This page was last Edited
Friday, 08 January 2016 11:56
Click On Yamaha Logo
including Vmax.....OF COURSE
Meeting of the Muscle Motorcycles
The motorcycle superpower summit:
Harley-Davidson V-Rod, Honda Magna, Honda Valkyrie, Honda VTX1800C,
Kawasaki Mean Streak, Yamaha V-Max, Yamaha Warrior.
VRod, Honda Rune, Kawasaki Vulcan 2000, Triumph Rocket III
Triumph Rocket III Vs. V-Max
By Brian Korfhage
MOTORCYCLE.COM - SHOOT-OUT: 2007 POWER
I went to above web site and when you click on shoot out there is
a section on 2007 power cruisers.Here they test in detail a few 2007
model power cruisers namely 2 American(HD and Victory) and 2 Jap
cruisers(Kawasaki and Yamaha).
not surprisingly)the editor threw in a 5th bike which they always
refer to as their "wild card ".Here they pay homage to the bike that
started it all with a deservedly strong image for over 20 years.What
they wanted to see was how a bike that was once the definition of
power( that has hardly changed at all),would stack up against modern
bikes with things like feul injection and usd forks.
Many would scoff at the idea but
according to the editor it was surprising how well the 20 year plus
technology held up against the rest.
In the discussion of their wild card
the editor has the following to say:
before the term "power cruiser " existed, Yamaha already made one
way back in 1984
-Designers had a central theme "a V4
hot rod" and a job "well done"
-At the time no other bike looked or
performed like it.
-It is easy to see why it has lasted
as an icon of power for over 20 years and spawning countless web
resources and obtaining cult like status
-It deserves all the glory ever heaped
-It has an instantly recognisable
-There is an unmistakeable sound and
"this thing sounds deadly even before the throttle is twisted"
Yes there were negatives too but
remember they can be cured...beter radial tyres,braced frame and
metal engine mounts,swing arm brace,fork clamps etc
the entire article in
Finally all I can say is that even
today there are an elite few bikes that can reach 120 horsepower at
the rear wheel.A standard Vmax is capable of 115 hp at the rear
wheel.With exhaust,air box and jetting mods it is possible to reach
120 hp.All the bikes in this power group are modern new technology
bikes.The Vmax is still up there 23 years after its
The Vmax is an emotion,a sensation a
legend that is a high votage live wire.
Harley-Davidson V-Rod, Honda Rune, Kawasaki Vulcan 2000, Triumph
Rocket III, Yamaha V-Max
What makes the
ultimate cruiser? Performance? Style? Speed? Ride-ability? We kicked
it into super-cruise with five hard-hitting, streetwise motorcycles
from Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Triumph and Yamaha to find out.
From the December 2004 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.
Flamboyant. Fast. Fun.
The requirements were simple.
As we set off down
Sunset Boulevard toward the sea and a day of adventurous riding, we
couldn't help but notice the attention. Passing motorists swivelled
their heads like Linda Blair at the height of her tenure with the
devil when they caught sight of the V-Rod, Rune, Vulcan 2000, Rocket
III and V-Max. These are all distinctive motorcycles—all lookers in
their own right—but put them in one place and their flamboyance is
suddenly amplified a hundredfold. Like a troupe of Vegas showgirls
taking a shortcut through Sunday mass, the super cruisers cannot be
It's an unlikely
grouping, of course. Our premise for contrasting these bikes is both
logical and emotive: All are long on horsepower and short on
conventionality. These are the heavyweight cruisers that run 12
seconds or better at the drag strip. All are striking,
conversation-stirring and undeniably interesting. And oh yes, fun.
As different as they
are—especially when parked nose-to-tail with price tags
fluttering—these bikes are also born for the same basic intention.
It's not simply a contest of horsepower or style; each of these super
cruisers is an exercise in individuality.
And Then There Was
In 1985 Michael
Jackson and Madonna had number-one songs. Ronald Reagan was president,
the 49ers won the Super Bowl and a cold snap killed 90 percent of the
oranges in Florida. It wasn't a very remarkable year, well, unless you
count the Yamaha V-Max. Perhaps it wasn't the first muscle bike, but
the hot rod's "V-Boost" mystique and outrageous (for the time) styling
certainly got our attention.
Fast forward 20 years
and the V-Max still excites—and still kicks tail, even when pitted
against the most modern and sophisticated super cruisers. Thanks in
large part to its light weight, none of the bikes in this comparison
can beat its quarter-mile time of 10.87 sec. at 124 mph. The cruiser
that comes closest is Harley-Davidson's V-Rod at 11.32 sec. at 114.85
mph. (See box for more times.) Another circumstance where the Yamaha
reigns is value. At just over $10K, it cannot be matched as the most
economical way to do your cardio routine on two wheels. Seems a small
price to pay to confidently stare down every rider you meet. No one
sneers at the V-Max. It's universally awed. A legend. Like a biplane
pilot in mid-barrel roll, the V-Max pilot gleans complete admiration.
So, what's not to love
about the Yamaha V-Max? Some dislike the look, especially the faux ram
chargers, which have been debated for 20 years. It's not a tidy bike
and it can't boast a clean, modern finish, but it does look the
muscle-bound part. As one tester said, "The style is dated, but the
kick in the pants is not." Max's biggest drawback is the fact that its
chassis is not a good match for the well-fed V4's output. Steering is
accurate and cornering clearance admirable, but in power-on cornering
situations, the V-Max's frame flexes and torques noticeably, and the
suspension is decidedly soft. When taxed, the bike's stock bias-ply
tires break loose more often than you want them to, a kind of circuit
breaker that keeps Max within its physical limits. Highly skilled
riders might call the Yamaha's muscle car-like chaos charming, though
they occasionally arrive from a fast ride just as pale as a newbie.
