Recumbent Bicyclists. Dudes who wear socks with sandals. Drivers of French cars. Model railroaders. Sexy seniors. Will the introduction of BMW’s new “maxi-scooters” make them all cool? We know not. Yet the beauty of all these rugged individuals is that they just don’t care what the rest of the world thinks: Without peers, there is no pressure. We do know that BMW has been doing some pretty accurate prognosticating lately, and since it was time to return our Honda Ruckus, we snagged a quick ride on the opposite end of Honda’s scooter range: the Silver Wing, introduced in 2001.
It’s not exactly cheap at a competitive-in-class $9270, but where most scooters are almost novelty purchases for zipping around the neighborhood, you can actually tour on the Silver Wing with or without the SO. And as a commuter/urban runabout, well, if you live in a warm/dry climate, like L.A., you could really get away with the ’Wing as an only vehicle. Keeping ahead of the traffic wave is no problem for the 582cc fuel-injected Twin, and Honda’s V-Matic transmission puts the power to the pavement with zero fuss. It’ll flash right up to an indicated 100 mph and feels stable enough doing it, though the windshield at that speed flaps alarmingly, like a possessed doggie door. At lower speeds, it stops aflapping, but there are still a few resonances and buzzes coming from the plastic as the two-cylinder drones toward its 5500-rpm happy place like a massive Cuisinart. It’s all reasonably efficient (to the tune of about 46 mpg in mixed urban use), but none of it really gives you the Swiss-watch-precise feel of a nice new VFR or CBR.
Handlingwise, more of the same: With a lot of the Silver Wing’s 551 claimed pounds (wet) located directly beneath you, steer-ing feel isn’t really what you’d call precise. There’s room for a large passenger on the broad, well-padded seat, but we’d take it easy diving into sweeping off-ramps with one on board. On the other hand, the linked brakes with standard ABS are more than adequate.
There’s enough storage under the seat to convert the thing to a hearse. Okay, not quite, but there’s plenty of room for two helmets or a rain suit, a big bag of groceries and a 12-pack. In town, our only complaint is that the SW is also pretty wide: Where legal, lane-splitting is a tight squeeze. On the other hand, the seat’s so comfortable and the cg so low, you don’t mind so much sitting in traffic. All your toys are right at hand in the dashboard. Check your messages. Mount your GPS. Rock your Pandora…wait, why is there no sound system like on the Gold Wing? Come to think of it, where are my heated grips and ad-justable windshield?
In the final analysis, we still think (okay, I think) the maxi-scooter is a great concept. After 11 years, the Wing may be due for an overhaul. It’s fast, but the new BMWs will likely be faster, and with architecture that should also provide superior handling along with more creature comforts. On the other hand, the new-concept Honda NC700X might blow all the maxis into the weeds when it gets here (about the time you’re reading this) for substantially less money. It’s got a lot of scooter-like convenience—large, integrated stor-age, low center of gravity, optional DCT transmission—in a motorcycle-like package.