It’s Certainly Not For The Faint Of Heart

The 1,679 cc engine in the Yamaha VMAX houses mad performance with more than adequate power and torque to give the VMAX plenty of go, and the big, dual six-piston calipers up front give it plenty of stop. The 2020 VMAX comes dressed to impress.

Yamaha VMAX Design

2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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There are undeniable strands of cruiser DNA in there, but the sportbike genes are dominant, and the bike seems to flaunt that half of its mixed heritage.

The VMAX has been around a while, either under Yamaha directly, or under Yamaha’s made-in-the-U.S. cruiser line, Star Motorcycles. Mad Max is the first thing that comes to my mind when I spy one of these brutes coming at me. Functional air scoops on both sides of the tank form the shoulders that give it that distinctive Crouched-Bulldog, Hidden-Gazelle look. While I still have a hard time seeing this ride as a cruiser, that is exactly how the factory categorizes it, an assertion backed up somewhat by the relatively-relaxed rider triangle that encourages an upright riding position. The handlebars have very little pullback to them, so there is plenty of room to lean into the acceleration, and the saddle scoop is deep to contain your butt when you roll it on.

It’s kind of an odd bird, the VMAX. It looks like it’s having an identity crisis. There are undeniable strands of cruiser DNA in there, but the sportbike genes are dominant, and the bike seems to flaunt that half of its mixed heritage.

Yamaha VMAX Chassis

2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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The combined 12 caliper pistons up front add up to a tremendous amount of braking power, so for once I am really glad to see ABS, 'cause this bike definitely needs it.

An all-aluminum chassis forms the bones of the VMAX with a cast-aluminum diamond frame and swingarm, and an extruded subframe to keep things light. The fuel tank rides under the seat where it keeps the center of gravity low, and adds to the feeling of control-ability at low speeds, but I seriously question the wisdom of having to wave a gas hook over the seat at every fill up.

Massive front forks add to the all-up-front look of the VMAX, and the 52 mm, right-side-up forks float the front end on 4.7 inches of travel. The forks come with the usual preload and rebound/compression damping adjustments, and they combine with the 31-degree steering head for 5.8 inches of trail. A monoshock springs the swingarm, and it comes fully adjustable through a remote-mount air reservoir.

The brakes come loaded for bear with a pair of 320 mm, wave cut discs up front and a 298 mm disc in back. Dual Brembo calipers bind the front wheel with six-pot, opposed piston calipers, and a single-pot Brembo grips the rear. I won’t lie, the combined 12 caliper pistons up front add up to a tremendous amount of braking power, so for once I am really glad to see ABS, ’cause this sled definitely needs it.

Frame: Diamond
Suspension, Front: 52 mm telescopic cartridge fork w/oxidized titanium coating. Fully adjustable preload, compression and rebound; 4.7-inch travel
Suspension, Rear: Single shock w/remote reservoir and remote adjustable for preload, compression and rebound; 4.3-inch travel
Rake (Caster Angle) : 31 degrees
Trail: 5.8 inches
Brakes, Front: Dual 320 mm wave-type discs; radial mount six-piston calipers, Brembo® radial pump master cylinder
Brakes, Rear: 298 mm wave-type disc, single-piston caliper and Brembo® master cylinder
Wheel, Front: Cast 18M/C x MT3.50
Wheel, Rear: Cast 18M/C x MT6.00
Tire, Front: Bridgestone/BT028F G 120/70R18
Tires, Rear: Bridgestone/BT028R G 200/50R18

Yamaha VMAX Drivetrain

2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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The Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I) takes a page from MV Agusta's book as a means to shorten the length of the intake at high rpm, a feature that helps bring the powerband on a little sooner, with a little more oomph.

Now for the beating heart of the VMA, the liquid-cooled, 102 cubic-inch (1,679 cc) powerplant. Truly a chunk of engine, it comes in a V-four configuration that fills the wide frame completely, and it’s anything but a boat anchor. The factory claims 123 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm, some 10-pounds greater than the daddy of this engine family that came out in ’09. I have no official word on horsepower yet, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s somewhere around the same 175-pony mark as the ’09, or at least in the neighborhood thereof.

A number of interdependent systems contribute to this power. Yamaha uses its own version of a ride-by-wire system with the Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) rather than a mechanical throttle cable, which treats the actual throttle-grip position as more of a guideline, than an actual rule. This allows the engine and throttle to work in harmony for smooth transitions and power delivery. The Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I) takes a page from MV Agusta’s book as a means to shorten the length of the intake at high rpm, a feature that helps bring the powerband on a little sooner, with a little more oomph.

Slipper-clutch technology provides some safety during aggressive downshifts, and makes for an easy pull at the lever. A five-speed tranny sends power to the rear wheel via drive shaft, all geared to control the awesome power of the engine.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 65-Degree Four-Stroke V-Four, DOHC; 16 valves
Displacement: 102 cubic inches (1,679 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 90.0 mm x 66.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Maximum Torque: 123 Pound-Feet at 6,500 rpm
Fuel Delivery: Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: Five-speed, multiplate slipper clutch

Yamaha VMAX Price

2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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Price and performance both seem to place this ride in the “upgrade” category, and would make a good ride for someone with some experience looking for a second -- or even a third -- ride.

