Yamaha’s TMAX 560 is like the station wagon of the motorcycle world. It’s practical and looks kind of ‘suburban,’ but is sporty enough to humiliate fellow road users off the traffic lights. Now running a big block motor, the latest TMAX delivers a good balance between fun and comfort. Obviously, it’s not a sports bike, but who says you can’t have sportsbike-style fun on a scooter?
The Ultimate Sleeper
What makes the TMAX so much fun is largely down to the engine – a 562cc twin that replaces the 530cc unit. Well balanced, with dual overhead cams and 4 valves so you’re not rattling to death at the traffic lights, the new, larger engine is smooth and impressively quiet. Combine this with belt drive instead of a chain and it’s a pleasant change from the vibrations of a normal motorcycle. The twin makes 35kW at 7500rpm and a whopping 55.7Nm at 5250rpm, which sounds weird when describing a scooter engine, but it certainly adds some joy to the world of moped riding. It’s within the LAMS category limits, so first timers and returning riders can start their motorcycling adventures on this machine.
I’d confidently state that this new power figure widens Yamaha’s market for the scooter, too. I can see people who want something easier to ride every day choosing the TMAX over the face-melting sportsbike in their garage.
Power figures like this from a scooter also give the owner an edge during office arguments with co-workers who have “fragile masculinity syndrome” – needing to pick on anything that isn’t a huge engine capacity, loud and obnoxious – and show them who’s boss at a drag racing night.
It’s not just great zippy power and smoothness at low speed, either. The 562cc motor works great on the freeway, sitting comfortably on 110km/h when you need it to.
But that’s not the best part about the new TMAX!
Paired with the big 562cc motor is a multi-clutch CVT transmission. Honestly, I have nothing to compare this to, it’s just unfamiliar. It’s absolutely nothing like driving an automatic car, where you can feel the gearbox clicking into gears. With the CVT, you just twist it and it keeps on going and going with a very linear power curve. The scary part is launching off the lights – after a few seconds, you’re doing 100km/h with ease. While most riders think that a CVT is perfect for city commuting and short trips, they believe it wouldn’t be fabulous on the freeway. But it is!
The CVT in the TMAX 560 is super smooth and makes it easy to regulate the speed, without the issue of engine braking to put up with, like a conventional manual gearbox.
I’m unsure if the TMAX is friendly to the idea of home servicing and repairs, considering the whole engine and gearbox is tucked away at the back of the scooter. I can’t imagine the CVT or the big twin being able to be repaired on a budget, but we are talking about a Yamaha here, so the reliability inherent in the badge should put your mind at ease.
Riding on a Pillow
Yes, the TMAX is sporty, and yes, it is more powerful than preceding models, but you can tell this scooter has still been built to deliver rider comfort at every stage of the journey.
The TMAX has an all-new suspension setup for the 2020 model, as well as a new swingarm design. The front end has a 41mm upside-down telescopic fork with 120mm of travel and the rear gets link suspension with 117mm of travel.
Trying not to compromise the handling of what is a fairly sizeable scooter, Yamaha has tuned the dampening and spring rates in the front and the rear. Although the ride is firmer than last year’s TMAX 530, it isn’t as harsh which is a difficult set-up to master. For anyone who has been on an older model sports bike, the suspension is often firm and stiff, but harsh at the same time.
Through this new tuning, Yamaha have found a way to achieve a “sportier” edge in overall handling without compromising rider comfort.
Taking corners at a decent rate of speed, the TMAX showed lots of confidence – despite a 200+kg weight, it wasn’t difficult to give the TMAX a little bit of lean. And I was confident it wasn’t going to wash out and squash me, which is what plenty of scooters feel like when you push their handling limits.
Although weighing in at 218kg with a full tank of fuel, the TMAX 560 is definitely not too heavy for its class.
Tech is where this scooter really comes into its own – there’s no shortage of it. That starts with an instrument display that reminds me that we are in 2020, not 1990 with the “backlit calculator display” still seen on a few new motorcycles.
The rider has a lot of control over aspects of the new TMAX, with the simplest option being able to switch between “sport mode” and “touring/eco mode”. These two options operate with the electric throttle Yamaha have installed. A more common feature in the high-end motorcycle range, the TMAX’s electric throttle allows the computer to work out what’s best for the current riding situation.
Another piece of tech is the keyless starting. Instead of a normal key you put in the bike’s ignition, this one stays in your pocket. It also unlocks the underseat storage using the same proximity principle, which makes sense, but it does take some getting used to.
The only negative with these keyless fobs is that they’re usually chunky and not comfortable to carry in your pocket. There’s also the possibility of it falling out of your pocket on the road. I know of people who’ve lost keys, wallets and phones from seemingly secure pockets while riding, so while it sounds implausible, it can happen. On this test, I was nervous that I was going to get to my destination only to find the key had fallen out of my pocket somewhere down the road.
