2018 Yamaha Star Venture Behind the Design

The story behind Yamaha's new transcontinental touring bike

Right now, riders have two basic touring choices: sophisticated-but-soulless luxury machines from metric manufacturers or traditional American V-twins that typically offer more "authenticity" than modern amenities. Yamaha's Derek Brooks calls this the "full-dress paradox" and says this is the problem Yamaha set out to solve with its new Star Venture. "Why should buyers have to choose between traditional emotional appeal and modern technology and luxury?" Brooks asks. "Why can't they have both?"

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureBrian J. Nelson

The Venture combines a comprehensively updated air-/oil-cooled V-twin with modern styling, a full suite of luxury features, and the most advanced infotainment system on any motorcycle today. “We believe we’ve arrived at the perfect balance of emotion and function in this bike,” Brooks says. We sat down with Brooks and Venture Project Leader Masami “Magnum” Shinsho and asked them to describe the process used to create what Yamaha calls the “Ultimate Confidence Transcontinental Tourer.”

Timeline

Development began when the Yamaha USA product planning team, led by Brooks, identified the target rider and created the design brief. From there, YMC [Yamaha Motor Company] took over engineering and development and saw the bike through to completion, guided by testing and input from Yamaha USA.

Concept

"Once we committed to developing a new luxury tourer, we began market research," Brooks says. "Gold Wing riders we talked to loved their GLs but wanted more of a 'motorcycle' feel. The Harley guys loved their bikes too but wanted a more modern package. We were hearing this over and over again in focus groups."

Design

Despite any architectural similarities to previous models, the Venture is essentially a clean-sheet design. “The passenger floorboards are the same,” Shinsho says, “maybe some other small parts.” Modern muscle-car styling was a big influence, Brooks says, but the team was careful not to push too far. “Go too modern and the design can look dated very quickly,” Brooks warns.

Engine

“We had a lot of discussion around engine type—liquid-cooled, oil-cooled, strictly air-cooled,” Brooks says. “But why develop a new system when we didn’t need it? Our basic air-cooled design was well proven.

It doesn’t overheat, it’s extremely durable, and heat dissipation is great with the ceramic-composite liners. Liquid-cooling just adds weight and complexity.”

Challenges

“Three big challenges!” Shinsho exclaims, laughing. “Infotainment was the biggest—so many functions, so difficult to make it easy to use and understand. Then the electric-assist Sure-Park system—lever mount, gear ratio, very complicated to get everything right. Finally, to make a ‘cocoon’ of still air in the cockpit so the audio sounds good.”

Success

“What gives me the most happy feeling?” Shinsho asks. “What makes me most happy is good handling. The bike handles very good.” (Just then, powertrain leader Takeshi “Tony” Taya leans over and whispers in Shinsho’s ear.) “But Tony says the engine is the best. So, yes, handling and engine both give a very happy feeling.”