Star Motorcycles - Raider - First Ride

Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles

Yamaha lets another one ripThere's more to life than fat rear tires. Take Gulfstream air travel, for example. And nearly deserted mountain roads. Somehow Star Motorcycles managed to combine all three enticing elements when introducing its new Roadliner-spawned megacycle,the Raider.

And I must admit the 1854cc Raider does look interesting from the window of a G4 diving toward the airport. We were inbound from Southern California to dot-on-the-map Red Bluff for a romp along Northern California's desolate, winding Highway 36. The cruisers were waiting there, lined up on the runway. It wouldn't be Bike Night at the burger shack, that's for sure. But then that's exactly the point Star is trying to make about its latest big-twin spawn: It's a motorcycle for people who care about riding-not just showing off.

"This buyer is a little younger," we had been told by Product Planning Manager Derek Brooks. "He cares about riding position and handling as well as style." OK, if any maker is going to sneak a little performance into its cruiser line, it'll be Star. But to call the Raider a "modern performance custom" might be going overboard. As the former, long-time editor of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine, I've had a lot of ripped and raked machinery pass beneath my bum. And I'm sorry, but despite this bike's aluminum frame and aggressive engine dynamics, I'm not feeling the description. Even as I power the torque-laden monster up into the mountains, the Raider just seems like one more plush, well-built, big-twin cruiser.

The Star team talked a lot about the bike's comfort amenities, and they're there: The Raider is quite rideable compared to some chopper-themed mounts. Its forward footpegs and wide handlebar offer an open but not too stretched ergonomic for average to tall riders. Shorties will love the astoundingly low seat height (27.3 inches), but will suffer from the reach. Handling is trouble-free, be it straightline sailing or cornering at low to spark-spewing speeds. That's right, in keeping with Star tradition, any decent rider will engage the Raider's footpeg feelers early and often, but hard parts only add to the show during the most maniacal maneuvers.

While maintaining a responsible 4.0 inches of trail, the bike's traditional telescopic fork is raked to 39.2 degrees-6 degrees forward of the Roadliner's-to accommodate a more chopperesque, 21-inch front wheel. The Raider also boasts a new aluminum frame for the solid-mounted mega-mill, which provides some added rigidity while lowering the bike and stretching it to a 70.9-inch wheelbase. Way out back a new, lightweight aluminum swingarm controls a sexy 210mm-wide Metzeler. The engine pulse is pleasant and high-frequency vibration is mostly eaten by dual counterrotating balancers.

Unfortunately, with its 4.1-gallon fuel tank, the Raider was thirsty for fuel out here on Highway 36, a 150-mile snake of a road connecting the Central Valley to California's northern coast. So it's a good thing the Star team was there with red jugs. During our fuel break I took a look at some of the accessories either already available or in the works. Some are pretty cool and useful, like the simple, black magnetic tank bag that curves around the speedometer nacelle. Others, especially the bolt-on chrome goodies, seem a little Pimp Your Ride.

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