Now more than ever, worlds are colliding. The line between scooters and motorcycles is becoming more and more blurred, and much of it has happened in the past 18 months. First, Honda brought its innovative NC700X to the U.S. for 2012, available with a Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT), and in doing so broke many of the rules that motorcycles and motorcycling follow. Within months, BMW debuted its new Urban Mobility line, which includes two super scooters-the slimmer of the two being the C600 Sport featured here-that the company claims have rewritten the book on how a scooter must look, handle, and perform.
So, a motorcycle that’s halfway to a scooter, and a scooter that boasts more performance and versatility than the category has ever seen. We agree that the NC700X is an innovative, important bike, and in riding the BMW C600 Sport scooter we were all impressed. On paper it’s a head-scratcher, and at that point there’s only one thing to do: Bring them together and see how they stack up.
Integrated blinkers and lots of plastic create the Majesty’s smooth and gentle shape. Smoo
To mediate the comparison between the BMW C600 Sport and the Honda NC700X DCT ABS we employed the services of Yamaha's curiously named Majesty. Boastful name aside, the Majesty represents nearly a decade of longevity in the scooter industry, and therefore an ideal measuring stick for this discussion. Suzuki's 650 Burgman was another choice, but based on price-point, size, and practicality we felt the Majesty more accurately characterizes scooter-dom as a whole. (Plus, we couldn't get a '13 Burgman in time for our test.)
Scooters represent not only different technology than motorcycles, but also a substantial cultural gap. The structure of a scooter is different; the frames are low-slung and long, the engines are set farther back in the chassis, and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) displace conventional clutches and gears. Typically the wheels are smaller, the suspension is less advanced, and performance is compromised for pragmatism. They are, in short, designed more as appliances to get from one place to another than to stir emotion like a conventional motorcycle does, and the philosophy surrounding scooters is much the same. Function over form, sensibility over excitement.
And it is precisely for that reason that bridging the gap between motorcycles and scooters has become an intriguing prospect for people and motorcycle companies alike. The motorcycle industry and the general public are suffering through the same challenging economic times, and both are interested in new ways to accomplish their transportation goals. Motorcycle companies want to sell bikes (or scooters), and people want to get places efficiently and comfortably.
For a company like Honda, the concept of an efficient and cost-conscious machine is not foreign. In many ways, it’s been the foundation of Honda’s success (including its automotive side) as a company, especially in the U.S. More specifically, Honda offers the CBR250R and CRF250L, two economical motorcycles based on the same 250cc single. So it adds up that that the NC700X exists, being that it’s the next step in a long line of economical innovations from Honda.
For BMW, however, the stereotype of a scooter being economical is a double-edged sword. Yes, scooters typically get good gas mileage and are cheap to own and maintain, but BMW is more riding that wave than creating it. The dilemma lies in the fact that BMW views itself as a premium brand and does not want to stray too far down the socio-economic ladder. What BMW is obviously banking on is people being willing to purchase a heavy, expensive, and luxurious version of a vehicle that is defined by thriftiness and minimalism. As long as it’s a BMW.