Western North Carolina has some of the finest motorcycle roads in the United States, many of which just happen to be a stone's throw from the palatial confines of the RoadRUNNER offices. So when we got an offer to visit beautiful Asheville and spend a very unconfined day riding Star Motorcycles' brand-new V Star 1300 - well, let's just say no one heard any clatter from my keyboard for a while.
There was a time not long ago when an invitation to ride a mid-sized cruiser would have landed me aboard Honda's Shadow 750, Yamaha's Virago 750, or maybe Harley-Davidson's 883 Sportster®. My, how times have changed. The displacement détente that seemed to pacify the cruiser world throughout the 1980s and early '90s has given way to an all-out, custom-fueled jug war that has seen 750cc go from an engine's size to a cylinder's volume. Yep, bigger is better, and the "super-size me" attitude now has middle-of-the-road V-twins hovering in the 1300 to 1500cc range. But before my quibbles about change begin sounding like the incessant ramblings of a crotchety old coot pining for the "glory days" of outhouses, ringer washers, and 600cc cruisers, allow me to profess my belief in the good ol' American axiom that "there's no replacement for displacement." That said, it should also be noted that there's no substitute for excellent engineering. And you can rest assured that Star Motorcycles has embraced both ideas in creating the "mid-size" V Star 1300, a ride that carries all the big-bike amenities without the big-bike foibles.
Despite the fact that the cruiser market's demands have pushed cylinder capacities beyond the 2000cc realm, it still must be noted that a 1300cc V-twin and the resultant chassis needed to carry it is no small machine by any stretch of the imagination. Yet somehow the folks at Star Motorcycles have managed to create an easy-to-ride package that defies and, arguably, redefines exactly what a "mid-size" cruiser should be.
First off, it's important to know that the V Star 1300 is not a rehashed V Star 1100 - it's an entirely new motorcycle. Designers focused on developing the "sensual character" and feel of a big cruiser without compromising the easy handling and light weight of the smaller V Star 1100. Before I even left the parking lot, it was obvious that this ride hides its girth well. With the V Star 1300 tipping the scales at nearly 700 pounds wet, I fully expected a low-speed sumo match. Instead, I was surprised by an almost gymnastic agility that was compromised only by the wide bars hitting my knees during full-lock turnarounds, a gripe easily worked around. Combine an inseam friendly, 28-inch seat height and a low center of gravity with the fact that 48 percent of the bike's weight is on the front wheel and you end up with a nimble ride despite its robust proportions. Out on the open road, the impressive handling continues to shine. Whether on the smooth, easy turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway or on some of the area's bumpier mountain lanes, the V Star handled it all with confidence-inspiring stability. Thanks to the rigid mounted engine acting as a stressed member of the all-new, double-cradle steel frame, even vigorous cornering is rewarded with steadiness, precision, and quite often with the grin-inspiring sound of the replaceable floorboard feelers slinging sparks across the asphalt.
Though not adjustable, the 41mm conventional fork does allow a respectable, well damped, 5.3 inches of wheel travel. The rear suspender is a preload adjustable, link-type single shock that provides 4.3 inches of travel. On the whole, the stock settings were quite satisfactory for both highway and byway duties and handled my 185-pound frame with ease.
Dual, four-pot calipers and 298mm rotors manage the braking duties up front, and a single 298mm disc with a single-pot, pin-slide caliper takes care of the rear. Both were quite easy to modulate and aroused no major beefs whether backing down the pace in the twisties or negotiating around-town traffic.
The Center Of It All
We all know the heart and soul of any motorcycle is the motor. And like everything else on the V Star 1300, this 1304cc, SOHC, 60-degree, four-valve V-twin is brand new. At a glance, this eighty-incher may seem old school, but a host of modern touches have this Star positioned on the cruiser world's cutting edge. Topping the list of modern amenities are liquid cooling and an electronic fuel injection featuring dual 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole fuel injector nozzles. These two systems work in concert with a three-way honeycomb catalyst and an O2 sensor within the two-into-one exhaust, allowing the V Star 1300 to exceed stringent '08 EPA and EU3 emissions requirements.
