The Stage IV Speedstar-kitted Road Star Warrior is rumbling away beneath me, my eyes are locked on the timing lights and my clutch hand is just keeping the bike from rolling past the staging lights. The next few seconds seem to take an eternity as I feel my heart thumping through my leathers. The Christmas tree lights drop - I twist the throttle and slide out the clutch trying to balance traction and forward motion. The big V-twin catapults from the line, the rpms rise in a deep bass boom from the unrestricted exhaust, and then I hit second gear. Up to redline, shifting by sound, my eyes straight ahead as third gear is selected. I have done it: I have taken the hole-shot and my opponent is nowhere to be seen in my peripheral vision. Holding third gear till right before the rev-limiter, I go for fourth and blow it, and all I can do is watch the other lane fill with the sight of a passing Road Star Warrior. He trips the lights at 12 seconds and I follow close behind. Round two, I take him, but my run is slower and I miss my chance to break into the eleven-second bracket.
I am not unhappy, though. I have never drag raced before, and thanks to Yamaha, my introduction is about as good as it gets. Along with 11 other journalists from around the country, we assembled at the California Speedway outside Los Angeles on a warm, hazy morning. Public Relations Manager Brad Bannister has invited us out to ride Yamaha's new range of Speedstar products that are available for the popular Road Star and the Road Star Warrior cruisers. And, to let us make a direct comparison between the "kitted" bikes and the stock versions, they have brought a handful of each for us to sample.
Starting with a product review meeting, John Powers informs us of the huge 292 percent growth Yamaha has experienced in cruiser sales since 1997. Compare that to an overall growth rate of 135 percent for the industry as a whole, and you can see why Yamaha is enjoying much deserved success here. Break this down further to the over-1201cc segment of the market and Yamaha has experienced a phenomenal growth of 576 percent compared to the industry's 142 percent. Obviously this is a very significant market for Yamaha and, as a company that listens to their customers, they quickly realized the need for a range of performance products. The Star line of accessories has shot up from around 100 items in 1996 to over 750 in 2002, so it only seemed natural to offer more horsepower as another option in the shape of the Speedstar performance kits.
The thing I like most about the Speedstar performance kits is the fact that they are manufactured by Yamaha, can be installed at your local Yamaha dealer, come with a 90-day warranty and do not void your machine's factory warranty - something that cannot be said for aftermarket performance kits. There are a couple of things to be aware of here, though: labor to replace defective parts is not covered and there are exclusions, such as abnormal strain or abuse. Have the kit installed at your local dealer (a six- to eight-hour process), use it as it was intended and all will be fine.
In brief, there is one kit offered for the Road Star Warrior and four for the Road Star, and it must be noted that they are for closed-course competition only. The kit for the Warrior, called the "Stage IV," is said to boost horsepower around 25 percent. Retailing for $ 2,999.95, it gives you new high-compression pistons (stock bore), competition valve springs, and competition camshafts. Also included are: a gasket set to match, a high-flow fuel injector set and a competition 2-1-1 megacone exhaust system to whisk away the burned gasses. To further aid the intake-side of the equation, a competition velocity stack includes pre-filters to keep small children and animals from being sucked into the huge cylinders. A stronger clutch takes the power to the back wheel, and a new Stage IV ECU allows the bike's ignition and fuel map to work with your newly installed performance parts.
The Road Star's performance options are a little more comprehensive, and for all the pertinent details a trip through the 2002 Star Accessories & Apparel catalogue is advised. I can tell you the prices start at $ 459.95 for the Stage I Competition Kit and they go all the way up to $ 4,629.95 for the Stage IV. What you get at this point is a huge 85 percent increase in horsepower. My best times through the quarter mile on the stock Road Star hit the mid-to-high 14-second range compared to 12.847 seconds on the Stage IV-kitted version. Ex-professional drag racer Larry Laye got this down to 12.402 seconds.
Stage I gives you a jet kit, ignition module, and a new competition air filter with a Speedstar cover. Stage IV adds a 45mm Mikuni HSR carburetor, high-compression forged pistons, and a competition gasket set. Above the new pistons, the heads are ported, dual valve springs are used, new competition camshafts installed, and a high-flow intake manifold attached. There is a competition pushrod tube, lifter block and roller lifter set and competition clutch springs to keep the power hooking up. Like the Road Star Warrior, a new exhaust system is used; only it is a 2-1-2 on the Road Star. The Stage II and Stage III kits fall somewhere in between the two. For those of you who like to improve your bikes in incremental steps, there is good news: Yamaha offers "Step-up Kits." This allows you to start with a Stage II kit and move to Stage III; then when ready, you move to a stage IV. So "You pays yer money, you takes yer choice."
