Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Looking out of the window I can only see a grey curtain hanging over Morro Bay, CA. There is only one bright spot on the horizon today - the prospect of riding one of the 15 brand-new 2004 Yamaha Road Stars that Brad Banister's Yamaha Team presents to the traveling press.

Drizzle and sunshine
After a one hour briefing finally I get the key to activate a pearl-white beauty, and just like we practiced seven journalists and a handful of Yamaha guys start their bikes at the same time and the deep chorus rumbles. At that moment, other guests at the Morro Bay Inn may have stirred in their slumber thinking of thunderstorms.

Our tour begins and Brad guides Paul, George, and me out of town. On Hwy 1, I feel the smooth power delivery when I open the throttle a bit more and let the 1670cc V-twin start its work. At the first stoplight, Brad runs through part of the huge cruiser's impressive repertoire: stoppies, slides, and a little burnout.

The atmospherics at play in the grey curtain worsen and somewhere near Cambria it starts to drizzle and later, on Hwy 46, the bottom falls out with thick drops pelting my helmet. But even on the wet surface this 735 pounds of bike handles well. Around Paso Robles the rain is falling extremely hard and Brad decides we should stop at a nice bakery along Hwy 46. A sharp left turn surprises us. Following my strong pull on the right lever, the newly designed dual-front 298mm brake discs and their four-piston monoblock calipers change my mind about cruisers and one of the knocks against them - their weak brakes. Yamaha understands not only sport bikes need excellent brakes; stopping heavy bikes in a short distance is equally important. These brakes are certainly critical components of the new model.

We enjoy our coffee stop and banter about our first impressions of the new bike. The brakes and the engine are the major points of discussion. George thinks the Road Star doesn't need as much power, but the brakes overwhelm him. Paul has a big smile on his face. "The power and acceleration is great," he says.

We turn to the expert for the scoop - "What is really new about this model?" - and Brad fills in the 'exciting' details, saying, "An air-cooled, pushed V-twin displacing 1,602cc is nothing to sneeze at. Bore it out two millimeters to 1670cc, and you can put away your hankie for good. We are talking 97mm forged pistons - nearly four inches in diameter - working in cylinders with ceramic composite liners, for increased durability, better sealing and excellent heat dissipation. New rocker arms inside new stiffer rocker boxes have been shortened for reduced inertia and higher rpm capability. Rocker ratio has gone from 1.9:1 to 1.4:1, while a new, more radical camshaft keeps all eight big valves open longer for increased flow and power production. Intake duration is up from 260 to 268 degrees, while exhaust duration is up from 260 to 284 degrees...A bigger, less restrictive air box gives air and fuel an easier path into each 835cc cylinder, while larger-diameter exhaust pipes let's the big motor breath freely and sound as healthy..."

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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the November/December 2003 back issue.