2004 Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture

Text: Warren Sobat • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

It's big. It's black. It gleams with lacquered paint and brilliant chrome. The Midnight Venture muscles its way past the large displacement metric cruisers to sit atop the heap as the undisputed champion in the tourer class.

Continuing with a model run available since 1999, Yamaha upped the ante this year with a special edition - The Midnight Venture. Parts of the cosmetic makeover that distinguish it from the standard Venture include all black paint, some extra chrome, and studded accents on the rider and passenger seats.

Basically unchanged since its release and since Honda ceased manufacture of its Valkyrie Interstate line, the Venture remains unchallenged in the Japanese "full dresser" cruiser niche.

Most noticeable are the Venture's behemoth proportions. This thing outclasses all full-dress cruisers - domestic and imported - in wheelbase and overall length. An enormous fairing crowns the front end and reaches its zenith at the single 12-volt halogen headlight. With its large lower fairings, the Venture cuts quite a wake on the highway while leaving passenger and rider undisturbed by turbulence.

Power is good, owing to the Venture's 1300cc (79ci) liquid-cooled V4 engine. Opening the throttle produces a mellow exhaust note that builds with speed but without discomforting decibels. The gearing is tall - great on the Interstate - delivering a smooth cruising-speed ride. Once the revs are up, however, the big Royal Star pulls hard with a good linear feel. But this same gearing also makes low-speed maneuvers through parking lots a bit dicey for the 887-pound Venture.

Getting the claimed 97 horsepower to pavement starts with a hydraulically actuated clutch and five-speed transmission with fifth-gear overdrive. The pull on the lever is smooth and easy, but engagement on our test model was far enough out for me to start doubting whether or not the bike was in neutral (leading to more ungainly maneuvers when pulling away from a stop). A heel-toe type gear selector sits atop a generous floorboard and makes shifting a breeze. The Venture tranny did not exhibit the typical Yamaha notchiness and gear selection was clean. High-speed changes were not an issue. A low-maintenance shaft final drive delivers all this power to the rear wheel.

Once up and moving, the Venture's chassis delivers well for its size. The handlebars are wide and low, allowing for great rider inputs. Ground clearance for in-town cornering is way above average with few touchdowns on the floorboards. At speed on canyon roads, the bike exceeded expectations for a cruiser of its girth. The massive chrome, air-adjustable forks soaked up ripples and delivered wide smiles despite the fact that sporting duties are not its forte.

A single shock in the rear (also air-adjustable) is cleverly hidden for that "hard-tail" look and performance is up to its targeted touring work.

On the highway, the Venture is almost flawless. Low-speed vibrations from the engine virtually disappear at Interstate speed. The high windshield punches a hole through the atmosphere with little buffeting and quick lane changes are like another day at the park.

Brakes are up to the task. The 298mm dual fronts requiring only a modest effort to haul this big baby in, and the single 320mm disc handles stopping duties out back.

The Venture is all about touring and the rider accommodations reflect this. Seating is very comfortable with hands and feet in a natural position for long-distance riding. Passenger arrangements are Barcalounger style with a wrap-around backrest and commodious floorboards.

A retro-styled speedometer accents the cockpit, but the LCD indicator with fuel gauge, odometer and trip mileage counter does detract from its circa 1960s General Motors looks. The Venture comes complete with AM/FM cassette stereo, CB and rider/passenger communications wiring. A handlebar-mounted controller handles all of the acoustic selections with relatively little confusion, and the tape player is cleverly hidden behind an insignia panel on the dashboard. A trunk-mounted CD changer is also available from Yamaha.

Stowage aboard is plentiful. The large trunk will swallow two full-face helmets with ease and top-loading panniers leave plenty more room for a three-day jaunt for two without batting an eye. A trunk rack is also available for more storage capacity. Fit and finish quality on the Venture's bags isn't up to snuff. The lids felt somewhat flimsy and it took some doing to get the "auto prop-rod" on the trunk closed at times.

As usual with the entire "Star" line of cruisers from Yamaha, a host of billet and chrome accessories is available for customizing this rig.

The Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture is a gorgeous luxury-touring mount. And the classic lines and styling might have most thinking it has a Milwaukee pedigree until they get a closer look. Its low-maintenance engine and chassis should garner wide appeal and its road-going manners are bound to please almost anyone - from those just returning to the sport to seasoned veterans. Such attractive characteristics come at a price though - $ 16.499 for the standard Venture and almost $ 17,000 for the Midnight model - placing it in direct competition with Harley's Electra-Glide Classic although this big, beautiful Baby Huey should be easier to come by.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

2004 Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture

Retail Price $ 16,499 - Base model, $ 16.999 - Midnight Venture
Warranty 5 Year, unlimited mile with 24 hour roadside assistance
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/every 4,000 miles (1,000/6,400/every 6.400km)
Importer/Distributor Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A 6555 Katella Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630 phone (800) 962-7926
www.yamaha-motor.com

Engine
Type 70 degree V4
Cooling liquid
Valve Arrangement DOHC
Bore & Stroke 79mm x 66mm
Displacement 1294cc (79ci)
Compression Ratio 10:1
Carburetion (4) 32mm Mikuni Constant Velocity
Exhaust Emission Control air injection system

Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch hydraulic
Final Drive shaft

Chassis
Frame single backbone
Wheelbase 1704mm (67.1in.)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)61°/29°
Trail 152mm (5.98in.)
Front Suspension fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.7in.)
Adjustments air adjustable for spring rate
Travel 142.2mm (5.6in.)
Rear Suspension single shock link type
Adjustments air adjustable for spring rate
Travel 104mm (4.1in.)

Wheels & Tires
Type 7-spoke cast aluminum
Front 16M/C x MT 3.5 tubeless, bias ply
Rear 15M/C x MT 4.0 tubeless, bias ply
Front Tire 150/80-16
Rear Tire 150/90-15

Brakes
Front Brake dual discs
Diameter 298mm (11.7in.)
Rear Brake single disc
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Combining no

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 74.9cm (29.5in)
Dry-Weight 366kg (807lbs)
Fuel Capacity 22.7l (6gal.)

Performance
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)98hp
Torque 89 ft-lbs
Top Speed na
Acceleration na
Fuel Consumption 6.5/100km (35.8mpg)
Fuel Range 349km (215mls)

Equipment Odometer, dual trip meters, fuel trip meter, clock fuel gauge, cruise control, indicator lights for nuetral, high beam, turn signals and low oil level handlebar mounted CB Radio and AM/FM/cassette controls 4-speaker sound system with speed regulated volume pre-wired rider/passenger intercom

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 4/5

Chassis 3/5

Brakes 4/5

Comfort 5/5

Luggage w/accessories 5/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 5/5

Bike for the buck 4/5