Frame braces do help, and the addition of a fork kit and more
progressive springs out back also aids stability.
Triumph's Rocket III is the horsepower king, with 132.4 ponies at a
modest 6250 rpm. The lighter V-Max is second with 116.5 hp at 8500
rpm. But the V-Max combines weight and gearing advantages to make it
So which of these
bikes can best handle its high-volume power output? The Harley V-Rod
is the most well-balanced package. It has a thrilling amount of power
and a chassis and suspension package that's set up to handle it. The
suspension is most often described as harsh, but the bike tracks well
and doesn't wallow or bob, as cruisers with softer setups tend to do.
Ground clearance, while not as generous as that traditionally offered
by Harley, is acceptable on the V-Rod as well as on the Triumph. The
machines quickest to drag are the Vulcan, and by far the more guilty,
Honda's Rune. Out of the heavyweight contenders (the Rocket, Rune and
Vulcan) the Kawasaki does the most admirable job balancing its chassis
against the crazy torque of its huge V-twin. In addition to being the
most predictable and manageable of the 800-plus-pound big guns, the
Vulcan's fantastic brakes are also appreciated. The Rune and Rocket
tip the scales in the power and pizzazz departments, too, though
unlike the Vulcan, both can be a liability in tight cornering
situations. Hit irregularities and these bikes come "unglued," as one
tester put it. Of course, the super cruiser buyer probably won't be
dragging knees on Sunday, right? The super cruiser buyer will probably
use his machine for weekending, maybe for long-distance touring, and
most certainly for blowing doors and minds.
When it comes to
power, all these machines have plenty. No slackers. The Rocket
delivers the biggest rip right off the line, while the Yamaha's
V-boost induction at 6000 rpm offers a
just-when-you-thought-you-couldn't-go-any-faster punch. The V-Rod
delivers smooth multilike power but does require using the revs for a
full launch. Kawasaki's Vulcan and Honda's Rune provide the most
civilized power, making it easy to choose between their mild-mannered
or viciously fast modes, whereas the Rocket and V-Max provide a
somewhat hastier delivery, and need micromanaging during delicate
The Triumph also rules the torque chart, making a monstrous 141.0
foot-pounds at a mere 2500 rpm. In second, the Kawasaki 2000 makes
121.4 foot-pounds at 3250 rpm.
Some riders preferred
the big, loping V-twin on the Kawasaki Vulcan for its nostalgic beat
and smooth pull. Anyone will pick the loud, extremely sexy rumble of
that bike's stock exhaust as a winning attribute. The V-Rod sound is
likewise sexy, but not as strong.
sophisticated Rune offers a completely different engine feel and
sound. Valkyrie riders won't be surprised by the futuristic whir and
surreal smoothness of the inline six, but all new pilots will be blown
away. If you're looking for something beyond different, the Rune is
it. Collectively, we still love it, adore it even, but some efficiency
factors do come up in such a comparison. For the Honda it is the
suspension that shines a little less when ridden back to back with
other bikes in the super cruiser category. Steering is light and
accurate, but the rear suspension is tight, and combined with a shaft
effect, it can cause the back end to skip over irregularities,
especially in fast corners. One rider caught about six inches of
sideways air after hitting a bump on a freeway off ramp. The huge bike
landed like a train on tracks, however, not at all ruffled by the
flight. Not only is the Rune by far the most expensive bike here, with
a start price of $24,500, it is also the only bike without a shred of
carrying capacity, which severely limits its usefulness. Still, if you
want what everything else isn't, and you can afford it, we all agree
the Rune is the way to go. Even hard-to-impress Elvidge is vying to own
Our riders ranged in
height from 5 foot 8 to 6 feet and 135 pounds to more than 200. Except
for the V-Rod, the super cruisers will work best for an average or
above average size pilot. The V-Max, for example, needs a fairly
long-legged rider, even though it's the flyweight of this group. The
Rune and Vulcan have low seats, but the heft at parking lot speeds is
a factor. In fact, all three heavyweights are made for an owner who is
large—in both size and spirit. The V-Rod is the one bike in this group
that is universally rider-friendly, though a seat change is in the
cards if you want real comfort. And if you're under 5 foot 8 you might
want to check out the Reduced Reach Footpeg Kit our unit was equipped
with, which brings the bar and pegs closer to the rider. All testers
preferred the stock setup, however, and felt the non original bar was
too close, and only the shorter riders valued the closer peg
While these bikes are
undeniably interesting, they're certainly not for everyone. Also, we
realize someone shopping for a V-Rod might not be at all smitten by
the Rune. They are undeniably the power brokers, however, the
celebrities of the cruiser set. Human nature makes us curious about
their inner workings and personal habits. On the flip side, many of
the bikes in this mix are real-world winners and not just fantasy
fare. The Vulcan, for example, is as classically styled as a cruiser
can get, and decently priced, too. It just happens to have the biggest
production V-twin in history, which in our book also classifies it as
The Rocket and the
V-Max are bikes we have long intended to compare. Both are brutish
muscle bikes in both stature and engine performance. The V-Max,
already a legend, has awaited a real contender for ages. Between the
two, all but one tester found the V-Max is still king of the hot rod
cruiser class. It's manageably sized, steers well and has great ground
clearance and decent manners at everyday speeds. Plus that crazy
V-boost still has us dithering 20 years later. It's also a hell of a
deal at only $10,099. The Rocket, in contrast, is just a different
kind of winner, and many will choose it for its "biggest" appeal and
open-road capabilities. To date, Triumph has sold every Rocket it's
made in the first run, even though it costs a pretty penny at more
than $15K. The Rune, of course, is pretty exclusive and very
expensive. But how could a buyer go wrong with this purchase? We're
surprised at how many of these fantastic machines are still on
dealers' floors. One factor, without a doubt, is that people need to
actually ride the Rune to understand how incredibly valuable it is.
