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..."
"Stop! Stop! Enough already! Look, the sun is coming out and I would like to lean this bike at least 30 degrees into the corners on Vineyard Drive," I interject to end Brad's private seminar.
The sunshine spills on the steaming road to the Villa Toscana in Paso Robles as we snake up and down through narrow left and right turns into the Central California vineyards and hills. Despite its extra-long wheelbase of 66.5 inches, the bike handles fine in the corners, and the telescopic 43mm preload adjustable front forks with stainless-steel covers work very well, with 5.5 inches of travel smoothing out the back-road bumps.
After an exceptional Italian lunch buffet and a perfect clean-up job by the Yamaha crew, we hit the road. Highway 41 toward Morro Bay is another road that seems built to test the comfort and handling of the Road Stars. It twists through the golden hills, a breathtaking scene beneath the bright blue sky. My mood soars and I let it fly.
To ensure a comfortable ride Yamaha re-stuffed the Road Star's 28 inch-high seat, making it four millimeters wider, and substantially thicker. A new custom handlebar clamp and new bar-end weights reduce vibration, and the redesigned brake and clutch lever offer improved feel and comfort.
Back in the parking lot at the Inn I couldn't resist spending more time on the road, and headed for a Road Star Silverado, a nice popped-up dresser, with useful side bags, sissy bar, and a windshield to make the ride that much more enjoyable. I grabbed one of these heavy-duty bikes and rode back to Highway 41. Elated, I swung through the curves, still a little amazed by how easily a 780-pound motorcycle handles on sport-bike roads. Shortly before dinner I returned from a great experience that swept 200 miles under the rear end. And somewhere back there each of these new Road Star models ground many of my long-held notions about cruisers into the grit of the road.
Yamaha Road Star
Retail Price Base Model:$ 10,999, White$ 11,199, Black/RedSilverado:$ 12,599, Black Gold Metallic/Beach Sand TanMidnight Star:$ 11,799,Midnight Silverado:$ 13,199
Warranty 1 year, unlimited miles
valves: every 15,000 miles
minor maintenance: every 4000 miles
Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A
6555 Katella Ave., Cypress, Ca 92646
phone (800) 88-Yamaha
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Valve Arrangement 4 Valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams
Bore & Stroke 97x113mm
Compression Ratio 8.3:1
Carburetion 40mm Mikuni CV w/throttle position sensor
Exhaust Emission Control None, no catalyzer
Clutch 9 plate, wet
Final Drive belt drive
Frame trellis frame, cast-aluminum alloy
Wheelbase 1,689mm (66.5in.)
Rake 32 degrees
Trail 142mm (5.6in.)
Front Suspension 43mm (1.7in.) telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.7in.)
Adjustments preload adjustable
Travel 140mm (5.5in.)
Rear Suspension swingarm; separate sub frame positioned under deeply valanced rear fender
Adjustments link-type, preload-adjustable single rear shock
Travel 109mm (4.3in.)
WHEELS & TIRES
Type aluminum cast wheel
Front 16M/C x MT 3.0
Rear 16MC x MT3.50
Front Tire 130/90-16 tube-less
Rear Tire 150/80-16 tube-less
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 298mm (11.7in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 1-piston pin-slide caliper
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES
Seat Height 706mm (27.8 in.)
Wet-Weight 312kg (688 lbs.) dry
Fuel Capacity 20l (5.3gallons)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at clutch)67 hp at the Crank at 4000 rpm
Torque 100.82 ft. lbs. at 2500 rpm
Top Speed n/a
Fuel Consumption n/a
Fuel Range n/a
Aluminum front brake and clutch levers; LED taillight; tank-mounted speedometer with dual trip meter, clock, fuel gauge, low fuel, neutral and engine diagnostic indicator lights.
Dual under seat helmet holders.
ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Luggage w/accessories 3/5
Bike for the buck 5/5