As Yamaha forever fiddles around planning the introduction of the long awaited new V-max, I was thinking again about something I thought about long ago, a sportbike powered by the V-max's V4 engine, though maybe "sportbike" is a bit misleading, the idea is a great sounding muscle bike that likes to turn. It certainly isn't the first engine many builders would consider for a bike designed for the twisties, probably because the frame it usually sits in was designed for straight line work and not much else. The engine isn't excessively large but it's designed with shaft drive which presents its own set of problems coming up with a clean conversion for a chain.
Some bikes are built for pure performance, some for looks, some for the emotions, the V-max powered bike I envision is more the latter than either of the first two. No V-max powered bike would ever challenge today's latest crop of sport bikes (would it?) but I think that engine is capable of some of the sweetest sounds ever to come from a motorcycle exhaust and it's not exactly a slouch in the power department but there's plenty of room for improvement.
Digging through my back issue archive, I was reading about the V-Fource, a 1680cc machine built by Herbert Kainzinger. Kainzinger, a former mechanic on GP and world superbike teams, was building high end specials over in Germany and back in 1997 and '98, several magazines tested his one off V-max, giving it rave reviews with many photos of riders dragging their knees through the turns, not the usual V-max attitude. Reports said it had 200+ horsepower, depending on tune, at the rear wheel, along with extensive use of carbon fiber and titanium which dropped the weight to 412 pounds. The steering head was pulled in to 24 degrees (adjustable either way by one degree) and a chain conversion with a custom swingarm was fabricated, the end result being a 55.9 inch wheelbase, right about where a sportbike would be. Functional scoops pressurize an airbox feeding four flatslide carbs. There were all sorts of other bits and pieces which made up this very special V-max and it was nothing like the usual customs you see.
Kainzinger took his bike to the European tracks and according to the articles, embarrassed many a sportbike rider with this beast. I can only imagine what it sounded like. The bike isn't what I would call good looking exactly, it looks, well ... serious.
Toward the end of one article, Kainzinger said he had no intention of building more of these or even making the pieces since V-max owners aren't looking for this type of thing, which I think is unfortunate, whether or not it's actually true. He says he refused $100,000 for the bike which reflects the pricey materials and huge amount of work that went into it not to mention the advertising it generates for his shop and skills.
Now suppose Yamaha was really looking for new ideas and a new direction for the V-max. Wouldn't something like this be worth considering? They could do a lot of this at a far more affordable price than Kainzinger and would have something completely different and I think very exciting. On the other hand, why don't some of the custom builders who work on the V-max try something in this direction themselves? Are V-max owners really averse to high tech great handling motorcycles? Though there is interest in this country for modifying the V-max, Europe is where the bulk of the demand seems to exist. Lazareth has done a nice job, too, but, though the Lazareth V-max looks great, the Kainzinger V-Fource delivers the goods.
There are plenty of V-max builders offering chain conversions, single sided swimgarms and wide tire conversions, there are bigger fake scoops 🙁 and various swoopy pieces of bodywork but no one goes the clean sheet route. Considering Kainzinger's bike performs this well with what is essentially a highly modified V-max frame, why not start fresh with an entirely new frame? I only remember one attempt in that direction and after looking in my carefully organized 🙂 archives, I failed to find it, ... still looking though.
So where are those builders and fabricators looking for a new direction? How about something in a V-max?