Our group of five
fun-loving, style-savvy testers came up with a surprise "overall
favourite," however. It's our practice to write notes directly after
the group riding experience and hand them in, secret ballot-style.
When the votes were counted, four out of five picked the V-Rod as best
all-around power cruiser, the bike they'd jump on first. They cited
good looks, nice package size, great engine, decent chassis setup and
strong brakes as some reasons. However, almost all said they probably
wouldn't buy the V-Rod if they were writing the check because of the
almost $17,000 hit. Three of the four said they would choose a Yamaha
V-Max for a more justifiable punch for the price ($11,099). One tester
was a Rocketeer all the
way, and would settle for no more, no less.
It doesn't really
matter, we suppose, which of the bikes is bigger, baddest, best. What
matters is that all these companies had the ingenuity and bravado to
build such perfect beasts. Variety is the spice of life. And
motorcycles are the main dish.
1. Yamaha V-Max
2. Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
3. Triumph Rocket III
1. Triumph Rocket III
2. Yamaha V-Max
3. Honda Rune
1. Honda Rune
2. Triumph Rocket III
3. Harley-Davidson V-Rod
1. Harley-Davidson V-Rod
2. Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
3. Yamaha V-Max
1. Harley-Davidson V-Rod
2. Yamaha V-Max
3. Honda Rune
4. Triumph Rocket III
5. Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
Even with power
cruisers, I favor balance over outright kick-you-in-the-gut
performance. After all, the world does come with corners. In this
grouping, the V-Rod provided what I felt was the best package of
straight-line acceleration, cornering confidence, strong braking and
good looks. I could use this bike for every role I could
imagine—except, possibly, touring. Second in line, the V-Max is so
dated it irks me. Still, I can't help loving it. A hellacious engine
and decent ground clearance can make up for a multitude of sins.
(Namely the flexy, sloppy chassis, dated tire technology and wimpy
Tolbot's article "
TYRES ON A YAMAHA Vmax ?" at "VMax
The remaining three
bikes pose a problem. I can think of several situations where I would
love to ride these power cruisers, but they each have a tragic flaw
that keeps them from being all-around performers. The Vulcan 2000
rocks off the line with that intoxicating V-twin grunt. Unfortunately,
the party ends too soon as it ultimately runs out of steam. The
suspension doesn't help, either. The Rune has the exhaust note and
sci-fi look that is impossible not to notice, but its ground clearance
and shaft effect limit the fun factor. The Rocket III was the shocker.
I've been begging to ride this bike, and in any straight-line
situation, none of the other bikes could touch it. I loved the
engine's mechanical feel gnashing between my knees. Unfortunately, the
Rocket III requires you to wrestle with it through any corner. Arrive
at an unexpectedly tight corner and the results can be harrowing. It's
one thing to build a bike that's more at home on the
straight-and-narrow, but it's something entirely different to make one
that only wants to go straight—even in corners.
was like dropping a whole box of Mentos down the gullet—refreshing in
an odd, slightly minty, marginally overpowering sort of way. After a
steady diet of big-inch V-twins, it was a real treat to ride these
"oddballs." You know: a triple here, a four there, and a big lump of
six right after that. The sheer goodness of all these
configurations—now considered outsiders by those who claim to know the
cruiser market—makes me wonder how much of the current fetish for big
V-twins is the result of their superior performance and feel, or
because they look, sound and feel more like Harleys.
On to the box
score, then. Kawasaki needs to try again with an altogether lighter
and more agile chassis, and Triumph did the best it could, considering
the massive engine spanning the considerable daylight between the
axles. Neither of these bikes makes me want to open my check book,
though. I love the Rune's looks—and would give high marks to its
performance had it more air between the footpegs and the tarmac—all
the while willing to accept that for many it may be just too over the
top. Fine. Styling is, and should be, a personal deal, just between
you and your psyche.
Now we're down to
the brothers V, as in Rod and Max. Yes, the Yamaha is a sentimental
favourite, reminding me of being 22 again, when rock-hard bias-ply
tires and a squirrelly chassis were the norm and the Max wasn't so far
out of line as to be suicidal. Motorcycling has changed a lot in 20
years, but the Max hasn't. And I love it even more for it. Which
leaves me good reason to consider the V-Rod the best of the bunch.
"Remember. It's not a 'comparison,'" I kept telling myself as we
played musical chairs with the most muscular bikes in cruiserdom for
our latest road test. Truly, all the machines assembled possessed
distinct personalities. It all came down to what flavour appeals to
The V-Rod acquits
itself as a versatile performer, thanks to a high-revving motor and a
manageable chassis. Alas, it's pricey and a bit weird looking. And the
Rune is the definition of refinement. Still, it's basically a
straight-line cruiser, and frankly, that gets old fast. Kawasaki's
Vulcan 2000 is a powerful contender, with brakes that are easily the
best in the bunch.
But the riding position is a dud, and the styling leaves me cold.
Meanwhile, howls of praise from my colleagues notwithstanding, I'm not
gaga for the V-Max. Yeah, the engine has heaps of power. But the
chassis is a nightmare, and "dated styling" is an understatement. Can
we please move on already?
My vote is for the
chest-pounding power and visceral thrill of the Rocket III. The torque
is palpable, and for a bike this size, the handling is sure-footed. It
may be too much for some, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a nice
change from all the other cookie cutters out there.
What a ton o' fun.
These one-of-a-kind super cruisers rock the house with their sprawling
accommodations, mind-altering power and pulse-quickening looks. What's
not to love, right?