What’s the harm in having somewhere snug on the scooter to put the key? On the TMAX, there’s a non-locking compartment below the handlebars, but you can hear it bouncing around in there while you’re riding – not ideal and probably not doing the key any favours, either.
Another thing on the TMAX that’s more of an annoyance than an issue is the beeping sound when you put the stand down and get off the bike. Like a nagging mother or wife, it is immediately bellowing at you to press the off button before walking away. “Stop screaming at me! You are a robot and I am a human. I will get to you in a second!” is what I felt like saying, but I didn’t because only crazy people yell at their bikes, right? I’m guessing this feature is for those forgetful few that could walk away leaving the key in the scooter.
The Space, The Looks
I was a little bit disappointed with the TMAX’s under-seat storage, as my regular full-face helmet wouldn’t fit in. I tried a few different positions, but nothing worked. I think the space is made for an open-face helmet, but since the TMAX is something of a touring scooter, it would make sense if the underseat storage was large enough to take a full-face lid.
It’s not like there no storage at all, though. There’s space to take your weekly supermarket shop instead of trying to balance it on your handlebars or strap it to the pillion seat.
One thing this scooter isn’t short on is good looks. Its aggressive styling starts with headlights that look like they’ve been stolen off an R1. OK, no one’s going to be mistaking the TMAX for an R1, but details like this do help link the scooter to the R Yamaha line.
The tail light and surrounding plastics are aggressively styled, too, while using black for the lower bodywork has a “slimming” effect, masking some of the bulkiness that’s inherent in any scooter of this type.
There are two colour combinations to choose from. I did my test on the Icon Grey with blue wheels (again picking up on the Yamaha R line), but my favourite combination is the Sword Grey (which is almost a black) with bronze wheels.
Being a touring scooter, the TMAX is blessed with a windscreen that works with the overall aesthetics while allowing the rider to be comfortable at high speeds without wind blasting in their face.
The seat is massive, comparable to riding a lounge chair, with enough space for you and a passenger. . . and probably a few more people as well!
Along with the comfortable seat, the TMAX allows two feet positions, with the forward-facing footrests being pure heaven for your legs on a long ride. Even though I’m on the taller side, it still felt extremely comfortable zipping around with my feet up.
With its sports touring characteristics, I should have expected the TMAX brakes to be effective, but I was pleasantly surprised with their performance. The brakes are actually very similar to those on Yamaha’s R6 and can stop you on a dime.
Up front are dual discs at a sizeable 267mm and the rear is a single 282mm disc, both running a hydraulic set-up. Combined with the Bridgestone tyres (Yes, they didn’t cheap out on the tyres), it’s a perfect match.
The ABS worked a charm as I did my usual tests of trying to slam the brakes on as hard as possible only to have the wheels not lock up and my face hit the front of my helmet instead as I came to a stop. The ABS did its job in the rain, too, and it seems that Yamaha have now perfected the art of good ABS.
Since I didn’t read up much on the TMAX prior to riding it, I spent a good hour wondering what the third lever on the handlebars did. After giving in and calling the friendly folks at Yamaha, I discovered that it’s a handbrake. (of course, smack my head!) Because the TMAX has no gears to pop it in when parked on a steep hill, you need this feature to stop it rolling away without you.
The TMAX surprised me by being something of a fun ride. Scooter specific features like the no-gears thing take a bit of getting used to, but this was probably the easiest bike I’ve ever ridden. Having said that, I may have to do an arms session at the gym as the centre stand was a tough skill to master.
The ride away price of $16,599 isn’t cheap and puts this machine in the same price range as Yamaha’s MT-09SP and MT-10.
Once you ride a TMAX – and realise you can have the freedom of a motorcycle AND the comfort of a lounge chair – it may be enough to convince you to leave that sports bike in the garage permanently.
2020 Yamaha TMAX 560 specs and pricing
Type: DOHC 4-valve 4-stroke parallel 2-cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 70 x 73mm
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Engine Start: Electric
Max Power: 35kW @ 7,500rpm
Max Torque: 55Nm @ 5,250rpm
Final Drive: Belt
Frame: Aluminium twin-spar die-cast frame
Front Suspension: 41mm USD telescopic fork
Rear Suspension: Link Swingarm
Fr Wheel: 15-inch alloy
Rr Wheel: 15-inch alloy
Fr Tyre: 120/70 R15 M/C 56H
Rr Tyre: 160/60 R15 M/C 67H
Fr Brake: Twin 267mm discs, hydraulic w/ABS
Rr Brake: Single 282mm disc, hydraulic w/ABS
LxWxH: 2200 x 765 x 1555mm (incl. mirrors)
Seat height: 800mm
Kerb Weight: 218kg
Fuel Capacity: 15lt
Sword Grey, Icon Grey
LAMS APPROVED: Yes
PRICE: $16,590 Ride away
WARRANTY: 2-year / Unlimited km