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Maxxed Out: Yamaha TMAX 500 by Unikat Motorworks

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
Folks who ride motorcycles today often started out on scooters, especially in Europe. But Maciej Bielawski of Poland did it the other way round. “I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was a child, starting in the 80s,” he tells us. “But then I switched to scooters. Why? Because they’re easy, especially in the city where I live.”

We can see his point. Some modern maxi-scooters offer motorcycle levels of performance, but with tons of extra convenience—especially for touring or city commuting.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
Maciej usually trades his bikes in after one season, but he did not want to part with his 2009 TMAX XP500—even though he acknowledges that it was ‘past its best’ in terms of visual style. “There are several quality ‘maxi scooters’ you can get, but the best of them is the Yamaha,” he says. “It’s like a smart connection between a scooter and a sporty motorbike.”

The XP500 is fast for a scooter, easily topping 100 mph, and handles exceptionally well despite its size. A contemporary road test compared it to a Yamaha R6 on twisty roads (and the monoblock four-piston front brakes are indeed derived from the R6).

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
To breathe new life into his favorite steed, Maciej got in touch with Grzegorz ‘Greg’ Korczak. Greg is a cinematographer and Oscar-nominated special effects director, but he’s also been running Unikat Motorworks since 2013. His company now has over 200 builds to its name, with four craftsmen turning Greg’s ‘virtual’ creations into reality.

“Maciej wanted his TMAX to look ‘mean’ with a matte black finish,” says Greg. “We have customized two Vespas already, so I knew it would be a very difficult process. It’s more like car reconstruction than motorcycle building, due to the huge and complicated frames and loads of bodywork.”

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
Greg started researching the TMAX, with little success—this is not a machine that is often customized. “I made calculations in Excel and budgeted for three-to-four months of work,” he recalls. “We shook hands but, business-wise, it was my mistake—the project took more than five months!”

Good things take time, as they say, and we reckon this TMAX is definitely a good thing. The stock bike is a porker at around 221 kilos (489 pounds) wet, so Unikat focused on taking off around 30 kilos of excess weight.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
They’ve also added extra horsepower, treating the 499cc parallel-twin engine a free-flowing Malossi air filter and exhaust system.

The heavier work is on the frame. After binning the swathes of plastic, Unikat modified the back end of the aluminum frame to give a shorter side profile, and installed see-through mesh side panels.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
“The difficulty was fitting the new fuel tank and cooling system inside a much, much smaller subframe,” says Greg. It took many more hours of work than planned, but Greg decided to stick to the agreed budget and swallow the cost.

The plush new seat follows the curved contours of the new rear tubing, but after getting everything to fit, Greg went through two separate leather treatments before he was happy with the third. The grips are in matching leather too.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
Wind protection comes from a modified BMW C400 fairing, with metal ‘wings’ on either side, a new Highsider headlight and discreet LED strips to match those hidden under the mesh at the rear.

There’s a Motogadget Motoscope Mini speedo behind the fairing, and a Motogadget m.lock remote ignition system connected up to the modified wiring loom.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
The finishing is a mix of powdercoating and anodizing, with many parts sandblasted back to bare metal and recoated for a factory-fresh look. “During the design process, we both agreed that there’s more to design than just black,” says Greg. “The paint is a satin, semi-gloss charcoal color, and the brown leather seat is a perfect warm contrast. All that’s left from the original TMAX are the gold wheels.”

Black and gold always looks good, and the cherry on the top of this cake is the machined gold-colored fuel cap flushed into the seat unit.

Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks
The TMAX is not our usual fare, but we reckon this one will be a riot to ride, and is the perfect custom for a European city commuter. “It’s really fast and sporty in terms of handling,” says Greg. “And it’s truly ‘one of one.’ I believe it’s the most exclusive scooter ever built.”

Maxi scooters have always had something of an image problem, but if manufacturers took a few cues from this build, maybe the market would expand. And as congestion rises in cities and local authorities clamp down on car access, that can only be A Good Thing.

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Custom Yamaha TMAX XP500 by Unikat Motorworks