Ul­ti­mate cold weather-bust­ing ma­chine

Michael Neeves rides to Ger­many and back in the win­ter rain

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature - By Michael Neeves SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Ev­ery­thing is grey. On my way from the UK to Cologne I’m on the dingy grey E40 mo­tor­way, sur­rounded by drab grey cars. I’ve for­got­ten how a blue sky looks, or how it must feel to have the warmth of the sun on my bones, as I inch past end­less lines of trucks, en­gulfed in their icy spray.

Sit­ting in the warmth of the MCN of­fice a few weeks ear­lier, I thought it would be a good idea to ride to Cologne. I chose what I thought would be the warm­est bike for the job: Suzuki’s Burgman 650. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

By the time I get to Cologne city cen­tre for a map check, seven hours after leav­ing the chan­nel tun­nel, my gloves are so wet they fold in­side out when I take them off and I can’t get them on again. It’s dropped to 3°C and for the re­main­ing miles I’m bare­handed.

The Suzuki’s heated grips don’t make a dent when it’s this cold and wet and I can’t feel my hands. Stop­ping to check my phone for di­rec­tions at ev­ery ma­jor junc­tion I cut my hand on one of the cub­by­hole locks and it pours blood, mak­ing my phone screen a red slip­pery mess.

The trip might not have gone ex­actly to plan, but a maxi scooter like this is the best way to stave off the el­e­ments. When it drops be­low 5°C you’re go­ing to be cold what­ever you’re on, but for sen­si­ble win­ter tem­per­a­tures I’ve never rid­den a bike such dis­tance in such com­fort, warmth and cosi­ness.

There’s lots of body­work to hide be­hind and an en­closed foot tray to keep your feet and legs dry, which puts it ahead of the most lux­u­ri­ous tour­ers and cruis­ers. It has an elec­tric screen and a heated seat, too. The day’s rain might have soaked my gloves through and crept up the fore­arms of my jacket, but the rest of me is dry and warm (it helps I’m wear­ing eight lay­ers).

You also get lots of cub­by­holes to store things and the cav­ernous space un­der the seat is big­ger than some car boots. I’ve got a top box fit­ted for even more stor­age and on the way to the tun­nel I stop off at Heathrow to fly to France

for a Dun­lop tyre launch, strap­ping my 23kg kit bag to the back. This is more a two-wheeled car than a mo­tor­cy­cle.

And to top it all I’ve got a blan­ket. It flaps around a lot at mo­tor­way speeds, so you have to tuck it around you, which is strangely com­fort­ing, but it keeps the rain and wind off your legs. You’re not com­pletely en­closed be­cause you need to put your feet down at a stop, but it’s a thing of cos­set­ting bril­liance.

The Burgman can eas­ily crack the ton and out-ac­cel­er­ate any­thing from the lights with a deft twist of the throt­tle. It does around 130 miles to a tank and it’s ac­tu­ally nice to be lazy for a change and not worry about gears or a clutch. But it’s not all plain sail­ing be­cause rid­ing a big scooter can be pre­car­i­ous.

With its lit­tle wheels it’s fright­en­ing to change lanes in the pud­dle-strewn dips and cracks of a Bel­gium mo­tor­way. Be­ing so long and low it’s easy to lock the wheels un­der brak­ing and it wob­bles and weaves when you push it hard.

Other road users tend to give you a hard time. On a bike you get a de­gree of re­spect (when they see you) but on a scooter you get bul­lied and cut up.

My jour­ney back is the soggy, sub 5°C same, but I can’t think of any twowheeler bet­ter for the job. I’ve done this route a lot on sports­bikes and suf­fered sore wrists and knees, but on the Burgman I just plug in some tunes and ride back in high speed com­fort, pray­ing those lit­tle wheels don’t aqua­plane me un­der a truck.

There’s loads of room in the un­der­seat stor­age – 50 litres to be ex­act The big, elec­tron­i­cally ad­justable screen of­fers bags of wind and rain pro­tec­tion Legs safely tucked un­der his blan­ket, Neevesy heads for Cologne Heated grips are a fin­ger-sav­ing lux­ury, but even they strug­gle at 3°C A car on two wheels, com­pletely with blan­ket and heated seat. Bliss

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