2004-2009 Yamaha Road Star

Smart Money

Resemblances to any of Milwaukee's Big Twins notwithstanding, this is no down-market duplicate. Yamaha's engineers started with two big air-cooled pushrod cylinders atop a 45-pound single-pin crankshaft, but they didn't stop there. Their 48-degree V-twin puts four-valve pentroof heads atop each ceramic-coated 95mm bore. The 98-cubic-inch result was born bigger than everything else back in '99, including Harley's 88-inch Twin Cam twin.

Despite the short-skirt 97mm pistons that bumped displacement to 102 c.i. in '04, there are now bigger twins out there, along with an assortment of quicker ones. Still, you won't find more torque down in anybody else's basement or a smoother delivery without multifarious counterbalancers or rubber engine mounts. The 102-incher is eminently cooperative, moving away from a green light more convincingly than its pre-decessor with a handful of throttle.

In the plus column, the Road Star feels tighter and more refined if you're into that sort of thing. Those floorboards inhibit your inner Eddie Lawson, but steering is relatively light for a 746-lb. motorcycle. R1-style front calipers freshly commandeered from the Warrior parts bin make the '04 a much more confident stopper than its predecessors. Suspension could be more compliant, especially over super-sized bumps. Beyond that? The only real ergonomic flaw is a shortage of legroom for those over 6 feet tall.

The basic package is sound. Still, '01-'03 models are prone to problems beyond the transmission recall that any conscientious owner will have taken care of: cracked shock mounts, fragile wheel bearings plus stator and starter glitches. Factor in the fine-tuning that came online with that 102-c.i. engine and a late-model 'Star is the way to go unless you're genuinely strapped for cash. In that case, the collective wisdom at www.roadstarclinic.com is priceless.

The 40mm carburetor can get cranky over time, making the engine hard to start when hot. It makes the engine more conducive to hot-rodding, but only by a well-informed wrench. Any bike with an aftermarket exhaust and jet kit deserves an even closer look. A good detergent gasoline and/or fuel additive-Yamaha Ring Free or Chevron Techron Fuel System Cleaner, for example-can keep carbon from building up on the valves, especially in an '04. If you'd rather not deal with a carburetor at all, find a nice clean fuel-injected '08 model.

CHEERS
Metric tons of torque above idle, astonishingly smooth without a counterbalancer.

JEERS
Short on legroom for tall types, insensitive suspension.

WATCH FOR
Rear fender cracks, headlight rattle, hard starting when hot, backfiring through carb.

VERDICT
Laid-back V-twin presence without the sticker shock.

VALUE
2000 | $4655
2005 | $6730
2008 | $8050

ALSO SMART

2004-2009 Yamaha Road Star
**2005 | $12,870
Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
** The phat one has been a heavy hitter in Milwaukee's line-up since its debut 20 years ago. Dual counterbalancers squelch vibes in the TC88B engine. Brakes could be better. Expect to pay more for fuel injection and any color but black.
2005 | $6105
Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Classic

A worthy successor to the beloved 1500, this Nomad's eight-valve 1552cc twin isn't as strong as the 1670cc Road Star. On the flip side, a counter-balancer makes it smoother if you can live with more lash from the shaft final drive.
2005 | $8050
Honda VTX1800N

The neo/retro Rune-esque aesthetic distances Honda's Spec 2 VTX from derivative denizens of the boulevard, while that six-valve 1795cc twin takes care of the rest. Throttle response is terse, and suspension can be punishing.