2006-2011 Star V Star 650 | Smart Money

By Jerry Smith, Photography by Yamaha

In most segments of the motorcycle market, the rule is progress or perish. But some bikes get it right from the start, making major annual makeovers unnecessary and building a reputation that means more to enthusiasts than headlines. The Star V Star 650 is one such bike.

Powered by a 649cc, 70-degree, air-cooled twin derived from the Virago 535, the V Star uses two valves and a single overhead cam per cylinder to make its modest power. A pair of carbs nestles between the cylinders, and a five-speed transmission lurks farther down in the frame cradle, coupled to the rear wheel via driveshaft.

There are three iterations of the V Star: the Custom, the Classic, and the Silverado. The Custom is styled like a quasi-chopper; the Classic a bit like a Softail; and the Silverado is equipped for light touring with soft bags and a windshield. (Note that only the Custom was available in 2011, and there were no 650s for 2012.)

All of the 650s invite both new riders and short-legged veterans to settle into a seat that’s 27-28 inches off the deck. The profile and padding aren’t for everyone––some riders report having to stop midway through a tank of gas to restore blood flow to their nether regions––but that’s not surprising as cruiser ergonomics often owe more to style than to comfort.

Middleweight cruisers occupy an interesting niche between beginner bikes and full-size cruisers. While the V Star’s low seat appeals to newbies, its weight––anywhere from 550 to nearly 600 pounds, depending on the model––is worth considering. At the other end of the spectrum, the engine’s modest power output may not be enough for experienced riders, some of whom solve the problem by ponying up the extra money for a bigger bike with more stomp. But in most real-world situations, the V Star gets the job done, though it’s buzzy on the freeway––a sixth gear would solve that problem––and for two-up riding it would benefit from more power.

By all accounts, V Star riders don’t spend a lot of time working on their bikes unless they want to. But there are still a few issues that dog the line, such as fragile clutch baskets and a narrow clutch engagement zone that needs to be adjusted just right to avoid frying the clutch. Some owners report the need for frequent valve-adjustments, too, along with a mysterious whine from the transmission in fifth gear, which fortunately doesn’t seem to lead to anything worse if left unattended.

Like any used motorcycle, a V Star should be checked out carefully before you buy, especially if it’s an older model with low miles, which might mean the bike has spent most of its life parked. Look inside the gas tank for rust or water, and check the tires’ sidewalls for cracks. The rear shock has been known to leak, so look for oil there. The mirror stems sometimes succumb to the engine’s vibration; make sure they’re not cracked. Start the bike and let it idle. A steady cadence is good, a faltering one could mean the carbs need cleaning.

Finally, if there’s something about your new-to-you V Star you don’t like, don’t worry. The aftermarket is thick with options to correct any complaints you might have—and the relatively low buy-in should leave room for improvement within your budget.

Cheers
Shaft drive, newbie-friendly low seat, good aftermarket support.

Jeers
Buzzy engine, not quite enough power, some clutch issues, could use a sixth gear.

Watch For
Leaky shocks, gearbox whine, signs of improper storage.

Verdict
A solid, low maintenance cruiser, good but not great.

Value

2006 Classic | $3620
2007 Classic | $3905
2008 Classic | $4225
2009 Classic | $4555
2010 Classic | $4685
2011 Custom | $5315


Buying Smart
It’s great to answer an ad and find a pristine motorcycle waiting for your inspection. But a bike that’s too clean might be that way because it’s not ridden very often. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can result in gummed-up carbs and a tank full of bad gas if the bike wasn’t stored properly. Batteries suffer from infrequent use, too, unless they’re hooked up to chargers. Make sure the engine starts up without excessive cranking and that the lights don’t dim when the engine idles.

By Jerry Smith
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