Ride on down to your local custom hangout on any given weekend and peruse the metric cruisers assembled there. Do a quick count of the number of each brand represented, and there’s a good chance that half or more will be from the Star Motorcycles division of Yamaha. Now check out any magazine that features customized metric bikes and, again, Yamaha/Star machines will likely dominate. Fact is, Yamaha has done a great job with its Star Motorcycles brand of cruisers, and its new 2008 Raider is a worthy continuation of that line.
The Raider exists because in its research, Yamaha found that buyers of 1,300cc and larger metric cruisers chose those that had custom rather than classic styling by almost two to one. Those buyers listed their top three reasons for purchasing these custom-look bikes as style, size and riding position. Based upon this information, Yamaha decided to give them more of what they wanted, and came up with the new Raider.
Yamaha refers to its new model as a “modern performance custom,” and the styling elements it felt that it needed to capture include its deep rake; a high mounted fuel tank; a wide, low-profile rear tire and a good deal of open space above the front wheel and engine. Powering the Raider is the air-cooled, OHV, 1,854cc (113-cubic-inch), 48-degree V-twin engine found in Star’s Roadliner and Stratoliner models. It features four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder, with belt final drive. The hidden single shock is mounted horizontally beneath the engine, and there’s a custom and stretched style to its flangeless fuel tank. The wiring is run inside the handlebar and cables inside the steering head for a cleaner look. To enhance the “black art” quality its pointed, chromed accents evoke a certain gothic look.
The Raider is supported by a new aluminum frame that is not only lighter (37 pounds vs. the Road Star’s 62-pound steel frame), but also helps to provide that upthrust, stretched look. Its swingarm is likewise aluminum and weighs just 11.8 pounds, as opposed to the Road Star’s 26-pounder. The frame, in concert with the 21-inch front wheel and 120/70-21 tire, six-degree raked triple trees and that fat 210/40-18 series rear tire provide it with 39.2 degrees of rake and 4 inches of trail. A Star spokesman mentioned at the introduction that, “You have to go to extreme dimensions to stand out,” and the Raider’s compressed look in the rear with its airy front treatment give the bike the appearance that it’s about to spring.
Star Motorcycles invited the press to ride the Raider in Northern California last fall on some gorgeous back roads for much of a day, and yerz truly is never one to refuse a free meal or a free ride. Climb aboard and the Raider has a heavy, solid feel; those steel fenders add to its heft. It dented our official scales here to the tune of 735 pounds. The rider sits deep into the wide, dished seat, rather than on it, with the low, wide bar arranged upon tall risers. Seat height is 27.4 inches and the pegs are far forward, but not to the point that they rotate the hips and give the impression you’re sitting on your spine. A nice, mellow burble emanates from the 2-into-1-into-2 catalyzed exhaust.
Chunk this puppy into gear, release the clutch and it leaps forward readily, a function of its monster torque. Roll it on and you’ll wish there were a tachometer as the engine has a nice, hard hit in the upper rpm ranges that causes me to believe Star’s claim of 90 horsepower at the rear wheel, with 110 lb-ft of torque. Dual counter-rotating balancers allow the rider to feel a bit of V-twin shake, but it’s never annoying. Several times during the ride I encountered major bumps that I expected to bounce me off the seat, but the unexpectedly well damped 46mm fork and single rear shock kept me comfortably planted. There are 3.3 gallons of fuel in the flangeless tank, and the sub-tank under the seat holds another 0.8 for 4.1 gallons of total capacity.
Initial turn-in is easy, but then as it leans the bike requires mounting effort to steer, a function of its 70.8-inch wheelbase, longish rake/trail figures and that wide 210-series, low-profile Metzeler Marathon rear tire. Stopping power comes from a pair of 298mm front disc brakes grasped by four-piston calipers, with a 310mm disc and single-pot caliper in the rear. The brakes are powerful, present a solid feel, and in concert with the suspension add to the feeling of control.
Fit and finish is fine, and the Star Raider will be available in two trim levels, the standard model (for $13,180 to $13,380) and the S model ($13,780 to $13,980) with more chrome, including triple clamps, fork sliders, airbox cover, headlight housing, risers and such. To enhance the experience, Star Motorcycles will offer a full line of accessories for the Raider, including handlebars and risers, windscreens, seats, leather saddlebags, luggage racks, rider and passenger backrests, passing lamps, billet items and much more.
From my brief experience on the bike I came away impressed that the Raider offers what the customer wants, not just in style but in its feeling of heft, solidity, that the rider is immersed in something big and strong and powerful. It’s the kind of bike that makes the rider’s eyes narrow and jaw set. It seems that Star will have another winner on its hands.