Cruisers have come a long way since the likes of Easy Rider. That iconic image of counterculture in the late 1960s, the rebellious spirit of two dudes on choppers, seems to have been replaced by a bunch of middle-aged guys. At least that's what I thought before I had a chance to experience the full line of Star Motorcycles cruisers. These performance-driven bikes manage to capture the essence of classic styling without forgoing any of the modern technology and reliability for which Yamaha has become known.
Like I said, I have to admit I never appreciated the whole cruiser style—the relaxed seating position, the seemingly over-accessorized bikes with speakers—but I had also never ridden one.
Now I know, there is nothing more fun than cruising on a motorcycle in the comfort of a padded bucket seat blasting music from an integrated sound system attached to your iPod. The added features and comfort don't take away from the rebellious spirit of riding—they actually add to it, allowing the rider to simply enjoy the ride.
With the standards and performance one can expect from Yamaha, Star Motorcycles is Yamaha's cruiser-focused line of bikes. It can get a bit confusing as branding on the bikes tends to show both names, but rest assured that you're getting the quality of the Japanese-made engines with the focus and attention to detail that the cruiser-specific line allows. Yamaha has been making cruisers since 1978, and in 2004 decided to branch off with Star Motorcycles to allow both brands to focus more intently on their specific style of bikes, and abate any confusion about the Yamaha motorcycle brand.
I was invited to join a few other riders as Yamaha's guest in Georgia. Riding through the region's winding hills on a rainy day we were surprised by the responsiveness and handling of these seemingly behemoth bikes. The Venture S with its 33.6 gallons of lockable storage rode as nimbly as some of the smaller, less accessorized bikes. We were blown away by the V Star 250's power and ability to keep up with the larger bikes, and were surprised when the bigger bikes like the V Star 950 and 1300 handled just as well.
We also fell in love with music on a bike with the Stratoliner Deluxe's integrated speakers, iPod hookup and handlebar controls, all tucked neatly into this classically beautiful bike that handled like a dream. Plus, all of the speakers we tested on these bikes really pumped out the volume and could be heard over all of the extreme noises that come with riding a motorcycle.
The current lineup of Star Motorcycles features nearly a dozen bikes and nearly all of them are fully customizable with a complete lineup of accessories designed specifically for that bike.
Our favorite may have been the Road Star Silverado S, which evokes the styling of an old-school cop's bike and made us feel like some sort of '50s rockstar as we rode into the fog on the pearly-hued bike with its beautifully detailed leather accents. Initially we were intimidated by these huge bikes, but they all handled beautifully (even in the rain) and were just so much fun to ride.
New to Star Motorcycles is their Star Custom Line, SCL. Described by Yamaha as "true factory customs", these bikes allow for a level of style and quality rarely seen on a production motorcycle. The first bike ever for the SCL lineup is the new Raider SCL.
From custom-quality, six-layer paint jobs to a myriad of stainless steel and chrome features, the limited-quantity bikes (only 500 were made) capture the essence of a true custom cruiser. And the best part is these bikes come ready to roll off the showroom floor looking like they spent months in a custom shop.
The lineup of Star Motorycles manage to capture the essence and beauty of classic cruiser style while incorporating the latest technology and features. These bikes are the perfect blend of form and function coupled with the reliability and performance we've come to expect from Yamaha at an extremely reasonable price point.
Yamaha Star Motorcycles and Star Custom Line bikes are available from around $4,000 and $6,400, respectively, at select dealers via the Purchase Tools section of their website.