TIME TO PLAY: Yamaha's official promo for the V-max shows it in its natural habitat - the drag strip.
I thought it would be out of scale, like a Hummer at a drive-in, but within a few minutes of collecting it Yamaha's second-generation V-Max demonstrated enough poise and low-speed controllability to slice through the 5pm traffic like a bike half its size.
And it had enough instantaneous acceleration to grab the gaps before the car drivers even knew they were there.
I'd ridden the V-Max on the SA launch at Tarlton drag strip, which showed the assembled scribes that it has awe-inspiring acceleration and decent brakes (thank goodness) but not much else, so I was keen to see how it would handle the real world where the roads aren't always straight but are more than a quarter-mile long.
Despite its intimidating 310kg bulk, it does itrather well even though a V-Max is basically a very large engine, two wheels and very little else - an extreme example of mass centralisation, one might say. You're always conscious of its sheer size but, once you've heaved the V-Max off its side-stand and eased the clutch home, it's no longer an issue.
The 1700mm wheelbase and conservative suspension geometry provide welcome stability and slow the steering enough that the bike never feels like it's getting away from you, although the low, wide and tapered handlebars give plenty of leverage.
There's a little power-thudding just off idle but the big V4 gets into its stride from about 2500rpm and delivers, unstoppable torque and a soul-stirring soundtrack iuntil 5500rpm.
After that you are forcibly reminded of the 147 industrial-strength kiloWatts under your right hand as this huge motorcycle starts using up a lot of road very quickly. Time to get out of town, as the cowboy said
The V-Max cruises very nicely just below the power band at about 140km/h - any more than that on a naked bake and you're hanging on more than riding. It's also where the big V4 runs smoothest and, I suspect, most efficiently.
IN THE GROOVE
On the bumpy section of our standard test route, however, I discovered that the suspension was set very firm indeed, especially at the rear, to counter the inevitable "jacking up" from shoving so much thrust through a shaft final drive.
The result is an uncomfortably harsh ride but, where any other bike would be all over the place due to suspension patter, the sheer mass of the V-Max holds it firmly on track and it never puts a wheel wrong.
The "ride and handling" section was a revelation - I was expecting the bike to scrape through the long sweeps but it had a lot more ground clearance than I thought and got firmly into the groove. Nevertheless, it shook its head in mild annoyance through bumpier corners.
It's not a sports bike, but if you do your braking in advance and power through the apex you'll come out fast enough to have your sport-bike buddies blinking in disbelief.
Never mind that they'll come howling past on the next straight - and they will: the V-Max is electronically governed to an indicated 234km/h (true speed 218). Anybody can twist a throttle in a straight line; real riding happens in the corners.
There's an urban legend that if you keep the throttle pegged wide open from the start the new V-Max will override the electronic limiter and go way past 250km/h. Sorry to disappoint you, sports fans, but either I wasn't wide open all the way or it's just not true.
I spent more time than usual twisting this bike's tail on our six-kilometre test straight - which probably contributed more than a little to its eye-opening 9.55 litres/100km fuel consumption.
Nobody needs a 1697cc street bike such as this, just as nobody needs to go to work in a 6.2-litre Chevy Lumina, but it makes an unequivocal statement about who you are - and it's just so much fun!
And the day motorcycles stop being fun, I'll stop riding.
Bore x stroke: 90.0 x 66.0mm.
Compression ratio: 11.3:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 147.2kW at 9000rpm.
Torque: 166.8Nm at 6500.
Induction:Chip-controlled fly-by-wire electronic fuel-injection with four variable-length intake tracts.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated multiplate wet clutch with diaphragm spring.
Transmission: Five-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by shaft.
Front: 52mm inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear: Rising-rate linkage with remote-reservoir gas-filled monoshock adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Front: Dual 320mm petal discs with Sumitomo six-pot opposed-piston callipers.
Rear: 298mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front: 120/70 - 18 tubeless.
Rear: 200/50 - 18 tubeless.
Seat height: 775mm.
Wet weight: 310kg.
Two years unlimited distance warranty.
R116 900 - Suzuki B-King
R178 500 - Triumph Rocket III
R215 000 - Harley-Davidson V-Rod
Bike from: Yamaha SA