Over the past few years we’ve tested quite a few machines with “automatic” transmissions: the SE5-equipped Can-Am Spyder, the electric-shift Yamaha FJR1300AE, the dual-clutch Honda VFR1200F DCT, the hydromechanical HFT-equipped Honda DN-01, as well as CVT-equipped scooters and the Aprilia Mana 850. The underlying technologies and rider interfaces differ, but all twist-and-go transmissions are designed to make gear changes simple and efficient. Motorcyclists often look askance at two-wheelers lacking a manually operated clutch, silently casting aspersions toward those assumed to lack skills or strength. To each their own, I say. Automatic shifting frees up mental bandwidth to enjoy the ride, as I found flogging a scooter around Thailand for four days (Rider, June 2010).
Between the engine and rear wheel of the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive, the maxi-est of the maxi-scooters, is the Suzuki Electronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission, or SECVT if you prefer five letters instead of 62. Among the left handlebar’s many multicolored buttons that control eight separate functions, three regulate the SECVT: a gray one toggles between two fully automatic modes (power or drive), a yellow one toggles between automatic and manual shift modes and an orange one toggles between six predetermined CVT ratios in manual shift mode. (The other buttons switch between high and low beam, flash the headlight, signal turns, bleat the horn and electronically retract the mirrors.)
According to Shinobu Tsutsumikoshi, a Suzuki engineer who helped develop the SECVT, “We refined the already-efficient CVT system even further through integrated electronic control of both engine and transmission.” Instead of a conventional centrifugal CVT that uses a rubber belt to adjust the gear ratio, the SECVT varies the drive-pulley diameter with an electric actuator motor. An ECU calculates the target engine speed based on vehicle speed and throttle position, and adjusts the CVT ratio accordingly. The SECVT uses a Dry Hybrid Composite Belt made of H-shaped high-strength aluminum blocks embedded with heat-resistant rubber tension members and covered with resin. The durable belt runs dry to avoid the frictional losses of an oil bath and helps keep the transmission light and compact.
After adapting to the location and function of the SECVT’s buttons, and taking care to override my instinct to pull in the rear brake lever thinking it was the clutch, I quickly cozied up to the SECVT. When shifting is done automatically, drive mode optimizes the CVT ratio for fuel efficiency and power mode optimizes for acceleration. When shifting is done manually, the up/down buttons move between the preset “gears,” identified by a numeral on the LCD instrument panel. And regardless of mode, the SECVT shifts into neutral at a stop. Speeding up and slowing down is seamless, with no need to blip or roll off the throttle.
The Burgman is less of a step-through than most scooters because its engine is located between the rider’s feet. That keeps most of the Burgman’s 620-pound mass low and centralized, almost like a Gurney Alligator with a conventional seating position. Removing the plastic engine cover reveals a 638cc liquid-cooled parallel twin laid down horizontally, packed tightly between tubular steel frame rails. It has a bore/stroke of 75.5/71.3mm, GSX-R-style downdraft intakes, DOHC with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 11.2:1, yet only regular fuel is required. The electronic fuel injection is dead-on, throttle response is crisp and acceleration is brisk (the engine puts out about 50 horsepower). Dual gear-driven countershafts eradicate even a hint of engine vibration and the stainless steel exhaust, which uses pulsed-air injection and a catalyzer to reduce emissions, emits only a modest hum. The Burgman is so smooth and quiet that it’s easy to toddle down the road at 90 mph without realizing it.
With light handling, ample cornering clearance and decent power, the Burgman can be hustled through curves swiftly. The Bridgestone TH01 radials (120/70-R15 front, 160/60-R14 rear) grip the road well and have a nicely rounded profile. Minimal engine braking means that the nonlinked, ABS-equipped brakes must be used to scrub off speed, with the left lever actuating the rear caliper and the right lever actuating the two front calipers (there’s also a parking brake). At times I wished for more braking power, but the Burgman isn’t intended to be a knee-down sportbike. Though easily overwhelmed by fast corners and rough roads, the nonadjustable fork and preload-adjustable rear shocks, with 4.3 inches and 3.9 inches of travel respectively, performed well in most conditions. Setting the rear spring preload is as simple as rotating an external collar on each shock to one of five positions.
