2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer | Road Test Review

photography by Tom Riles and Nigel Kinrade
[This 2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer Road Test was originally featured in the February 2009 issue of Rider magazine]

Throw a leg over the saddle, lift the bike off the sidestand, settle into the commodious seat, turn the key, push the button-Baroom! Good sound, not too loud. Pull in the left lever, left toe snicks the gearbox into first, a little throttle while you let out the clutch, and smooth as a hot knife through cold butter you’re away. Could be the start of a 30-mile commute to work. Or cruising Main Street on Saturday evening. Or going to Grandma’s house for Sunday lunch. Or heading to Mount Rushmore a thousand miles away. That’s what Yamaha’s V Star 950 Tourer is for-easy traveling, short trip or long.

Looks good, too, with pleasantly flowing lines and handsome shiny embellishments. I especially like that headlight with the painted shell and the chrome enhancements. Styling sells cruisers, and the design department worked hard on this one.

2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer
2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer

The 950 is an all-new bike, based on old principles. The air-cooled, wet-sump, 60-degree V-twin has an almost square bore and stroke of 85mm x 83mm; for a capacity of 942cc. A chain-driven single overhead camshaft operates four valves in each cylinder, using roller rocker arms-which operate a little more efficiently than the sliding types many engines use. Lightweight aluminum pistons slide up and down in ceramic liners, with a compression ratio of 9.0:1. Mikuni fuel injection runs regular gas through 35mm bores, the Transistor Controlled Ignition sparks the plugs, and the spent gases flow out through a two-into-one exhaust. The multisensored fuel-injection system has a sensor placed in the header pipe just before it goes into the muffler to make it easier to change mufflers, should the rider be so inclined. And in the cruiser crowd, people are often motivated to buy aftermarket mufflers, either for a new look or, perish the thought, more noise. On the Jett Tuning Dynojet dyno the V Star 950 cranked out 47.3 horses at 5,800 rpm at the rear wheel, and 56.1 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm.

Primary drive is by helical-cut gears, through a cable-actuated clutch and five-speed gearbox, and a belt final drive. I was impressed with the light clutch and smooth flow of power, minimizing any risk of stalling when starting up. On the mountain roads that all motorcyclists love to ride, climbing and descending with lots of tight curves to be rounded, a pleasantly torquey motor makes such byways great fun. Changing gears is still necessary, but minimized thanks to the low-rev grunt of the engine. The transmission has very smooth shifting, and never missed a gear.

A good, no-frills touring cruiser ready for personalization at a good, no-frills price.
A good, no-frills touring cruiser ready for personalization at a good, no-frills price.

This powertrain, sitting in a double-cradle frame, is solidly mounted. Despite not having a balancing shaft in the engine, the vibes off the single-pin crankshaft are minimal, and even quite pleasant for the cruising rider who is not interested in the redline and maximum lean angles, just enjoying the gentle throb. There is no tachometer, but a big speedometer is mounted on the gas tank, along with the requisite warning lights and a “multi-function meter unit” which can do a diagnosis should the engine have problems. Star has conveniently put select and reset buttons for the minimalist computer up on the right handlebar, so if you leave the gas station and realize you have not reset the tripmeter, you don’t have to take your hand off the bar in order to move it back to zero. Little touches like this can endear a rider to his ride.

