Motorcycles are generally placed into categories such as sports, cruiser, nakedbike, etc. Every now and then however a machine comes along that is so different and so remarkable that it deserves a class of its own. Yamaha’s VMAX is one such machine that refuses to be put in anyone’s convenient category box.
Hard-tail muscle cruiser looks contrast with fully-adjustable suspension and braking components that wouldn’t look out of place on a top of the line sportsbike. A closer look reveals the hard chiselled outline of a purposeful looking V-4 powerplant. It is easy to see that the VMAX is a little different.
Jump aboard, fire the mill into life, let the clutch out while feeding some throttle though and everything else about the machine fades into insignificance. Expletives are uttered as expectations are surpassed and a truly awesome surge of relentless power either overwhelms the 200 mm Bridgestone or sends the front wheel skywards, and sometimes actually manages a little of both. Dialling in a couple of thousand rpm and letting the clutch bite hard off the line is a wonderfully addictive experience on the VMAX. Red lights are not seen as impediments to progress but another chance to enjoy the relentless stomp of the VMAX.
While other manufacturers have started to electronically limit the bottom end grunt of their machines in order to ensure gearbox or final drive longevity, Yamaha have rebelled and delivered an unprecedented level of engine performance. The only motorcycles I have ridden that come close to the VMAX in regards to arm stretching power have been large capacity machines fitted with aftermarket superchargers. Yamaha gives you this out of the crate with a two-year warranty and reasonable fuel consumption. I can’t even begin to imagine how utterly ludicrous a VMAX would be with the addition of some aftermarket forced induction fettling or giggle gas (nitrous oxide). As no doubt some of the more insane have already done, and countless more plan to do!
Clearly Yamaha had to invest in some serious chassis engineering to contain the animal lurking within and they have done a remarkably good job. A long 1700 mm wheelbase and almost dragbike length swingarm helps keep the show under control when launching hard.
Understandably the VMAX’s geometry is biased more towards straight-line performance rather than a sportsbike level of corner carving.
Massive 52mm forks set widely in the alloy triple clamps do a good job of retaining enough steering feel to still make scratching through your favourite set of bends a pleasurable experience. A convenient remote preload adjuster for the rear shock allows plenty of scope for comfort or performance depending on your mood.
Large 320mm front discs are clamped by six-piston calipers with the fluid pumped via a radial master cylinder, all top line components that provide good feel at the lever supported by well mapped ABS. The front stoppers are ably backed up by an equally impressive 298mm rear disc that helps bring the 310kg (wet) VMAX to a secure halt quickly and without fuss.
The VMAX is definitely not all things to all people. Its modest 15 litre fuel cell, cumbersome parking manners and lack of amenable luggage options don’t make it all that practical for touring. Then again, it’s certainly no worse than most cruisers, nakedbikes or sportsbikes for long distance jaunts either.
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