Recently released to the American motorcycle marketplace, the all new Roadliner embraces an era of significant change for the tuning fork company. Yamaha has placed their whole cruiser range of motorcycles under the new Star banner, and the top dog in this exciting lineup for 2006 is the Stratoliner. Basically an accessorized Roadliner, it's appearing in dealer showrooms as a complete model, featuring a removable windshield, a backrest and leather-bound hard bags.
Concept and Transformation
After checking out the largest air-cooled V-twin engine in production, I came away from the original Roadliner launch very impressed with the massive amounts of torque and power available, and everything remains the same for the Stratoliner. Producing its maximum 114 ft. lbs of torque at just over 2000 rpm, the muscular V-twin keeps belting out these figures until the engine passes 4000 rpm. This makes for some remarkable overtaking power at 60 mph in top gear, the type of power that doesn't tail off until way past the triple-digit mark. Aimed at the mature end of the Star gene pool, the Stratoliner has been designed for the rider with long-distance comfort in mind, and you can remove the windshield and backrest for all those posing opportunities you'll have once in town. This is not a new concept, with both Yamaha and Harley Davidson already offering this feature on select models, but it is most certainly a convenient one that will be very popular with new owners.
Engine and Transmission
Providing power to the 190-section rear tire, the Stratoliner's huge pistons make a most impressive rumble through the two-into-one exhaust system. Transferring a healthy 91 horsepower to the ground, it is one of the most powerful pushrod engines made, and just an absolute jewel. Controlling two distinct personalities, each as engaging as the other, you can ride the Stratoliner one of two ways. In full cruise mode, the bike's intended mission, the big 100mm pistons are loafing up and down inside the 118mm bore with very little vibration. Up at the handlebars the light throttle is barely off the stop. Twist the throttle hard, though, and the Stratoliner launches forward with serious authority that is most certainly in the same league, in terms of performance, as Kawasaki's big Vulcan 2000.
Running a 9.5:1 compression ratio, which is high for an air-cooled V-twin of this size, presented some challenges to keep things cool for the Yamaha engineers. To facilitate this, the pistons are sprayed with oil, and the heads have an oil-cooling port that runs through the exhaust valve area. The cylinder heads use four valves per cylinder, with large 36mm intakes taking fuel into the cavernous cylinders, and 31mm exhausts allowing the burned gases to escape into the exhaust. The stylish two-into-one system has a surprisingly deep, loud sound for a stock system. Like no other on a cruiser, it features an EXUP (Exhaust Ultimate Power-valve) that has previously only been found on Yamaha sport bikes. This is a cable-operated valve that opens and closes with the throttle, creating more back pressure at low rpm for increased torque, while allowing the engine to produce more peak horsepower when the throttle is wide open. Getting fuel into the cylinders, the Stratoliner uses dual 43mm throttle bodies, which now feature 12-hole injectors for a more precise and wider fuel spray. They are self-adjusting for altitude and have a fast idle programmed in for cold starts. Ensuring perfect fueling at any throttle position, the Stratoliner enjoys a seamless power delivery from any throttle position, at anyplace in the rev range.
Chassis and Brakes
One of the most dynamic elements of the Stratoliner is its aluminum frame. Weighing just 37 pounds, which is 25 pounds lighter than the Road Star, it is manufactured from just eight component pieces compared to 64 for the Road Star. Allowing greater rigidity, it also gives the bike a much lower center of gravity and permits cleaner styling. This is immediately noticeable as soon as you sit on the bike, pick it up off the side stand and plant both feet firmly on the ground. Disguising its weight extremely well, the Stratoliner just doesn't feel like a large cruiser.
Attached to the rear of the new frame, an equally lightweight swing arm borrows technology from Yamaha's sport bike lineup for the first time on a cruiser. Using controlled fill die-cast aluminum, it weighs in at a super-light 11.8 pounds - a full 14 pounds lighter than the steel unit found on the Road Star. Benefiting not only from lighter weight and greater strength, it also gave the designers more freedom of choice in the styling department since it is made of only five component pieces. Not bad when you consider the Road Star has 23.
