Star Roadliner S | It Can Take You There | CRANKED

Testing was over. The 2012 Star cruisers were parked. We had some downtime because storm clouds had moved into the Atlanta area and a steady rain had begun to fall. Sporadic hail accompanied by a drop in temperature to 57 degrees put the kibosh on any hard-core, magazine-style shenanigans. Tim Olson, Star's Big Kahuna, said if anyone wanted to ride, feel free to take one of the bikes. The bike I wanted was the Star Roadliner S. Neat.

Dating back to the Star brand’s debut in ’05, this fat-fendered standard cruiser could get overlooked among its flashier siblings, like the new SCL custom chopper or the potent gen-2 V-Max. With only a front fender strut delete and a restyled tank badge as changes from the 2011 model, you could be forgiven for thinking the Roadliner is dull. Don’t expect forgiveness from me, though, because next to Mad Max, this was my favorite Star.

Every feature the Roadliner lacked was one I can do fine without. Big fairing blocking the breeze? Nope, I like fresh air. Satellite stereo with Bluetooth, iPod jack and four-speaker surround sound? Cruise-er, please! This is a motorcycle—I want to hear the sonic blast of each individual combustion event. I want to time the bastard from the moment the pressure wave passes the lips of the exhaust valve until it exits the tailpipe, spent and smiling. Six-layer custom paint? Not on my watch, Brudder: I want a bike the color of neglect so I never have to wash the bitch!

With the Roadliner you get the same big-banger, 1854cc, air-cooled, 48-degree, eight-valve, pushrod V-twin (breathe!), five-speed, torque-zilla, belt-drive, fuel-injection (breathe!), brakes, aluminum frame—the same general goodness found in the gaudier Raider models. Except on the Roadliner the front brake works better, the bike handles better, the riding position is more comfortable and the floorboards keep your boot heels from kicking you in the ass in corners. Why pay extra for stuff you don't use?

You want style? The chrome-laden Roadliner has style to burn. Just look at that friggin’ headlight! The view from the saddle makes you feel like a gargoyle installer on the 61st floor of the Chrysler building. Gargoyles are cool as hell, dude. The whole bike sits low and mean. Losing the touring accessories gives the Roadie a relatively light, flickable feel no Highway Patrol wannabe can emulate.

The Roadliner’s bars are wide and turn your body into a sail, but it’s clean air that pulls flapping sheets tight, building biceps and abs without the expense of a gym membership. The wind is strong and so are you—bolt a windshield onto your girl’s bike! Riding the Roadie, your helmet doesn’t flutter like behind those mollycoddling fairings.

It was a beautiful ride. No pack to synchronize my speed to, no pesky photo stops to interrupt my mojo, no need to think of things to say to people I want to impress. I could go in any direction I cared, alone. Between raindrops, the dense, moisture-laden air condensed into foggy mist. Man, I could smell everything: living things, rotting things.

The forest is a compost heap and I'm on a silver centipede pounding double-time through Deep Musty. Big Banger thuds softly—nothing can stop this engine, man, nothing! The rain falls harder and my hands numb from the cold, wet gloves. I can sense it, further on. More throttle, Big Banger lunges to 70 mph, 3000 rpm. Not enough—more! Seventy-five—it's just ahead, it has to be! Faster still, Big Banger's exhaust begins to drone. God, it feels good to shiver—I never want to die! Squirming black road iridescent with oil rising, cut dark green left, dull gray light blasts through a gap, asphalt yawning, stretching. Raining harder, Big Banger's wheels are circular rivers, water streams from my visor, turn to clear and see trees blurring, and right now each curve is exactly where it should be, exactly!

I lived half a life in hundredths of a second. I wish you could have been there with me. I wish you could have seen me. I caught up with it, man! I caught the moment and it was perfect. And there was nothing in my way! MC

Rain or shine, a "perfect" ride is called that for a reason. Joe Gresh found a little slice of nirvana during a Georgia backroads jaunt on the 2012 Star Roadliner S.