2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS Motorcycle / Scooter Test
Updating a legendary machine with a cult following is always a tricky job. However, with a certain German company breathing down their throat, Suzuki took on the job of improving and updating the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS maxi-scooter without alienating its core constituency (and reining in some new riders at the same time).
There is no doubt about the dedication of Suzuki Burgman 650 owners. Over a third of them go on group rides or attend rallies, over two-thirds use them for touring (a full quarter take them on trips over 500 miles) and the one thing all the owners have in common – they like casual pleasure riding on their Burgman scooters.
Introduced 11 years ago, the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 is not a completely new motorcycle. Rather, it’s an update of the Burgman Executive, with some welcome modernization.
All-new plastic is the most obvious change. The bike looks more sleek now (the seat rail is narrower), and the lighten looks fully up-to-date. A few pounds have been shed (some of it due to a new ABS unit), a round muffler has been replaced by a triangular unit, the fuel economy has been improved by a notable 15-percent, the instrument cluster has been redesigned, and, to answer a common complaint from Burgman owners, the big scooter is easier to push with the motor off (credit a new clutch pack for a 40-percent reduction in pushing effort).
Smaller changes include a stickier footrest area with cutouts to make it easier to reach the ground, pillion footrests move upward about a half-inch, floating discs up front, and a relocated parking brake.
The nearly horizontal parallel twin powerplant and transmission has some updates. The valve spring rate has been reduced, the piston rings redesigned, less oil pump pressure, updated counterbalancer, and new final gear oil all work together to provide for that 15-percent improvement in mpg.
With those mileage-enhancing updates, the Burgman 650 still puts out 54 horsepower at 7000 rpm and over 45 ft/lbs of torque at 6400 rpm–a nice matching of the two numbers–while the EFI is a closed loop design for lower emissions. All good stuff for keeping the air cleaner and less gasoline being pumped into the four gallon fuel tank (with a fiddly gas cap).
Sliding onto the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 and turning on the key, you get your first look at the new dash. While it definitely looks cleaner and modern–and the LCD is much easier to read – there is one change I immediately don’t like. Instead of a large, easily read, digital speedometer, Suzuki has gone with an analog dial. Replacing your speed in the center – the most important piece of information on the dash for most of us – is a choice of three non-essential readouts (thermometer, mpg gauge, or “gear” position in manual mode). Why your speed couldn’t be one of the choices is anyone’s guess. The clock is on and easily read anytime the key is on – excellent.
Riding the Burgman 650 ABS couldn’t be easier. It may be a maxi-scooter, but it still has all the user-friendliness of a 50cc scooter, even though it’s packing over 600 pounds. All you have to do is twist the throttle and go, and you’ll be taken care of by the Suzuki Electronically-controled Continuously Variable Transmission (SECVT).
There are three choices of how you want the Burgman to make its way, however, and they are selectable on the fly. The standard Drive mode will satisfy most riders. Again, just twist and go. The 638cc motor’s fully automatic V-belt CVT will upshift early. This keeps the revs and vibrations down, and the mpg up.
Acceleration is still good, though you can tell the Burgman is capable of more. For most riding, most of the time, this will be completely satisfactory and the mode you’ll want to use. Push a button, even with the throttle pinned, and you can go into the Power mode. This delays the upshift until the engine is running at much higher revs.
This means that when you hit the throttle, the response and acceleration is greatly enhance. Additionally, there is more engine braking in this mode, so it definitely is a sportier choice.
The downside of the Power mode is that the throttle is a bit jumpy (especially when compared to Drive) and you have to deal with increased vibration, noise, and increased fuel consumption. The Power mode works well when doing battle with congested traffic (though not lane-splitting) or when having a go of it in the canyons. The third choice is one that I find superfluous – Manual mode. In Manual, Suzuki allows you to move the SECVT between six preset ratios (not gears, of course). It’s like having a paddle shifter, a la the Honda VFR1200F DCT.
Sure, you can use this when you’re riding your hardest, and the downshifting can be even more aggressive than Power, but it hardly seems worth the rider effort. The Power mode is adequate for sporty riding, so it seems like the Manual mode is just there for people who feel compelled to have total control (without a clutch, obviously).
Handling is very good on the Burgman 650, within the obvious limitations of the scooter genre. You have slightly small tires – 15” front, 14” rear – as well as, no way to grab the tank with your knees, floorboards, and limited cornering clearance. Given all that, you can still carve corners nicely and confidently, thanks to the stable 62.4-inch wheelbase.
The Burgman’s suspension is very soft, though well-damped. Rough roads will overwhelm the suspension, so keep your expectations reasonable. The Bridgestone Battlax tires are quality rubber, and that’s a big plus. You’re hauling around 613 pounds (claimed curb weight) on the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS, so braking is crucial.
There are twin floating discs up front, and the get the job done. The initial bite is soft, just as you would want, and then the deceleration increases and you pull harder. It’s all very predictable and there are not suprises. The ABS allows you to be very aggressive on the brakes, as it will kick in quite conservatively.
I was dropping into a downhill corner on slick pavement and the front ABS was activated unexpectedly, yet predictably. The rear (activated by your left hand) also calls on help from the ABS very early, and it worked flawlessly, though not transparently.
Comfort on the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS is outstanding. The pilot has a lower-backrest that is adjustable, and the integrated passenger backrest is substantial. There’s a reason people tour on this bike – it works. Feel free to ride all day thanks to the excellent wind protection, perfectly padded seat and spot-on ergonomics.
You can adjust the windscreen at the push of a button, and the up position is perfect for the freeway (though you trade less helmet wind for more wind hitting the hands).
The cargo bay under the seat will swallow two full-face helmets, even though it’s a gallon smaller than the previous Burgman 650. Still, you have 13 gallons at your disposal. I was able to slip a fully loaded Alpinestars full-size backpack under the seat, and still had room for a couple of water bottles. Two glove-compartment style storage spaces are handy, as is a larger segmented center console storage space with a DC outlet.
Updating the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS without alienating long-time fans was a daunting task, and Suzuki succeeded. Many owners held onto their Burgmans for year, racking up mileage totals in six-figures because there was no need to buy a newer edition. Those days are over, and Suzuki dealers had better brace for a flood of trade-ins.
Photography by Enrico Pavia
Helmet: Vemar Jiano Evo
Jacket and pants: AGV Sport Telluride
Gloves: AGV Sport Mayhem
Boots: Fly Racing Tourist