Star Stratoliner Deluxe | First Ride

"Casual dresser" is not an oxymoron!

By Andrew Cherney, Photography by Tom Riles, Brian J. Nelson

The latest subdivision of the cruiser market is the "Casual Full Dress" segment. This new group of heavyweights brings some of the qualities of full dressers but trims the heft and injects a touch more style, making them the hot ticket for weekend getaways. For 2010, Yamaha's Star division follows this trend with the Stratoliner Deluxe.

Although late to the faired-bagger party, the Strat Deluxe has all the right lines. Based on Star's Roadliner platform, it's long, low and curvaceous in the best way, and powered by a burly 113 cubic-inch air-cooled V-Twin with pushrods, four valves per cylinder and fuel injection. Even more semi-modern technology lurks within-things like dual spark plugs, ceramic-composite-lined cylinders and a catalytic converter tucked into the midsection of the 2-into-1 exhaust. About the only way you can pick out the Deluxe from the rest of the 'Liners is the slightly subdued gas and oil tanks.

Settling into the Deluxe feels natural. Its wide saddle, ample floorboards and broad handlebar create a roomy rider triangle. On the freeway the big V-twin settles into a steady rhythm, pulling 75 mph at 3300 rpm in top gear. With its five-cog gearbox matched almost perfectly to the powerband, the Strat chugs down the superslab unruffled, its big handlebar-mounted upper fairing cutting a gap through the air. Still, at speeds above 55 mph, wind tends to breach the windscreen and cause some buffeting. Leaning in toward the bar puts you in a pocket of still air, and provides an up-close view of the two speakers that comprise the Deluxe's sound system. Assuming you have an iPod to hook up, the Strat's stereo will pump out your favorite tunes with surprising clarity and depth, and the volume adjusts automatically to compensate for road noise at various speeds.

Weaving up into the mountains, the Deluxe serves up a surprising amount of cornering clearance in tight-radius turns, and with the largest air-cooled engine in its class, getting up to speed is no problem. A light throttle and excellent fueling don't hurt. The engine sports relatively high 9.5:1 compression, but it's one of the smoothest in its class thanks to dual counterbalancers. As you'd expect, low-rpm power is abundant, but what's surprising is the amount of thrust approaching the 5700-rpm redline.

Midway through our first ride, the narrow mountain road slims down even further, calling out the Strat's stable low-speed manners. Throttle response is relaxed, the transmission shifts smoothly and the huge flywheel keeps things moving along without drama. The wide handlebar provides plenty of leverage, so even slow U-turns are worry-free. Credit the stiff aluminum frame and swingarm for lighter and more positive steering than you'd expect from a bike this size. The brake package consists of dual 298mm discs with four-piston monoblock calipers that provide plenty of power to slow the 800-plus-pound machine.

On all the road surfaces we thundered over, the suspension proved up to the task. Stock settings were a touch stiff for my 160 lbs., but all but the biggest hits were sucked up by the 46mm fork and single rear shock. From a practical standpoint, though, the bike should offer an easier way to access the shock spring preload ring. To adjust it you'll need to crawl under the bike and fumble with the tool kit's spanner wrench, but not before removing one of the saddlebags.

Which brings us to the luggage: The Deluxe's hard bags don't seem like an afterthought; they're well designed, with sleek styling and a single lock/pushbutton latch that makes opening and closing them a cinch. Their 13.8-gallon capacity isn't tops in the class (Victory nabs that prize), though the curved spaces can easily accommodate odd-sized items. And even though it's a new model, there are more than 90 bits already available from the Star accessory catalog. The list includes saddlebag guards and trim rails, a tall windshield and touring handlebars. But we wonder if they shouldn't offer ABS and cruise control too. After all, the competition does.

We're thoroughly impressed with the Stratoliner Deluxe. On its own merits, this newest Star cruiser is a completely integrated, well-balanced machine with the performance and looks to be a strong competitor in the bagger wars.

By Andrew Cherney
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