If the Burgman was interviewed for a job and asked to identify its three greatest strengths, they would be user-friendliness, comfort and storage capacity. Introduced in 2004, the plush Executive package was once a premium model that’s now the only Burgman 650 offered in the United States, its corner-office features having proven very popular. In addition to ABS, the Executive features an electrically adjustable windscreen, electrically retractable mirrors (for squeezing into tight parking spots or lane splitting), a passenger backrest and chrome bar ends and muffler cover. The Burgman’s wide seat is plush and has an adjustable rider backrest, while rubberized rider and passenger floorboards provide plenty of foot placement options. Beneath the seat is an illuminated, lockable, water-tight, 56-liter trunk that holds two full-face helmets (or a bottle of champagne and a dozen roses, as I found out), plus a toolkit and helmet lock. The cockpit has a locking glove compartment with a 12V socket and two smaller storage compartments. For additional storage Suzuki offers an accessory rear rack ($229.95), and for a real GQ look, it offers a burlwood dash trim kit ($222.95) and front chrome garnish ($139.95). Since many a Burgman will live in urban areas along with their owners, the key fob can be used to engage an ignition switch cover to dissuade screwdriver-wielding joy riders.
The Burgman’s LCD instrument panel conveys a host of information, including speed, rpm, engine temperature, fuel level, odometer/A-B tripmeter/A-B fuel consumption, clock/ambient temperature, drive/power mode, gear position (manual mode), as well as low-oil and oil-change indicators. Factor in eight different indicator lights, and you’ve got one heck of a dashboard! Although the Burgman 650 Executive’s $9,899 price tag is steep by scooter standards, it is very reasonable by middleweight sport-touring standards, the segment in which this maxi-scooter seems to fit best. Our art director Jody loaded up the trunk, strapped on a tailbag and spent a long weekend on the Burgman during Rider’s annual staff ride. She easily kept up with more powerful motorcycles and she appreciated the wind protection and comfortable seating position.
Over the course of our 1,000-mile test, it averaged 43.9 mpg, which is comparable to other 650s we’ve tested and yields about 176 miles from the four-gallon tank. Having been in production since 2003 with few changes, the Burgman 650 has proven reliable. The maintenance schedule is reasonable —change the engine oil every 3,500 miles (filter every 11,000 miles), change the transmission and final gear oil and inspect the CVT filter every 7,500 miles and check the valve clearances every 14,500 miles—but the completely enclosed fairing and tight packaging of the engine and running gear can create challenges for home mechanics (or add to labor costs if done at a shop).
The Burgman Executive is called the Sky Wave in Japan, a name that better reflects its swooping style and high-tech SECVT than the “village man” and tan-khakis moniker used here and in Europe. During past visits to Japan I’ve been blown away by maxi-scooters customized with flashy paint, elaborately upholstered seats and long-and-loud pipes that would put most blinged-out choppers and Hayabusas to shame (Google “Japanese custom scooters” to see what I mean). So whether you’re a briefcase-toting manager, a teenager obsessed with manga (Japanese comics) or something in between, the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive may be the maxi-scooter for you.
2011 Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Specs
Base Price: $9,899
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Bore x Stroke: 75.5 x 71.3mm
Compression Ratio: 11.2:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 14,500 miles
Fuel Delivery: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.1-qt. cap.
Transmission: SECVT Automatic w/ power & manual modes
Final Drive: Gear
Ignition: Transistorized electronic
Charging Output: 500 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 12AH
Frame: Tubular steel w/ aluminum alloy swingarm
Wheelbase: 62.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 26 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 29.5 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions w/ 4.3-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, w/ 5-position adj. spring preload, 3.9-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 260mm discs w/ opposed 2-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 250mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 15 in.