Surprisingly, we all
ended up choosing a bike we didn't expect to: Harley's V-Rod. (Well,
except for Cherney, who's on the Triumph Rocket like a Rotweiller on
rabbit.) That's not to say the Harley is my favourite, though, or the
one I'd buy. I'm just saying it's the one that made the most sense for
all-around usage, which is the only way to test motorcycles in a
reliable and intelligent fashion. Truth is, I'd like to own one of
each ...and then a few more. To look at the Rune might be enough. Just
to be in its presence every day. But truthfully, I love to ride this
bike, too. I find the Jetson-era smoothness and sound enormously
enjoyable. In fact, I'm in line to buy a big, black Rune. But would I
recommend it? Only if I knew you better and thought it was what you
needed. The Rocket is another bike I adore. But again—while I'd own
and love one—I don't know if it's for everybody. I met a gentleman in
the Denver airport recently who asked if I thought it was for him. He
was a big, strong man who had a long history of riding and touring. I
Same with the
Vulcan. It's the right bike for the right person. Someone who can
handle the size and power and wants that heritage look. That's the
long-winded way to say how I chose the Harley as über cruiser. It's a
good, safe choice. A bike anyone can appreciate riding and owning.
Yup, size does matter, and too much is too much. The Triumph,
Kawasaki and Honda are all too massive to be fun for the all-around
regime I require from a motorcycle. If I just planned to tour open
highways, the Rocket might get the call, and if boulevard trolling
were my sole interest, the Rune would be my ride of choice. But unless
I had a fleet of bikes, I'd want something with a wider repertoire.
My favorite super
cruiser is the V-Rod, which with a change to Harley's comfortable seat
is a great all-around motorcycle. It is the most manageable bike here
and by far the most fun to ride when the road isn't boring along dead
straight. The pegs on this one also improve the ergos, though the
handlebar doesn't. But at $17,000 and up, the V-Rod requires a
high-performance wallet. Realistically, the V-Max is the super cruiser
I'd buy. It's still the hardest-hitting cruiser on the planet, and
with some of the thousands of dollars I would save from not buying any
of the others, I'd make some upgrades, starting with the suspension
and seat. Too bad Yamaha hasn't done it for me.
2004 Yamaha V-Max
By Brian Korfhage
Coming up with interesting metaphors and similes for the Yamaha V-Max
is like shooting fish in a barrel. I could go to the muscle-bound
metaphor, the proverbial Arnold Schwarzenegger call. I could talk
about back alley aesthetics and performance, all of which are true,
but certainly not original, which in my estimation is a disservice to
the V-Max. It is, after all, the quintessential bruiser cruiser
intended to create folds in public roadways thanks to mind-boggling
torque and acceleration. We should use the V-Max to describe
disturbingly strong forces in nature, not the other way around.
In 2005 the V-Max celebrates its 20th birthday as the king of
asphalt-shredding speed and power. What's remarkable is that it has
gone largely unchanged for the last 19 years. Sure, there are bikes
that have managed to hold a special place in the two-wheeled market
place for long stretches of time, but as fast as technology advances,
those bikes quickly get slapped with a retro label, and instead of
being the toast of the town, they're admired for the antiquated style
and performance and their impact at the time of their introduction.
Not Mr. Max.
No, the V-Max has somehow found a way to tap into that Dick Clark-like
vortex where aging doesn't exist. Well, that's not entirely true; the
V-Max could use a little nip here and a tuck there, but what the
tuning fork engineers were able to accomplish on their first try with
the king of the quarter-mile is nothing short of spectacular.
For those with short attention spans and a lack of patience, we'll get
the big question out of the way. Yes, the V-Max lives up to its
reputation as one of the sickest quarter-mile machines on the market,
despite its age. Twisting the throttle opens the door to an
acceleration portal few casual riders should attempt. It's a little
like when the Millennium Falcon goes into light-speed mode and the
stars transform from tight dots to streaking rays of light, that's
what Mr. Max does to the senses.
The funny thing about the Max is the amount of lore that it carries
with it. Most know a V-Max when they see it, and even the most
hardened bike vets will get a little twinkle in their eye when
approaching Max. Everybody really wants to mount up and twist the
throttle, but not all are sure they can properly tame the ol' steed.
The source of this metaphorical warp speed is a seemingly ancient
liquid-cooled, 16-valve, DOHC, 70-degree V-4. For all intents and
purposes, it's the exact same 1198cc engine that graced the '85 model
and subsequently shocked the world with its straight-line performance.
The Max might not seem like it would accelerate at nearly the same
pace as today's superbikes, but it does, almost.
The burble of the V-4 is intoxicating at idle, and at speed its
snarling mill begs for the rider to twist the throttle. I've ridden
the Max a few times over the last few years, but this was a good time
to flog it considering I'd recently tested the 2004 crop of liter bikes,
the sickest set of tarmac-carving machines to ever grace the racing
pavement. I expected it to pale in comparison, but it didn't. The
superbikes do exhibit a little more acceleration, but lying down in
the prone position hunkered behind a windscreen is one thing; twisting
the throttle and accelerating at the same speed in an upright position
with nothing more than a miniscule speedo to block the wind is
Wick it on and the V-Max accelerates quickly off idle like a
high-powered Twin, but things really start to get interesting once the
tach hits 6000 rpm. At that point Yamaha's "V-Boost" kicks in and
rapid acceleration gives way to face-flattening speed. The V-Boost has
been dubbed by some to be a myth, but truth be told, there is a little
something extra in Max's innards.
At lower revs, the four 35mm downdraft carburettors have their own
individual path to each cylinder. But once past 6000 rpm, a servo
motor begins to open a butterfly-valve in the intake manifold between
the cylinders, becoming fully open at 8000 rpm, allowing a pair of
carbs smooth access to each cylinder bank of the V-4. Or so the theory
goes. All I know is that the thing freakin' gets with the program at
6500 rpm and landmarks are transformed into kaleidoscopic blurs.
