Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 2nd January 2018

Some of the most iconic road bikes from the last few years are those that have too much power for their chassis. Based on these facts, here’s the undisputed king of iconic powerhouses. The engine is the main event, a big V4 unit that dominates the bike visually. A full power V-Max will give you 140bhp, but left the factory without the V boost system and were artificially restricted (to meet laws in certain countries). These barely nudged 100bhp. If you want one it’s best to go large! Unless you’ve ridden a V Max you’ll have no idea of how bad they really handle! It isn’t a myth, the chassis was very much overlooked when Yamaha designed and built those original bikes back in 1985. In 1991, Yamaha gave the bike some better forks and more importantly stronger brakes, important on a bike that weighs in at a whopping 280 kilos! Otherwise, the original V-Max, as featured here, ran pretty much unchanged from 1985 to 2007. An all new V-Max, which is still on sale today, went on sale in 2009. Not too many remain standard and the list of customising products for the model is endless. One change will invariably lead to another! Find a standard bike if you can, then mess it up yourself!

 

What’s it like to ride?

It’s an experience like no other, if you like point and squirt action than this is the bike for you. You won’t be surprised to learn, it’s not a great bike in the bends. The styling is a classic case of style over function, why else would a 140bhp beast have a tiny fuel tank hidden deep under the saddle? Enthusiastic use of the throttle can take you from a full tank to an empty one within 90 miles. Comfort is pretty decent, but not if you’re the pillion! That rear pad isn’t much more than yet another piece of the styling. The brakes are wanting, forks dive under hard braking and the shaft drive adds even more weight for the pair of four pots to haul up. All of these things pale into insignificance when you pull that throttle open and awaken the V boost system, there’s no bigger grin within its price range.

 

What to look for?

We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, Peterborough for his thoughts on this iconic model. He said: “The most obvious thing to check is if it’s a genuine full power model or a restricted version. The easiest way to tell is by jumping on for a ride. Many V-Max owners will customise their bikes but the closer to standard spec, for many buyers, the better. Things like exhausts and bolt on parts are easy to remove, but custom paint jobs and different wheels are much more painful to deal with. The engine is pretty robust, weak gearboxes are the only real known problem. The black Max from the mid-90s is a desirable model. Yamaha finished the bodywork, forks and wheels off in black paint and it really suits the bike. There are lots of imported bikes out there, always check the V5 document to clarify if it’s a genuine UK bike or if it started life further afield.”

vmax

What goes wrong with them?

We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260, they service bikes and break them for parts.

“We spend quite a few of our weekends at the drag strip, that’s a good place to take a V-Max. The engine is well proven not only in stock trim, but also when tuned. There’s no shortage of performance parts available ranging from nitrous oxide kits to turbo kits! The V Boost system is expensive to fit to castrated models, it’s best to find a factory full power model. A popular mod is to get a Diversion 900 rear wheel fitted. It’s a fairly easy swap and allows you to fit more available 17 inch tyres. R1 blue spot calipers are a direct fit to post 1991 models, they are a good improvement and with stronger fork springs will make the bike nicer to ride.”