The frame rolls on cast-aluminum, 12-spoke wheels that not only look good but also in my mind contribute to the Stratoliner's most significant positive personality trait. Both wheels, a 17-inch rear and an 18-inch front, come wrapped in low-profile Dunlop D251 tires that would look more at home on a sport bike than a cruiser. Flying in the face of fashion to jam the largest, fattest chunk of rubber up under the rear fender, the Stratoliner is blessed with the most positive steering and handling on any large cruiser I have ever ridden. Out back, the tire is a sensibly sized 190/60 - 17 inch, with a 130/70 - 18-incher up front. This allows the bike to tip into corners so easily it takes little more than a nudge on the wide bars to get the bike to lean in and hold its line without adjustment.
The bike also comes with an all-new brake system. Big cruisers usually suffer a lack of bite and feel at the front brake lever, and while they have most certainly improved, they lag way behind sport bikes for sensitivity and performance. Not so anymore! The Stratoliner comes equipped with the most awesome front brake setup, blessed not only with great feel at the lever, but a strong, smooth, progressive action that can be performed easily with just two fingers. With dual 4-piston mono-block calipers and 298mm floating discs up front, this system wouldn't look out of place on a fast sport-touring bike. Complemented by a single dual-piston caliper biting down on the 320mm rear disc, the bike's stopping abilities are second to none in the cruiser class.
Accessories and Arrangements
The new Stratoliner is available on three different platforms: the base model comes with the forks, rear fender stay, hand controls and various engine covers painted and polished; on the Midnight version, these parts are all gloss black; and for the top of the line "S," chrome is the coating of choice. Each of the models is equipped with the removable windshield, backrest and saddlebags, and these are all lockable with the ignition key. The bags have the simplest opening mechanism in motorcycling, and if you want to remove them there are three half-turn fasteners keeping them in place. The brackets that hold them would take longer to remove, but for cleaning purposes, or for taking your luggage to a hotel room, they couldn't be more convenient.
The large windshield has undergone a lot of development to eliminate buffeting, and after a long day in the saddle I'm a believer. Although I'm just shy of six feet, sitting up straight allowed me to see clearly over the top of the windshield. It was also possible to keep my visor open, as the wind only hit the very top of my helmet. Behind the bars, things are remarkably calm as you sit in a pocket of relatively still air with arms and hands the only protrusions in the breeze. Another thing that is immediately noticeable with the windshield in place is the extra engine noise from the 1854cc lump. Not unpleasant in any way, it complements that laid-back cruiser experience as the scenery rolls past.
Heralding a new generation of Art Deco cruisers that are not catering to the tassels and chaps crowd, Yamaha has finally produced a touring-based cruiser with decent suspension, a whole lot less weight than the competition, and a set of brakes that can handle the extra power. Coming in three different guises, with a vast accessory line to further customize your ride, the new Stratoliner is a bold step for Yamaha as they continue to convey a vigorous individuality and unique flavor to the motorcycle world.
Yamaha Stratoliner XV1900
+ Low (relative) weight, excellent handling, powerful engine
- Usual Cruiser ground clearance issues
Distributor Yamaha Motor Corporation - www.yamaha-motor.com
MSRP Stratoliner S, $ 16,580
Engine Four-stroke V-twin, OHV, four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 100mm x 113mm
Fuel system Mikuni twin-bore electronic fuel injection, w/ 43mm throttle bodies and throttle position sensor
Power 101 horsepower @crankshaft
Ignition Digital TCI
Front Suspension 46mm conventional fork with 5.3 inch travel
Rear Suspension Link-type with single gas-filled shock and spring pre-load adjustment, 4.3" travel
Brakes front/rear twin 298mm discs, 320mm disc
Tires front/rear130/70 x 18, 190/60 x17
Dry Weight 705lb
Seat height 28.9in
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gallons
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors (Black Cherry Red/Raven Black and Liquid Silver/Metallic Silver):
Stratoliner Midnight, $ 15,480 (Raven Black): Stratoliner, $ 15,180 (Copper)