You can ride off on a VMAX for $17,999 with a one-year limited warranty, but only in Matte Raven Black since 2018. Price and performance both seem to place this ride in the “upgrade” category, and would make a good ride for someone with some experience looking for a second, or third, ride.

Warranty: One Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Color:
2016: Galaxy Blue
2017: Rapid Red
2018 - 2020: Matte Raven Black
Price:
2016: $17,990
2017 - 2020: $17,999

Yamaha VMAX Competitor

2019 - 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 / 1260 S
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2016 - 2020 Yamaha VMAX
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The Ducati is more expensive, but you get a much more robust electronics suite.

At a glance, the VMAX is clearly something a little bit different for the Tuning Fork Company, and while this kind of sport-cruiser is rare, it certainly isn’t without peer. Italian marque Ducati has a rough equivalent in both looks and performance with its Diavel 1260.

Ducati rolls with fully adjustable suspension and cornering ABS to gain a slight edge in chassis hardware; an edge that extends into the electronics suite with wheelie control, lean-sensitive traction control, and power modes all bundled under the riding modes feature. Launch control comes stock, and the base Diavel 1260 is pre-wired for plug-and-play installation of a quick shifter to help you come out of the hole like a champ.

The Testastretta L-twin engine surrenders a significant chunk of cubage to Yamaha with only 1,262 cc tucked away in its beating heart, but Ducati’s engine punches above its weight. Ducati uses dual-spark technology for positive flame-front propagation along with a variable valve-timing system that broadens the powerband to deliver 159 horsepower and 95 pound-feet of torque against 123 pounds o’ grunt from the Yamaha V4. Yeah, that puts Ducati behind in brute power, but the Italian manufacturer makes up for that somewhat with greater refinement.

Another tradeoff occurs at the checkout counter; Ducati wants $20,295 for its base Diavel 1260, and that leaves some money on the table against the $17,999 VMAX, but for that money, you get a much more robust electronics suite.

He Said

“Much like the GSXR family from Suzuki, the VMAX holds a special place in my heart as the second bike to scare the crap out of me, and the first bike engine I grew to hate. Just to clarify, I didn’t hate it ’cause it’s a bad engine; not at all. I hated it ’cause at MMI it was our timing exercise model, and you had to turn it over 32 times to get everything aligned properly. That said, had I not been recently snakebit by my gixxer trip, I probably would have killed myself on a friend’s VMAX, but even riding cautiously it almost got away from me. The VMAX is still a bully of a bike, as it has always been, and I’m glad to see Yamaha stay faithful to the original look rather than try and pull it to either the sport or cruiser side of the spectrum. Hopefully the price will act as something of a firewall, because this is by no means a beginner’s bike, and should only be contemplated by seasoned vets.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "One thing right off the bat that I’ll mention is the foot position. The pegs seem high and back under your butt, which promotes that forward lean of the aggressive rider posture, but also puts the pegs in the way when you go to put your feet down. Maybe because I’m short and I need all the clear space I can get is why I notice it. I don’t have the available inseam to bow my legs around obstructions when the seat height is 30 inches. I also wonder if I had to dab my foot, it might get caught under that peg. It might be a non-issue for you long, tall folks, but these are things I think of. Also, the big bulge of the scoops gives you a place to hook your knee, depending on your body proportions."

Yamaha VMAX Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine Type: Liquid-Cooled 65-Degree Four-Stroke V-Four, DOHC; 16 valves
Displacement: 102 cubic inches (1,679 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 90.0 mm x 66.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Maximum Torque: 123 Pound-Feet at 6,500 rpm
Fuel Delivery: Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: Five-speed, multiplate slipper clutch
Final Drive: Shaft
Chassis:
Frame: Diamond
Suspension, Front: 52 mm telescopic cartridge fork w/oxidized titanium coating. Fully adjustable preload, compression and rebound; 4.7-inch travel
Suspension, Rear: Single shock w/remote reservoir and remote adjustable for preload, compression and rebound; 4.3-inch travel
Rake (Caster Angle) : 31 degrees
Trail: 5.8 inches
Brakes, Front: Dual 320 mm wave-type discs; radial mount Six-piston calipers, Brembo® radial pump master cylinder
Brakes, Rear: 298 mm wave-type disc, single-piston caliper and Brembo® master cylinder
Wheel, Front: Cast 18M/C x MT3.50
Wheel, Rear: Cast 18M/C x MT6.00
Tire, Front: Bridgestone/BT028F G 120/70R18
Tires, Rear: Bridgestone/BT028R G 200/50R18
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 94.3 inches
Width: 32.3 inches
Height: 46.9 inches
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Wheelbase: 66.9 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.51 inches
Minimum Turning Radius: 137.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gallons
Fuel Reserve: 1.0 Gallon
Recommended Fuel: Premium, Unleaded
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Wet Weight: 683 Pounds / CA model 686 Pounds
Maximum Load: 419 Pounds
Details:
Warranty: One Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Color:
2016: Galaxy Blue
2017: Rapid Red
2018 - 2020: Matte Raven Black
Price:
2016: $17,990
2017 - 2020: $17,999

Further Reading

Ducati Diavel / Diavel S

2019 - 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 / 1260 S
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See our review of the Ducati Diavel / Diavel S.

Yamaha

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
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Read more Yamaha news.

TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: yamaha-motor.com, ducati.com

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