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.

Welcome to the drag strip, and not just any drag strip. This is Auto Club Raceway in lovely Pomona, oldest stop on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing circuit and home of the Winternationals since 1961. It's a little different lining up in front of 40,000 empty seats on a cold track that hasn't seen action for weeks. Smooth, cold and black with spent rubber: perfect for drag slicks and lots of ultra-sticky liquid traction compound, but something short of perfect for street tires. Triggerman Gene Thomason did a masterful job under the circumstances, though the results just might surprise you.

Rolling Mr. Max's prodigious mass up to the line takes extra muscle, and that's the easy part. Getting a firm footing from the wide seat is tougher than it is on the Suzuki. We'll let Thomason take it from here. "Burnouts are easier because the V-Max is so long and so planted," he says, "but you know from the second you get on that it's a monster. Launching something with this much torque, you're just above idle: about 2500 rpm. Get the clutch out as quick as you can, then hard on the throttle. Using the clutch to shift is about .2 of a second slower. Slipping the clutch makes it more stable, but no quicker.

"Managing wheelspin is the hardest part. Short-shifting from first to second-between 6000 and 7000 rpm instead of 9000 and 10,000-helps as well. I'd really like to shift my weight farther back, but the seat won't let me. If the rear tire spins up before you've got some momentum, this bike goes nowhere-you shift and it just keeps spinning all the way down the strip. Shifting is stiffer and clunkier than on the Suzuki. You have to close the throttle between gears to unload the transmission and get it to shift. Shaft reaction isn't much of a problem; the rear end rises at the launch and just stays there as long as you keep the power on. But if you get the thing crooked, shut the throttle and get back in it again, things get very...interesting. I smacked my head on a mirror a couple of times."

Getting off the V-Max, the B-King is a joy to ride at the strip, mostly because it acts more like a big, fast motorcycle should when you pull the trigger. "The front gets light under heavy throttle," says Thomason, "but you can get your weight on top of it to help hold the wheel down. Catch third gear just right and the front end comes up. The Suzuki's clutch makes launching a bit easier, and all it takes is a blip of throttle between gears to make it shift. The transmission is way better. But weight is the biggest difference, along with a shorter wheelbase that shifts weight to the rear wheel for better grip at the start."

The B-King likes the same quick hand on the clutch, but more grip and less torque right off the bottom let Gene come off the line at 5000 rpm. Bottom line? Punting a 700-lb. motorcycle down the quarter-mile takes a balance of power and traction. The V-Max has plenty of the former, but on this track, on this day, it couldn't come up with enough of the latter, managing a 10.41-second best at 137.4 mph to the 'King's 10.13 at 139.31. More grip would likely shave upward of a half-second off those times, but it wouldn't change the order: Suzuki's B-King still rules the strip.

On the street, where how much you make is exactly as important as how you make it, things aren't so clear cut. The 'King's relatively agile nature and flawless urban demeanor make anybody's daily grind a little less abrasive. The tank-top data conveys diversionary factoids-average speed, trip time and distance, among others-with a soft blue glow after dark. Mr. Max's higher-tech electroluminescent display can tell you more-intake air temperature and throttle-plate angle if you're interested-but you have to take your eyes off the road to see the hooded readout. Fit and finish are proportionate with the $17,990 price tag, and an excellent ABS system comes standard. Suzuki's system is a $600 option not fitted to our test bike. Still, at $12,899 it's the howling-mad deal of the two.

For us, the kicker registers when you grab a handful of throttle. Judged solely by the numbers, Suzuki still builds the quickest naked bike in the known galaxy, capable of sprinting from a standstill to 100 mph in 5.7 seconds versus 6.0 for the Star. King Kong takes you there with the ruthless efficiency of what may well be the ultimate Japanese inline-four, and all the soul of a nuclear-powered blow dryer. Nearly omnipotent on paper, that clich-flattening knockout punch is usually just out of reach on the street, a downshift and a few thousand rpm upstream.

Over in the next lane, the V-Max lays down more than 100 lb.-ft. of torque all the way from 5000 to 8750 rpm, turning illicit into instant acceleration. No downshifting. No waiting. It's Godzilla at every green light. Never mind what the tach says, just crack the throttle. There are more efficient choices for those contemplating a professional drag-racing career, but in the real world, there is only one V-Max. That syncopated T-Rex growl transmits subliminal messages to pleasure centers tuned to the rhythm of big-block American V-8s. Suddenly, nothing less makes sense. It is excessive, expensive and so far over the top that most people will question the sanity of owning one. That's okay-neither of these bikes is for most people. As good as it is most of the time, Suzuki's challenger from planet Cybertron is a Hayabusa undressed for BotCon '09. But just as it was back in '85, there is only one V-Max: Heavyweight Champion of this or any other universe.

