The Evolution of the Power Cruiser

In 1985 Yamaha kicked in the door of the motorcycling world and made a bold statement with the introduction of the V-Max motorcycle. At the time the V-Max was the most powerful production bike on the market, belting out an unheard of 145 horsepower with a 1200 cc V-4 engine. The Mighty Max is the bike that started an entirely new class of motorcycle; the power cruiser.       

 The V-Max is a simple concept; major acceleration based on the classic American hot-rod theme, drawing its heritage from a bridge race; a type of drag race from one end of a bridge to the other. The V-Max has spawned a cult following of tire shredding riders looking for something a little different, a little radical. “.I’m sure that this is due to it being the kind of bike which is very different to the crowd.” Dave Shepherd, Yamaha technical Specialist says, “It often happens to bikes that are designed outside of the box”.
 After 20 years with only minor changes in 1993 when the Max received 43mm forks (up from 41mm) and new 4-piston front disc brakes (up from twin pistons calipers), the V-Max has remained virtually unchanged with continued strong sales with no plans to cease production. While there are other power cruisers on the market, none have the 20 year history the V-Max has.  “The usual reason to discontinue a model is either declining sales interest or its ineffectiveness against competitor’s models,” Says Shepherd,  “Yamaha is still waiting for the others to catch up with Mr. MAX.”         

 The one thing that all the major motorcycle manufactures have learned from the V-Max’s success is that when it comes to power cruisers, big horsepower and massive acceleration add up to big sales.  All the major manufacturers have cruisers with large displacement engines. Honda has the VTX 1800, Kawasaki has the Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak, Suzuki has introduced the Boulevard M 109. Harley-Davidson has the beautiful V-Rod and even Canadian manufacturer Merch Motorcycles has their RT 120 with an optional 125 cubic inch V-twin motor.  

 When it comes to true horsepower few can compete with the Rocket III, the latest big-boy-on-the-block from British manufacturer Triumph. The Rocket III is the largest displacement production motorcycle ever produced, a 2294 cc inline triple with cylinder bores the same diameter as the Dodge Viper.                  

 A project five years in the making, the Rocket went through many design and engine configurations before the right mix was found. Though big and brawny, Triumph engineers and designers retained some of the look and feel of a classic British motorcycle, looking to the original Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket II.        

  Is the Rocket III the bike to end the V-Max’s reign over the power cruisers? Not a chance. The V-max has 20 years of solid sales combined with 20 years of after market accessories and go-fast add ons. The rocket III is however, the natural evolution of the power cruiser motorcycle. Actual speed is starting to fall to the wayside in favour of the earth shattering acceleration that a bike like the Rocket II can pump out. The power cruiser rider wants to feel the ground shake and the bike twist when they snap the throttle at the stop lights.        

  The Rocket III may have started a new phenomenon in the power revolution that the V-Max started 20 years ago. If horsepower and cc’s continue on this upward trend, we may very well be one day referring to liter size bikes as a mid-size ride.

Maybe size does matter.                                                      


~ by cdnrider on August 25, 2007.

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