Suzuki B-King vs. Star V-Max - Ready To Rumble

It's King Kong Versus Godzilla In The Intergalactic Heavyweight Title Fight Of The Millennium

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

In this corner, weighing in at 700 pounds, sequel to the hardest-hitting two-wheeled hot rod on the street, armed with a 1679cc liquid-cooled V-4 that's the biggest puncher in the game. Back by popular demand, the people's choice: the Star V-Max. In that corner, the challenger, a 578-lb. stick-and-move journeyman puncher packing 1340cc of inline-four Hayabusa muscle, from Hamamatsu, Japan by way of Planet Cybertron: the Suzuki B-King.

On the surface, they're the same fighter. Both heavyweights. Both big punchers. Naked aggressors built to inhale a quarter-mile or a block of city blacktop quicker than you can read this sentence. Neither has a sensitive side, nor any reason to be here beyond getting from this light to the next one ahead of everybody else. If looks could kill, someone would be notifying your next of kin right now. Mess with either one at your peril. They knock fools out, or worse. Taking both out on the street together attracts a lot of attention and can put the serious hurt on your driver's license and the family Chevron card. But which one really gets it done out there? You just might be surprised. We were.

Like everybody else, we were surprised to see the B-King go from the 2001 Tokyo Show to 2008 Suzuki showrooms. The naked Hayabusa shtick is a natural, but that Optimus Prime profile takes some getting used to. Meanwhile, Return of Son of V-Max opens to the applause of fans that showed up for the first one 25 years ago and never left. That was a hard act to follow, but it's harder to imagine disciples of the '85 V-Max being anything but gobsmacked by the '09 edition.

Approaching carefully and downwind, you discover the V-Max sits lower and wider than the B-King, but there's still enough girth to make it tough for a short inseam to get flat-footed. Weight is the next thing. The 'King is heavy, but Mr. Max is a full 122 lbs. heavier. Carrying its fuel under the seat rather than between your knees helps mask some of that mass, but factor in lazy steering geometry ahead of a 67-inch wheelbase and the big boy won't win any parking lot agility drills. Slow-speed maneuvering takes more muscle and practice than on the shorter, lighter Suzuki. A lighter-shifting gearbox and no discernable driveline slack let the 'King flow through traffic more smoothly with less steering effort, but one taste of what the big V-4 can do and you're not going to care.

Railroad engineers, steamship captains and space shuttle pilots are used to this sort of push right off the bottom, but the V-Max is a revelation for the rest of us. Useable thrust comes on-line at 1500 rpm, building with a progressively irresistible force as the tach needle heads toward the red. You could lope around town for days without ever cracking 5000 rpm, but that would take more self-restraint than anyone we know. The Suzuki's inline-four builds revs more quickly than the Star's V-4. That's a good thing, since you need more rpm to simulate carrier-deck takeoffs on the 'King.

Aiming our heavyweights at the nearest freeway on-ramp reveals more of the same. The 'King's counterbalanced four is noticeably smoother, but the V-4 rumble you feel between idle and redline on Mr. Max transmits more character than annoyance. Neither bike harbors any delusions of touring, but both are comfortable enough for a day on the road. A broad, flat seat and conventional naked-bike ergos make the Suzuki a bit easer to take than the Star's ersatz dragster crouch, but smallish fuel tanks and a voracious appetite for super-unleaded provide regular chances to stretch whether you want to or not. The V-Max is capable of emptying its 4-gallon tankful of super unleaded in 100 miles; it'll go 135 miles between fill-ups at 70 mph in top cog. A larger, 4.4-gallon fuel tank, smaller engine and less mass to push down the road put up to 175 miles between fuel stops on the 'King, though we tired of fighting the wind before that.

Both are relatively blunt instruments, better at applying brute force to unsuspecting pavement than displays of twisty-road gymnastics. Relatively compact chassis dimensions make the Suzuki more at home on Racer Road. But like jogging a 2000-lb. rodeo bull through Tiffany & Co. without breaking anything, there's an inverse ratio between speed and enjoyment. The V-Max is even less enthusiastic about being rushed, but despite running a consistent six to eight corners behind, leaving lurid black stripes on the straight bits and granulated footpegs in every corner is more fun that we expected.

There's enough Hayabusa DNA to lure you into thinking the B-King is something besides portable rocket sled, and nobody expects the V-Max to be anything else. Stop to consider that there are narrow-gauge locomotives smaller than this-a good place to start for those who like to stay upright on the pavement-and everything it does afterward is gravy. It takes some strategically applied muscle to change direction in anything resembling a hurry. Flick-and-move is not an option, and shifting short of 6000 rpm lets the rear Bridgestone generate more forward motion than smoke. Brakes perform admirably under reasonably humane treatment, but lose their edge under the heat of slowing the 700-lb. projectile from speed a few dozen times. The B-King's binders fade in the heat as well-your clue to ease up, slow down and get your mind right.

Ari Henning Associate Editor
Off The Record

These Goliaths have been at Motorcyclist for a month now, but I've intentionally avoided landing on one during our daily round of musical chairs. They're big and mean-looking, and I'm not too proud to say I was more than a little intimidated by them. Hence I was a tad uneasy when ace triggerman Gene Thomason ordered me to suit up and try my hand at firing them down the quarter-mile. Talk about a shocking introduction!
After launching each bike, roping tire through four gears and accelerating to over 130 mph, I'd conquered my fear-and solidified my opinion. These things are big and mean. And fast! Star/Yamaha and Suzuki have produced two devastatingly powerful musclebikes, either of which will make you the big dog on the block. Any block.
Age: 23 Height: 5'10" Weight: 165 lbs. Inseam: 33 in.

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