Contact Patch

Reader Contribution by Alison Green
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The 2009 Yamaha VMAX

Wow, but why?

197hp, 123 lb/ft of torque and 1,679cc of displacement! All wrapped in shiny black and much chrome, the 2009 version of Yamaha’s VMAX is now a reality.

I must confess that although the original has been around for 20 years, it never attracted me, nor does it now. The only such bikes that I have met were far too noisy at all speeds, and the riders’ attitudes left me cold. That being said, if one aspires to be a Darth Vader clone, this might indeed be the right ride for you.

On reading the specs as presented in the August issue of Cycle Canada, I am now completely boggled. Have the manufacturers not noticed that motorcycles still run on two wheels? And on two rather small patches of rubber in contact with the road? I challenge anyone to use all 197hp and keep those two small contact patches stuck to the pavement.

New motorcycle technology is amazing: astounding power, acceleration, suspension, braking – but where are the riders who are capable of utilizing this technology? Not, I suspect, the middle aged novice with mega-bucks to spend on image enhancement. Available motorcycle horsepower out-of-the-box has gone from impressive to simply foolish. Race replica 600cc and 1-liter sport bikes are one genre and I do understand their appeal. But this is something else again. Like the Honda Rune and the current Honda 1,800cc VTX, the Boss Hoss, and the 2,300cc Triumph and others of mega displacement, the new VMAX makes a statement by the manufacturer that they are capable of making such machines and they do because they can – and the market will be there.

But where does this lead the sport of motorcycling? Not I fear, in the direction of safety conscious and dedicated riders who intend to enjoy riding for many years. These are not machines intended to go places (there isn’t even a provision for luggage) and anyone riding pillion had best be prepared for a very uncomfortable session. These machines are primarily ego enhancement toys to impress other like minded souls; statements of “look at me.” None of this is a bad thing – I just hope that those who are busy doing the impressing do not end up as painful statistics. These are seriously powerful and heavy machines and they do not flick lightly around tight corners – or parking lots either for that matter. Operators beware.

After many years of riding – and I might add, of riding many, many miles far from home, I do not understand the rational behind such extreme horsepower or displacements. Yes, I ride a woosy old airhead BMW that puts out less than 50hp – but I really don’t see the need for quadruple the power. I can travel at considerably over the posted limit if I choose and keep up with traffic all day on HWY 401; there are gobs of power for overtaking and the bike is quick and responsive on less-than-perfect surface conditions. The bike is light and compliant and ideal for everyday riding – rain or shine. Should I choose to ride two-up, there is still plenty of power. To quote a fellow vintage motorcycle enthusiast and good friend, “While some argue that we old folks don’t have the imagination or oomph to work and ride new bikes, I disagree – we have learned to want to be in tune with our environments, and enjoy the feeling of competence that comes with a good match.”

Yes new bikes, like new cars, are universally shiny and appealing, but measured against the initial costs and insurance and the constant angst of dirt and dents and scratches – where is the gain? And where do you go on a bike with no saddlebags or even a tank-bag? (Spoils the looks, you know!)  Donut shop here we come!! 

Maybe women aren’t supposed to understand such things!  The  lack of testosterone can affect one’s thinking processes – and thank goodness for that! Ride Safe and Ride Often! – Alison Green

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!