Meeting over, I find myself in the saddle of a stock Road Star. This gives me a chance to get acquainted with the subtleties of drag racing and to make my mistakes early. The first session ends and I have gotten my times in the fourteen-second range, but disappointingly find myself with the slowest time of the morning so far. My times are improving more rapidly than some of the more seasoned drag riders though, and by the time we get to sample the "kitted" Road Stars, I'm feeling more comfortable with the whole procedure. The big Stars are easy to launch and a blast to ride, and I can't help feeling I would like to keep going at the end of the drag strip and see how the bike works out on the road.
It is immediately apparent something very different is happening as soon as I hop on the kitted version, like the deep, loud roar from the "competition only" exhaust and the more urgent way the engine revs. I quickly realize there are a bunch of extra ponies waiting to escape this V-twin. Clicking off the aforementioned best time of 12.847 seconds at 104.34 mph, this notion is quickly confirmed; the kitted Star is a ferocious beast by comparison. Breaking for lunch, and a chance to see what the other riders are doing, I am happy to see myself lying around mid-pack. The ease in which the Road Star operates is making this all very enjoyable and I am looking forward to the Road Star Warriors this afternoon.
This is my first ride on a Road Star Warrior and I have to admit to coming away pretty impressed with its performance. I managed to get within 0.10 of a second of my best time on the kitted Road Star and was only a little behind the fastest guy of the day, Larry Laye. The bike is super smooth and makes plenty of horsepower for a "stocker," and blitzing off the drag strip, foot pegs and toe protectors scraping, I immediately know I like this bike. I take a couple more runs, but can't improve my time, and park it before heading toward the fastest bike of the day.
Saving the best for last, I climb into the saddle of the Stage IV-kitted Road Star Warrior and thumb the starter. The immediate snarl from the open pipe and the throaty induction roar as I blip the throttle tells me I have to watch how I launch this one. The heat of the day is over and the track is cooling rapidly, so I do not feel too comfortable letting the cold tire have too much of the hundred-plus horsepower first time out. The bike pulls so hard it takes me by surprise during my first run, and holding the throttle wide open for a time at the end of the quarter mile, the speedometer needle disappears past the 120 mph mark. No problem for the R1-derived brakes and forks, and I quickly scrub off the desired speed to safely exit the strip as the solid tire wall approaches.
Three runs later, it is all over - with Lee Jaye and Walt Fulton taking the top honors. I have gained a little ground from my mid-pack position, and along with my fellow test pilots I am wearing an ear-to-ear grin. As the only Japanese manufacturer to offer factory performance kits for cruisers, Yamaha has hit on something very exciting here. Expect to see kitted Road Stars and Road Star Warriors out at your local drag strip soon.
Retail Price $ 10,999 (solid color)
Warranty 1 year (limited factory warranty)
Maintenance Schedule600/4,000/ every 4,000 miles (1,000/6,000/ every 6,000km)
Importer/Distributor Yamaha Motor Corporation, 6555 Katelly Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630, phone (1-800) 962-7926
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., ohv, 2 cams, gear driven, pushrods and rockers
Bore & Stroke 95 x 113mm
Compression Ratio 8.3:1
Carburetion 1 Mikuni carburetor, ø 40mm
Exhaust Emission Control no
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive belt drive
Frame steel tubular frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,685mm (66.3in.)
Rake 58 degree
Trail 142mm (5.6in.)
Front Suspension telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.69in.)
Travel 140mm (5.5in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 110mm (4.3in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type spoke wheels w/chrome-plated steel rims
Front 3.00 x 16
Rear 3.50 x 16
Front Tire 130/90-16 67H
Rear Tire 150/80-16 71H
Front Brake 2 discs, floating double-piston calipers
Diameter 298mm (11.7in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating double-piston caliper
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 710mm (28.0in.)
Wet-Weight 335kg (744lb.)
Fuel Capacity 20l (5.3gal.)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)63hp at 4,000rpm
Torque 13.7mkp (134Nm, 101ft.-lbs.) at 2,250rpm
Top Speed 162km/h (101mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 5.2s
Fuel Consumption 6.9l/100km (34.4mpg)
Fuel Range 290km (181mls.)
Tank-mounted speedometer w/odometer, trip odometer, warning lights and fuel gauge, ignition switch/steering and seat lock behind the upper triple clamp, side stand.
RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5