Star Power

New Roadliner model leads Yamaha's new Star brand

Yamaha, long the most cruiser-conscious Asian motorcycle maker, has rebranded its cruiser line as Star Motorcycles. Yamaha was the first Japanese manufacturer with a real line of cruisers, rolling out its Special series in the late 1970s. It built the first modern Japanese tandem V-twin in '81 with the Virago 750 the first bike carrying a Japanese engine built specifically for the cruiser market. In '96, Yamaha raised the bar again with its Star-series motorcycles, which brought classic style, high-end finishes, appropriate technology and easy personalization to the mix. The Star series has been extremely successful (and profitable) and has attracted solid aftermarket support and tremendous customer enthusiasm.

Now, a decade after the first Stars arrived, Yamaha is casting the Stars as a separate brand. Although they will continue to be sold through Yamaha dealers, Star Motorcycles gets a product development channel centered in the U.S., a separate website (, a distinct way of doing business, brand advertising and, Yamaha hopes, more prominence in dealer showrooms.

All existing Yamaha cruisers including the V-Max and Virago 250 will fall under the Star banner in '06. The brand name may create a bit of redundancy on existing Star models, however. Star Road Star will take some getting used to. Fortunately, new members of the line won't have model names that include "Star."

Highlighting the significance of the branding move, Star Motorcycles rolled out the new flagship of the Star Motorcycles line, the elegant, ultra-classic Roadliner.

Powered by a 1854cc air-cooled V-twin, the Star Roadliner has an aluminum frame wrapped in elegant, eye-pleasing lines inspired by the streamliner styling of the '30s. The streamliner era of styling was prompted by the first aerodynamic advances back in the '20s and '30s. It inspired the designs of everything from trains to toasters and delivered some of the prettiest automobiles in memory. That theme echoes through the Roadliner's sweeping fenders and flow-through lines.

The eight-valve pushrod engine shares the same 48-degree V angle of the Road Star series, but has a 100mm bore and 118mm stroke (compared with 97 x 113mm for the 1670cc engine), moves the transmission mainshaft 5mm farther from the crankshaft and inhales through dual fuel-injector throats. An EXUP valve, a cruiser first, increases the efficiency of the 2-into-1 exhaust, and a big oil-cooler keeps the fluids temperate.

The all-new aluminum frame and aluminum die-cast swingarm are painted black and, at 67.5 inches, put an additional inch between the axles compared with the Road Star. It rides on 46mm fork legs with 130mm of travel and a single link-type shock in the rear with 50mm of travel. The rider's saddle cruises 28.9 inches off the road, and at 705 pounds wet, the Roadliner is about 25 pounds porkier than the base-model Road Star 1700.

You need to get close to a Roadliner to appreciate many of its details. The big projector-type headlight carries the ignition switch beneath a sliding chrome panel on top of its drawn-out nacelle. Atop the tank, the three-gauge instrument cluster is set in a full-length chrome console and perfectly matches the streamliner-era styling. Many components turn signals, fender braces and shift lever, for example are styled particularly for the Roadliner, heightening the bike's elegant character.

Buyers will have three versions to choose from when the Roadliner hits showrooms this fall, with the base model retailing for just under $14,000. As with other Star Motorcycles, there will be a blacked-out Midnight version of the Roadliner for about $1000 more. Topping the series will be the Roadliner S (expected to have an MSRP under $16,000), which will feature additional chrome and polish throughout.

The 2006 Roadliner S headlines Yamaha's new Star Motorcycles brand and will retail for just under $16,000 when it goes on sale later this year.