Maxi Scooters – Scarabeo vs Burgman

maxi scootersWhat is 900cc, weighs over 400 kilograms, has a top speed of over 300km/h and can fit 3 helmets in the boot?  The Aprilia Scarabeo 500, plus the Suzuki Burgman 400 maxi scooters.

burgman scarabeo

What is 900cc, weighs over 400 kilograms, has a top speed of over 300km/h and can fit 3 helmets in the boot? That would be the sum of the two maxi scooters Motoaus put head to head recently, the Aprilia Scarabeo 500, and the Suzuki Burgman 400.

Strange opening line? Not as strange as I felt the first time I jumped on the Burgman. Although I’ve ridden the occasional scoot, most have been 50cc size things, with just enough power to reach the speed limit. These two would be the first maxi-scooters I’ve sampled, and it turned out to be a whole new riding experience for me.

Piloting the second machine, Bec has considerably more scooting under her belt, frequently seen on an Aprilia SR50 complete with race pipe; she recently spent 8 hours on a PMX Bolwell competing in the LeMinz 24 hour scooterthon. She is a big fan of scooters, something I admit to not being, until now. The first thing apparent is although these bikes (can I call them that?) share a similar level of specification, they couldn’t be more different.


The Scarabeo looks like a classic scooter enlarged by 50 percent. Its style is very inner city retro metro. Ok I made that one up, but alongside the Aprilia, the Burgman looks to be a different style of modern conveyance. A weird blend of sports bike meets Honda Civic styling, massive in size, the Burgman presents as the king of scooters. About as big as a Hayabusa, the Burgman could pass for a small convertible car!

First off I set out for a spin on the Burg. No foot pegs, no gear lever, no rear brake lever. And no petrol tank between my legs makes for an uncertain first few kilometres. But the ease of riding this thing means that trepidation soon turns to daring, the lack of levers means you only have to think of "throttle to full, brakes to stop". One brake in each hand takes a little longer to get used to, but soon feels natural. The Burgman offers two foot positions, one down in the standard scooter foot well, the other, feet forward like a cruiser, I found the latter more comfortable, and suitable for cornering at speed.

burgman scarabeo

That’s right. Speed. Both of these scooters will top out at over 160kmh. And both were surprisingly fast off the line, easily despatching sneering youths in blinged Falcodores from the lights. My quick familiarisation ride also impressed with the comfortable seat, and great wind protection from the large screen, at the expense of a mild vision distortion issue. (more on that later). The armchair-like ride was matched with an effortless cornering performance, due to the low centre of gravity.

Swapping to the Aprilia for a quick spin, I realised how different these two scooters are. A more upright riding position, standard foot position with no feet forward stance, was matched with even more power, and impressive brakes. Introductions over, I felt more at home on the Burgman. Bec preferred the Aprilia. It would stay this way over the entire test.

A longer ride was called for, so the next day we headed for the hills. After first swapping "no racing" commands, we soon found ourselves on a winding uphill road popular with sports bike riders. Being early in the morning, the road was still wet in the shade making for a cautious approach. This soon gave way to more spirited riding, until the following bikes faded in the Burgmans excellent mirrors. We even passed some "proper" motorbikes, hopefully not traumatising the riders too badly. The limits were approached while still feeling very comfortable, with the stands being the first things to scrape. The lack of engine braking, and no downshifts, were somewhat hard to get used to, particularly on downhill corners. Of course, someone who hadn’t ridden a motorcycle before wouldn’t notice this.

burgman scarabeo

By now I was very comfortable riding the Burg, and began to really enjoy it, much more than I would have believed possible. The high screen meant you could ride with visor up. With minimal windblast to the face, and no clutch or gears to think of, the beautiful Numinbah Valley we rode through was more pleasant than it had been on any other bike. Stopping along the way, the huge storage capacity available on the maxi scooters was appreciated, with spare clothing, drinks, cameras and other assorted junk easily stowed under the seat of either scooter. The Burgman also boasted a glove compartment not unlike a car, and two small pockets on top of the dash with swing away lids for smaller items.

The Aprilia had less space available, but still stowed a full face helmet, jacket and handbag (not mine!) under its seat, whilst the Burgman could swallow up two full face helmets, with room to spare under its plush seat. Both had under seat lights to aid late night rummaging.

aprilia scarabeo 500

The days ride unfolded pleasantly, a visit to a secret "closed course test track" revealed the Aprilia was both quicker in a standing start drag race, and had a higher top speed than the Burgman. Given it is lighter and its 460cc fuel injected motor has 60cc over the Suzuki, hardly surprising. Freeway and stop start traffic presented no problems for either machine, the auto drive meant no rowing up and down through gears, and slicing through 100 kmh traffic was effortless.

So who would buy either one of these? The Aprilia would make a fine inner city traffic carver, with adequate storage, and bags of power. It will certainly appeal to those who like the retro scooter look, and would be ideal for the next step up from the little scoots that lack the power for longer runs or higher speeds. The Burgman on the other hand, almost passed as a tourer more than a scooter, it would fulfil either task. Perhaps a newer rider or one returning after years away from bikes, would appreciate a scooters simplicity of operation. And the practicality of the mass of storage is hard to beat.

suzuki burgman 400

Both used markedly less fuel than the motorcycles I’m used to, the Burgmans trip computer showing 28kms per litre -79mpg in the old terms – or 3.57 litres per 100km. Hardly thirsty! This test did start out as a comparison of the two maxis, but they are so different to each other, and would potentially appeal to such different markets, we decided not to pretend either "won". Instead separate stories will go into each in greater detail, and a test ride on either is highly recommended.

As stated earlier, I preferred the Burgman, but we are a long way from the traffic of downtown Milan, and I am a long way from a typical scooter buyer. Things I didn’t like were few, the screen on the Burg had a slight annoying optical effect, but I did get used to it. Ridden hard on bumpy roads, the suspension was found wanting on both, as was ground clearance; but again, they aren’t designed as track bikes or canyon carvers. The lack of foot position options on the Aprilia was an issue for me after riding the Suzuki with feet forward , but there was no doubt the Aprilia had it hands down for power.

In fact the only clear result from this was the amount of fun had on this test. Another hidden surprise from motorcycling that I had been missing. I’m now a maxi-scooting convert!

suzuki burgman 400

 A more specific look at the Suzuki Burgman 400 is here.

The Aprilia Scarabeo 500 story will be added soon.

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