I must have a screw loose. I told some friends that I would meet them near the local twisties for a breakfast ride. They all ride sportbikes and assumed that I would be riding one as well. Imagine their surprise when I made my entrance on Yamaha’s new V Star 1300 Tourer. I was greeted by laughter and snickers (nothing new to me), but took comfort in one of my favorite lines, “You all laugh at me because I’m different, while I laugh at you because you’re all the same.”
It is that same principle that inspired Yamaha to build the 1300, which neatly fills the niche between the V Star 1100 and Road Star lines. Yamaha set out to create a whole new bike from the ground up targeted at the middleweight cruiser market (yes, 1,300cc is now middleweight territory). The new bike had to have more power with “Big Cruiser sensual character,” so in response Yamaha decided to hide the upgrades, making them visible only to the trained eye.
For starters the V Star 1300 Toureris now fuel injected, with dual 40mm throttle bodies feeding an all-new engine with four valves per cylinder (as opposed to the V Star 1100‘s two). The big change is that the new bike is liquid-cooled, making it the first such Yamaha cruiser in a decade. To keep the traditional look of an air-cooled engine, the 1300 uses internal coolant passages with brushed exterior cooling fins for a clean, traditional cruiser engine look. The radiator is cleverly positioned between the frame spars, with the inlets and outlets neatly tucked above and below the engine-out of sight to the casual observer. Bore and stroke are increased to 100mm x 83mm from the 1100’s 95mm x 75mm, and the compression ratio has also been raised to 9.5:1 from its predecessor’s 8.3:1.
In keeping with the “different” theme, the V Star 1300 uses a two-into-one exhaust, which is freer flowing than the 1100’s dual exhausts yet still retains that low rumble we all know and love. All of these changes result in a claimed 76.8 horsepower and 81.8 lb-ft of torque at the crankshaft, up from the 1100’s 64.1 and 63.6 respectively.
So enough with all the technical jargon, let’s get down to the good stuff. How does this big cruiser roll? To evaluate it I first tried to understand what Yamaha meant by a “sensual” motorcycle. Riding a cruiser requires a different riding style than a sport- or sport-touring bike. I like them all, but I enjoyed riding the V Star 1300 for different reasons. With the seat a mere 28 inches off the ground, flat-footing at stops is easy with my 30-inch inseam. Once onboard, the 1,304cc engine provides enough go-juice to scoot me along comfortably without the slightest hiccup from the fuel injection. Throttle application is always smooth, as is the engine output, thanks to dual counterbalancers on the crankshaft. Best of all, with all that torque at my disposal, gear selection from the slick-shifting five-speed is never an issue. Just a twist of the wrist and I’m gone, regardless of which gear I’m in.
Three turns into the ride and my friends were out of sight, leaving me plenty of room to just cruise. Speaking of turns, the V Star 1300 is actually quite nimble. Its low center of gravity and long 66.5-inch wheelbase make for a stable bike. Although its limited cornering clearance means you’ll scrape the floorboards on occasion, the floorboard feelers are replaceable should you get carried away in the canyons. What caught me off guard, however, was the suspension. On the highway the combination of a Kayaba fork with the single link-type shock in the rear soaks up bumps. Strangely, this softly sprung setup also performs quite well when the roads aren’t straight. Usually a softly sprung bike will wallow and drift through a turn. On the V Star I can feel the suspension doing its thing, and yet it still tracks on the line I want it to. The bike is plenty capable of leaning even more except for the floorboards getting in the way. All in all it is very impressive.
Of course, just when I thought my group was long gone I came around a corner to see everyone bunched behind a slow-moving van, the perfect opportunity to test the binders! The V Star 1300’s dual two-piston calipers clamp down on the 298mm front rotors with great linear feel at the lever and bring the bike to a stop lickety-split. The single rear disc does a good job of helping its friends at the front, and is accompanied by a single-pot caliper neatly mounted below the swingarm. In this location it’s hidden by the exhaust for a clean look, though this may make it a pain to change the pads when the time comes.
During the V Star’s press launch in October, I spent time riding both the standard and touring models. Other than the touring model’s windscreen, hard leather-covered saddlebags and passenger backrest, both bikes are the same. Highway cruising is pleasant enough on the standard model, but at anything over 70 mph the rider is transformed into a human parachute by the windblast. Fortunately for buyers of the standard model, if one day you decide that you don’t like being an air brake, Yamaha will sell you the pieces to convert the standard model into the touring version. You’ll even get a choice of three different windscreen heights: tall (the standard height on the touring model), medium and short.
After the highway experience on the standard model I was glad to see a touring model waiting for me in the Rider shop for this test. Now I could pack my things into the 11-gallon saddlebags instead of wearing a backpack, and didn’t need a separate key to lock them up-the locks on the bags match the ignition key. How convenient. And the windscreen, how I had missed it so! Just for kicks I took the bike out on the highway and giggled to myself as the wind was blown right over my head. My only gripe is that the top edge of the windscreen is right in my field of view. I am forced to either look over it or lower my head a little and look under it, neither of which is a comfortable position, but still beat being blasted by the wind.
I eventually made it to the breakfast location where my pals had already ordered their food. There were plenty of other two-wheeled enthusiasts there, too. One sportbike rider, clad in his trusty leather suit, came up to me and said, “Man, I’d love to ride that thing.” Perplexed, I denied him the opportunity, of course, but only after asking him why he wanted a ride. “I’ve never ridden a cruiser before and it looks like a whole different kind of fun.”And that was Yamaha’s intent. To build a successor to the popular V Star 1100 that will reach out to a wide variety of motorcyclists: Riders on small cruisers who want to move up, riders of bigger cruisers who want to step down and sportbikers who want to slow down. The V Star 1300 offers the rider moving up big-bike looks without the big-bike price, while the rider stepping down can appreciate the reduction in mass from his or her former ride, and the sportbiker at heart can enjoy the performance characteristics of a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine, free-flowing exhaust, capable brakes and trick (for a cruiser anyway) suspension.
As I was sitting there munching on my scrambled eggs I looked outside to catch a glimpse of the bike. Just then I began to appreciate what the guys at Yamaha were talking about during the press intro. No individual aspect of the new V Star’s spec sheet jumps out and calls for attention, and that’s the point. Visually the attention to detail that Yamaha has put into this motorcycle is quite noticeable, though. The lines just flow. From front to back nothing is out of proportion, and just like the spec sheet, no single piece of the motorcycle sticks out like a sore thumb. The extra effort to take care of the little things-like using the exhaust to hide the rear caliper, routing the coolant passages of the engine internally and concealing the radiator and its piping-just add to the clean lines of the newest V Star. Yamaha wants owners of this bike to consider it an experience best described as sensual, and I’d say it got its wish.
If you’re interested in the 2007 Yamaha V Star 1300 Tourer, you might also be interested in Rider‘s 2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer Review, 2008 Middleweight Comparo featuring the V Star 1100 Silverado, or Woman Rider‘s 2002 V Star Silverado Review.