Excerpts from Motorcycle.com's article "2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster vs. 2010 Star VMax"

Excerpts used by permission from Motorcycle.com. Article by Pete Brissette, Jun. 16, 2010, Photography by Pete Brissette

From its earliest days as a product of the Yamaha motorcycle brand, the VMax was the icon of brute force on two wheels. Merely mentioning the VMax is sure to conjure images of a rear tire-roasting, muscle-bound, two-wheeled monster in the mind of just about any bike enthusiast old enough to recall the 1985 release of Mad Max.


And to this day the VMax retains much of its lore, even as a member of the Star Motorcycles brand.


A thorough and bold redesign of the VMax in 2009 – that included a massive boost in performance from its legendary V-4 engine – has not only stirred the souls of veteran riders, it’s also exposed a whole new generation of riders to the august Mr. Max.


In many ways the Roadster and VMax are quite different. But the common denominator here, and the primary reason we brought them together, are the ridiculous amounts of horsepower and torque each produces.


Sure, modern literbikes like the BMW S1000RR are capable of more peak horsepower than the Rocket or Max; but good luck finding a production motorcycle engine that chugs out sizable hp numbers paralleled by plump torque figures like the Rocket and Vmax generate!


“I’ll have the 72-oz rib eye, please.”


We’re a nation that often embraces the ostentatious – we’re mostly to blame for professional wrestling and competitive eating! – so we figure you’re ready for the main course, to get to the meat of the matter: two over-the-top engines.

If you’re most enthralled by peak horsepower, then you’ll relish in the fact Big Max’s revvy 1679cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve-per-cylinder, 65-degree, DOHC, V-4 readily hands the Roadster its ass when comparing peak horsepower.


Mad Max managed 167.5 hp at roughly 9000 rpm (Star’s claim is 197 hp at the crank) when we strapped it to the dyno. From this we see why the VMax makes a good platform for a powerful dragster. The power of the Max is the key element behind its allure.


“Its power is nothing short of incredible,” says Kevin of the VMax. He went on to call it a “rubber-burner extraordinaire!”


Mad Max has the potential to post big top speed numbers, but it’s electronically limited to approximately 146 mph. The most sensible answer to this e-nanny is likely an issue of simple aerodynamics. Riding the naked VMax (or just about any unfaired bike for that matter) at higher speeds seems like a frightening, even hazardous prospect. And, well, we do live in a litigious society…


Although respectable by most standards, the Rocket’s best run of a little less than 119 ponies at 5300 rpm simply falls short of the Star’s sportbike-like peak power.


So there ya have it. If you’re looking for a horsepower king, crown Mr. Max.


The Rocket, as expected, can roast the rear tire from a stop, launches hard and will even hoist a sizeable wheelie providing the clutch is finessed just right along with a handful of throttle. But the Max will do the same and then some. Just a little slip of the clutch in second gear and the Star can bake its 200-section rear tire from a rolling start.


Good things come in big packages


The VMax brings hi-tech to the table in the form of various engine technologies borrowed from Yamaha’s sportbike line, like YCC-T, YCC-I and the well-known power-enhancing EXUP.


Equally techy is the VMax’s chassis, appropriately updated to match the new V4.


The Max’s skeletal composition boasts a cast-aluminum perimeter-style frame joined to an alloy swingarm; a subframe made of Controlled-Fill cast-aluminum and extruded aluminum pieces completes the package.


Despite the opportunity to finally grace the VMax with fleet-footed steering geometry after all these years, Star (Yamaha) designers and engineers actually made the new Max’s chassis dimensions milder compared to VMax 1.0, as Kevin noted during the 2009 Max’s press launch.


It’s a safe bet the VMax’s aluminum chassis lends considerably to the bike’s middleweight-by-comparison claimed wet weight of 685 pounds. There isn’t any discernable flex or wallow from the VMax’s stout chassis. The VMax feels solid and planted, enough that new MO Editor, Jeff Cobb, said he was inspired to routinely drag the VMax’s footpeg feelers during a weekend-long trip up California’s twisty coastline near Big Sur and surrounding areas.


Although the VMax lacks sportbike-like handling to mate up to its sportbike-like power, its suspension is polar-opposite of the Roadster’s springy parts.


