by Michael Kamrad

royal_2Ready to get outside, shake those cobwebs loose and bust open that “cruiser” stereotype?

Many riders opt for motorcycles that make them feel like Elvis as they roll down the highway like a Steppenwolf song–cruisers. These machines embody the seduction of motorcycling–the freedom to leave our worries behind and just ride. If you take your standard cruiser, make it bigger, better, bodacious, and import it (yep, that’s right, Butch, import it), you wind up with the Yamaha Royal Star. This bike breaks a few molds.

Yamaha makes the Royal Star to look like, well, like a Harley-Davidson, except bigger. It’s a 1300cc, 700+ pound monster with a 67 inch wheelbase. With this motorcycle, Yamaha moves boldly into the BIG cruiser market. This market is extremely competitive. Any new bike better be ready to encounter rough seas. The Royal Star will hold its own. It’s a battle ship.

I took the big boat out under fair skies on a great day in South Minneapolis. Trackstar Motorsports graciously lent it to M.M.M. for a little road testing. I gave the throttle a good goose, and slowly let out the cluuuuuthch…whoa. The torquey V-4 quickly hurled the bike forward. Though the rev-limiter cut the show short, the engine was plenty strong enough to stimulate my neuro-accelometer.

Four pipes make a sound closer to that of a 350 Chevy small block with glass packs than the potato-potato-potato rumble of a typical heavy cruiser. It has its own voice. A Harley rider myself, I fell hard for the smooth-power-semi-rumble-low-end-heaven the engine made.

And maintenance? The engine is a down-tuned V-Max plant. It will run forever.

The suspension on the Royal Star deserves praise. Yamaha’s attention to suspension makes the Star very rideable. With its hidden mono-shock rear end, large forks, big breaks, and low center of gravity, the Royal Star rides as good as it looks. It is fairly flickable, easy to counter-steer, and stops hard with plenty of control.

The pull-back handlebars, forward controls with floorboards, and wide seat are custom cream on top of a slice of cheesecake.

Now understand. I just went to Vancouver and back on an 883 Sporty, so believe me. The Royal Star begs to be ridden long distances. It is made for open roads and boulevard jivin’.

Every place we brought it, the Royal Star attracted admirers. It has chrome-a-plenty, wide, low fenders and a fit-and-finish that yells “custom bike”. It’s a looker even in stock trim, but I’m confident there will be a cornucopia of aftermarket goodies to satisfy every indulgence.

royal_3In recent years, it has been a pleasure to see motorcycle manufactures around the globe take big chances on old markets with new ideas. Yamaha comes to bat with a big stick, the Royal Star. This bike seems familiar, but it has features all its own: the sound, the suspension, the attention to build quality.

I loved the Big Boy. I heartily recommend this cruiser. The Royal Star represents change. It breaks those old stereotypes, and challenges us to experience a new way to get those same old kicks. Cruise on, my friend. Beep-Beep. Make way for the Royal Star.

by Lee Meyer

Huge. That was my first impression of Yamaha’s new cruiser. It’s bigger than life. The front tire should be on a Buick. I began to wonder why I agreed to ride this thing all afternoon. Maybe I can feign some kind of illness, so they won’t make me sit on it. No. That won’t do. They’ll think I’m some kind of goon. How weird can it be? Okay. I’ll ride.


The beast in question was the 1996 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic. A visual inspection revealed a very nice build quality. Chrome, paint and brushed satin metal work were all very well done with great attention to detail. Even the smallest fasteners, nuts and bolts were of the highest standards. Of course, none of this would mean anything if the Star rode like a buffalo.

I sat on the thing, and I felt small. I am not a small person. Everything on this bike is large. The seat, wide and well padded, shoved my rear forward somewhat. An aftermarket seat could remedy that, so it was no big deal. The ignition was on the right side behind my butt–a good idea considering the acreage over the tank to a conventional location. I fired it up, and the sound I was expecting wasn’t there. I was hoping for a cool, throaty exhaust note, but instead I got a raspy Blap-Blap-Blap noise. Aftermarket mufflers are available from everyone, so, again, it was no big deal.