At the front is a 41mm Kayaba fork with 5.3 inches of travel; at the back, a single Soqi nitrogen-charged shock with 4.3 inches of travel. The shock has nine different preload settings, and a tool is included for the job, which can be done after taking off a side panel. This is not very convenient and I would have found it preferable to use one of those little round adjusters which can be turned by hand, especially on a tourer such as this.
Good-looking, eight-spoke cast wheels are at both ends, with a 130/70 x 18-inch tire on the front, a 170/70 x 16 at the back. Rather than be exotic, with bizarre shapes connecting the hub with the rim, the wheel designers decided to make them look almost like a wire-spoked wheel, and they have done a good job without the misery of tube-type tires. Each wheel has a single disc brake, and since this is not a dive-into-the-corner-hard-on-the-brakes sportbike, the brakes work more than adequately. Wheelbase is 66.3 inches, and the wet weight for the touring model, including 4.4 gallons of gas in the tank, is 660 pounds, which is par for the middling-sized cruisers. Average fuel consumption was about 41 mpg, with a high of 47 mpg. That can mean a safe range of more than 200 miles‚ always leave that last half gallon for real emergencies. The low-fuel light goes on with 0.8 gallons left.

This saddlebag lid design works well with seat bags and duffels.
This saddlebag lid design works well with seat bags and duffels.

Maintenance is straightforward. Oil changes and valve clearance checks every 4,000 miles; a new filter every 8,000; and a new oil-coated paper element in the air cleaner every 24,000 miles.

On the 950 the handling is quite good, very light, very easy. Rake of 32 degrees and trail of 5.7 inches provides a nice compromise between quick steering, useful on the hairpin curves, and in-line stability, good to have at 90 mph. Because of the easy power and handling, Star is advertising this as a good bike for both relatively new, as well as experienced, riders. And for the short-legged rider as well, with a very low seat height of 26.6 inches. Plus the forward part of the rider’s seat is narrow, making it even easier to put both feet on the ground. That is an important consideration, as 660 pounds are hard to pick up if the bike falls over in a slippery gas station.

Star makes a lot of claims about the saddle, and the engineering that went into it. However, it seems they may have skimped on padding to get the seat so low, and my butt was a mite pained after several hours on the road. I would opt for the Comfort Cruise accessory seat. Ignoring the saddle, the ergonomics are quite comfortable, with long floorboards allowing for the legs to be moved back and forth, a heel-and-toe shift mechanism, and a wide 1-inch handlebar-over a meter from tip to tip. The overall design is very appealing, a 21st-century approach to the “classic” cruiser lines. The gas tank is nicely tapered, with a chromed cover housing the speedometer and warning lights. Modest but efficient steel fenders provide a healthy look, and the wheels have a pleasantly airy appearance about them. Rather unsightly are the fluid reservoir and horn down by the brake pedal-they look like last-minute add-ons.

The Tourer comes with a short windscreen, a pair of leather-covered hard bags and a backrest for the passenger. Aware that the cruiser buyers love to “personalize” their motorcycles, the Star line has almost 90 accessories available for the 950, from shiny “bling” to different saddles, a luggage rack and, of course, clothing. Marketing people say that the average cruiser purchaser will spend well over a thousand dollars on accessories before even leaving the shop, and Star means to take advantage of that. The full Star accessory catalog runs more than 200 pages and offers everything from braided-steel brake lines to golf balls-I kid you not!

All necessary instruments are mounted on the tank, and include a mileage computer.
All necessary instruments are mounted on the tank, and include a mileage computer.

To take a trek all you have to do is throw a change of clothes and a toothbrush in the saddlebags, which have a wide opening at the top and are easy to pack. They close with ease and use the ignition key to lock-very convenient.

No rain riding, so I cannot say whether or not they are waterproof. I keep the water bottle in the left bag, as the right bag heats up a bit with the muffler being close underneath. I like the short windscreen because I want to look over the top, rather than through it. The owner does have accessory windscreens to choose from.

Out on the highway the 950 loafs along at 60 mph effortlessly. Want speed? The speedometer needle is at the 90 mark in the twinkling of an eye after I shift down to fourth and turn the throttle. On the narrow twisting backroads the floorboards touch down easily if I am overly enthusiastic, but the boards do flip up. And where they touch is a small changeable bit of non-sparking metal, so the boards can be made to look new at minimal cost.

