The Yamaha VMAX – A Motorcycle Like No Other
If you have ever seen a Yamaha VMAX you will know that it is a unique motorcycle. For starters, it is menacing in its matte black splendour and bold lines. Second, in line, it sports a big enough engine to wake up the entire block. Finally, it draws a little of every line of Yamaha’s long motorcycle-building heritage. This bike is surely not for the faint of heart but for the adrenaline seekers in the world. That being said I am a very lucky man who got to ride it before and after the big 2008 makeover and can say a thing or two about it. I decided to write this article to encourage those who haven't yet to try this amazing bike. Furthermore, I am going to tell you about some accessories I came across recently and want to urge you to try out as well.
Are you ready to feel the power of a 1700cc engine pushing between your legs at full speed? Let’s go straight to it!
Yamaha VMAX, a little history
Although it looks menacing and very modern, the original Yamaha VMAX (called V-Max back then) goes back a long way. It actually goes back long enough to have met a long-haired, MötleyCrüe fan version of me. The year was 1985 and Mad Max had just haunted us in `79, ´81 and ´85. Besides wanting to be Mel Gibson, we wanted to ride amazing bikes like the movie ones. This amazing Yamaha just came out in perfect timing. I remember seeing it for the first time on the streets and being amazed, dropping my jaw in awe. It was a chopper, but bigger, more menacing, more modern, bolder; completely outrageous. We were all marvelled by it.
Time went by and I eventually got to fulfil my teenage dream and owned a beautiful ´98 Bordeaux one. It wasn´t quite what I imagined it would be. The way it handled corners and the overall manoeuvring wasn´t exactly a dream, to be honest. It still had a hugely powerful engine pushing forward with more torque than I had ever experienced. I mean, most motorcycles boasting 1200cc are menacing and awesome. This one had more push I ever imagined but somehow couldn´t handle that power the way it should. I ended up selling it.
All of that changed after the huge 2008 makeover. Now if you sit on a Yamaha VMAX you get a huge engine 500cc bigger than before and state of the art brakes. It is a safer, more modern but just an adrenaline-filled ride that will get your heart jumping up and down. I rode the 2019 model for the review and boy was I impressed by it! I don´t mean to be a spoiler, but it was an amazing experience.
Yamaha VMAX 2019 and 2020
The Yamaha VMAX 2019 and the Yamaha VMAX 2020 don´t have any differences in the papers. The main change for this motorcycle came in its 2008 revamp. In fact, that big change was going from the Yamaha VMAX 1200 to the Yamaha VMAX 1700. That extra 500cc in such a powerful bike translates into an even higher torque. Believe me, if they would come up with a version of this bike that featured a seatbelt, I wouldn´t be amazed.
What once was a dual analogue display turned now into an analogue + digital combo. As you might know, the fuel tank for the Yamaha VMAX is not in front of, but underneath you. In view of this, the company used the “fuel tank” spot for the digital controls.
The same amazing menacing looks it always had are still present. The beefy Bridgestone rear wheel really gives you the impression of riding a huge bike. The 4-V engine boasts almost 200 horsepower that you can feel right from the start. Although there are 12 calliper pistons of Brembo braking quality between both wheels, you still have to respect that throttle and power. This is by no means a beginner’s bike, but all the opposite, an experienced-rider one. The ABS technology is definitely something that a bike this size needs and benefits from.
Yamaha VMAX – The huge makeover of 2008
The huge makeover of 2008 gave it also an all-aluminium frame and massive front forks. Together with a lower gravity centre achieved with the fuel tank under the seat makes manoeuvring better than ever. It is not easy to contain that much power when you are taking a curve going up a hill. In fact, I felt much safer on the Yamaha VMAX 2019 than in many other smaller bikes. The Yamaha VMAX is now more menacing in the looks than it is in reality.
Another thing that contributes to the fact that the Yamaha VMAX 2019 (and 2020) is a smooth ride is the YCC-T technology. Both, engine and throttle work in harmony to create a smoother feeling. Also, the YCC-I shortens the length of the intake once you hit the high RPM zone. This brings the powerband sooner and translates into more oomph at hand.
Finally, the slipper-clutch technology proves to be very helpful. When you do down-gear shifting to make smooth transitions on the open road, it results in a safer experience. The driveshaft sending power to the rear wheel is great to control the overwhelming power of the engine. I think that the choice of going for a 5-gear box by Yamaha still proves to be a good idea.
Do you want to know how this motorcycle feels? Let´s go to my personal test.
Yamaha VMAX review
Getting a phone call inviting me to test a Yamaha VMAX took me back 20 or 30 years in time. Since those amazing Mad Max years that I didn´t feel the goosebumps sitting on a bike. First, I took my leather jacket from the wardrobe and put it on. I had a date with a powerful brunette; even more so than Tina Turner´s Mad Max character.
I arrived at the spot with my helmet, gloves and leather jacket ready for an amazing experience. Let me begin by saying that I was not mistaken at all. At first glance, the colour that Yamaha named “Matte Raven Black” is perfect. The very few chromed parts really stand out and are great. I love the bodywork and how Yamaha placed the four exhausts two on each side. It feels like you are riding a machine from the future and from the past at the same time. The seat is covered with black leather and as soon as you sit on it, you feel like home.
First of all, the lines of the Yamaha VMAX are clearly a mix. On the one hand, it is a sports bike with the front light, the stylish soft curves and aluminium frame. Second, the riding position is very aggressive, like a full-on chopper. Although aggressive, it is really comfortable as you would expect from a tourer. Finally, the tires’ choice reminds you of the size of a machine you are about to go on.
