Scooters are practical, motorcycles are fun. One offers convenient transportation, the other excitement and thrills. But in combining the two via the introduction 14 years ago of the world’s first maxi-scooter - the 500cc parallel-twin TMAX - Yamaha ended up concocting something that turned out to be the sum of both parts.

With upwards of a quarter of a million customers in Europe (140,000-plus in Italy alone) for the three different versions of the TMAX, Yamaha has managed to shrug off the challenge of its Japanese rivals who have come to market with bigger, heavier models like the Burgman and Silver Wing. Ditto for the maxi-singles from Europe and Taiwan.

So how do you make a scooter sexy as well as sensible? Fun and functional? Answer: Send it to Sands – as in Los Angeles-based Roland Sands Design/RSD, and get the fusion chef of custom cool to work his skills on it.

That’s what Yamaha Europe’s product manager Shun Miyazawa did two years ago with one of his company’s new generation 530cc maxi-scooters. And the RSD TMAX Hyper Modified is the result. This “scooter” made its debut at the 2012 Milan EICMA Show and since then it’s been on a world tour before finally finding its way back home to papa, ready to be ridden rather than merely displayed on a show stand. Creating it wasn’t easy, though.

“I have to say this scooter was one of the most difficult projects I’ve done yet,” said Sands, squinting critically at the MAX’d-out product of his fertile imagination as it stood in front of his office desk (complete with ornamental Roberts V-five MotoGP engine!) in RSD’s Los Alamitos shop. “I kept wanting to turn it into a motorcycle. All my design sensibilities told me to eliminate the step-through, straight line it from the seat to the neck, build a custom gas tank for it, and make it into a cafe racer. But I said to myself, ‘whoa – if we’re going to do a motorcycle, let’s start with a motorcycle. Let’s take advantage of what this thing is – it’s a scooter!’ There’s a reason why the motor’s so low, why it’s below where you sit, why the gas tank’s where it is – so we ended up building a kind of sit-up surf racer, that you can take to the beach but also go racing through the canyons with. Call it a Supermoto Scooter.”

However, having decided to do something completely different, Sands initially struggled to figure out what, exactly.

“There was nothing easy about this project – it was the equivalent of walking on Mars,” he says. “There were no guidelines, no magazines, no pages of internet content to help guide crucial design decisions – basically, nobody had ever done something like this before. There was no one to call on the phone for advice, who’d created something similar – there really was nothing but our own ideas for guidance and inspiration. That means it’s been one of those projects that’s had everyone in the shop constantly battling to put their own personal stamp on it. So it’s had a surfboard rack over the top, it’s had a drinks holder on the front, we hung a crazy cooler box out back – in fact we have a lot of accessories already designed for it when Yamaha puts it into production. As if.“

To read more of the RSD Yamaha TMAX Hyper Modified first ride in this week’s Cycle News, click here

Alan Cathcart | European Editor

Cathcart has ridden practically every road racer and streetbike ever built and written about them in Cycle News. They don’t call him Sir Alan for nothing.

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