Commuting on two wheels - choose your weapon!

Al's back in business on the big bad Burgman

Al's Burgman 650 in the Visordown Towers secure vault

I've finally made my way into Visordown Towers this morning, via the good offices of my mighty Burgman 650. It's been a few years since I last schlepped from Worcester Park to ye olde Londonne town in a commuting style, and it's fair to say there's been a few changes. I notice that bikes now seem to keep out of the cycling boxes at red lights – after hearing of cops handing out tickets to motorbikes that stray into them, I'm doing the same now. Mostly.

The big change though is the cycling infrastructure, that keeps you stuck in traffic jams, even on a motorbike. I sat in a queue for ten minutes behind a van, because there was a plastic barrier taking up half the road for a few hundred yards, and there was no way for the Burgman to squeeze through. Gah.

Luckily, I was on one of the great commuting weapons – my old Suzuki Burgman 650. She might not look much, but under that battle-scarred exterior is a proper workhorse. I bought her as a non-runner a couple of years back, and have been gradually sorting the bad stuff out since. The main point of buying one was actually to do practical stuff – primarily airport runs. I did about 12 bike and product launches last year, flying from Luton, Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, and with free parking at most of those, I've probably saved the purchase price of the scoot over using taxis or my car.

So we're up already! Insurance is a couple of hundred quid a year via Bemoto insurance (thanks Mat!), and fuel consumption is like 38-40mpg (I'm always in a rush). Stuff like tyre wear is negligible compared with a big sportsbike, and it's been (mostly) very reliable, for a sixteen-year-old sub-£1000 eBay purchase.

When I bought it, the running problem was down to a broken ignition switch barrel, so it cost nothing to get it started. A new battery, a brake strip and rebuild, and we got her running and on the road. Since then, we've added new (OE stuff from Suzuki GB's excellent parts dept.) discs, shocks, brake pads and done a full engine service. Oil, plugs, filters, even valve clearances all done.


We've attended to the performance too! A GPR full stainless exhaust loses a load of weight, and adds a rorty braap. There's a Power Commander fuel module under the seat too, with a new map to suit the pipe. Tyres are Michelin Pilot Scooter hoops, which work really well in wet and dry. Even on my working-class non-ABS base Burgman, I've not had any big moments.

On the City beat, the Burgman is, admittedly, sometimes on the large side for really committed needle-threading. But I'm happy to trade that for the 115mph top end potential on motorways to airports, just the job if you're running a bit late. There's also loads of space under the seat for kit, including the hundreds of locks needed to keep her safe in town. The Givi topbox is perhaps an indulgence, but is vital when you're strapping on a 25kg Ogio kit bag to the pillion seat, adding masses of stability and stopping your race leathers tipping off the back.

I'm sure the Burgman will be usurped by other, flasher, newer test bikes this season. So she'll get a nice break over the summer, and might well get some in-depth pampering. I fancy changing the main drive belt at some point (a massive job they tell me). But when the nights lengthen and all the posh test bikes go back to the importer, I think it'll be the 650cc Silver Shark which will be battling with the cyclists once again…


Suzuki sells a much-updated super-fancy Burgman 650 now, which does much the same thing, but better. The new bike uses much less fuel, is faster and more refined, and is bedecked with all manner of electronic goodies:

GPR pipes are on sale in the UK here:

MIchelin Tyres:

Dynojet Power Commander: