Ultimate cold weather-busting machine
Michael Neeves rides to Germany and back in the winter rain
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