We expected big things out of the V-Max when we took it to the dyno at
Hansen's BMW/Triumph/Ducati to ensure we got true numbers, like 200
horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but instead we were disappointed
with Yamaha's "muscle bike" and its paltry effort. Max torque only
logs 76.6 lb-ft @ 6300 rpm. Moreover, the bike only puts out 70 lb-ft
as low as 5300 rpm and continues that shameful performance all the way
up to 6950 rpm, the heart of the powerband. The V-Max's horsepower
numbers are equally disgraceful; it only cranks out 110.6 hp at 8200
rpm, cresting the 100-hp mark from 7100 rpm to redline at 9350. Too
bad a twist of the wrist doesn't elicit any real response.
In all seriousness, the dyno numbers prove what a bad-ass this V-4 is,
especially at 20 years of age. It pulls hard off the bottom, but once
it hits that 6500 rpm mark it's on like Donkey Kong, nearly ripping
the bars right out of your hands until redline. While the power on
many bikes, like some V-Twins, lets up as the engine nears redline,
the V-4 only gets stronger. The hard numbers indicate a slight decline
at the top of the rev range, but in the real world it still feels like
Mr. Max is trying hard to push you off the back.
To get a good launch from a stop doesn't take much clutching, but if
you decide to do so you will almost certainly find the front wheel in
the air. One would think that an engine of such mammoth proportions
would require a ham-fisted stud to pull on a beefy clutch. Not so. A
hydraulic clutch reduces lever effort to easy two-finger pulls, which
makes the Yamaha a dragster in waiting. Moreover, the 5-speed
transmission is still light years ahead of many of today's bikes that
are considered front-runners in the power-cruiser category.
Acceleration does begin to taper off once the speedo goes past 115
mph, but at that point the rider is a bit more concerned with self
preservation than more speed. The V-Max can haul ass, there's no
question about that, but the rattling chassis can instill the fear of
god into most mortal beings, and fear is ultimately the factor that
had us backing off the throttle.
For all the ponies lurking within the V-4, you'd think the Yamaha
engineers might try and improve the chassis and suspension so that the
V-Max could realize its full potential on the road. Whether it's
stubbornness to change a good thing, or simply the tuning fork logo
laughing while the competition tries to beat a bike that has been
untouchable for 20 years, not much has been changed since 1985.
The tubular steel frame cradles the V-4, but it's not exactly the most
rigid chassis I've ever been on. At low speeds, the V-Max is quick
steering and can be manoeuvred easily, but at cruising speeds Max is a
little less steady. Break out of a straight line at high speeds and
the entire bike seems to sway and contort as the heft of the engine
and centrifugal force wrestle with the shaft drive for gravitational
supremacy. Moreover, the spindly 40mm fork has a tough time holding up
the 580 lbs pounds of Max when entering corners at high speeds. Get on
the brakes and the front takes a dive like a Don King lackey. It's
reasonably suited for moderate riding, but a bike this fast needs an
updated fork for more assured corner entries and exits and stable
Out back, a pair of dual shocks with adjustable
spring preload and rebound damping do a fair enough job of soaking up
real world bumps and undulations. We can live with the rear
suspension, but that fork has got to go, which would improve handling
abilities a great deal on the V-Max.
The adequate suspension supplies feedback at a manageable pace, but it
won't exactly let you turn hot laps in the AMA Superbike series
either. Certainly, this is the biggest area in need of attention on
the V-Max. A more rigid chassis and an improved front fork would
bolster handling at high speeds, which would unquestionably turn Max
into a true streetfighter. Imagine this engine in a sportier chassis
like the FZ1! Or if your tastes are more suited to the cruising genre,
stuff that highly tuned V-4 into an updated cruiser frame and let her
rip (no, the V-4-powered Royal Star doesn't count).
The chassis and suspension aren't the only aspects that need a little
updating. To be perfectly blunt, the brakes aren't adequate to handle
stopping duties on a bike with this kind of power. Sorry, Yamaha, I
love a lot of things about this bike, but the dual 298mm discs up
front and a single 298mm disc out back ain't one of them, especially
for a bike that begs for triple-digit speeds. Lever feel is smooth and
provides ample feedback to the rider, but the amount of grip applied
by the caliper isn't enough. Even a stronger pull on the lever doesn't
seem to want to stop the hurtling mass of metal and plastic. It takes
a fist-full of lever and a foot-full of pedal to slow the mighty Max.
Once again, adequate, but it could be so much more.
The seating position is pretty comfortable. There is a short reach to
the bars and the seat is cushy while being just 30.1 inches from the
ground. In normal conditions the narrow bars seem pretty cool, but
when trying to muscle the bike in and out of corners, wider bars would
almost certainly improve turn-in capabilities by providing more
leverage. The seating position tends to put the pilot in the
proverbial parachute position when the speedo needle starts to move
clockwise. The chest and head start to collect massive amounts of air
flow and it's evident the stronger the arms, the better your chances
of surviving the wicked acceleration. Passenger accommodations are
nice with a soft, comfortable seat and pegs that allow for a
comfortably upright position. Moreover, the passenger is situated
close to the pilot, which is a good thing considering a tight grip
around the waist is an absolute necessity when hard on the throttle.
For real world riding, Mr. Max gets the job done rather well. The
comfortable seating position and plush seat make for a pleasant ride
around town and on back roads. Yamaha utililizes a counter-balancer to
effectively suppress vibration throughout the rpm range, which is an
excellent feature for those who enjoy getting their buzz from
adrenaline and not engine vibration.
Information is relayed to the rider via a
white-faced speedo which sits alone atop the bars as the lone source
of wind protection, while a cluster of gauges resides further down at
the top of the faux fuel tank. A small white-faced fuel indicator is
accompanied by an equally small tach, while five idiot lights round
out the information panel. Best to keep an eye on that gas gauge, as
well, because we had to switch to the 4.0-gallon tank's reserve
position after just 95 miles. Throughout the test our heavy-handed
riders frequently logged under 30 miles per gallon while wringing the
neck of the beast.
