Few motorcycles can boast the heritage of Yamaha's Virago, as the first version was introduced in 1981 and discontinued 18 years later in 1999.
That tells how long the Virago has been around. Perhaps the Virago has survived so long in Yamaha's lineup because of its low profile. Certainly, the styling doesn't scream "Harley Clone" or "Nostalgia Cycle," but rather allows the rider to make his or her own mind up. In a decade and a half the twin's engine has grown from 750 to 1100cc, and the few minor bugs it originally had have been fixed. The result is the well-sorted unit. The motor dominates the Virago 1100 in every way. Cosmetically, the engine's numerous chromed pieces draw attention to the V-twin. Without a downtube out front, the forward cylinder seems to be bursting free from the chassis. The nicely swept front header only emphasizes the point.
Once you actually ride the bike, the engine continues to dominate the experience, and that's a good thing. Quite simply the bike has more than enough power -- all the time. Twist the throttle, any time, any gear, and the bike pulls forward eagerly. It will even rev to 7000 rpm with only minimal complaint, though at this elevated engine speed it seems you can half-hear the engine muse about the psyche of anyone who would run it above 4000 rpm. The bike will even pull wheelies off the line: rev it up, dump the clutch, and the front wheel will loft every time. In other words, the motor is what you would expect from those wonderful folks who gave you the V-Max.