The 2018 Star Venture: Tradition Meets the Future

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Alfonse Palaima

2018 will be remembered as the year Yamaha unveiled a new range of luxury touring in the form of the Star Venture. The bike is a deliberate cross between tradition and modernity with an alluring mix of big bore V-twin character augmented with the latest in technical gadgetry. And the open road virtually calls one to experience the Venture’s exceptional long-distance comfort and the relaxing thump of its low-revving 113 cubic-inch powerplant.

Yamaha is touting the new Venture (and its stripped-down brother, the Eluder) as a “transcontinental tourer,” capitalizing on its sheer size, which helps deliver a planted ride regardless of conditions. Obviously, the design mandate was comfort, with the Venture possessing sprawled-out and laid-back ergonomics. The essential triangle of points between the relaxed handlebar, the plush seat, and the large floorboards, results in a riding position in which no body part is taxed or strained. The end result is a degree of comfort that makes traversing substantial miles a breeze, with minimal physical fatigue. 

Front and center in the cockpit is the large 7-inch-screen infotainment center, which, after some garage learning—as opposed to trying to learn it while riding—is easily navigated with left-hand switches to set seat and grip heat levels (of which there are many), sound system preferences, GPS navigation (perfect for RoadRUNNER’s 475+ tours), and tracking all of the necessary mechanical aspects on long hauls. 

The fairing design provides a cockpit free of turbulence and builds in several options for redirecting wind flow to suit temperature. In addition to the electronically adjusted windscreen there are adjustable side fairing deflectors and lower leg vents. The Venture also has small winglets to guard the hands against wind, which are highly effective in cold riding. Even at speed, the cockpit is void of any backpressure or the swirling vortices that often occur when a fairing redirects that much airflow.

V-Twin Soul

The soul, the sound, and the character of the Venture is its air-cooled, 113-cubic-inch/1854cc push rod V-twin, in traditional configuration, but without the customary vibration. Thanks to primary-drive shock dampers, engine sound dampers, and twin counterbalancers, the throaty powerplant has an unexpected smoothness that slips it into the 21st century without losing any of the raw pulse of a V-twin. The reward is an affecting riding experience that mixes comfort and technical advancements with good old visceral response.

Most impressive in terms of performance is the Venture’s 126 lb-ft. of torque, with the peak arriving at just 2500 rpm. That delivers a lusciously useable low-end which helps make the Venture’s heft disappear. That level of bottom end, when combined with the smooth and predictable response of the light pull clutch, translates to positive engagement and easy starts from a dead stop, as well as providing confidence at extremely slow riding speeds—an essential asset when piloting a large machine like the Venture. The clutch has slipper-assist functionality that smooths out downshifts. Although the rev-limiter is very quickly reached (4500 rpm), there’s plenty of muscle in the lower register to deliver a thrilling riding experience that’s uncommon among long-distance touring machines. 

There are two engine modes; Touring and Sport, which can be switched on the move. The two modes invoke radically different character in the Venture, with the Touring setting providing mellow response and smoothing out shifts, while the Sport setting renders a much crisper throttle response—albeit potentially at the cost of the heightened response being transmitted to the passenger.

Despite the long shift throw, the 6-speed transmission provides smooth, succinct gear changes with sixth gear acting as overdrive, rendering freeway speeds at low rpm. The syncopated thump of the Venture’s heart at cruising speed has a kind of meditative effect, helping to effortlessly soak up the miles.

Deceptive Presence 

The single most deceptive aspect of the Venture, given its size, is its manageability. For a big motorcycle, tipping the scales at 963 pounds wet, it’s surprisingly agile. This is due to a concerted effort to centralize mass, keeping everything extremely low in the new steel chassis. This is exemplified in the low seat height of 27.4 inches. The low center of gravity becomes evident the moment you pull the Venture off its side stand. Once upright I wasn’t concerned with balancing the weight, as the welcome narrowness of the V-twin allows unfettered leg reach and a firmly planted, flat-footed stance.

Detouring from the highway onto small twisting backroads, the Venture pleasantly surprises with uncanny sportiness. That may sound incongruous for such a large touring machine, but the Venture exhibits excellent turn-in and responsiveness when ridden hard, with the front end intuitively transferring rider input directly to line choice. Once again, this attribute of sportiness is greatly heightened by the abundant torque, which allows the sheer bulk of the Venture to be tamed with subtle inputs of throttle. 

Other contributing factors to the Venture’s alter ego as a spirited backroad mount are the brakes and suspension. Linked ABS standard, the brakes are powerful enough to get the Venture slowed and stopped with minimal effort. The bike responds well to aggressive rear brake application in tight corners and trailing the rear brake deep into corners serves to plant the bike and get it turned quite effectively. Then, on exiting the turn, ease back into the throttle and feel the exhilarating pull of all that torque. The suspension soaks it all up with efficiency, bolstered by traction control. I rode the Venture like this on tight, winding roads (on sometimes choppy surfaces) for hundreds of miles and never felt exhausted or strained—just pure, unmitigated riding fun.

As a “transcontinental tourer,” the Venture provides adjustability for both rider and passenger in terms of creature comforts: heated seats with a broad spectrum of adjustments (the passenger being in control of their own settings); speakers arranged for surround sound; and long floorboards and passenger platforms (two settings) that permit a wide range of foot placements, which helps to work out any kinks in the legs simply by altering position. The available 38 gallons of storage space (side bags, top box, and various little compartments combined) provide a healthy amount of room for packing for the long haul. And with a fuel capacity of 6.6 gallons and averaging 35 mpg, the Venture will easily travel 225 miles between gas stops.

Signature Perk

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Venture is the “Sure-Park System.” When briefed on its use, I honestly felt I would have little need for it. How wrong that assessment was. The Venture is a large and heavy machine, which can become a challenge when maneuvering tight, questionable spaces for parking. The system works with an independent electric motor being engaged (engine running or not) with a special lever. The bike can then be moved in forward or reverse at extremely low speed via a left handlebar toggle switch. By the end of my four-day tour, use of the Sure-Park System became second nature, especially whenever the surface was slippery, on gravel or grass. It makes moving that 963 pounds of Venture an absolute breeze and provides insurance against dropping this beautiful machine. 

A Small Drizzle on the Parade

If I had one complaint about the new Venture it would be in the limited spread of the headlight beam when cornering tight switchbacks at night. Despite the highly effective LED lighting, and even using the fog lamps and high beam, when leaned over, there was a serious black void right at the space I was steering into (granted, I was engaging in some serious lean angle, which contributed to the limited throw of the lamp). That truly was the only complaint I had over a 1,000-mile tour and at that, it arose from a specific scenario many riders will never encounter.

The Venture is a multi-faceted motorcycle, a transcontinental touring mount that, if desired, is capable of some spirited riding. The end result is a surprisingly versatile motorcycle that can handle long distances as well as twisting backroads, and it’s ready to tackle almost any route you choose when it comes to seeing this big country called America. 

The Star Venture, as aesthetically pleasing as it is technically well endowed. The marriage of a large displacement V-twin and advanced technology results in a level of performance, comfort, and ride-ability that essentially brings the four corners of America much closer together. 

The Star Venture provides an astonishing combined volume of 37.3 gallons of storage spread over the topcase, side bags, and upper and lower fairing compartments. The Transcontinental Package adds a pair of passenger compartments, increasing storage capacity to 38 gallons.