The VMax’s 52mm fork and solo shock are fully adjustable. A rider benefits further from easily accessed knurled knobs for rebound and compression damping on both the shock and fork. A remote hydraulic adjuster on the bike's left side handles shock preload.


The VMax wears an impressive-looking set of radial-mount, six-pot calipers clamping down on 320mm wave-type rotors; a Brembo master cylinder is a nice bonus. Braking is aided by the addition of ABS.


The Max’s brakes ultimately have good stopping power, but a smidgen more effort is required at the lever than you might expect from such a formidable-looking set up.


Dressing Mr. Max
Sidebar By Jeff Cobb

For those wanting to add a bit more personalization to the VMax, you may look to the aftermarket, but Star makes it possible to bling out this boulevard bender with the convenience of one-stop shopping.


Our 2009 VMax came with an assortment of dealer-supplied accessories offering a greater or lesser degree of usefulness.


On the list of stylistically matched items that are purely aesthetic, were the following JPD billet alloy products:


Swingarm Cover ($129.95), Camshaft Covers ($429.95), Clutch Cover ($239.95) Left Hand Engine Cover ($189.95), Front Brake Master Cylinder Cover ($79.95), and Clutch Master Cylinder Cover ($69.95).


Out back, additional JPD billet items include the Rear Brake Rotor Cover ($139.95), and Exhaust Tips ($549.95).


If you are not a savant when it comes to adding numbers up, or otherwise don’t have your calculator handy, all this coolness will run you $1,829.60. But our bike had more than just these beautifying goodies …


On the list of truly functional items, the Boulevard Windscreen ($259.95) makes a difference on the highway, although the headlight reflects somewhat inside the abbreviated fairing, and could stand a guard to keep all the light pointing forward.


Another comfort accessory is the Backrest Assembly ($359.95), which does help with lumbar support, and keeps the drag racer, er, rider, in place when trying to crack the 10-second quarter mile barrier this bike is known to do.


The ASV Adjustable Clutch and Brake Levers ($139.95 each) are good quality, eye-catching upgrades.


These additional accessories will set you back an additional $899.80. All combined, this $19,500 bike has $2,719.40 worth of extras, ratcheting final cost to $22,219.40.

But again, this is not all that’s available. If your need to individualize exceeds this list, Star offers additional accessories, including a swingarm kit that will accommodate a 240 series tire, various carbon bits, and more.


In all, we think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Max has not only grown far more potent, he’s now jumped an income bracket or two, and aspires to be legitimately upscale.


Big bike ergonomic landscape and little things that matter


If you’re tantalized by these monster-engine motorbikes and pondering a purchase for your stable, then consider your preferred riding style as part of the decision-making process.


Although the Roadster’s footpeg position is now closer to the rider on the horizontal plane compared to other Rocket models, the Roadster’s rider triangle still smacks of cruiser.


It has a broad, roomy seat like many cruisers do, and the wide handlebar creates an open sitting position. The position is open enough that cruising at speeds above 80 mph for extended periods may cause fatigue in some riders as they attempt to hold on tight against windblast. Below 80 mph or so wind buffeting is minimal on the unfaired beast.


The VMax’s position feels bolt upright compared to the Rocket.


Its footpeg location seems as if it’s directly beneath the rider’s hips; reach to its narrower handlebar feels shorter when compared to the Triumph. The Max’s seating position is kind of like an expensive office chair that’s designed to create correct seating posture. Six-footer Jeff found it comfortable after eight-plus hours in the saddle.


A 30.5-inch seat height on the Max is 1.0-inch higher than the Roadster’s saddle.


There’s lots of data on display – like fuel level, gear position, clock, etc ¬– but trying to sort it out while the VMax’s ferocious mill launches you into tomorrow is often a frustrating task. Looking at the LCD while at a standstill seemed most prudent.


Really, though, the only things you need to know while riding the silly-fast VMax are when to shift and at what point you’ve crossed into reckless driving territory. Right?


“This (the VMAX) is an exotic, whether judged in terms of power, engine configuration, styling or scarcity. It’s premium in nearly every way except for its turn signals,” opined Kev.


Through all this, rather than decide which bike suits you best, maybe you’ve become like us: we’ve decided we want both!

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