While the V-Max is certainly one of the most original bikes of all
time, its most unique feature is trying to find the gas tank. Even if
you know its location is under the seat, the odds of accessing the gas
cap are about the same as getting struck by lighting the same day as
The tank resides underneath the seat because the faux fuel cell is
really just a cosmetic covering for the air box, fuses, and radiator
overflow tank, all of which are easily accessible by unlocking the
metal cover. Accessing the gas cap, however, requires the rider to
push down on two levers behind the passenger seat. A center section of
the seat pops open to reveal the gas cap.
Overall, the V-Max's 1980s styling is still unique and, in a sense,
cool. The fake air scoops would be an aesthetic triumph if they
actually worked. The rest of the bike screams '80s muscle machine, but
in its own way it still works because the bike is so ridiculously
powerful. As cliché as it sounds, the V-Max really does look like a
bike that was developed by the same mind that spawned Road Warrior and
Mad Max. In fact, it's a bike that is so intimidating to would-be
draggers that other motorcyclists simply look and nod out of respect.
Yes, even the H-D riders tend to check it out. You can almost see the
wheels turning in their mind juggling the idea of what that kind of
power must feel like.
For nearly two decades, the V-Max has converted a legion of hardcore
fans, but many of them cry for an updated version. Rumors of a new Max
have been circulating for the past several years, but the 2005 model
remains the same machine they have been producing for the last 20
years. Sure, the '05 Max has updated anniversary graphics and red
pinstripes around its rims, but it's the same bike pumping out the
same face-flattening power as the 19 models before it.
For now it appears V-Max enthusiasts will have to wait with their
fingers crossed for the
long-awaited updated version, although I
shudder to think what a new model might cost, as the current version
with all of its ancient fittings still runs at a hefty $10,099.
Regardless of its potential MSRP, a new Max with an updated chassis,
suspension, and brakes would likely set the two-wheel world on fire.
Mr. Max isn't for everybody, but for those that know their limits and
can temper their use of the throttle in a judicious manner, Yamaha's
muscle machine is a must have for one simply reason: it's a V-Max.
There certainly has never been anything like it, and as hard as the
other manufacturers of the world try, there hasn't been a company that
has managed to produce a straight-line machine with the same
muscle-bound gravitas and icon status.
Yes, Mr. Max remains king of straightline performance, and as fast as
the competition can produce challengers the V-Max continues to eat
them up and spit them out just as quickly. Max is truly the yardstick
by which all powerful motorcycles are measured.
Kevin Boon's Opinion
about the VMax he owned
Age: 6 years (J reg.)
Cost: about £4700
Insurance: about £800 p.a. comprehensive
Economy: about 20-40 miles/gallon
Good points: no need to change gear; explosive acceleration;
comfortable at low speeds
Bad points: appalling fuel economy in town; difficult to keep
looking nice; expensive to insure; scary in the wet
Few people would consider a VMax for commuting in dense urban
traffic, but if money were no object I personally would be happy to
continue doing it. In the real world, where we have to count the
pennies, I found that the expense of running the VMax in North
London traffic was just too outrageous. Not only is the fuel
consumption dreadful, the tank is so small that filling up every 60
miles or so was not unusual. For me this corresponds to a fill-up
every other day just for commuting. On longer runs the situation was
a bit better: 100 miles to a tank of petrol was possible.
My VMax was a US-import model, which has a reputation for being
unmanageable and scary. I think this is an exaggeration. Certainly a
machine that can accelerate to 60 mph in less than three seconds
demands respectful treatment. I am told -- but have no wish to
verify -- that under full throttle it will spin the rear wheel while
lifting the front off the ground. But I found that opening the
throttle a small amount make it go slowly, while opening it more
made it go faster; it's as simple as that. There were no occasions
where I found it uncontrollable, but in heavy rain the tendency for
the back wheel to lose traction required extreme caution. I suspect
that the tread on my VMax was not as deep as it might have been, and
a new tyre might have improved the situation.
The VMax certainly attracted attention, mostly of the open-mouthed
variety. The size of the engine has to be seen to be believed. It
sounds like a 'real' motorbike as well.
For urban riding, I found the VMax to be entirely comfortable. It
was not as difficult to squeeze between rows of stationary cars as
its size might suggest, and the upright riding position made for
good visibility. The immense low-speed torque makes gear changes
largely redundant, which is convenient around town. A further
advantage is its ability to scare car drivers, sometimes to the
extent of making them mount the pavement to get out of the way. I
was also surprised by how infrequently car drivers though it would
be fun to race me away from the traffic lights. Boy racers in their
XR3s seem to think an 'ordinary' sporty motorcycle is fair game for
a race. They're totally wrong of course; even a modest motorcycle
would leave such a vehicle standing, but they don't know that. With
the VMax, I think car drivers instinctively realise that there is no
prospect of victory in this endeavour, and don't bother. Good job
too, since in a straight line the VMax would render almost any other
road-going vehicle a diminishing dot in the rear-view mirror. In my
experience cornering was less of problem than many reviewers seem to
think; providing you throw the VMax into a corner it will get round
respectably quickly. I don't suppose it would be much competition
for a real sports bike on a twisty road, but this not often a
problem for me.
The VMax has a good number of chromed shiny bits, and the standard
of finish is not that marvellous. Keeping it looking good requires
continuous attention and a lot of elbow grease. This, combined with
the appalling fuel economy, finally convinced me to sell it. Which
is a broadly-educated engineer and software developer, with nearly
twenty years' hands-on experience in the electronics, medical and
education sectors, and some management experience with a strong
academic background, including degrees in engineering and law, and a
PhD in biophysics.
