Yamaha V-Max 1200 test


V-Max without mask

Barely out and already cult! However, it is as heavy as an anvil, imposes trajectories worthy of a gondola and its autonomy does not even make it possible to reach the next stage. But she has an engine. And a physique to die for until the tenth generation…

It's a big, heavy and wide beast, but the low saddle height makes it easy to handle and, surprisingly, we manage to ride with it. Between two terraces.

A little history

Initially, the 1200 V-Max was only designed for the North American market and Yamaha barely deigns to pin it down in its Japanese catalog. Anyway, in the Empire of the Rising Sun, the driving license of more than 400 cm3 is reserved for an elite and the insurance costs of a machine like this are considerable. The Hamamatsu firm therefore considers that it is only in the United States that the V-Max is capable of sculling from one track to another..

Solid aluminum rims, a Harley trend that betrays Yamaha's desire to show them to the Americans, is characteristic of the Limited version of 1989. This model becomes the production one the following year.

However, Jean-Claude Olivier, then French importer of the brand, will be able to convince the parent company to give him a dozen machines to see if it takes in France. An urban legend claims that Coluche would have discovered it during a trip to the States in 1985 and that he would have imported one by himself…. Gerard Depardieu also acquired one of these flashy machines, but at the time he was known more for his activism in the 7th art than as a patented motorcycle crusher. Anyway, the French V-Max will be, it’s decided !

Imagined by the Californian studio GK Design International, the V-Max uses the twin-shaft engine of the Venture Royale MK1, reworked for the occasion. Which is not bad, because this gem is well hidden in the GT.


The mill, we only see him, is not new, it is the V4 that equips the GT Venture. But the engineers add these scoops to it which, visually, immediately translate a great need for forced air, so much the engine is stuffed with well octane fuel to deliver all its power. Even when stationary, we can see the dynamics of this engine. Around, elegant surprises, such as the dials on the fuel tank, the chrome blunderbusses and the almost full rear rim ….

The large pots, original, make a nice noise but the gimbal is not great and provides jerks when changing gears.


Well positioned on the softness of the saddle, you immediately feel at home on the V-Max. Watch out for the accelerator, don’t tickle it too much otherwise the big Yam takes herself for a catapult !

Another nice aesthetic success: there seems to be only one counter, the other necessary instruments being grouped together on the false tank. It is classy and original.

In the city

The low saddle height reassures during urban outings. However, the weight of the machine quickly turns the practicality of two-wheelers in the city into a chore in traffic jams. On the other hand, from one bistro terrace to another, the beauty never ceases to be admired by dumb customers ….

Dare to take a stroll! Comfortable saddle, good position ... When it retracts its claws, the Yamaha becomes an excellent motorcycle in everyday use!

On the road

The engine is torquey and nice and accelerates frankly over a wide range of revs. In turns, the lack of agility is clearly felt, despite its killer face, the V-Max behaves much better on a ride than on the offensive ….

Feet forward, bust straight, limited braking and funny handling, the beautiful is not really designed for the attack!

On the highway

Once the "tank capacity / consumption" parameters have been integrated, you can reach the motorway, keeping in mind that the machine is happily tacking the past 150 km / h. In addition, the position and the lack of protection transform the paid sections into areas of bitumen that are not very pleasant to use ….

This is not an optical effect, the V-Max really extends the arms of its pilot!

In duet

The transported is spoiled! Grab bar, soft saddle, well-placed footrest and no vibrations. It takes that to support the lightning accelerations if the pilot is facetious !

Taking a passenger has two advantages: you don't feel any difference in driving and it's a pretty rewarding girl trap, as long as you don't give her the scares of your life!


The sheer weight of the machine does not make it an exceptional braking machine, despite the three ventilated discs and dual piston calipers at the front.

The double-piston calipers enclosing ventilated solid discs are good for the museum of mechanical evolution, they have much less their place on a motorcycle of this kind which accelerates hard.


8l / 100 in mixed use. With a 15 liter container. Gas opened wide, the beauty largely swallowed up its 10 liters. In other words, one day or another the jerrycan session will be inevitable ….

The black of the fittings makes it possible to hide unsightly elements such as the water radiator, hardly visible, the lines of the engine being underlined by polished parts which stylize it.

The interview

The gimbals of the first models had the annoying tendency to break easily and the starter was also questionable. But Yamaha quickly corrected the situation. The engine is reliable and only needs to be changed every 5,000 kilometers. Given its weight, Lady V-Max is naturally a big devourer of brake pads ….

Yamaha designs the V-Max with very few painted elements so that anyone can customize it to their liking without much difficulty. We can put on the evening dress that suits him best ...


