Star SCL Raider | First Ride

By Joe Gresh, Photography by Brian J. Nelson

They say: We build it; you make it your own.”
We say: “And then you polish it.”

At the foot of the semi-helix staircase inside Atlanta’s Chateau Elan rests the new Star SCL Raider, smoldering like a metallic candy-apple-orange supernova crashed to earth. SCL stands for Star Custom Line, a numbered, limited-edition, factory-customized, hot-rod version of the standard Raider cruiser. When the sun hits this bike at an inopportune angle, you’ll be temporarily blinded.

This spruced-up Raider is the only new-ish bike in Star’s 2012 lineup. No big deal: Cruiser customers aren’t all tech-needy like sportbike riders. They know what they like, and that’s grunt and chrome. They’re not looking to knock .01 of a second off their lap time, but they do like fresh style, and the SLC Raider delivers huge, glossy chunks of the stuff.

Underneath the bike’s sleek, sensuous paint and inch-deep chrome is the same 1854cc, 48-degree V-twin found in Star’s plain-brown-wrapper Raider. This big-ass, honking mill can’t help but make torque with a long, 118mm stroke sliding slugs through a 100mm bore. Star uses ceramic coatings on the cylinders and sprays oil on the underside of the forged pistons to help cool things down. Proving once again that enough power is never enough, that gigantic exhaust system contains a power valve to boost grunt between 2500 and 3500 rpm.

Yamaha doesn’t make any torque or horsepower claims for the SCL. Instead, I employed Motorcyclist’s expensive new EmotiDyn 3000®, an endorphin-sensing dynamo- meter that’s wired directly into the test rider’s limbic system, eliminating hard numbers and replacing them with raw emotion. (You may have noticed Road Test Editor Ari Henning’s hair...) Strapped to the E3000, the SCL pumped out “Wow, this thing hits hard!” lb.-ft. of torque at 2500 rpm and “About the same as other big twins” bhp at 4500 rpm.

Anyway, with its nearly 71-inch wheelbase, the SCL probably wouldn’t fit on a regular dyno without knocking down a wall. Don’t waste your short time here on earth spinning the drum, pal; that massive 210/40-18 rear tire and custom, chrome-plated Performance Machine wheel are better utilized laying down power pulses on asphalt. Amazingly, given its outsized dimensions and that bowling-ball rear tire, the SCL handled really well on the twisty roads of Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. The Raider’s double-cradle, cast-aluminum frame does an admirable job of keeping the bike between the ditches. Tight corners can be attacked with downright vim, the SCL tracking straight and true and never bobbling. Long sweepers decked the low footpegs, but the grinding didn’t seem to affect stability. Keep your heels up and get used to the racket.

Slowing 730 lbs. of steel and aluminum takes swept area, and the SCL looks to have plenty. The dual 298mm front discs and four-piston calipers provide a just-okay response to your right hand’s cry of “No mas!” Luckily, the 310mm rear disc and single-piston rear brake work great.

Ergonomics-wise, I don’t usually ride demi-choppers so had to hunt for the footpegs at first. They’re pretty far forward for right-sized reviewers. I’d move them back a few inches if the SCL were mine. If you buy your dungarees in the men’s department, you’ll be fine. On top of that the grips are pretty far apart, making U-turns a bit of a challenge.

Another nice piece of kit that comes on the limited-edition bike is the beautiful, two-tone, tan leather seat. Casual poking reveals a firm surface that actual riding proves comfortable. Sew a horn onto the front and the saddle wouldn’t look out of place atop Roy Roger’s ride, although you’d have to chop off Trigger’s legs and field dress him to lower his seat height to the SCL’s 27.4 inches.

A conventional 46mm fork radically raked out to 39 degrees would normally describe a floppy front end, but Star put some of that rake into the triple clamps, magically making the SCL steer acceptably well. Buried deep within the chromatic recesses of this beast is a monoshock allowing 3.5 inches of rear-wheel travel that works well enough but still sends big hits directly up your spine.

The five-speed transmission shifted so well, I can’t remember anything about it. After the initial first-gear clunk, cog-swapping becomes fairly silent, and it seemed like I always had one more gear to go. These Raiders are geared to the moon, lumbering along at 2500 rpm at 60 mph in top gear.

This motorcycle is not cheap: It carries an MSRP of $19,800, but the custom PM wheels and paint alone would cost you a bundle on the street, and you’d still need to spend $15,000 for a base-model Raider. If you’re looking for an exclusive, powerful, reliable cruiser that will keep you busy with the metal polish, the Star SCL could very will be your next motorcycle.

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