When you hear that Yamaha has just ticked over 300,000 sales of a particular model and that the bike retails for approximately A$20,000, your mind instantly goes to the supremely popular R6 super sport bike that is finally being phased out. But no, while the engine capacity is damn close, that’s not the answer and in fact, the super successful but clearly expensive machine is the TMAX scooter. With sales figures like that the public is obviously sold, but just to drive the point home, France’s Yamaha Castellan dealership thought they’d go the extra mile. So, they recruited award-winning outfit Ortolani Customs to transform a TMAX 560 into a super scooter, with big bike performance and exotic attitude.
French motorcycle modifying maestro Olivier heads up the business and when the call came from Yamaha, he had to think long and hard. “I hesitated for a long time that the challenge was so big that I said to myself that it could be cool. For me, I wanted to do something different: more aggressive, sportier in design but above all not to make a motorcycle out of it.” To get an idea of what he was working with, Olivier stripped down the TMAX and it is here that you quickly discover why so few people modify these scooters to such extreme lengths.
Under the bodywork it’s all business, with brackets, clamps, small frame extensions, and everything needed to neatly hold onto the panels, as well as hide away all of the electronic wizardry in such a small and confined space; in short, it’s a bloody nightmare. Olivier saw the good and the bad, admired the work of Yamaha to pack so much into so little, and then decided how he’d go about such an enormous task. One thing he knew for sure, precise handmade bodywork would be the only way to deal with so many tight spaces and complex details.
He first started by designing a new subframe in two parts, one that would hold the tank in the central position of the motorcycle just above the engine, and then off the back of this, a traditional rear subframe to support the seat and the rider. The hope was that this structure would allow for him to use some bolt-on parts or even experiment with other materials, and he commenced work on the rear alloy panels. “Then the more I advanced on the aluminium elements the more I understood the difficulty of what I was accomplishing and that this TMAX was going to be entirely in aluminium.”
That’s no bad thing at all, as the aluminium body is a feast for the eyes, the sharp sporty shape, hand beaten and rolled to perfection. From the functional panels to the inner skins that cover them and the extra pieces for some razzle-dazzle, each had to be lovingly crafted to millimetre perfection. The Rizoma mirrors in black look like winglets and fold up, while the lower GP styled wings are based on the new BMW superbike design. “The choice of colours and design was a very important point because it is the first thing that attracts attention and makes you want (or not) to look more into the details. The green is that of the Porsche GT3RS with a nice combination of yellow reminiscent of the Lotus colours.
With these clearly racing inspired designs, Olivier turned to the same influence in getting the bike rolling and a wheel diameter upgrade was first on the list. The stock 15in rims are ditched in favour of a set of Aprilia RSV4 wheels measuring 17in, that have been wrapped in some road legal race rubber from Michelin.
Keeping the functionality of the TMAX was high on the priority list, it’s part of what makes the bike so popular. So, the ABS and park brake have been retained as the systems of control, but the stopping power itself gets a big upgrade. At the front a set of wave-style discs from Braking, yes it’s a company name, needed spacers on the calipers to fit.
The rear end required a little more finessing, but it’s here that some of the best changes are made. To allow for the bigger wheel and tyre combo and to provide a more aggressive look, a set of swingarm extensions were machined up and include the company’s logo CNC’d into the side. To add some more big bike credibility, Olivier then spent the time converting the bike from a belt to a chain drive, with the clearances having to be allowed in the bodywork. Then another Braking wave disc goes on and the wheels have been transformed with a paint job of their own. Still thinking about big bikes, the front lighting is designed to look like an R1 and the rear is from Kellermann.
For the rider’s luxury and benefit, DEV’MOTO was tasked with making a custom TFT display that can beam back all of the factory info in style and NMB Design did a killer job on the leather upholstery with paint-matched stitching.
Finally, Olivier decided the 560cc twin-cylinder needed a big upgrade with a full Malossi kit installed. To add even more horsepower a custom stainless-steel exhaust beautifully snakes its way rearward to an HPCorse muffler. Before the whole engine combination is finished off with a BMC filter that draws air from just in front of the rear tyre.
Ortolani Customs has delivered a master class in TMAX modification and Olivier is confident nobody will build a better example of the big-selling scooter in 2022; the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down.
[ Ortolani Customs ]