Whereas most scooters are variables of a central street-legal, urban theme, Yamaha’s Zuma 125 radiates a more adventurous attitude with a look that says “let’s go camping,” or “go ahead, take off down that fire road and let’s see where it goes.” Conveying this venturesome spirit are the fat for 12-inch rims (120/70 front and 130/70 rear), enduro-esque tires.
An exposed large-diameter steel frame is a styling element that allows Yamaha designers to use less plastic on the Zuma than other scooters. The plastic on the bottom of the Zuma is, in fact, left unpainted to better absorb the resultant scratches off-road riding generates. Hands protected by brushguards, large, dual headlights surrounded by steel crash bars, and front suspension shrouded in fork gaiters all conspire to elevate the off-road legitimacy of the Zuma.
The Zuma exhibits a harsh ride due to seriously stiff spring rates (exacerbated by inadequate rebound damping), but having recently sampled the Honda PCX, whose suspension suffers an inversely proportionate problem, I prefer over-sprung to under-sprung in this scenario. Considering the Zuma’s off-road proclivities, Yamaha may have stiffened the spring rate to better absorb some of the off-road punishment a Zuma may endure compared to a pavement-only scoot.
At 50.8 inches the Zuma has a shorter wheelbase than competing scooters of equal displacement. If Yamaha had stretched the Zuma a couple more inches it may have been enough to restyle the below-seat fuel tank and enlarge the storage compartment to allow room for a full-face helmet. As is, an open-face helmet fits within the limited confines, but only just. And while at it, we’d suggest re-contouring the seat, because the current one is wide enough to make flat-footing a difficult accomplishment, even for someone of six-foot stature. Short riders not well-versed in holding up a motorcycle with one foot will feel nervous, but the Zuma’s light weight makes it easy enough.
The air-cooled 4-stroke 125cc Single powering the Zuma produces enough ponies to keep the Zuma competitive with aggressive commuter traffic. Electronic fuel injection helps make it quick to start and delivers flawless throttle response. Not freeway-legal, the approximately 60-mph top end is enough for most surface streets. Its CVT automatic transmission provides user-friendly – no clutching or shifting – forward propulsion. The 220mm single disc and dual-piston caliper up front and drum rear brake exuding surprisingly abundant stopping power.
Curiously, the Zuma’s blinkers, when engaged, emit a clicking noise akin to the decibel level of those on vintage American cars – pedestrians can literally hear it from the crosswalk. Yamaha, please, muffle that embarrassing noise. Also, what’s with the extended rear fender? The Zuma already has a snug-fitting inner fender, so the elongated second fender is nothing more than ugly overkill.
Otherwise, Yamaha did grace the Zuma with niceties such as a fuel gauge and angled valve stems.
For those looking for simple, inexpensive ($3,350), fuel-efficient (we got 58 mpg under heavy throttle application) two-wheel travel but are averse to the effeminate scooter association, the Zuma 125 is more lumberjack than it is ladybug. The Zuma does what other scooters do, then leaves them in the dust when the going gets dirty.