Starting it was quite an experience
The low rumble was a trip to a beautiful past. The sun was high, it was a chilly autumn afternoon and the road was waiting. In view of the heavy traffic ahead, I decided I would take this huge bike for a city spin. The rush hour seemed endless but I found out that the throttle that made this bike famous was still there. In fact, that extra 500cc make you go from one traffic light to the next in a heartbeat. Although it is a big bike, it has the energy of a teenager. You can almost feel as if it was about to lose you in the attempt of going forward. I don´t know many bikes this size that can do that; perhaps the closer is the Ducati Diavel at 1200cc.
As a result of chasing the green lights in the city traffic, I decided to take on the open road. This bike besides having a great all-new braking system that is way trustier than the previous one features improved manoeuvrability. Taking turns was as easy as it would be on a bike half its size. Speaking of taking turns, I noticed that the bike would disengage the turning lights on its own. The same as if it was a car. At first, I thought that it was a Yamaha-owned feature. It turned out, as I learned afterwards, that it was an accessory called the Smart Turn System (STS). It is amazing the difference in your head of having it attached. I am always worried I left turning lights on because I also drive a car. With this little gadget, I felt safer than ever.
Yamaha VMAX – a large and powerful bike
Going back to this amazing ride, swerving cars while on the highway was very easy. Although it is a large and powerful bike, it is quite light (or at least that´s how it feels). The five gears in the gearbox are more than enough to tame the beast of an engine between your legs. In fact, it feels really smooth going up as well as going down on your gearbox. The 12 callipers of the Brembo brakes work wonderfully well and give you a sense of safety that the Yamaha VMAX didn´t have before.
On one hand, I was glad that Yamaha turned this bike into such a safe ride. On the other hand, I missed the adrenaline touch of being a wilder motorcycle as it was. What I surely didn´t miss was the manoeuvrability. The extended massive forks make this ride such a great big motorcycle in that category that you feel you can go for hours. That is a feeling that you get often with the Yamaha VMAX, that it is a mix of different styles remaining muscular and powerful.
Engaging your brake light when slowing down
The accessory that turned off the turning lights was not the only one installed on this bike. Although I was not aware of this, it was a pleasant surprise. The same company manufactures yet another accessory called the Smart Brake Module (SBM). What it does is also super simple but amazing which is to engage the stoplight once it senses you´ve lost speed. On a bike like this, it is crucial because we always stay away from the brakes and do smoother transitions with our gears. Hence, it tells everybody that you are slowing down activating the stoplight. I can see both accessories becoming factory standard on big motorcycle brands soon.
Going back to the amazing Yamaha VMAX, it was time to return it to the parking lot I had taken it from. It was beyond dusk and the matte black turned it into a stealth machine. Along with my old-school leather jacket, I felt like a James Bond character on a special mission.
As I walked away to my car I looked at it under the moonlight once again and was taken back in time. The Yamaha VMAX is still such a dream bike as it was when I was a teenager, just a little safer and more powerful. It was like going to the movies and sitting down trying to be Mel Gibson all over again.
Yamaha VMAX 2020 specs
Yamaha VMAX 2019 specs and Yamaha VMAX 2020 specs have no difference among them.
- Engine Type – 102-cubic-inch (1679cc) liquid-cooled 65° V-four, DOHC; 16 valves
- Bore x Stroke – 90.0mm x 66.0mm
- Compression Ratio – 11.3:1
- Fuel Delivery – Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
- Ignition – TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
- Transmission – 5-speed, multi-plate slipper clutch
- Final Drive – Shaft
- Front Suspension – 52mm telescopic cartridge fork w/oxidized titanium coating. Fully adjustable preload, compression, and rebound; 4.7 in travel
- Rear Suspension – Single shock w/remote reservoir and remote adjustable for preload, compression, and rebound; 4.3 in travel
- Front Brakes – Dual 320mm wave-type discs; radial-mount 6-piston callipers, Brembo radial-pump master cylinder
- Rear Brakes – 298mm wave-type disc, single-piston calliper, and Brembo master cylinder
- Front Tires – 120/70R18
- Rear Tires- 200/50R18
- LxWxH – 94.3 x 32.3 x 46.9inches
- Seat Height – 30.5inches
- Wheelbase – 66.9 inches
- Fuel Capacity – 4.0 gallons
- Fuel Economy – 27 miles per gallon
- Wet Weight – 683lb / CA model 686lb
Yamaha VMAX verdict
The Yamaha VMAX is, by now, a legend in the world of motorcycle lovers. Those of us who grew a little more white hair know what it meant upon release in 1985. In the same vein, we can appreciate the long way it came in terms of brakes, manoeuvrability and overall safety. Being on such a powerful bike with that much torque intimidates anyone. The 12 pistons of Brembo brakes do change things and make it safer.
Finally, and as a PS, I wanted to tell you what happened with the company giving me the bike for testing. They sent me a message with exactly the miles and the travel I made on the bike thanking me for staying within prearranged limits. I responded asking how they knew that. The answer was yet another accessory that the bike had by the same brand called Vigo Smart Track.
This device is an anti-theft add-on that works on GPS, Bluetooth and SIM card. It not only collects data of where you´ve been but can also find your bike in real-time if it´s gone. It has many other features like an SOS system in case you have an accident and a scoring method to make you a better rider. Namely, Vigo measures your speed, accelerations and braking. This data is then compared to the data of a professional motorcycle safety instructor, and based on your results, you get the score from 1 to 10. I reached 9.4 – can you surpass me? 😉
What did you think about my take on the Yamaha VMAX? Have you already been on an adventure with this bold bike Let us know on the comments what your impressions were and feel free to share this post with fellow riders that might find it helpful?