The rear bodywork has been slimmed down slightly to make it easier for a passenger to get on and off. Strangely, the seat is slightly wider than before, it means it’s a bit more of a stretch to touch the floor for the rider but it’s not a huge difference. Although it’s not exactly comfortable after a long day in the saddle, a gel seat would make a big difference. I’ll not be losing any sleep over it though.
Yamaha have a good selection of 37 TMAX optional extras including an Akrapovic exhaust, carbon fibre short screen, aluminium transmission covers, belt covers, adjustable levers, lever guards, footplates and plenty of other goodies.
All these can be configured before you buy the scooter by using the My Garage app. You can also buy them as a package, Winter Pack, Sport Pack and Urban pack. Ask your dealer for more information.
On the road
If you cast your minds back to 2018, we had a TMAX long-termer. As soon as I stepped onboard the new version it felt like a favourite pair of comfy slippers. I’m greeted like an old friend ‘Welcome aboard’ beckons me from the Yamaha’s TFT display as I push the ‘ON’ button, press the button again to start the twin-cylinder engine. It’s very familiar, as you’d expect, although the new exhaust sounds a bit meaner than the old model and hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.
I wasn’t to be disappointed. We headed north along the coastal road, tarmac still damp from an overnight deluge, surf crashing impressively over the sea wall in a show of raw, brutal power. We’re in a gang of eight or so TMAX 560s and we ain’t hanging about. Our road test took in around 180 miles of roads around Lisbon, with the odd obstacle thrown in for good measure – a slight landslide, the odd mid-road sand dune, fallen rocks, felled trees, potholes, tramlines, cobbles, mud and later in the day a monsoon. We certainly got the full immersive experience.
Traction Control System
Like a growing number of scooters, the TMAX comes with traction control as standard and it’s been refined for 2020. It is very good, you need to work hard to get it to cut in. Being ham-fisted with the throttle on damp roads, or gravel will have the desired effect but it certainly doesn’t get in the way of fun. The same can be said for the ABS. It’s there should the rider need a little help but you can still ride this as hard as you like, without compromise. The TMAX is a Supersports scooter with a very good pedigree honed over the last 19 years, it’s evolved and matured as new tech has arrived and will no doubt continue to do so.
Take it to the Max
It’s no slow coach that’s for sure, the engine is on the boil at all times. You can be sat at a steady 60mph, open the throttle and it takes off like a scalded cat. Fast overtakes are painless. There’s not much gets in your way on a TMAX. You can obliterate traffic on the motorway, carve through it at slow speeds, or at a standstill and leave it behind through the twisties. It’s an all-round fantastic machine. The speedo goes to 180kmh on the Euro-spec bikes we were riding, that’s 111 mph in real money. It will do the clock. The needle on the old-school analogue speedo climbs a bit slower as it gets to the very top but it does get there given an open stretch of road. It’s noticeably more punchy than the last version.
The TechMax also feels very stable at top speed and the electric screen makes a huge difference to rider comfort. It was always a noisy scooter in the past, but press the button to raise the screen and the world is almost silent, turbulence is gone. Ears protected. The TMAX base model comes without most of the goodies, including the electric screen. For an extra few quid a month on a PCP deal I’d advise you to take the plunge and go for the TechMax. It’ll give a better residual value in the future and probably only cost around £15 a month extra.
The TMAX is very well balanced at slower speeds. The weight is carried low down, the 15-litre fuel tank lives under the central tunnel and the scooter has a 48%/52% weight distribution. According to the Japanese development team who were on hand to answer any questions, this is the ultimate weight bias. Having ridden it I’d find it hard to disagree, the Yamaha boys know their stuff. Riding at crawling speed through town the auto clutch engages and disengages at just the right time, meaning it’s easier than ever to ride this big twist & go scooter at slow speeds. Subtle differences like that make for a well-rounded machine.
Anybody who hasn’t ridden one would expect the TMAX to feel heavy, that’s not the case at all.
Choose your weapon
Hooning around the mountains the TMAX really comes into its own, it charges out of corners, romps towards the next one and powers through. It’s an agile scooter, despite being long and relatively heavy. The twin front discs, Bridgestone tyres, 41mm upside-down forks and Monocross rear suspension coped admirably with everything we (and the weather) threw at us. The TechMax comes with adjustable rear suspension (accessed from underneath the scooter – you can barely see the shocker unless you get down on your hands and knees). The suspension is on the sporty side of firm, but this is a sports scooter so what do you expect?
I quickly remembered just how good a TMAX is, how capable it is and why I enjoy riding these big machines when I get the chance. If you like riding and can overcome the anti-scooter mentality many bikers have grown up with you’ll enjoy a maxi scooter, I promise. If you’re too worried about public perception and peer pressure just stick with your middleweight bike, a machine that will sit gathering dust for much of the year. You’ll use this all year round.
The 2020 model puts the TMAX firmly where it belongs, back at the top of the sports scooter class. It’s been refined without reinventing it but the improvements really have taken things up another level. The engine is stronger and more aggressive in its power delivery. It’s faster through the rev range and has all the toys most owners will need to keep them entertained. Try one.
The new machines will be in your local Yamaha dealer in December 2019, we’ll be getting both versions – the TMAX at £10199 (Colour options Icon Grey or Sword Grey) and the TechMax at £11648 (colour options are Sword Grey and Tech Camo). They make the perfect Christmas present.
Words: Iggy, photos: Yamaha
Video review to follow…
Yamaha TMAX 560 Tech specs
Engine: 562cc, forward-inclined parallel 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valves
Bore x stroke: 70 x 73mm
Power: 46.93 bhp @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 55.7nm @ 5250 rpm
Suspension: Telescopic front forks (120mm travel), rear swingarm (117mm travel)
Chassis: Die-cast aluminium
Weight: 218 kg
Dimensions: Length 2,200mm, width 765mm, height 1420mm, wheelbase 1,575mm
Seat height: 800mm
Brakes: Front 267 mm twin discs, rear 282mm single disc
Tyres: Front 120/70-15, rear 160/60-15
Tank capacity: 15 litres
Price: From £11649
Contact: Yamaha UK
Get an insurance quote
Worried about insurance on a new TMAX? Specialist scooter insurance company, Lexham will be happy to give you a quote.
It may not be as expensive as you feared!
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