Brian Catterson Editor-in-Chief
Off The Record

I'm not gonna cop to being intimidated by these two musclebikes like our FNG did. I've ridden MotoGP bikes, fercrissake! But I have tended to shy away from them, preferring something smaller/lighter/more maneuverable for my cross-town commute. Until one evening, when everything else was checked out, I rode the B-King home-and didn't get off it for two weeks. Yes, it's mean-looking, but I wouldn't call it mean. In fact, it's a pussycat-as is the V-Max-so long as you exercise some right-wrist restraint. Grab a handful and you risk punting a pedestrian-or something far more solid. ABS is nice in that regard.
Personally, I prefer the B-King because it feels more like a regular motorcycle. But if you're seriously considering buying one of these behemoths, that's probably the last thing you want.
Age: 46 Height: 6'1" Weight: 215 lbs. Inseam: 34 in.

2009 Star V-Max | Price: $17,990
Hard Parts

A quartet of 48mm Mikuni throttle bodies fuels the fire under orders from Yamaha's familiar fly-by-wire throttle. YCC-I variable-length velocity stacks measure 150mm to optimize torque until 6650 rpm, then shift to 54mm horsepower mode after that, creating a virtual V-Boost kick in the pants. A hybrid chain/gear cam-drive system helps keep the top end compact. Cam covers? Magnesium. Mufflers? Titanium.

The 52mm Soqi fork carries cartridge-type internals, with an oxidized-titanium anti-friction coating outside. A cast-aluminum axle carrier caps each extruded-aluminum slider. As with the Soqi shock, spring and damping rates balance control against compliance, but some harshness crashes the party on rough pavement.

The V-Max skeleton is cast aluminum. Yamaha's Controlled-Fill Die-Casting technology let engineers vary wall thickness from 3 to 6mm, concentrating rigidity exactly where it's needed. Swingarm is cast aluminum as well.

A Brembo master cylinder cues six-piston Sumitomo front calipers and suitably huge 320mm rotors. In the rear, a single-piston Akebono unit squeezes a 398mm disc. The reassuringly potent combination slows all 700 pounds down with minimal drama and no fade.

Tech Spec
Engine type: l-c 65 deg. V-fourRear brake: Akebono single-piston caliper, 298mm discCorrected 1/4-mile: 10.41 sec @ 137.40 mph
Valve train: DOHC, 16vFront tire: 120/70R-18 Bridgestone BT028FTop-gear roll-on 60-80 mph: 2.66 sec.
Displacement: 1679ccRear tire: 200/50R-18 Bridgestone BT028RFuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 35/26/30 mpg
Bore x stroke: 90.0 x 66.0mmRake/trail: 31.0 deg./5.8 in.Colors: Black
Compression: 11.3:1Seat height: 30.5 in.Availability: Now
Fuel system: Mikuni EFIWheelbase: 66.9 in.Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Clutch: Wet, multi-plateFuel capacity: 4.0 gal.Contact:
Yamaha Motor Corp., USA
6555 Katella Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630
Transmission: 5-speedWeight (tank full/empty): 700/676 lbs.
Frame: Aluminum twin-sparMeasured horsepower: 169.6 bhp @ 8750 rpm
Front suspension: 52mm Soqi fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound dampingMeasured torque: 109.7 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm
Rear suspension: Soqi shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Sumitomo six-piston calipers, 320mm discs

Acres of bottom-end torque make the 'Max feel ridiculously quick on the street, but overpower the phat rear Bridgestone tire at the strip. Nothing else cuts a swath of triple-digit torque this wide.

More bar rise and legroom plus a lower seat sit you up straighter than on the 'King. That mammoth V-4 makes the 'Max thick through the middle, making short legs stretch to the tarmac.

2008 Suzuki B-King | Price: $12,899
Hard Parts

Suzuki's 1340cc inline-four cracks the 160-horse barrier by spinning faster than its larger opponent. Look inside and you'll find four titanium valves capping combustion chambers with 12.5:1 compression. Just upstream, 44mm SDTV throttle bodies fuel the fire. Only exhaust and airbox differ significantly from the Hayabusa.

Compliant and reasonably well balanced under your average 165-pounder, the nicely adjustable Kayaba fork and shock are a bit too soft for bigger boys who like to go fast in the twisty bits. The steering damper belongs on somebody's patio door.

The B-King's frame is die-cast using the same technology as the latest GSX-Rs, varying wall thickness for optimal rigidity. A longer swingarm stretches the wheelbase 1.5 inches beyond a 'Busa's, yet the 'King is still 7 inches shorter than Mr. Max.

Though they generate impressive bite and feedback with nominal effort under normal riding, the 'King's radial-mount four-pot calipers make you squeeze hard after a few high-speed stops. Those 310mm floating rotors came straight from the Hayabusa parts bin. ABS is a $600 option.

