It doesn’t seem possible that five years have passed since I rolled out of the working class city of Portland, Oregon, in the saddle of the new Star Roadliner. Riding a Yamaha that wasn’t a Yamaha, well not by name anyway, and riding a cruiser with real performance, handling and braking, it was anexciting day. More importantly, it was a new direction for the company we typically associate with winning motorcycle championships at the highest level on both dirt and asphalt. By taking this passion, enthusiasm and dedication to excellence and infusing it into the new Star brand of cruisers, it hasn’t taken long for the company to make it to the number two position in the class. The giant from Milwaukee being the only brand to outsell them in this class.
Striking out in their own direction with the art deco inspired Roadliner, Star has taken some valuable clues from Harley’s success, using this initial Roadliner platform to spawn the touring focused Stratoliner and the more custom styled Raider. Working from this initial Roadliner platform, they were able to create three unique motorcycles without undertaking a major redesign each time. Continuing on this practical path, I recently sampled the fourth model in this line up, the Stratoliner Deluxe, over a full day of riding around the Yamaha headquarters in California.
Designated a “Bagger,” the concept for this style of motorcycle is fairly simple. Take a cruiser and make it more focused for traveling, without turning it into a full-on touring bike. Add a good-sized front fairing, some nice integrated saddlebags for carrying your gear, on board musics, a set of spacious footboards, and voila! One bagger to go. It’s certainly a trend that seems to have risen from the ashes of the chopper fad, with riders looking for more practicality and comfort from their ride, without losing the ability to customize and personalize their bike.
The heart of the beast remains the same, with two large cylinders housing 100 mm pistons sucking in fuel and air, and spitting out burned gases through a pair of inlet and a pair of outlet valves. Riding on a long 118 mm stroke, the compression ratio is a healthy 9.5:1 and helps the bike to make a claimed 91 hp. Thumping out an equally healthy 117 foot pounds of torque at 5,000 rpm, the Star motor is a thoroughly modern power house that provides a powerful grunt at low rpm or real sporting power as the rpm rise. It’s also a real air-cooled V-twin, not a faux finned water-cooled unit, and the four valves per cylinder are opened and closed by push rods. How old school is that? This allows the stylish engine to have large chrome pushrod tubes to further accentuate the style, and they certainly help make the Star engine look as much like a piece of art work as the rest of the bike.
Faultless fuel injection makes your riding experience a joy in whatever mood you are in from putting round town to carving canyons and twisty roads. This perfect fuel delivery is made possible by a pair of 43mm, twin-bore throttle bodies. These downdraft bodies have throttle position sensors (TPS) that make sure the response is spot on, no matter what you are doing with the throttle, or how fast the engine is spinning. An oxygen sensor in the two-into-one exhaust system makes it a closed loop system by reading the burned gases and adjusting the fuel injection system as necessary. In an interesting move, an EXUP valve, normally found in higher revving sport bikes, is also used to help boost low end power and provide crisper throttle response The system is a meaty looking affair and gives the bike a nice deep rumble on idle. There’s no wheezing when you twist the throttle either, and aftermarket pipes for more window shaking rumble are available from your local Yamaha dealer. Chatting with Dave Pooler, the man in charge of all Star accessories, he was very excited by the range of products available for the Deluxe. Some you will already know and some specific new ones. Furtherattention to the fueling is found with the 12-hole, 2-directional fuel injectors that ensure the cylinders get filled completely, and the twin spark plugs making sure combustion is complete. As with all modern bikes there is an idle control valve in place of the choke, and the bike fires instantly to life, cold or hot at the touch of the starter button.
Power is taken to the rear wheel via belt drive through a five speed gearbox. This belt drive system is clean, quiet and close to maintenance free. The Deluxe comes complete with big cruiser clunking on first gear selection, but shifts very smoothly once on the move. A heel/toe shifter system is employed, and it works as well as it looks. It’s not my system of choice, so I find myself shifting in the conventional manner, but this causes no problems. The floorboards are roomy, and don’t force your feet into one position which is a great benefit on longer rides. And this is a lot of what the Stratoliner Deluxe is going to be all about, packing up and hitting the highway.