Despite all the perceived extra plumbing, throttle response is remarkably crisp at any engine speed and the single-pin crankshaft exhaust note pulses with classic cruiser appeal. As for the liquid cooling, don't fret about radiators and hoses spoiling the visuals. Star's engineers went the extra mile to produce a clean, uncluttered look, routing the coolant and oil lines not only within the crankcase, but on top of and below the engine as well. These hoses, like the slim radiator mounted between the frame's front down tubes, are practically invisible, making the brushed cooling fins appear all the more authentic.
For a big, double banger, the V Star is a remarkably smooth bike to ride. Single axis, double crankshaft balancers on the left and right sides act in concert to subdue the annoying high-frequency, teeth-chattering vibrations often associated with big twins. The good news is they still allow plenty of that characteristic beefy V-twin pulsation to shine through. Keeping with the smoothness theme, the buttery ride of the 1300 is also enhanced by a carbon-fiber reinforced belt drive and a five-speed tranny with tall gear ratios allowing for more relaxed cruising speeds.
The Total Package
Technical intricacies, handling, and performance are all important aspects to ponder when it comes to buying a motorcycle. But, let's face it, in the cruiser realm, stylin' on the boulevard is what really keeps units rolling out the door. And judging by the looks of the V Star 1300, dealers' doors should be swinging off the hinges. From the low profile, flangeless fuel tank to the throwback lines of the genuine steel front and rear fenders, this ride screams classic appeal with a thoroughly modern voice. Easy to read analog gauges work perfectly with the long, chrome-enhanced, retro-look headlight nacelle, and the wide bars offer up a relaxed seating position atop the spacious, comfortable saddle. Given the 1300's clean looks and understated lines, the sky's the limit for personalization. A huge selection of options is available from Star Motorcycles' accessory catalog to make your new V Star a one of a kind ride.
Road warriors, never fear; I've saved the best for last. For those who just can't resist the call of pie and coffee three states away, the V Star 1300 is also available in full touring trim. The V Star 1300 Tourer rolls off the showroom floor complete with a touring windshield, passenger backrest, and leather-wrapped, lockable, hard saddlebags boasting a 42-liter storage capacity. That should be enough to cure nearly any case of wanderlust.
After a day aboard the V Star 1300, I walked away impressed. Initially skeptical about the "mid-size" cruiser branding, I was converted within a few miles. Though the bike is big - and it is heavy, the engineers at Star did an excellent job keeping both low and highway speed handling light, easy, and very responsive. The 1304cc V-twin, while no neck jerker, fits the cruiser bill perfectly. It provides plenty of easygoing power and that "big pulse" that makes these types of bikes so appealing for a laid-back weekend ride. Whether you want to step up to a mid-size cruiser, to step back from something larger, or to step across and test the waters in the custom pool, Star Motorcycles' V Star 1300 should be on your long, hard look list.
Star Motorcycles V Star 1300
+ comfort, light-weight feel, accessories
- ground clearance, five-speed
Distributor Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.
MSRP $ 10,090 (Tourer $ 11,190 - $ 11,390)
Engine 60° V-twin, SOHC, 8 valve
Bore x Stroke 100mm x 83mm
Carburetion EFI w/ 40mm throttle bodies
Power 76.8hp / 81.8 ft lbs torque
Ignition TCI w/ 32 bit ECU
Frame double cradle steel
Front Suspension 41mm fork, 5.3in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, link-type,4.3in travel
Rake/trail 32.7°/5.7in (145mm)
Brakes Front/Rear two 298mm discs, 4 pot calipers / one 298mm disc 1 pot caliper.
Tires Front/Rear 130/90 x 16, 170/70 x 16
Dry Weight 624lbs (283kg), Tourer 668lbs (302kg)
Wheelbase 66.5in (1690mm)
Seat Height 28in (710mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.9gal (18.5l)
Fuel consumption n/a
Colors Raven, Galaxy blue, Candy red; Tourer: Raven, Candy red, Liquid silver/Charcoal silver