Tech Spec
Engine type: l-c inline-fourRear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 260mm discCorrected 1/4-mile: 10.13 sec @ 139.31 mph
Valve train: DOHC, 16vFront tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop QualifierTop-gear roll-on 60-80 mph: 2.49 sec.
Displacement: 1340ccRear tire: 200/50ZR-17 Dunlop QualifierFuel mileage (high/low/avg.):43/35/40 mpg
Bore x stroke: 81.0 x 65.0mmRake/trail: 25.5 deg./4.2 in.Colors: Gray/black
Compression: 12.5:1Seat height: 31.7 in.Availability: Now
Fuel system: Keihin/Denso EFIWheelbase: 60.0 in.Warranty: 36-mo., unlimited mi.
Clutch: Wet, multi-plateFuel capacity: 4.4 gal.Contact:
American Suzuki Motor Corp.
3251 E. Imperial Hwy.
Brea, CA 92622
Transmission: 6-speedWeight (tank full/empty): 578/552 lbs.
Frame: Aluminum twin-sparMeasured horsepower: 161.5 bhp @ 9500 rpm
Front suspension: 43mm Kayaba inverted fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound dampingMeasured torque: 97.9 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
Rear suspension: Single Kayaba shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Nissin four-piston calipers, 310mm discs

Despite prodigious torque output from 2500 rpm up, the 'King's inline-four still depends on rpm to get the job done. Peak horsepower arrives at 9000 rpm, but his majesty is open for business for 1000 rpm after that.

Unlike its styling, the B-King riding position is mostly orthodox. You're up on top of a wide, flat seat, leaning forward toward a caf-racer style bar. Legroom is short if you're not.

WORDS: Aaron Frank
PHOTOS: Bob Clarke

Fighting Spirit
Stock is just a starting point for the B-King and V-Max

You don't buy Suzuki's B-King to blend in. Star's V-Max isn't the best choice for anyone seeking anonymity. Both are decidedly extroverted motorcycles. And the extroverts who buy them want even less to resemble one another, which makes these two musclebikes natural candidates for customization.

Big naked bikes are a big deal in Europe, so it's no surprise that the freshest custom B-Kings come from the Continent. The black-and-white B-King was built by RF Biketech (, Germany's leading streetfighter builder. As indicated by the not-so-subtle script laser-etched into each oversized fork leg cover, this is number one of 20 limited-edition specials that serve as rolling adverts for the company's expansive line of B-King upgrades.

From the factory the B-King's back is whacked, with comically oversized exhaust cannons that make even the stock 200mm-wide rear tire look inadequate. RF Biketech inverts these proportions by installing an extended swingarm and meaty 300mm tire. Overhead, the factory exhaust cans have been replaced with visually slimmer (and more aurally entertaining) carbon-fiber-tipped Micron mufflers, snapping the back end into more aesthetically appealing proportions.

To counterweight that massive rear tire, the front end has been supersized with fork leg covers mated to massive billet triple clamps, all of which is easier to see behind a cut-down front fender and smaller flyscreen. Smoother, rounder tank skirts have likewise been swapped on and a belly pan buttons up the bottom. Frame sliders, rearsets, a trick bar-end mirror, master cylinder covers and clutch cover add machined-from-billet attitude, while that curious-looking belt drive on the right side is a visual nod to the supercharger that graced the original B-King concept bike. Alas, this is only cosmetic-a belt drive to nowhere, if you will. That's not to say this limited-edition B-King isn't hotter than stock; the less restrictive exhaust and Dynojet Power Commander bump power output to a healthy 175 ponies at the wheel.

The other Beastly-King comes from Deutschland's Fighters magazine, and was built as a grand-prize giveaway for its annual Fighterama custom bike show. Unlike most American custom builders, who puke chrome and candy paint all over their creations, Euros understand that a streetfighter should look sinister. Fat tires (160/60-17 front, 240/40-18 rear) on one-off wheels from No Limit Custom anchor this beast to the pavement, while RF Biketech's oversized triple clamps pump up the front. Custom rearsets, billet grips and levers, compact brake and clutch master cylinders-all by ABM, and all anodized blacker than the blackest black times infinity-emphasize the visual brutality of this machine.

Bodywork is as Suzuki intended, save for the GSG Mototechnik belly pan and front mudguard, smaller than stock to show off more of that fat front tire. Underneath the stock fuel tank-painted matte silver and black with red flames to bring a little heat-the stock 1340cc motor conspires with special ignition tuning and a Micron exhaust to push power to 184 bhp.

With the new-gen Star V-Max just reaching buyers as this issue went to press, it was premature to find any custom examples to balance the two brutal B-Kings. Tweaked examples of the previous generation abound, however, like the one featured here from noted V-Max tuner Jai Infanzon of Moto-Boutique ( in Daytona Beach, Florida. Infanzon has built more than a dozen show-winning V-Maxes (plenty of Harleys and Hayabusas, too), which have been featured in magazines around the world.

This machine, dubbed Bobber MAXX, is typical of Infanzon's custom style: subtle yet significant modifications that amplify the attitude of Japan's original muscle cruiser. Infanzon went to France to source the OTEC extended swingarm (70mm over stock) that maintains Mr. Max's shaft drive but still accommodates a 280mm Metzeler Marathon tire. The equally oversized front end is also French, from Astrum, with massive 68mm fork legs that extend 80mm longer than stock and an Astrum Boomerang handlebar on top. Mikuni 40mm flat-slide carbs and an Eagle stainless exhaust give the bike a NASCAR-like bark.

Infanzon's Bobber MAXX looks like a brawnier, steroidal version of the original-not entirely unlike Star's latest redesign. There's no reason why the new V-Max won't be embraced every bit as enthusiastically once it reaches customizers' hands, and taken to even more outrageous style and performance heights. Talk about an extrovert's delight...

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