2008 Suzuki Burgman Scooter | Off Center

Don't ask don't tell

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Suzuki

I rode a scooter home last night. Emphasize night, as in dark, as in nobody saw me. You can't prove it. That must've been somebody else. This is the kind of thing that puts a serious crimp in your credibility around here.

I didn't really mean to. But like other illconceived actions carried out under cover of darkness, it seemed like the thing to do when you're knocking off work at 8:05 p.m. Especially after 11 hours of trying to carve a few thousand of somebody else's ill-chosen words down to a few hundred that won't trigger serial gag reactions, subscription cancellations and or hate mail. Besides, there's no way to strap my Bag O' Stuff to the B-King. There is the key to a Suzuki Burgman 650 on the Official Motorcyclist board. The Executive model, no less, with a full tank of gas. I have opportunity and motive. It's a slippery slope from there.

Said key is in my pocket before the reverserationalization sequence can boot up. My overstuffed bag slides into the cavernous, well-lit storage bay beneath the seat to ink the deal.

Like most forms of social suicide, getting started is easy: Just pull the hand brake and thumb the starter. A vague, muddled whirring beneath the floorboards implies the initiation of internal combustion. Suzuki's spec sheet says there's a liquidcooled, eight-valve, 638cc twin down there. I'll take their word for it. Judging by the inconclusive aural evidence, it could just as easily be a single, an industrial-strength aquarium pump or a shop vac with chronic indigestion. As Lord John Whorfin once said, "Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy."

The first block is creepy. La-Z-Boy ergos feel less than intuitive after a week on an '08 B-King. Feet out in front. No brake pedal. Nothing but air between the knees. Three blocks later, all these Weird Alice pieces start to fit. The dash is vaguely reminiscent of Pozorski's Honda S2000 or "Need for Speed: Carbon" on Xbox 360, except we're playing with real cars. Switches and buttons abound. Shall I let Suzuki's electronic automatic shift on its own or toggle through the quintet of virtual gears on my own? Will that be Normal or Power mode? How many guesses do you want?

The guy in the Audi A4 was submerged in a conversation with his broker or bookie or parole officer or Feng Shui practitioner. When the light turned green, he floored it, just in time to see a curiously silent maroon blur pull ahead and disappear into the tangled chaos of Highland Avenue. "What was that?"

I would've explained that manual shifting lets Herr Burgman hold a virtual gear a little longer, but since Power Mode is only available when the computer is in control, that was actually automatic. But I didn't have the heart. Neither of us had the time. Traffic is unusually grim for a Wednesday night, and he's still trying to explain to Her Majesty of the Passenger Side how they just got smoked by George Jetson's recliner.

I'm not really sure, but I'm not complaining either. Peel off the impending professional stigma and this might just be the most efficient Southern California commuting appliance yet devised. The amorphous twin goes 55 miles on a gallon of regular unleaded, even when 90 mph shows up on the speedo now and then. Electrically retractable mirrors are sheer genius.Triple-disc brakes are good; ABS makes 'em better. Suspension is derisible by sporty-bike standards, but I can live with that, along with the withering glance from that girl on the Honda CBR600RR on Thursday morning and being reduced to tears by a Ducati 1098's Termignoni aria. But I can't quite picture myself paying $8999 to own one of these things. Yet. Then again, the going rate for a barrel of crude oil is still hovering under $100. Give me time.

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