Performance Motorcycle Comparison:
Triumph Rocket III Vs. V-Max
Big guy versus bad guy. Performance cruiser motorcycles head-to-head.
Triumph's new 2053cc Rocket III triple meets the 2005 Yamaha 1200cc
As Triumph started
leaking hints and concept photos of the outrageous new Rocket III a
certain feeling of deja vu settled over the hallowed Motorcyclist
offices. We recalled the launch—and we do mean launch—of the amazing
Yamaha V-Max 20 years earlier.
The V-Max was the
first real power cruiser, with a monstrous 145-horsepower, V-four
motor crammed into a surprisingly nimble, shaft-drive chassis. Back
then, it was the most outlandishly powerful production motorcycle we'd
ever seen. After our first rides, we all came back mumbling to
ourselves as if we'd just crawled out of a plane crash.
The V-Max created a
whole new class of machine; motorcycles that were incredibly
belligerent and exceedingly fast, but not aimed at any kind of
sanctioned racing. It was a street racer, designed and executed not
just to transport its rider physically, but emotionally as well.
Since then, the Harley
Phenomenon made the V-twin the Official Engine Of The Cruiser
Class—though no production V-twin of any size has threatened the
modern triples or fours.
Now, Triumph has
rolled out its own power cruiser—the Rocket lll. It is the
biggest-displacement mass-production motorcycle ever created. If
you're looking for competitive motorcycles, there's only one. The
V-Max was astounding when it was unveiled. And it has done an
astounding thing in the intervening years—it has survived, even
thrived, essentially unchanged. Yamaha is rolling out a
20th-anniversary model as we write.
Bad-Ass? Or Half-Ass?
Big is big these days.
For better or worse, size has replaced speed as the holy grail of
power-cruiser design. And size is where the V-Max and the Rocket III
differ most. At 2294cc, the Rocket III's inline- triple is almost
twice as big as the V-Max's comparatively revvy, 1198cc V-four. Can
the V-Max get anywhere as a pint-sized underdog?
The Rocket III project
began five years ago. At first, Triumph envisioned it at 1500cc, which
grew to 1600cc, then 2000cc, and finally this gargantuan 2294cc lump.
The idea wasn't more power: the Triumph Daytona's across-the-frame
triple makes nearly as much horsepower from 955cc. It was done to give
customers (especially Americans) what we want: swaggering,
Back in the Reagan
Administration, we thought the V-Max's 62.9-inch wheelbase was pretty
close to that of a Top Fuel dragster's. But at 66.7 inches, the Rocket
makes Mr. Max seem positively stubby.
When the V-Max hit the
streets in '85, Yamaha bragged that it carried the "biggest tire
available on a production motorcycle." That rear tire was a
150/90-15—almost the same size as the 150/80-R17 Metzeler front tire
on the Rocket. On its rear is a new "biggest-ever," a 240/50 R16
Metzeler. In fact, the rear tire is so huge, you get the feeling that
you could step off and leave the bike standing there, sans sidestand,
like a square-tired dragbike.
The Rocket III may be
big, but in town it's The Big Easy. The engine, for all its mass, is
mounted so low in the frame—and chassis geometry is so well
sorted—that the Rocket is surprisingly manageable at low speeds. It
makes all kinds of torque right from idle, and the clutch is so smooth
and predictable that one feels confident and secure within seconds.
All Ahead Full
But what about that
engine, you ask? From about 11 rpm, it pulls like the anchor winch on
the USS Forestall, and just keeps on going to its 6250-rpm redline.
It's amazingly smooth at lower revs, and while it tends to thrash a
bit as it approaches redline, it's never less than civil. It doesn't
respond with the explosiveness of the V-Max, to be sure. The V-Max
comes on its cams—and the V-Boost, two-carbs-feed-each-cylinder intake
system—at a relatively stratospheric 6000 rpm, after all, and keeps
winding to nearly 10,000 rpm.
But the Rocket has the
relentless pulling power today's cruiser riders seem to crave above
food, shelter and sex—OK, food and shelter. Let it pull out of corners
from 2500 rpm, or keep it spinning for even more Viper-humiliating
thrust—the choice is yours. Either way, there are few machines on the
road that can match its irresistible urge, or its inimitable
sound—somewhere between a Chris Craft speedboat and a big-block Chevy.
The glorious V-Max
V-four, of course, also has a terrific engine note. If you've ever
stood near the Christmas tree while a Top Fuel drag car does its
burnout, you know exactly what the V-Max is saying at every
stoplight..."C'mon, c'mon, c'mon."
At the strip, reality
confronted our raised expectations.
The Rocket is an
804-pound motorcycle, after all, making 132 horsepower at the rear
wheel. And with its ECU (slightly) neutering power delivery in first
and second gear, it was not significantly faster than a V-Max.
While prerelease hype
suggested it might be the quickest and fastest straightline motorcycle
ever, there are in fact other Triumphs that will give the Rocket III a
run for its money. That said, a best quarter-mile run of 11.27 seconds
at 119.92 mph remains a very impressive achievement for such a huge
Where does that put
our beloved, if aging, V-Max? Way back in '85, our test bike ran a
10.67 at 128.1 mph, and we've seen similar times over the intervening
20 years. Changes have been limited to a bigger fork, a slightly
quieter muffler, better brakes and a succession of paint schemes. In
the interests of scientific honesty, we admit that our last V-Max
strip session actually put the V-Max a gnat's eyelash slower than the
Rocket, with a 11.30 at 119.84 corrected run. The two monsters were
essentially equal from zero to 60—the V-Max was a couple tenths faster
to 100 mph, and the Rocket fired from 60 to 80 mph about half a second
quicker. We know that many standard Maxes have gone quicker and
faster. And of course, there's a 20-year stockpile of go-faster parts
available for V-Max addicts—which they can afford, since the basic Max
sells for almost five grand less than a Rocket.