Yamaha presented for the first time the 1200 V-Max, intended exclusively for the USA, in October 1984 in Las Vegas. Thanks to the help of the French importer, Jean-Claude Olivier, it was not until 1986 to see it tumble into France. In France, 12,779 copies were sold during the seventeen years of marketing; 3,064 sales for the first version, 6,804 sales for the Limited version and 2,911 sales for the Black and Carbon versions. An unexpected success despite a deflated engine conforming to French standards. In 1989, the V-Max was priced at 63,451 F (around 14,000 € constant).

Stocky but elegant, the V-Max imposes ...Majesty V-Max, absolute queen of the 400 D.A between two cafe terraces!The two bicycle pumps placed between the wheel and the exhausts must be justified by decorum, a pity that no suspension was provided to define correct handling.


  • From 1986 to 1989: first version with 2 piston calipers, 40 mm fork and 104 hp
  • From 1989 to 1993: Limited series with semi-lenticular aluminum rims
  • From 1993 to 1996: road holding and braking improved. The fork has 43 mm diameter tubes and the calipers with 4 pistons replace those with 2 pistons. Power increases to 95 hp
  • From 1996 to 1999: appearance of the Black series
  • From 1999 to 2003: Carbon versions are available, rear turn signals are moved back
  • At the end of 2003, the V-Max was withdrawn from the Yamaha range. It remains available in the USA until 2007

Coast side

Those who want to afford this hellish-mouthed roadster will find a wide range of prices. Many are the V-Max modified in a tuning way or personalized with a certain taste for ugliness. Nothing beats a well-maintained, original machine to a motley turd. 3 to 4,000 € will be necessary for a first model before 1993 of origin in good condition and 4 to 5,000 € for a version after 1993 with 4 pistons in the calipers and a 43 fork. The last models with few kilometers and in superb condition are trading around € 6,000.

For the stunned or to inform the passer-by, a little reminder of the name on the housings!

In case of purchase

This style of motorcycle is not intended to eat the kilometer, it is above all dedicated to fun and small trips between cafe terraces. Few of the V-Max have a six-digit counter. Its large engine, known to be reliable, nevertheless has a few points to watch out for (minimal, of course), such as the membranes of the carburetors and the starter launcher. The original starting amperage (16 A) seems a little tight to drive the starter, moreover a 20 A battery kit is available to overcome this problem.

Side cycle part, the wheel bearings and steering column tend to take play over time, as well as the universal joint. Take care to check the wear of the transmission by turning the rear wheel in both directions of rotation, when stationary, gear engaged. The game should not be excessive.

The four carburettors are not supplied with air by the side scoops, a rather daring visual excess at the time, only useful for V-Boost supercharging, illegal in France.

Many “engine kits” marketed (mainly in Italy) and intended to improve performance weaken the mechanical components. Run away from salespeople touting a full version motorcycle. Only American V-Max with V-Boost reach 145 horsepower, but alas, these models are not homologated in France.


We would only like to talk about the fantastic design of this motorcycle, particularly successful in the outrageous, arousing the desire to ride it. This magnificent motorcycle still attracts as much and its owners willingly pass its handful of faults to think only of the pleasure of savoring its qualities. A motorbike-pleasure or motorbike-passion, rewarding and mischievous. Riding V-Max means superimposing pretty colors on the gray of the asphalt ….

At a standstill or dynamically, the V-Max does not look at itself, but admire itself ...

Strong points

  • Originality
  • Engine power and torque
  • Performances
  • Timeless aesthetics
  • Engine reliability

Weak points

  • Ridiculous autonomy
  • Powerless braking
  • Random handling
  • Excessive weight
  • Limited tire choice

The technical sheet of the Yamaha V-Max 1200

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5 thoughts on “Yamaha V-Max 1200 test

  1. I have the roadster version, a legally unbridled B-King ABS. I confirm everything that has been said about engine sensations. Basically aside from the heavy stationary weight, these motorcycles are remarkably easy and safe to ride. Compare to "modern" motorcycles, like the Yamaha MT-10 which has an explosive motor without any interest (I like it a lot too, although totally different from the 1340 of the nozzle).

    I had aviation hoses installed. Essestial. This transforms the feeling completely, of course without improving the pure performance in terms of braking. Be careful, this operation is very very expensive in terms of labor. Negotiate a hoses + installation package with the dealer.

  2. Not bad, but its "plump" shapes never totally convinced me !

    The (old) kawasaki Z 1300, on the other hand, has always made me dream !! The ZZR 1400 (which I tried), no!

  3. I am on my 2nd nozzle a 2011 then a 2015 the same as that of the test. It is a great motorcycle both sporty and road. I often ride 2 with a certain comfort (Admittedly this is not a BM1200 RT). The assayer does a good analysis. On the other hand, I do not feel any vibration in the bracelets. And when it comes to feeling the power, you just need to choose the right gear. Saturday I made the gorges of the Ardèche almost all in 2nd and beyond 7000rpm (for info the 2nd at bottom is 180) There it tears the arms, there is only the pilot power tire which does not ‘do not like.

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