2010 Star® Stratoliner Deluxe

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

With "baggers" being the hottest trend in the cruiser scene right now and cruisers being the best sellers of all motorcycle categories, we enjoyed a couple days in Southern California riding the new 2010 Star® Stratoliner Deluxe bagger. Star Motorcycles - Yamaha's cruiser division - is now the top-selling metric cruiser brand in this hotly contested market.

Many cruiser enthusiasts are literally and figuratively tired of the poor ergonomics they've experienced on so-called "factory custom cruisers" in the past, and they want a more functional touring machine. Starting with its flagship Roadliner, the Star folks answered the call by adding a bat-wing fairing, an iPod®/MP3-based audio system, hard saddlebags, and comfortable seats to produce another solid choice for the touring-bike buyer.

Powertrain

Externally the 48-degree, 113-cubic-inch (1854cc), air-cooled pushrod V-twin (which is shared with the other Roadliner and Stratoliner models) appears quite conventional. Inside, however, there are some high-tech features such as four valve heads, two spark plugs per cylinder, twin-bore 43mm Mikuni EFI throttle bodies with 12-hole injectors, and ceramic-composite cylinder liners. The dry sump oiling system employs piston coolers and an oil cooler for durability.

With its huge 100mm bore and 118mm stroke, the engine is the most powerful mass produced air-cooled V-twin motorcycle engine on the market. Designed for high torque at low rpm, Star claims a peak of 91 horsepower and 117 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel. An EXUP valve broadens the torque band, and peak torque arrives at a low 2,500 rpm. A three-way catalytic converter lowers emissions and the muffler can be changed without removing the catalyst.

The Stratoliner accelerates effortlessly and easily passes slower traffic, rarely requiring a downshift. The torquey engine pulls strongly from 2,000 rpm to its redline at 5,000 revs and turns a leisurely 3,300 at 75 mph. Twin counter-rotating balancers help keep vibration under control, while maintaining that desired big-twin power pulse. Only mild vibrations can be felt while cruising down the highway, yet plenty of V-twin character, sound, and feel still gets through. Hydraulic clutch actuation requires only moderate lever effort for easy modulation, and the slick-shifting five-speed transmission makes finding neutral easy and we never missed a gear. The belt final drive is quiet, smooth, and nearly maintenance free.

Chassis

The Strato Deluxe chassis features a stiff aluminum frame and die-cast aluminum swingarm for high strength with lighter weight than steel. Suspension consists of a hefty non-adjustable 46mm fork and a preload-adjustable rear shock. The threaded preload adjuster requires the removal of a saddlebag for access and a spanner wrench adjustment. A system with a remote knob would make changing settings for a passenger more convenient.

Powerful braking with excellent feedback comes from four-piston Mono-block front calipers with 298mm floating rotors and a 320mm rear disc and single-piston caliper. Polished, 12-spoke, cast-aluminum wheels are fitted with radial tires: a 130/70-18 front and 190/60-17 rear.

Out on the road, the Strato delivers a comfortable, compliant ride that makes most bumps disappear, yet it maintains enough control to ride fairly aggressively on twisty mountain roads. Steering is neutral and surprisingly light, low-speed handling and U-turns are easy, and the bike is stable at speed. Plus overall handling and grip are very good, even when the floorboards are scraping in a turn. The Strato holds a line well through a corner and tracks true on straightaways.

Ergonomics

Both the bat-wing fairing and low windscreen do a good job of reducing windblast from the torso and directing air around the rider without helmet buffeting. Inside the fairing, an iPod-compatible audio system with an integrated amplifier powered by the bike kicks out sound through dual weatherproof 5-inch speakers. A left-hand control and speed-sensitive auto-volume adjustment provide great sound, although there's no radio and you can't directly select specific songs on the go.

The wide handlebar seems exaggerated, but provides plenty of leverage for a light steering feel. We found the wide front seat comfortable and there's a small lip at the rear that you can rest your lumbar against. Passenger seating is likewise comfy, although the footpegs seem to be mounted too high. The folding floorboards are nicely positioned for comfort and have replaceable wear pads. A two-piece shifter with heel and toe pads is fully adjustable, which allows for the riding position to be varied.

Instrumentation consists of a large centrally located analog speedometer, flanked by a small analog tachometer and fuel gauge. Twin LCD trip meters, a fuel-trip meter, and odometer use digital readouts, and there are the usual high beam, neutral, turn, and engine indicator lamps. The instruments are located low on the gas tank, which requires the rider to look away from the road longer to read them, compared to gauges mounted higher.

Styling of the integrated hard bags is sleek, and the single lock/pushbutton latch makes operating them a cinch. At 51.7 liters of combined capacity, the saddlebags are larger than any previously offered by Star, and they provide very useable space with a generous top opening. They don't fit a helmet, but there's a cable lock under the seat. Optional removable bag liners make it easy to carry luggage to and from the bike. Other new accessories designed for the Stratoliner Deluxe include saddlebag guards and trim rails, a smoked wind deflector, taller windscreen, touring handlebars, an MP-3 adapter cable, and more in development. Fairing and saddlebag retrofit kits will also be available for earlier model Roadliners and Stratoliners. We saw special chrome accessorized models with custom paint, as well as a bike fitted with JPD Fairing Lowers designed by Jeff Palhegyi. Target availability is Summer 2010 and prices haven't been announced.

Final Thoughts

With the Stratoliner Deluxe, Star has introduced a worthy contender in the bagger category. It's a solid, nicely designed, stylish, and well-built machine that displays excellent fit and finish. With its powerful engine, smooth gearbox, relaxing upright riding posture, comfortable seat, plus good wind protection, ride and handling, it delivers fair value relative to its competitors at an MSRP of $ 17,490. Star's Stratoliner Deluxe should be available at your Yamaha/Star dealer this Spring.