There's always a lot of talk on the V-Max mailing lists regarding wheels. Everyone knows the benefits of low profile radials. Considering the handling characteristics of the stock Vmax, its clearly a prime candidate for better tires. Unfortunately, nobody bothers to make a really good handling tire for the stock rims. After all, putting a low profile tire on a 15" rim would reduce the diameter so much the bike would look ridiculous, and demolish whatever gas mileage the bike has.
So there are a couple of possibilities - Dymag wheels are the best known, but the stories of their cracking worried me- and then there were the problems with availability and price. I started talking to Diamond Manufacturing about a year ago, and they told be they'd have a shaft drive hub available October 1999. That was a good idea, because the design is modular, and they have so many different styles to bolt to the hub. As it turned out, the promised hub wasn't ready until much after that. Besides, I had given up after I decided that I wanted something truly custom - not just something that everyone could purchase and bolt on.
I've always loved the looks of the Venture Royale wheels. Unfortunately for the wheels, the rear saddlebags and front rotor covers mostly hide them. Since I live reasonably close to Kosman Specialties, I decided to get a set of Venture wheels and have them modified to fit both the Vmax and a good set of tires. After getting raped by a dismantler on a set of wheels (paying $350 more than I should have), I sent them to Kosman with the directions of what I wanted done.
The front wheel was already 18" x 2.5", which works perfectly with the MEZ4- a tire I already know and love from another bike. However, the hub had to be narrowed to fit inside the Vmax forks. The rear wheel was a little more challenging. It had to be widened from 3" to 5.5", and increased in diameter from 16" to 17". They cut the beads off, welded new ones on, mounted a set of MEZ4s, and shipped them back. It wasn't until I got them back that I found they'd overlooked something crucial- the front was fine, but they didn't check the hub of the rear wheel. Evidently the Venture rear hub is much narrower than that of the Vmax. Go figure. Id assumed that since they made the "K-Max" wheel they knew all the dimensions. Apparently Sandy Kosman didn't do the work himself or he’d have thought to check first. I shipped the rear back, and they made a spacer, which moved the drive splines out to the left. They also made a small axle spacer for the right side. I got the rim, mounted it up, and found that it fit, barely. There was less than a millimeter clearance between the tire and left side of the swingarm. I also found that the brake rotor didn't line up properly. Back it went to Kosman. As it turned out, the rim was spaced correctly, but they had to make a spacer to line up the rotor with the caliper.
After it came back, everything mounted up just fine. Its still a little different, in that the only way I can take the rim off the bike is by unbolting the rotor first. The caliper is so far underneath the overhang of the rim that it cant come off the rotor without taking the rotor off first.
I still need to polish the welds on the new beads, but the wheels work fine. The handling is now superb, despite the fact that they're just as heavy as stock wheels. I knew they'd be, but weight wasn't one of my big concerns. Both tires are a little shorter than the stock ones, but not so much so that I have to lower either fender. I get good acceleration (and great wheelies) due to the slightly shorter rear wheel, but must have my speedometer recalibrated.
Am I happy with the results? Yes. The wheels are a little more of a hassle than I expected, but I can live with it. The cost wound up being a little less than a set of Dymags would have been, and I have some wheels that are completely unique (on a Vmax). I've since noticed that the tires have seated a little more, and the left side of the 180 MEZ4 slightly touches the swingarm. I've planned to get the swingarm braced, so I think Ill have it notched a little bit to make more clearance for the tire.
So this story is not completely finished.
The wheels are good enough to ride, despite there are a couple more things
to do. But then, that's pretty much how our bikes are- works in progress.
And customization, making the bikes uniquely "ours" is what its all about,
right? - K