photography by Riles & Nelson
If you’re into cruisers and have kept your eyes open, you may have noticed that baggers—cruisers with saddlebags (and often fairings, too)—are replacing radical customs as the latest trend. According to Yamaha, it’s because riders have found radical bikes too uncomfortable and impractical, and with the economy causing people to cut back on luxuries they are now demanding more comfort and functionality from their customs. After all, wouldn’t you rather have a bike that not only looked good, but that also allowed you to do some traveling?
To take advantage of this trend, Yamaha’s Star Motorcycle Division has released the 2010 Stratoliner Deluxe, a new model based upon its Stratoliner that comes with saddlebags, a passenger backrest and a windscreen. The Deluxe version is equipped with new larger hard saddlebags and a fairing (but no backrest), and Yamaha has stated that with this model its strategy is to offer modern, classic styling, today’s technology and outstanding performance, all on a platform that is easy to personalize.
Like the Roadliner and Stratoliner, the Deluxe model is powered by Yamaha’s biggest motor, the air-cooled, pushrod, 48-degree V-twin displacing 1,854cc—or a whopping 113 cubic inches. As for that technology claim, the bike comes with four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder, Mikuni electronic fuel injection and dual counter-rotating balancers, all of it set into an aluminum frame and swingarm. It also delivers in terms of styling with its tapered pushrod tubes and machined fin edges, chromed oil lines, valve covers and some chromed engine cases, steel fenders and those neo-classic chromed strips along the front of its 4.5-gallon flangeless tank. Add in that streamlined front end with flowing turn signals, and rear signals that are as pointy as Madonna’s bra and that large V-shaped LED taillight, and you’ve got an impressively styled machine.
Yamaha invited the press to its facility in Cypress, California, last February to introduce the new Deluxe, and to put several hundred miles on the bikes during an overnight ride to Rancho Mirage. In loading the bike, I found the locking saddlebags cavernous, holding a claimed 13.7 gallons (as opposed to the base Stratoliner’s 10.3-gallon bags). They open with one touch on the button and the lids pivot outward. They’ll likely swallow your gear, and bags liners will be available.
The new fork-mounted fairing is a blend of polycarbonate and ABS, color-matched to the bike, and wide enough to provide hand coverage. Yamaha considered its shorty wind deflector (rather than a full windscreen) to be more in keeping with the bike’s style, and if you saw our May issue you’ll appreciate that it’s a direct competitor with the Victory Cross Country and Harley-Davidson Street Glide tested there.
The fairing drops low over the ignition switch, which complicates accessing it. With its 12-hole injectors the bike starts immediately when cold and runs cleanly. That big motor presents a pleasant, visceral pulsing, clutch pull is moderate and with power coming on from about 2,000 rpm starting out is easy. Shifting is very low effort with the heel/toe shifter, and that easily modulated clutch makes low-speed maneuvers easy and confident. Power reaches the rear wheel through belt final drive.
The rider sits on a well-padded seat, taking in a large retro-look, tank-mounted speedometer that resembles one from a 1950s automobile or radio; a tiny, round tach and fuel gauge are set into it. It’s a long reach to the widely placed grips; this may be a problem for shorter riders, along with the fact that the levers are not adjustable. The heel/toe shifter, however, is adjustable.
Rumble along the highway and the windblast hits the rider at about midhelmet level, with very little wind reaching the legs. Accessory fairing lowers are coming, and will bolt to other Stratoliners as well (as will the saddlebags and fairing). For entertainment value Yamaha has equipped the Deluxe with a set of speakers into which the rider is encouraged to plug an iPod, MP3 player or similar audio device. It can be placed in a small pocket about 8 inches long, and secured with a hook-and-loop strap. Though the tunes were windblown while riding I could actually hear and identify the songs, which indicates that wind noise and helmet buffeting are at acceptable levels. The system is also speed-sensitive, which means that volume is automatically increased with speed and decreased as you come to a stop.
Yamaha also gave the Deluxe powerful brakes, providing dual four-piston calipers to the front discs and a two-piston to the rear. This, combined with the bike’s easy handling and huge, pulsing, powerful motor added to the feeling of confidence and security.
Wrapped in a package that includes the functional and stylish fairing with those high-capacity saddlebags the Star Stratoliner Deluxe is a very pleasant, high-end traveling machine. Add in the very competitive $17,490 price tag and it’s a compelling package.
2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe Specifications Chart:
Base Price: $17,490
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 48-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 x 118.0mm
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 67.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 31.3 degrees/6.0 in.
Seat Height: 27.8 in.
Claimed Dry/Wet Weight: NA
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
Average mpg: NA