"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"
"Wow, this bike is big." That's my first thought on seeing the 2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe, and I felt a bit intimidated by the sheer bulk of the machine I'd be cruising around the back roads of Charlottesville, Virginia, the next day. Also, I personally prefer short handlebars and rear-set foot pegs. So, what were they thinking when sending me out to ride this bike? I'm not a cruiser guy. Oh, well  -  it looks like I am now, or I will be by tomorrow morning.

The day of the ride proves to be a bit foreboding. The skies are gray and the air is heavy with mist, but at least there's no rain, yet. My initial concern about the girth of the Royal Star proves to be unfounded as soon as I settle into the spacious seat. Sure, the bike is heavy  -  844 pounds ready to ride  -  yet its low center of gravity allows it to be balanced with ease. A thumb to the starter brings the V-4 to life. The solid mounted, counter-balanced engine is smooth but it retains enough of a pulse to let you know it's alive. Maybe a ride on this big ol' bike won't be so bad after all. It seems to have an attitude; maybe I'll just have to find mine.

Engine and Transmission

The 1,298cc power plant is a torque monster. You won't win any drag races, but that's not what this machine is about. At 98 horsepower and 89 foot-pounds of torque, it's on the low end where this Star shines. The five-speed transmission shifts smoothly, yet shifting it isn't needed that often. The big V-4 just lugs you around effortlessly no matter the speed or the gear. The overdrive fifth is pretty much just for the highway and fourth will do for most other situations. Only the steeper hills caused the engine to plea for third. The power is sent to the rear wheel by way of a smooth, low-maintenance drive shaft. I have to mention the heel shifter, too, only because I've never ridden a bike with one before. A neat feature, but it did take some getting used to. (Hey, cut the rookie some slack. Like I said, I'm new to this.) And all in all, it's a nice engine and transmission package for that cruising state of mind.


Can a large motorcycle be manageable? In a word, yes. Yamaha has seen to it that the Royal Star belies some of its mass. The spec sheet says it is 98.6 inches long and 39.8 inches wide. That's 8.2 feet long by 3.3 feet wide. I've stayed in motel rooms smaller than that. Well, at least it felt that way at the time. But seriously, for a bike of its size it is relatively easy to maneuver. The low 29.1-inch seat height combined with extra wide handlebars make for surprisingly nimble handling both in the parking lot and on the road.

What about the suspension, you may ask. In stock trim it seems to work fairly well. Riding on back roads, some of so-so quality and often wet, the big Star felt stable and well planted. There were no surprises, a good quality coming from an 800+ pound machine. The suspension on both ends is air adjustable allowing for a wide load range. Stopping duties are performed by two disc brakes up front and one quite large disc in the rear. Braking action felt somewhat soft and seemed to require a bit of effort to bring the big boy to a stop. That said, conditions and experience color that impression. We were riding in wet weather and I am used to significantly lighter machines.

Fit and Finish

Yamaha has really done its homework on the Royal Star Tour Deluxe. They have taken one model and essentially created two fairly distinct motorcycles. The bike comes from the dealer with a windshield and a backrest, both very easily detachable with no tools required. Literally, with the flick of a switch you can lose these items and change from an open-road touring machine to a boulevard cruiser. Standard as well are 9.3-gallon hard side bags that are waterproof and capable of holding up to 20 pounds. The bags are also key lockable, a great feature when it comes time to park the bike and go in for a bite to eat.

Comfort is another issue the Yamaha engineers have addressed quite successfully. The seat is unbelievably comfortable. I was on the bike for six hours or more on the day of the ride and never noticed the seat. That, my friends, is high praise. Another welcome feature is protection from the elements. As mentioned earlier, we didn't have the nicest weather for the ride. The day offered up low clouds, mist and occasional rain showers  -  not so great for riding, but great for stress testing the weatherproofing. Frankly, it worked quite well. The bottom line is, the rain gear never came out and that's a good thing. Another nice touch to note is the addition of cruise control. This setup works just like the automotive cruise controls and comes standard on all Royal Star Tour Deluxe models. There are many other nifty touches to be found on this bike. Lots of chrome everywhere. Custom, extra-wide clutch and brake levers along with the retro-styled speedometer top off the cruiser look.

Attitude and Lifestyle

Now, back to that attitude thing we talked about earlier. It took half the day to find mine. When you ride a bike like the Royal Star you have to open your mind to encompass more than just the nuts and bolts of the machine. Speed, acceleration, handling and braking become more like footnotes than features. Don't get me wrong; these aspects are important and well addressed. Just as important, though, is the feel and the attitude the machine instills, aspects well studied by Yamaha engineers. Once I got it through my sport-touring head that this bike is as much about attitude as riding I began to "get it." Slipping into a cruiser state of mind really does seem to make the ride better. Slow down, chill out, kick back, enjoy the ride and, of course, you'll look good doing it.

Yamaha has embraced this mindset and this lifestyle. They offer over 1,000 accessories in the Star line to personalize machine and look. Style and comfort is the name of the game. And unless you just absolutely bleed black and orange, the Royal Star Tour Deluxe could easily fill your cruiser needs with a good heap of touring thrown in for good measure.

Technical Specs

Retail Price $ 13,999
Warranty 5-year unlimited mileagewith 24-hour roadside assistance
Maintenance Schedule 600/4000/every 4000 miles (1,000/6,400/every 6,400km)
Importer/Distributor Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A.

Type 70 degree V4
Cooling liquid
Valve Arrangement DOHC
Bore & Stroke 79mm x 66mm
Displacement 1294cc
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Carburetion (4) 32mm constant velocity
Exhaust Emission Control air injection system

Gearbox 5 speed w/5th gear overdrive
Clutch hydraulic
Final Drive shaft

Frame double cradle
Wheelbase 1715mm (67.5in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)61° / 29°
Trail 131mm (5.16in)
Front Suspension fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.7in)
Adjustments air adjustable
Travel 140mm (5.5in)
Rear Suspension single shock link type
Adjustments air adjustable
Travel 105mm (4.1in)

Wheels & Tires
Type 7-spoke cast aluminum
Front 16xMT3.50 tubeless, bias ply
Rear 15xMT4.00 tubeless, bias ply
Front Tire 150/80-16
Rear Tire 150/90-15

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

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height
740mm (29.1in)
Dry-Weight 357kg (787lb)
Fuel Capacity 20l (5.3gal)

Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)98hp
Torque 89 ft-lbs
Top Speed NA
Acceleration NA
Fuel Consumption NA
Fuel Range NA

Quick release windshield and backrest, electronic cruise control, individual rider/passenger seats, color-matched locking hard bags, 4 into 2 exhaust system with changeable muffler tips, retro "dash" with digital speedometer, dual tripmeters, and fuel gauge

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 3/5
Comfort 5/5
Luggage w/accessories 5/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 5/5
Bike for the buck 4/5