Rear: Cast, 4.50 x 14 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-R15
Wet Weight: 620 lbs.
Load Capacity: 394 lbs.
GVWR: 1,014 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min. (high/avg/low) 46.8/43.9/39.8
Estimated Range: 176 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,500
I am the proud owner of one of these. A great bike. What I would add though is the engine braking is excellent, if one uses the maunal mode gear change. I seldom use the automatic as better control and fuel economy is had in manual. Around town I get about 220 km (136 miles) from a tank of gas and on the open road about 250 kms (155 miles). That tank of gas is when the indicator is on the second level and sitting on the centre stand the top up to full is just over 10 litres. In fact the consumption compares very evenly with my Piaggio X9 500, but the drive and the ride is a big plus.
Thanks for a great magazine
Wow…i think i just bought one.
me too..gotta have one of these..out with the piaggio 150 in with burg man exec 650
My 650 Burgman is now 10 years old – and indistinguishable from the latest model.
Four rear tyres, three on the front, two batteries and regular services – it still runs like the proverbial Swiss watch. Nothing has blown, shattered, fallen off or developed noises.
Second hand price is still 45% of new, though I’ve been offered more.
After five decades of riding bikes on four different continents, I feel qualified to say this is by far the most comfortable, reliable and easiest to manage of the many, many two-wheelers I’ve owned.
You might well find out this will apply to you.
just paid for new burgman 650 end of june i love this burgman i had the burgman 400 speed on this 650 is very good if you looking at scooter need to go for it if you like all the things in are bike
I recently bought a used Burgman 650 that has 6000 mi on it .
The concern I have is Whine coming from transmission it over whelms the the sound of the motor and wondering if this is normal .
Reviewing different sights I have seen lots of articles on the CVT and problems with noise and also found out that the bearings get no lubrication accept for when the bearings were manufacturer with.
Question is what is the repair rate of these CVT and what RPM’s do these pulleys run at ?
Any body out have an answer ?
Have an ’07 Burg Exec. Without a doubt the funnest and most comfortable ride I’ve ever owned. I am 54 y.o., 245 lbs., left knee hurts, and this bike brings back the joy of riding. I use manual mode only at highway speeds, making sure I am in 6th “gear”, and routinely get 53-62 mpg. Check it out. I no longer care one bit if other riders look dismissively.
looks like I’m sold..out with the 150 piaggio and in with the burg man 650 exec
I bought a 2007 Burgman 650 Executive last fall for $4500.00. Put on new rear shocks (Ikon), cartridge emulators, Clearview large windshield, Shad 40 liter topcase, and Pirrelli Diablo radials on over the winter. I have put 4K on it since purchase, and love it. Previous bike was a 94 Honda Goldwing 1500. I have similar cargo capacity, 250 lbs less weight, automatic transmission, and 10 more MPG.
I have a 2009 650 Ex and I love it. I have always been a Gold Wing man . I had 3 wings and the Burgman is more fun and easer for an old man like me to ride. I went to a scooter because I had both of my knees replased. My first scooter was a Yamaha Morphas but it did not meet my needs. It was ok putting around town but not on the hiway. I wanted something that I could ride across country . When I saw the Burgman , and after research, it was the ticket. I purchased a Starlight trailer Model # 14 from Neosho Fiberglass . I hardly know its behing me. It pulls at 70 mph with no effort and even adds to stabilaty to the bike. I am not the only one who says that. I have added a radio , turn signal beeper , cruse control and other goodies . No limit to what you can add. I wish it had lock on the gas door rather the gas cap or a none locking gas cap. The gas cap is a pain to unlock at times . That is the only complant I have . If any one knows of a none locking gas cap that will fit the burgman , let me know as there are others who would like to make a change too.
