A Rising Star
by Stephen Heller
Who is Stan, and why is his name on my bike?
I was working on a very onerous flat-black Vespa when Editor Pearman came into the shop and asked me if I would like to review a bike. How could I pass it up? I was hoping for something Italian with 3-wheels. Instead, I was greeted by leather-covered saddlebags and a large windscreen. Did I mention the 1.3-liter engine? The new Yamaha V-Star 1300 was in my future and I was going to experience it with an open mind.
If there ever were a dyed-in-the-wool scooter guy, I would be him. My first bike was a 150cc Vespa [Pearman’s was a P200e. ed.] and I have been very content to stay there. I talk to riders that have traded-in their scooters for bigger motorcycles because they want to cruise around the country. I tell them that a 250cc or a 500cc will do everything they need, but the point is moot. It isn’t always about what one needs when it comes to motorcycles. I wonder if the V-Star 1300 will be one of the bikes they want?
Scholarly research, done before Sev delivered the bike, gave me a little bit of apprehension. I had nightmares of being crushed under its weight or having to park my car down the street because the V-Star was the only thing that would fit in the garage.
This bike is huge, weighing over 600 lbs and an overall length of over 8 feet. With the engine size wars between the OEMs, the new 1300 V-Star is considered a “midsized” cruiser. This blows my mind. My three projects; two scooters and a car, have a combined cylinder capacity that wouldn’t fill up one-half of this liquid cooled V-twin.
All my apprehensions about the size of the bike vanished when I sat on the bike and raised it off the side stand. The 28-inch seat height, coupled with the low center-of-gravity gave me no problems. It is heavy, but even fully fueled with 5 gallons of gas, not overly top-heavy. After a couple of laps around the parking lot to learn the heel-toe shifter, I was ready to see if the car would have to move out of the garage for a couple of days.
Going down the River Road, the V-Star didn’t need to be taken out of first gear. A shift into second only made it jerk and whine at speeds under 30 mph. The engine braking when getting off the throttle is pretty grabby. The bike transmits virtually no vibration through the seat or handle bars, which I would come to enjoy a lot more after I racked up some miles. I pass my house and head for a highway just to get a taste of what it will do. Shifting through the gears is easy and there is power in every one of them. The heel-toe shifting is something that I have to get used to. I had to remind myself to move my foot back and not step on the side stand switch when I am trying to up shift.
Our tester is equipped with the touring package, which includes a passenger backrest along with the saddlebags and windscreen. The top of the windscreen is about 2 inches lower than the top of my helmet, so ducking down a little bit it blocked the wind. The bike that Delano Sports Center provided came in Liquid Silver/ Charcoal Silver, available only on the Tourer model. The silver is the least flashy and my least favorite of the available color combinations for the 1300. Saddlebags and all, the V-Star tucked nicely in my garage.
My day off is dedicated to riding the V-Star to get a really good feel for it. I headed west because with strong winds, it was the path of least resistance. At highway speeds, this machine is in its prime. You can cruise at speed in 4th gear and it feels like it’s idling. Pop the throttle and then you can tell what you are really on. The heft of the bike didn’t keep me from getting blown around a lot, which made me hesitant to explore all that the Yamaha offered.
Rolling over hills and through corners surrounded by farms, I rode aimlessly looking at the crops starting to come into their own. The steering was as tactile as I would expect from a cruiser: the road was there, but you didn’t have to feel every bump in it. The suspension was fine as well. Unavoidable potholes and the like were not at all jarring for me. I didn’t notice the suspension to be either too hard or too soft. It worked just fine.
After a full day of riding, I appreciated not being beaten up from engine vibration, yet I was sore because my arms are not long enough for the bike in this setup. Sitting in the seat I needed to lean forward to grab the handlebars in what I feel is a very un cruiser-like position. To sit without leaning forward, I had to either grab the very ends of the handlebars, or move forward in the seat until my shins were basically vertical under me. If the 1300 were mine, I’d change the bars along with the shifter so I didn’t need to slide my feet so much to shift.
I was puzzled by the graphics on the V-Star. The big logo seen on smaller Yamahas is gone. The only thing indicating the make is “Star” in small script on the chrome gas tank trim. Without looking closely it looks like “Stan” more than “Star.”
I was also disappointed with the amount of chromed plastic parts on the engine. It looks like it is pretty good quality, but real chrome would be better. Note that the tank, fenders and sidecovers are all steel. The speedo has moved from the gas tank onto the handlebars and is very nice and easy to read. The odometer has selectable settings via the right handle switch for two trip meters and a clock. With a few warning lights, the instrument cluster is streamlined and nice.
