When it comes to speed and big-bore bullies, few companies can match Yamaha and even fewer models can match the influence on those two qualities of motorcycle style had by the Vmax.
Yamaha and Ed Burke
There simply aren’t many people who have had as massive an impact on motorcycle design in all of history than Edmund “Ed” Burke. Burke worked on the designs of the motorcycles, superbikes, and scooters produced at Yamaha from 1971 to 2002.
Over those three decades as Yamaha’s manager of research and design, Ed Burke managed to garner the credits behind the designs of 36 different motorcycle series, with many of them becoming classics as time went on.
Burke’s Trademarked Genius of Design
The original Vmax series engine was a four-stroke, V-Four, DOHC engine with 16 valves (four on each cylinder). This high-bore engine was capable of maintaining incredible speeds relative to the other common production motorcycles on the market.
At 146 miles per hour, the Vmax had a top speed only five miles per hour slower than the fastest production motorcycle of the time: the Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja (151 miles per hour was the more conservative estimate).
Timeline of Changes
Minor edits were made here and there to the Vmax, but Yamaha never really released more than two generations.
Yamaha Vmax (1985-2004)
The original Vmax sported a durable steel tube cradle frame with 40mm Kayaba air-pressure forks for the front suspension and dual Kayaba shocks with customizable options for variable preload damping in the rear.
For 19 years, very few significant changes would be made to the Vmax series. Consumers simply liked it the way it was.
Yamaha Vmax (2005/2009-present)
In 2005, however, that all changed. Yamaha released a new version of the Vmax as a concept bike with significantly improved power, a totally redesigned frame, and an all new cosmetics for a more muscular aesthetic and a cooler silhouette.
The official change in generations, however, didn’t occur until the 2009 model year, when Yamaha refitted the chassis with a brand new aluminum frame and a larger 1,679cc engine.
Although Yamaha continues to release newer models of the Vmax, there tends to be little differentiation from year to year aside from the number of the model year. That is to say, a 2018 Vmax will likely resemble a 2019 Vmax in all ways but name.
Not Much Attention
Despite it’s long and consistent history of market success, the Yamaha Vmax hasn’t appeared in any major films or TV shows nor has it been openly and loudly supported by any prominent celebrities, although a few customs did make waves when they were made.
Finding Yamaha motorcycle groups for generalist owners might be the best course of action for you if you’re looking to get more involved in the Yamaha motorcycle community, as the only Vmax-dedicated groups and pages on Facebook are centered in Easter Asia and Singapore.
Yamaha Vmax – a Neglected Masterpiece
It is quite surprising to learn that one of the designs of the great Ed Burke has lasted so long on the market while remaining so underappreciated and borderline neglected by pop culture. It’s a shame, really, but at least this legendary motorcycle gets the respect that it deserves from auto aficionados the world over.