John Baltera's Custom Yamaha V-Max

Baltera's fermenting a monster with his custom appropriately named "Badmax"

Badmax V-Max
John Baltera's Badmax V-Max is a custom nitrous monster that delivers the maximum kick.Mark Langello

Some bikes are like fine wines, taking years to develop to a delicate perfection. Others are like moonshine—where the distiller spends his time reworking the recipe to deliver the maximum kick in the butt without blinding the taster. John Baltera’s Badmax can be considered a combination of the two: white lightning in a crystal mason jar.

During the first year of Baltera’s project the bike didn’t undergo many changes. While less hardy souls might opt for a shortened suspension, he added struts from Mad Max Enterprises (owned by Paul Civitello) which lowered the now rigidly mounted rear one and a half inches. He dropped the front a similar amount by chopping the top off the fork stanchions and installing new springs. New Mad Max wheels slipped into the lowered frame, while a Kerker pipe and a jet kit rounded out Badmax’s initial modifications.

Badmax V-Max
The business end of the nitrous oxide system resides in the stock airbox. The tissue in the carb boots is to keep dust out of the engine.Mark Langello

New England winters give motor-cyclists the time to work on their rides without sacrificing time in the saddle. After a summer of riding the V-Max, Baltera used the off-season to turn his Max into something special. The frame was raked to 37 degrees by Mad Max Enterprises. Civitello says this eliminates the stock bike’s wobble. (Since Civitello had approximately 20 V-Max frames from all over the world in his shop waiting to be raked when we talked to him, we figure he should know.) When the frame returned, Baltera spent a month grinding down the frame’s welds and finishing with body filler to achieve a seamless look. Since the raked frame lowered the front end about an inch and a half, stock-length stanchions were installed in the fork. Longer legs were required to keep the cool-looking low ride from turning into a dangerous road scraper. A Mad Max steering damper was added to make sure that head shake never upsets Baltera’s fun.

Badmax V-Max
Baltera dropped the front suspension by chopping the top off the fork stanchions and installing new springs.Mark Langello

But the soul of a V-Max is the engine. Baltera made sure he turned his Max up to full volume. The engine was completely disassembled, then rebuilt by Pete’s Cycle Parts. Feeding the mixture to the freshened cylinders, the stock carburetors get a truckload of help from a NOS nitrous oxide system that Baltera cleverly hid inside the airbox. A Mad Max equal-length Sidewinder exhaust dispenses depleted gases and boosts horsepower through its stylish and functional equal-length head pipes.

Badmax V-Max
"Right now, I ride the bike around and nothing can beat me."Mark Langello

To handle all that extra power, the transmission gears were undercut and hardened at R&D Motorsports. The bottom end received some righteous mods from Mad Max Enterprises. A spring lock-up centrifugal clutch makes the clutch grip as engine speed increases. According to Civitello, the clutch system has been “torture tested” by numerous bikes on the street and at the dragstrip. Like a pit bull with its jaw locked, this clutch ain’t gonna let go when it’s angry. On the other side of the tranny, Mad Max’s chain drive delivers power to the rear Metzeler via a No. 630 O-ring chain.

Badmax V-Max
Mad Max Enterprises’ signature chain drive and wheel look trick. We’d want real shocks instead of the Mad Max struts. (Left) Baltera polished most of the parts himself. Being a multitalented guy, he also applied the base color and clear coat. (Middle) Shine from end to end! The Sidewinder pipes get their unique shape—and power—from the equal length of the headers. (Right)Mark Langello

Civitello first built the V-Max chain drive conversion kit in 1985. Although a few other companies market similar kits, Civitello claims his was the first—a fact that drives him to continually refine his kit. Civitello’s conversion no longer requires that the cases be split to change the countershaft sprocket. Now sprocket changes only take about three minutes, something he says his competitors can only dream about. Civitello’s chain drive also allows the rear axle position to be varied from the stock location to 3.9 inches rearward. Baltera—and most owners of big-power V-Maxes—takes advantage of the stabilizing extra length provided by the chain drive conversion, which brings the wheelbase up to 68 inches when combined with the raked front end.

With all the speed generated by the nitrous-sucking engine, you’d think the brakes would need to be equally brawny. Actually, Badmax’s brakes remained stock with the exception of braided stainless steel lines and a generous application of chrome by New England Chrome Plating. Even the discs got dipped. However, the swept area of the discs was turned (the same process used to straighten a mildly warped disc) to clear them of the chrome and provide a smooth, grippy surface for the brake pads. A straight K&N handlebar gives Baltera something to grip, too. An Auto Meter shift light helps him generate maximum thrust in all the gears while blazing along in hang-on mode.

Badmax V-Max
The hydraulic steering damper keeps Badmax from shaking its head, while the carefully sculpted frame neck sits regally in the background. (Left) The polished nitrous oxide canister is the only visible clue of the power the engine can put out with a press of the horn button. (Right)Mark Langello

Baltera rode the bike in this incarnation for a few years. That is, until he heard that someone else had a custom bike with a similar pink paint scheme. What’s an individualist to do? He found a fresh ’96 engine and stripped the bike back down to the frame. Since Baltera works at a body shop, he applied the purple paint himself. The graphics were laid on by Rare Form Studio. Once all the colors were in place, Baltera applied multiple layers of clear coat to give the bike the wet look. Baltera repolished all the polished parts, and added most of the chrome dress-up items. Baltera hints that V-Max owners may want to check out the Royal Star accessories in the Pro-One catalog. Many of them (like the headlight, mirror, pegs and taillight) will bolt directly to the V-Max. Baltera plans on joining the aftermarket industry himself by manufacturing the seat he handcrafted for Badmax. From the number of comments the seat has generated, it should be popular. When we asked him how he built the seat, he responded that he could tell us, but then….

Badmax V-Max
Baltera applied multiple layers of clear coat to give the bike its wet look.Mark Langello

After hearing the story of Badmax, we only had one question: Is it finished? Of course not. Next winter will see the engine disassembled again. Low compression pistons, head work, and a screw-type supercharger are on the agenda. Baltera says, “Right now, I ride the bike around and nothing can beat me.” The long silence after the statement—a man savoring the flavor of his creation—seems to add, “But wait until next year.”

This article was originally published in the August 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.