I went into this test with a very open mind and was happy to find a fun bike waiting for me. Living and working only a parkway away from one another, I don’t think it would be the right bike for me. I still think that a scooter serves my purpose better, but the V-Star is a very able cruiser with no glaring faults.
by Sev Pearman
To most people, their favorite bike is like their best friend: agreeable, flexible, rarely ornery and always dependable. To be sure, we all covet exotic bikes that weigh little, ooze style or cost a mint. But when it comes time to actually open our wallets, most of us choose a ride that acts like your best friend.
Despite their loyal following , Yamaha felt the V-Star 1100s were getting long in the tooth. Marketing decreed a larger platform to better compete in the burgeoning mid-sized cruiser market. Behold this month’s test machine, the Yamaha V-Star 1300 Tourer.
I have a bone to pick: when did 1,304ccs become a middleweight? 1300cc converts to 80 cubic inches, folks. Before Harley-Davidson introduced the Twin Cam 88 motors in 1999, the 80 cu. in. (1,340cc) Evo motor powered all their big twins. Except for the Boss Hoss, Brazilian Amazonas and a few other oddities, 80 cu. in. was the biggest motor you could buy.
The reality is that bikes from all manufacturers are now so good that manufacturers are forced to hype displacement and style instead of reliability and convenience. Marketers are forced to rely on subtle methods such as branding to differentiate their bikes from that of the competition.
My crabby rant aside, Yamaha has hit the mark with their new 1300 engine. The motor is a single crank-throw 60º V-twin with OHC, 4-valvers per cylinder, forged rods (increased strength and less mass) and liquid cooling. Bore and stroke are 100mm x 83mm respectively. The 9.5:1 compression ratio dictates mid-grade fuel. Fuel metering is overseen by a big-brain EFI. Cold-start mapping is excellent, eliminating the need for a bar-cluttering high-idle lever.
Stylists liked the short-stroke design because it keeps the motor visually compact and tidy. The all-new 1300 V-twin is one good-looking motor. You have to look pretty hard to find any hoses, wiring or other hardware. Substantial functional finning makes the 1300 engine appear to be air-cooled only. Yamaha engineers and designers worked hand-in-hand to create a functional, handsome drive train.
Engineers paired the under-square short-stroke design with a lower-mass flywheel. This enables the motor to spin-up quickly when needed. Claimed power is 76.8 bhp and 81.8 ft-lbs torque, measured at the crank. I absolutely loved this motor out on the highway. It lazily lopes along, providing ample power for passing anywhere between 45 – 70 mph in either 4th or 5th gear. Downshifts to pass are optional.
As you wind it open, you’ll run into the electronic rev limiter. You’ll feel the stutter as the EFI brain retards the spark, nudging you to either upshift or back off the throttle. No tach is included, so I can’t tell you at what speed the engine cuts out.
Twin counter-rotating engine balancers quell annoying secondary vibrations. When underway, all you feel are gentle rhythmic pulses through the handlebars, rubber-damped floorboards and comfortable seat. Yamaha has engineered a motor that is tractable at low speeds, creates silky power when revved, and emits gobs of elusive V-twin character all over. The 1300 motor earns an A+
Power is transmitted through a 5-speed tranny that is a delight. I didn’t miss one shift in over 800 miles. Neutral was easy to find. I never once had to think about it. Gear ratios were well matched to the engine output.
Your feet rest on hinged floorboards with removable feelers. Good thing, as you’ll be dragging parts at anything greater than parade speeds. The brake pedal is also hinged so that you don’t pinch your right foot between it and the floorboard on tight right-handers.
Shifting is by heel-and-toe. I still think of these as a gimmick. The heel-and-toe shifter on our tester wasn’t as slick as the excellent set-up on the Victory Kingpin, but I did use it as designed.
Power meets the road via a quiet and proven toothed belt. The rear pulley is styled to complement the rear wheel. It is another example of Yamaha fusing style and engineering. While I continue my pathological loathing of chains and their accompanying mess, I now appreciate a well-executed belt set-up. You can teach this old dog new tricks.
The only glitch I found in the power train was abrupt throttle response. I repeatedly experienced hesitation when cracking open the throttle, especially at lower engine speeds. Deduct two points for being annoying.
In the world of Metric cruisers, LT signifies Light Tourer. This gets you a tombstone windshield, functional saddlebags, and a stylish passenger backrest. The always-eager Passenger X was unavailable to test this bike, so I am unable to report on the passenger seat, rear foot pegs or the padded backrest.
