Forget the luxo-tourers, Suzuki’s Burgman 400 has many of the same qualities at a fraction of the cost.
You can’t not like Suzuki’s Burgman 400. The middleweight scooter with front-on styling that only true enthusiasts are able to distinguish from pure motorcycle lines carries an MSRP of $7,999 (for the ‘08 model), but that cost is amortized across a suite of features that would turn a Gold Wing green.
You want storage capacity? How about a 63-litre underseat cargo hold that’s bathed in a convenience light when you pop the saddle? That has to be worth something at midnight when you’re clambering for your rain jacket.
The space easily contains two full-face helmets, while at the front of the rig are three more compartments for stowing your stuff: a 10-litre glovebox and two 1-litre areas, tucked into the fairing. Set to the right and left of the fairing, the small storage spaces have swing-out doors and are great cubby holes to stash a wallet or cellphone. For an extra $305.79, you can also get a bolt-on chrome rear rack, but that might seem a bit pricey when compared to the aftermarket.
Owners of big touring bikes such as Honda’s Gold Wing or BMW’s K1200LT can bend your ear all day on the single topic of comfort and how relaxed they are in their plush saddles. But whether or not they actually are better mounted than Burgman riders is open to discussion. With a five-position adjustable rider backrest, a wide, thick, supportive saddle and roomy floorboards, the Burgmeister stretches out in near luxury car comfort, and tucked behind a tall low-angle windshield, he could roll a smoke at highway speed and not lose tobacco. The Burgman rider doesn’t give away much to the luxury touring guys as far as out-and-out pandering goes.
How about fun stuff in the accessory department? Luxury tourers come front-loaded with that, but the Burgman 400 has some too. There’s a DC outlet in the glove box, a magnetic security cover over the ignition switch—which also operates the built-in seat latch—, a parking brake, and an instrument panel in the cockpit that contains four analogue meters and an LCD readout of the bike’s average fuel consumption.
That last feature is more than just a nice talking point at the coffee shop. Supplied with just 13.5 litres of fuel (2.97 imperial gallons), it’s important to know where you’re at on the open road, fuel-economy wise. On the upside, merciless CB pilots riding the test unit supplied by Suzuki Canada still saw an average of 25.9 kilometres per litre, which translated to a scrounged-up 350 kilometres between fill-ups, without even trying. That’s not bad. How far is it between pump stops with the Wing?
You might wonder why a perfectly sane person would even consider a 400cc machine for touring duty. But the real question is, why not? There have been a number of performance changes made for 2007, that carry across into the ‘08 version as well, including a bumped-up compression ratio (now 11.5:1, from 10.6:1), bigger displacement (from 385 to 400cc) and a beefed up Keihin throttle body fuel injection system. That’s not all: there’s a more rigid (but heavier) frame and swingarm, stouter Kayaba suspension, with seven-way adjustability at the rear, and larger wheels (120/80-14 front, 150/70-13 rear). Twin 260mm discs at the front replace last year’s single-disc brake set-up: this combination of larger rotors and 14-inch wheels lend the Burgman a definite motorcycle feel, especially at a fast clip.
There’s nothing especially fancy about the suspension package: the aforementioned back monoshock offers 100mm (3.9 in.) of rear wheel travel, while the 41mm front fork moves through a stroke of 110mm (4.3 in.). Nothing fancy, but workmanlike and the 199-kg (438-lb.) Burgman is capable of absorbing all but the biggest hits and generally stays composed throughout most road situations. This is where you tend to get confused: How can a 199-kg machine with a 1595mm (62.8-in.) wheelbase and 14-inch wheels carve corners, handle with neutral ease at slow speeds, loaf across road ripples, hit triple-digit marks on the speedo and still haul enough gear for a two-week vacation? It seems like it’s just too much to ask of one mechanical entity. Yet the Burgman 400 makes do, with its few horses (maybe 35 or 40) and we regularly wrung it out to an indicated 140 kmh. At that speed, there didn’t seem to be much left, but it could hold the pace easily. The engine upgrades on the ‘07 version include dual overhead cams (the ‘06 was SOHC) and a longer stroke with less bore. That, and bigger throttle bodies, mean improved acceleration and more top end, says Suzuki.
Burgman 400 – The Ride
Getting to that top end though requires a bit of patience as the water-cooled DOHC single spools up and through a centrifugal clutch and down the V-belt drive system. No shifting required, the transmission is automatic, while the two levers on the handlebars control the front and rear brakes. Those brakes incidentally are much like the suspension: they’re fine, but not outstanding. The Burg’s relative light weight means they don’t have to be, but the front binder definitely benefits from an in-sync squeeze of the rear lever.
What’s go without a little glamour? In the critical area of deportment, the Burgman 400 is in fine trim. A sporty front end, an elegantly contoured tail section and handsome paint selections of two colours, black and blue, deck the scooter out in a style refined enough for a downtown first-date dinner on Saturday night.
Put the whole package together, and what you have is a category we could call luxury lite. Not quite enough to make you entirely forget about the high-end luxo-barges, but versatile enough to travel one end of the country to the next in comfort, and paradoxically endowed with an ease of operation that accepts entry level riders. For this price, why not a little lite luxury?
by John Campbell Canadian Biker #238