The lightweight fork mounted fairing not only looks stylish but also does a reasonable job of fending off the oncoming breeze without making the steering heavy or cumbersome. A fact I appreciated while carving along the Ortega Highway during our test ride.
One of the best parts of the new fairing on the Deluxe though is the watertight MP3 compartment which hooks your device to a pair of five inch speakers with easy to use controls on the left handlebar above the usual switches. These take some familiarizing with to scroll through the various artists, play lists, and sound levels etc, so it’s not a bad idea to get fully familiar before you hit the road.
The Stratoliner Deluxe handles extremely well for a bike with a curb weight of 810 pounds. This is achieved with the combination of a low, sculpture seat and the wide, easy to reach bars. With a comfortable straight up and down seating position, there’s no doubt I could certainly log many pain free miles in the saddle of the new Deluxe.
Thankfully, the Star crew avoided the trend towards packing the largest back wheel possible under the rear fender. The attractive twelve spoke alloy 17 inch wheels gets a sensibly sized 190 series tire, complemented by a 130/70- 18-inch front. While this is hardly cutting edge sport bike sizing, it works perfectly on the big Star, and with the aforementioned wide bars, the steering input is always light and precise, not something you would initially expect from such a big looking bike. The Deluxe is also easy to pull up from the side stand, and is easy to maneuver in tight spaces. With a combination of light controls, easy fueling, and low seat height, you won’t be sweating and straining to get out of congested parking lots.
The front fork is a beefy conventional 46mm affair with no provision for adjustability. Thankfully the Deluxe comes with what I consider the best braking set up in the cruiser world; a pair of 298mm rotors and R1 styled mono block calipers. Not sprung too softly to collapse the forks under heavy braking, they are not so hard they give a harsh ride. In the rear a single shock is used and there is provision for pre-load adjustment. This is useful when you add a passenger and luggage to keep the bike on an even keel. The single disc out back is actually slightly larger at 320mm and also uses a four-piston mono block caliper. With heavier cruisers, the longer wheel base means you can use a lot more rear brake, and this allows the Deluxe to scrub excess speed quickly and safely when needed. A point to note here is that there is no ABS, which might or might not be a deal breaker for someone looking at a bike in this class. During our ride time it’s not something I felt detracted from the Deluxe, as the brakes have such good feel at the adjustable lever.
One of the more visually stylish elements of the new Star is the saddle bags. Color matched to the bike’s paint scheme, they are more integrated than the smaller ones found on the Stratoliner, and as practical as they are attractive. Capable of holding close to seven gallons of luggage per side, they are nice and easy to open and close. Something that can’t be said about all motorcycle saddlebags.
The controls, gauges and instruments are all the same as previous Star models, and this means high quality. Easy to read analogue gauges are nice touch for us older riders who still struggle with hyperactive digital read outs, and all the usual data is presented in typical format. The level of finish with all the painted and chromed parts is extremely high, with the machine giving off a very custom feel, even in standard trim. As usual, Star custom guru Jeff Palhegy was along for the ride on his own personal Deluxe and it was breathtaking as you might imagine with its beautifully painted fairing lowers and custom parts.
Priced at $17,490, the new Stratoliner Deluxe makes a great addition to the existing Star line up, and a very unique one at that fits with the other offerings in this class. Capable of giving long distance touring comfort and convenience if needed, it’s still a super slick looking ride for posing down the high street and taking short jaunts on your favorite roads. During our test ride, I was able to reconnect with the reasons I’ve always enjoyed the big Star line up. Unique styling, great power, competent handling and braking, wrapped up in a modern package that’s a blast to ride. The Stratoliner Deluxe certainly doesn’t disappoint.