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First test of the Yamaha Maxster

Published: 01 April 2001

Taking a 125cc scooter on a race track doesn’t sound like a good idea given the lack of power, poor handling and shoddy brakes associated with the breed.

But things look different if that track is Buckmore Park in Kent, a British championship karting circuit, and the scooter is the new twist-and-go four-stroke Yamaha Maxster 125.

The track, which has everything you’d expect on a " proper " circuit, including tyre walls, run-off areas and painted kerbs, is perfect for the Maxster – a scooter that handles and stops with a surprising degree of control.

Just how much control is demonstrated by Virgin Yamaha BSB star James Haydon, who is along for this UK launch. After he has taken it out for a few laps and ground out the centrestand and pegs, the rear tyre looks like it has been blow-torched and the exhaust seems like someone has attacked it with an angle-grinder.

Brembo brakes front and rear with a big single disc up front, fattish forks, a proper motorcycle-type chassis and reasonably-sized 13in wheels all combine to mark this scooter out from the herd of ill-handling rivals.

The result is a composure that is rare among scooters and will give you loads more confidence during your daily commute. The Maxster feels tauter under braking and through tight turns. The suspension soaks up bumps without wobbles and the forks don’t dive too much, even under hard braking.

The power from the four-stroke 124cc single won’t pull your arms off, but it’s plenty to keep ahead of urban traffic. With a top speed of around 65mph, its 12bhp engine is gutsy enough for longer commutes, too – you won’t find yourself heading a queue of irate car drivers.

The Maxster isn’t bargain-basement at £2599, but it’s aimed at twentysomethings who want reliable transport for the trip to work, rather than teenagers out for a bit of fun before they’re old enough to make a down payment on a four-wheeled spoiler with a baked bean can for an exhaust pipe.

This accounts for that higher spec, which accompanies its sharp, R1-derived styling with attention-grabbing twin headlights. But, equally important for the Maxster’s potential buyers, there’s a greater emphasis on build quality, plus a host of practical touches.

If you want to give the missus a quick ride – to the shops, that is – she gets two decent grab handles and fold-out footrests. The good-looking dash has a clock, trip meter, battery condition meter, fuel gauge and an oil change indicator light, and you get an automatic choke, too.

There’s also a long list of accessories which let you improve either practicality or sportiness. They include three different heights of windscreen, a top box, adjustable shocks, anodised bar-end weights and a passenger backrest.

You’ll probably prefer to use your superbike for that track day, but when it comes to the cut and thrust of the urban rat race, the Maxter gives you a welcome edge.

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