My initial “buffalo” concerns disappeared within a block. After a few miles, I was as comfortable with it as if I had owned one for years. There were no wacky surprises (this is a good thing). The Royal Star inspired confidence, as it handled twisty road with little effort. Both my co-test rider, Mike, and I actually considered the bike “flickable”. This is a term usually reserved for sportier motorcycles.

The bike’s engine is a direct descendent of the V-Max and Venture Royale designs, and it moved the Royal Star easily but with nowhere near the guts of the V-Max engine. If more power is nice (and it always is), then there are ways to wake up the beast.royal_1

The bike was a friendly riding machine, as I cruised around town and on the highway. It was rock stable at all speeds and surfaces. I didn’t have to think about anything but scenery. Big tires and 725 pounds probably helped a bit. The integrated brakes slowed the heavy-weight with ease.

I am not much of a cruiser kind of guy, but I really can’t say anything bad about the Royal Star. I actually found riding it to be relaxing. It was obviously designed and built by folks who have their acts together.

If I were in the market for a high end super-cruiser, I would probably end up with the Star. I haven’t ridden Honda’s Valkerie, but it looks like a stripped Goldwing with sportbike forks. Pretty silly. For about the same dough a Royal Star costs, I could get a Harley, but I’d still vote for the Yam. The engine in the Star can handle 140 or more horsepower. I’ve seen V-Maxs with 60+ thousand miles of abuse whose engines have never been apart. The Star makes 80 or so horsepower and does highway speeds at 2,500rpm. The engine may never wear out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 100,000 miles come and go before this power plant needs more than a tune-up. Yamaha knows this. Why do you think they give a five-year, unlimited miles warranty? Still thinking about that Harley-Davidson? If you think you’ll be able to put 100,000 miles on that Harley’s OWN odometer under its OWN power without at least a couple complete overhauls, I think you better check yourself into a permanent suite on Fantasy Island.

Thumbs up to the Star. Thanks for the ride.




Engine Type: 1294cc liquid cooled 70 degree DOHC V-four, four valves per cylinder

Bore and Stroke: 79 x 66mm

Compression Ratio: 10.1:1

Carburetor: 4 x 28mm Mikuni CV

Transmission: 5-speed

Wheelbase: 66.7 in.

Dry Weight: 701 lbs.

Tires: Front; 150/80V16 Rear; 150/90V15

Forks: 43mm Kayaba

Rear Suspension: Kayaba mono-shock with adjustable preload

Brakes: 298mm dual front discs with dual-piston calipers; 320mm rear disc with dual-piston calipers

Seat Height: 28.3 in.

Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons


  1. I love my ’96 Royal Star! My only 2 issues with it are the mileage range on a full tank of 4.8 gallons. Twice I’ve had to switch to my reserve tank while cruising at only 130 miles. I thought with that big of a tank, i could hit 200 miles before seeing the low fuel light pop on. Also…on the highways, it runs very smooth, but at about 70-75mph, it sounds like it’s running at 7000rpm. I don’t want to push it past 75mph, and that kinda sucks. Great bike though, and it really commands attention from people. Tons of chrome and big tires and long wheelbase definitely turns some heads!

  2. I’ve owned my 1996 Royal star since 1998 have put around 60ths miles on it. I had to get the clutch cylinder seal fixed,the shift drum and I just put a new clutch in. Sounds like a lot but for a bike 20yrs old I’m ok with it. People see this bike and think it’s within 5yrs old, yes I keep it clean. The only thing I don’t like is the Distanc I get on a tank of gas. 120 miles and then hit reserve. Great bike run with anybody.

  3. Dear Keith.

    Regarding the reparation you did. Do you have the part number of the item you fixed?

    I am planning to buy a 1996 Royal Star that I saw a couple of weeks ago jointly with my wife. The first impression was positive by the time we asked the actual owner to turn it on. The engine sound is very low in comparison with the four exhaust pipes.

    I am a little concern about a minor presence of oil in the piston head area outside of the engine.

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