The saddlebags on the V-Star 1300 Tourer are rigidly mounted to subframes and cannot be removed without unbolting. They are hard plastic, covered with buttery black leather. The lids are lockable and are keyed with the ignition. Nice touch! The bag interiors remained dry after one 30-mile rain shower, but collected an ounce or two of water after I washed the bike. Better bring bag liners on your longer rides.
Yamaha offers three different windshields for the 1300s: 23, 19 and 15 inches. The Tourer comes with the tallest screen. Made of a strong polycarbonate that readily took a polish, it is unadjustable. I am 5’-10” and looked through the screen. Unless you are freakishly tall or like looking through a screen, you’ll have to cut this billboard down.
When underway, you experience a full spectrum of mechanical music. I enjoyed the tire hum, intake honk, soft whine of the final drive belt and the robust thrumming of the 2-into-1 exhaust. Unfortunately, I also experienced a fair amount of wind roar created by that too-tall windshield.
Yamaha had a delicate balancing act with its new 1300. The bike had to appeal to experienced riders looking for a less-massive bike, new and returning riders, crossover riders from the sport bike world (really!) and those of shorter stature. The brakes on the 1300 reflect this positioning. Yamaha wanted the brakes to be strong enough to please crossover sportbike riders, but not so powerful as to frighten newbies.
Front brakes are dual 298mm discs with 2-piston sliding calipers. The rear runs a third 298mm disc and a single puck. I found the brakes to be adequate. I was able to induce tire-howling stops using only the front, but it took concentration and all four fingers to do so. I liked the feel of the rear brake. It wasn’t too powerful or grabby, and took a determined stomp to induce a skid. Some cruisers have hair-trigger rears that induce a skid all too easily. The overall feel of the brakes on this bike is one of smoothness. They come on smoothly and gently reign the 1300 to an easy, predictable stop, every time.
The handling was also engineered for a wide variety of riders. Newbies will appreciate the low center-of-gravity (CoG) and comparatively lower mass. These make the V-Star 1300 easier to handle at slower speeds. Experienced riders will appreciate Yamaha’s attention to mass-centralization. By moving mass to the center of the machine and reducing unsprung mass, you get a bike that turns easier, accelerates quicker and stops sooner. It works for cruisers as well as race bikes.
Suspension is typical cruiser; 5.3 in. travel in the fork, 4.3 in. travel in the rear shock. The 1300 features a rising-rate rear linkage. This means that the rear firms up as the shock compresses. While no sport-tourer, the 1300 has above-average suspension for a 600+ pound cruiser.
I liked the front end. The grips dropped right into my hands. I experienced none of the ergonomic hell that ape-hangers and buckhorns create. The headlight is a stylish triangular unit. While the low beam was more than adequate, the high beam lit up the roadway like Britney Spears on her way to rehab.
Blinkers have trendy clear lenses. The gauge display is off the tank and up on the bars. You get your usual idiot lights, two tripmeters and a count-up meter when you reach reserve. Yamaha includes plugs for 35W driving lights in the wiring harness, so adding driving lights is a cinch; another nice touch.
Even though I have never owned a cruiser, I loved this bike. It has enough motor to please even the most die-hard sport-touring rider; is a competent two-up mount; looks stylish from the factory and can be easily customized. Yamaha has hit a homerun with the V-Star 1300 Tourer. Saddle up and hit the road. You’ll enjoy many adventures with your new friend.
Our test machine was provided by Mr. Matt Olund at Delano Sports Center. Matt and company can be reached at 763.972.4710 or on the web at www.bikershop.com. MMM would also like to thank Rob H. for his assistance in this review.
•All-new motor churns out ample, refined power.
•Outstanding paint and chrome quality.
•Stylish, lockable, leather-covered bags.
•Snatchy throttle response at low RPMs.
•Unadjustable, Texas-sized windshield.
•Bolted-on bags require dedication to remove.
Wife’s First Reaction®: “(The) first thing I see is the motor.”
By the numbers:
Rider: Editor Pearman 5’-10”/250 lbs/32” (height/weight/inseam)
Total miles driven: 833
Fuel consumption: 45.7/35.1/38.2 (high/low/avg.)
Selected Competition: Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Std. & Road King; Honda VTX 1300, Kawasaki Vulcan 1500; Moto-Guzzi California Vintage, Suzuki Boulevard C90T, Victory Kingpin Tour.