ONE is the original sporty maxi-scooter, the first over 400cc and the one to beat since 2001. It's the Yamaha TMAX.
The other is an upstart that’s taken the maxi-scooter idea and reinvented it with aspirations of adventure. But are those aspirations a gimmick? Is the Honda X-ADV in fact any better off-road than anything else?
And back in the real world, which works better as a maxi-scooter?
We took them both for a ride to find out. Here’s what we learned.
The X-ADV’s engine has more of everything: cubes, power, torque, character.
Both are parallel-twins but the TMAX is 530cc and the X-ADV 745cc.
With 54hp to the TMAX’s 45, and 50lbft to the Yamaha’s 39, the Honda has more urgency to it, and it sounds better, with a bit more rumble.
An important difference lies in the transmission. The TMAX uses a continuously variable (CVT) belt-drive while the X-ADV has Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission system, essentially a six-speed automatic box with button shifters to let you choose gear yourself if you want.
The advantage of CVT is that it gives you the peak torque virtually constantly, and all you need to do is hold the throttle wide open. The X-ADV has more the feel of a motorcycle, with a power curve in each gear, albeit a slightly bland one, with the red line at just over 6,000rpm.
And while the TMAX can deliver more or less constant peak torque, the throttle response is not as direct as the X-ADV’s. It takes a moment to wake up, in common with every CVT scooter I’ve ridden (although it's more direct than many).
The TMAX never puts you in the wrong gear though. You do have to occasionally correct the X-ADV’s choices, for example when it changes up just as you’re planning an overtake. It’s got two riding modes, ‘S’ and ‘D’, with ‘S’ holding lower gears for longer and ‘D’ favouring economy. There’s also a manual mode, where you make all the choices yourself.
The X-ADV handles more like a motorcycle too. It feels like the centre-of-gravity is higher, and the sense of connection to it and the road is greater, inspiring more confidence for fast corners, and changing direction a bit more quickly than the Yamaha.
The TMAX is all maxi-scooter, with the engine lower in the chassis. Love them or hate them, even a sporty one provides less information and feedback than a motorcycle, so you tend to keep a little more in reserve, especially in the wet.
The plan was not to take the TMAX off-road. But, having ridden the X-ADV up and down a gentle mile-long green lane in Hampshire a few times, we thought it might make an illuminating litmus test to try the Yamaha too. The aim was not to establish that the TMAX was suited to off-roading so much as to show, by comparison, whether the X-ADV could lay claim to being any better off-road than any bike or scooter.
Standing up on the X-ADV, your legs are too close to the bars, and the 17-inch front wheel feels like it could go sideways without much warning, especially on the dual-sport tyres, Bridgestone Trail Wings, and a wet, muddy trail.
That’s all true of the TMAX too, on Bridgestone Battlax road tyres and an even smaller, 15-inch front wheel. I hadn’t expected to be able to stand up on it at all, assuming my legs would clash with the bars, but it wasn’t so different to the X-ADV: awkward but possible.
The X-ADV got up and down the soggy trail a couple of times safely, after which I felt it might be pushing my luck to continue. The TMAX made me even more nervous, but the fact is it managed too.
The X-ADV of course has more ground-clearance and it’s more-direct throttle response is useful, especially in ‘S’ mode. But it’s definitely more soft-roader than off-roader. You could go trail riding on it, insofar as you could on anything, even a TMAX if you’re feeling brave enough.
You get more travel on the Honda too – 153mm in the fork and 150mm in the shock, compared to 120mm in the TMAX fork and 117mm in its shock.
On the road, the place where it matters for a maxi-scooter, that extra travel is useful for retaining comfort and composure on potholed city streets, which seem to be much more the natural habitat of the X-ADV than a trail. The 150mm of ground clearance is useful for riding up and down kerbs, too. In contrast, it doesn’t take too much to ground the TMAX (I think it’s the centre-stand that goes down first).
But the TMAX’s suspension keeps it well-composed too. It’s sporty by maxi-scooter standards, firm but still comfortable for a good couple of hours in the saddle.
You get pre-load and rebound damping adjustability in the shock, while the X-ADV can be adjusted at both ends, for pre-load in the shock and pre-load and rebound damping in the upside-down fork.
The X-ADV out-performs the TMAX slightly in the front brake department. It’s got radial-mounted four-piston Nissin calipers on twin 310mm discs, a similar set-up to the Africa Twin’s. It offers easier bite and power than the TMAX’s four-pots on 267mm twin discs.
But the TMAX’s set-up is completely adequate. In six months of using one as my long-term test bike, I’ve had no worrying moments.
This is where the TMAX makes up bit of ground. It doesn’t have riding modes (you need the higher-spec TMAX DX for that, while we tested the base model) but it is better endowed with those assets that define a maxi-scooter.
The wind protection on it is near total, shielding every part of you from feet to shoulders. In contrast, on the Honda your feet are a little exposed. It still kept me dry during an hour-long ride in drizzle but I’d rather spend a cold motorway ride behind the expansive bodywork of the TMAX.
You get a glovebox and a bit more space to stretch your legs on the TMAX, along with a slightly more natural, scooter-like riding position. On the X-ADV the bars are higher, which is less ergonomic.
You get more space under the seat on the Yamaha. I can easily fit a rucksack containing a big laptop in there for my ride to work, or a full-face helmet with room to spare when I park. On the X-ADV the bag had to go in the optional top box. A full-face-helmet fits snugly under the seat but you won't get much else in.
And the Yamaha has a low-maintenance belt final drive while the X-ADV has a chain.
Both of course have ABS but the Yamaha trumps the X-ADV on traction control. It has it, the Honda does not.
The X-ADV wins on screen adjustability though. It’s a simple matter of twiddling a knob, while raising or lowering the TMAX screen requires hex keys, 10 minutes and probably some knuckle chafing.
Both get a keyless igntion, centre-stand and hand-brake.
The X-ADV’s transmission system means you can put it in neutral, something that’s not possible on the TMAX.
The extra bit of attitude and performance the X-ADV brings to the maxi-scooter concept. It’s the one I’d rather be seen on at a bike meet.
But of course, the TMAX stays more true to the original maxi-scooter concept, with all the convenience that brings.
Also, its hand-brake is better located than the X-ADV’s, on the left-hand handlebar. Engaged, it’s in the way, meaning only an unstoppable buffoon could forget to disengage it before riding.
We don’t like
The X-ADV’s wheel spokes proved too tightly packed to get my 19mm security chain through the rim. With scooter theft as it is, I want to use the biggest chain at my disposal.
On the TMAX, that glove box is a pain. It’s difficult to open with a gloved hand and usually takes two or three slams before it will stay shut.
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