Still and all, the
Rocket III makes even gnarly, twisty roads lots of fun; you just take
your fun a little slower in the corners than you would on, say, a
V-Max. The Yamaha is taller, lighter and more responsive—all in all,
it feels like the Rocket's more excitable little brother. Its
relatively short wheelbase and taller chassis let you go faster. Where
the Rocket paws the ground, the V-Max paws the sky, and that's one of
the reasons for its legendary status.
A comparison of these
two bikes' handling comes down to a stiff, modern chassis limited by
cornering clearance versus a dated cycle capable of leaning over a
little further. The V-Max chassis is decidedly flexy compared to the
more modern Rocket, and its short swingarm and under damped rear shocks
let the rear suspension extend whenever it's asked to handle a lot of
torque...which means about every five seconds.
The narrow, bias-ply
tires are also less than confidence-inspiring, despite providing
enough grip to let you drag various hard parts on the pavement. The
net result is that through the bends, the V-Max can walk away from the
Rocket. But neither bike is designed for this foolishness—a fact that
becomes very evident when you reach the first decreasing-radius
The Rocket crushes Mr.
Max on longer, straighter rides. First off, the Yamaha only holds four
gallons of fuel, giving you a nervous 90 miles before the under seat
tank goes on reserve. The Rocket carries a full 6.6 gallons, giving it
a real 200-mile range; the V-Max might be faster for short sprints,
but on a 500-mile day it'll be left behind at the pump. The Rocket
also wins in the luxury department—its seat is wider, softer and more
comfortable, and its ergonomics hold up better as the miles roll on.
The Rocket has the classic wide-armed, wide-legged, big-guy cruiser
riding stance. The V-Max position is much more distinctive; with your
hands relatively close together and your feet right under your
haunches, you feel like Toby Maguire on Seabiscuit. And the V-Max's
oddly rounded saddle doesn't work for long-haul touring.
Where the V-Max does
work is on the streets of just about any city you can imagine. Where
the Rocket's ample mass, ultra-wide bars and splayed-leg riding
position make one hesitate to attack congested streets, the V-Max's
narrowness and explosive power turn short-haul commuting into a
tire-smoking, license-shredding bachelor party.
Style Over Substance Abuse
We can jaw all day
about the function of these two-wheeled manhood enhancers, but how
they look is at least as important as how they work. The V-Max set a
new mile marker for manly styling cues when it debuted, with its
art-directed V-four, mantislike tank scoops and hunched-vulture
profile. And to truly succeed, the Rocket III will have to be seen as
equally nasty if it expects to set the new standard.
For all our
overanalysis, the Rocket III is an unambiguous hit in the innocent
eyes of the general public. Just as the V-Max did when it hit the
streets in '85, the Rocket III gets about the same positive reaction
as a healthy, uninhibited coed on Girls Gone Wild.
Sorting It All Out
In many ways, the
Rocket III represents not a competitor to the hallowed V-Max, but
rather an evolution of it. The Yamaha was a sensation for three
reasons: it looked great; it was crazy fast and felt it; and it worked
as an urban assault vehicle. It was beautiful, crazy and smart, all at
the same time. But like most of the Motorcyclist staffers, the idea of
the perfect power cruiser has become bigger, slower and more
deliberate with age.
The Rocket III is no
less of an engineering achievement—but for an audience that wants more
than sheer blistering speed. Size, sound and show are everything to
today's cruiser riders, with actual velocity relegated to fourth place
We applaud Triumph for
its vision, for its determined execution—and for its sheer corporate
courage. Like the V-Max before it, the Rocket III may have changed
The V-Max's styling
screams "hot rode," and the V-Boost intake system injects a surge of
power as revs climb.
After riding the
Rocket III, the V-Max almost feels like a 120-horse pit bike. The
Max's flexy-flyer chassis, smallish brakes and bias-ply tires are
objectively obsolete, but that rumbling, snarling V-four is just as
intoxicating as it was twenty years ago. The V-Max's riding position
is closer to a modern standard's than a typical cruiser's, with a
short reach to the bar and pegs and a good spread between heel and
The V-Max is, save for
a brutal seat, comfortable. The tachometer rides atop the tank.
Trading grunt for
revs, the Yamaha acquits itself extremely well considering the age of
its design and its relatively puny displacement.
Off the Record
Inseam: 30 in.
Even before he took
the name Muhammed Ali, Cassius Clay was a brash, colorful,
trash-talking loudmouth. His Olympic gold medal almost automatically
made him a contender for the heavyweight title. The reigning champion,
Charles 'Sonny' Liston, was Clay's antithesis: a sullen, mob-connected
thug with the hardest punch in boxing. At the weigh-in, he predicted
that he'd knock Clay out in the second round, if not sooner. The
bookies seemed to agree, making the champ an 8-1 favorite.
When it came time to
compare the brash, over-the-top Rocket 3 with the long-reigning power
cruiser champ, I felt the same way. "Sure the Rocket is big and a
media darling," I thought "but the V-Max'll knock it out." And in a
straight fight - on the drag strip or between traffic lights, for
example - the Yamaha can still outpunch the Triumph. Riding the 20th
Anniversary V-Max reminded me why this two-wheeled thug has so many
I'm not damning the
Triumph with faint praise when I say this: the Rocket simply works
better than the V-Max as an all-round motorcycle. And let's face it:
the bruiser-cruiser class is all about attitude. People shouted "What
is that?" from crosswalks, gave me the thumbs up from cars; one rider
on a Honda 919 stared so long he almost crashed. That's why the Rocket
3 is the new champion in this category.
Is it the next V-Max? Ask me again in 20 years.
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