Very interested in the cross-country abilities of the Burg 650. How far have you taken it? I’m hoping that it will perform well on the surface streets and freeways of San Diego, then give me a comfortable ride to San Francisco, Bismarck, or even Anchorage when the urge to wander hits me. I appreciate your opinions. Thanks.
I have made several local long trips in Kansas Missouri and Arkansas with other riders as a group. They all had Burgmans. I would not be afraid to go to California or any where else,. This summer I plan on making a trip to Ca . I was at EAFB for 25 years so I know the freeways wil be no problem with the Burgman. I have rode in Tulsa and Oklahoma City on the Burgman ,which is no different than riding in LA .In fact is is easer and handles better than the Gold wing in heavy trafic because it is lighter and corners quicker in moving trafic. Now a trip to Alaska ????? I would think twice about that trip. I have talked guys who have made the trip on big bikes .It was a rough road to hold. They carried extra tires and etc and it was good they did. The roads may be better now than back then . I am retired and have all the free time in the world to travel . Have a safe ride .May the Good Lord bless and keep you. Richard
I own a 2011 burgman excutive 650cc great bike.fun to ride.I also added a sirius sattelite radio for some tunes.
I have a 2003 Bergy 650 and just purchased a 2013. I always wanted to put a radio on my bike but haven’t found a place to purchase one, Having a sirius sattelite set up would be great. I need some info regarding accessories. I will be 80 yr old in July, I still ride with my 3 sons and their Harleys and live in Michigan. The 03 has 15000 miles on it, I bought them both new, I just purchased the 2013 last oct at a dealer in Ohio, still new, I would appreciate
Thank you in advance
I am still thingking of the honda silverwing.
I have both. They ride differently. The Burg is bigger and heavier. It is also faster. The silverwing is a little easier to ride in town. I also have a Burg 400 and a Honda Helix 250. If I had to choose only one, I would die!
i love my burgman
i am a retired chp officer and i rode alot of motorcycles i have a 1986 honda goldwing sei 1200.and a 2011 burgman 650 ex. the burgman is the best i have ever rode.
Bought a second-hand 2011 Burgman 650 Executive in May 2013. Previously rode a CB500S Honda. There is no comparison in terms of comfort and versatility. At 67 years of age and looking for comfort, this must be the poor man’s equivalent of a Goldwing! The bike is pacey when required and comfortable even over the most indifferent roads. The suspension is a bit rigid and you feel most bumps quite a bit; but on a reasonably well surfaced road this machine is a dream to ride – and all the extras are fun. Glad I bought this and getting great fun out of it.
I own a 2006 burgman 650 it has the smoothest clutch of any automatic that i have driven so far. i’ve had my bike up to 100 mph with a passenger on back. It ran very smooth and comfortable just like being in a car. love my burgman.
Have a ’09 650 exec. Use it to commute to work almost daily 100 miles round trip averaging 50mpg. Has 71,000 miles without a single problem. Just change oil, tires, and brakes.
well, all in all it’s a nice scooter. just don’t have anything go wrong with it.
I currently have a broken bike sitting in my garage with only 8000 miles
on it. something in the CVT itself. but with a $1500 price tag to get it fixed.
anyone want one. $3000 and it’s yours. just come and get it.
2009 650 executive.
What was wrong with the Burgman cvt?
Do you still have it
Ive owned this bike for about 7 years now and have traveled over 14000 miles on it. It has no problem cruising all day at 90 mph and rides very smooth over most surfaces. Where i don’t recommend it, is on very twisty roads. I went down once moving around a bicyclist and hitting a small patch of gravel when swerving to avoid him. Went down on pavement and fractured a rib. Bike was ok and just lost a couple trim pieces. The only other negative is the shear weight of the bike when parking in a downhill position and trying to back the bike out of that spot. It would be nice if it had a reverse gear.
Otherwise I absolutely love the bike and use it as my primary transportation instead of my cars. Mileage averages $42-50mpg .