All-new 60-degree V-twin uses a single-pin crank for a loping feel. Roller rocker arms in the four-valve SOHC heads reduce friction.
All-new 60-degree V-twin uses a single-pin crank for a loping feel. Roller rocker arms in the four-valve SOHC heads reduce friction.

On the bumpy roads the suspension was OK, but not great. But that is in the nature of the cruiser…it is intended for easy going, not rough. Star has done a good job in putting together a well-functioning motorcycle, one that will make a perfect platform for personalization. Perhaps that is the key to cruiser ethos, allowing the owner to make his own machine exceptional in appearance.

This midsize is a hard-fought section of the market, especially among the Japanese players. There’s the Honda 750 Shadows, the Suzuki 805cc Boulevards, and the Kawasaki Vulcan 900s—not to mention Harley’s 883 Sportsters and Triumph’s 865 Speedmaster and America models.

Stopping to smell the flowers: Important in the life of every motorcyclist.
Stopping to smell the flowers: Important in the life of every motorcyclist.

In the American market perhaps the most important factor will be price. This new model comes either as the standard V Star 950, for $7,890, or the trip-equipped V Star 950 Tourer for $8,990‚ which was our choice to test as Rider appreciates touring motorcycles. The price is competitive, but more importantly one needs to evaluate the feel and look of the machine. The V Star 950 Tourer does everything well and its price point is very good, so if you like the look you really can’t go wrong.

2009 Star V Star 950 Tourer Motorcycle Review Specifications Chart
Base Price: $8,990
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: www.yamaha-motor.com

The 950 is not too big and not too small, with a very low seat height, just right for those who want to travel long and light.
The 950 is not too big and not too small, with a very low seat height, just right for those who want to travel long and light.
Type: Air-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin
Displacement: 942cc
Bore x Stroke: 85.0 x 83.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 4,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Mikuni Electronic
Fuel Injection w/ TPS & 35mm throttle bodies
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.25-qt. cap.
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Ignition: Transistor-Controlled Ignition
Charging Output: 461 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 11AH
Frame: Tubular-steel double cradle w/ box-section steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 66.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees/5.7 in.
Seat Height: 26.6 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions w/ 5.3-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload w/ 4.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper
Rear: Single disc w/ 1-piston pin-slide caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 18 in.
Rear: Cast, 4.50 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/70-18
Rear: 170/70-16
Wet Weight: 660 lbs.
Load Capacity: 416 lbs.
GVWR: 1,076 lbs.
Tourer verson adds short windscreen, locking leather-covered bags with 11-gallon total capacity and a passenger backrest.
Tourer verson adds short windscreen, locking leather-covered bags with 11-gallon total capacity and a passenger backrest.
Fuel Capacity: 4.4 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 Octane Min. (high/avg/low) 47/40.9/37
Estimated Range: 180 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: NA


  1. I really enjoyed this review. Unfortunately because of some snafu with my subscription to Rider Magazine I never received this issue and I always wanted to know what you had to say about this bike. I would really like a midsize 650-950 cc shaft drive, liquid-cooled motorcycle. I only have a 29 inch inseam and really prefer not to have a heel -n-toe shifter. I’m not sure such a bike exists. I’ve always loved your magazine so keep up the good work.

    • Hi Mike
      I am a little late on this but here goes, I have a 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom & just love it & here are the features that are good for me. I also have a 29″ inseam, the bike fits fine = water cooled=belt drive=plenty power for 2 up =comfy seat but I think Mustang seat would be a bit better=handles like a dream= stock mufflers sound great=put 16000 last 2 years & no problems or repairs=great road clearance = 52 MPG=last but not least Great looking bike. The state of Maine has challenging roads, however, this bike takes charge. I love it,- Maurice

  2. I own the 2012 950 depending how you drive it I have gotten 61 MPG and I did get caught in rain and the speedometer is water proof. Great bike for the money!!!

  3. It’s just my opinion but I don’t believe any newbie rider should be starting out with a bike this powerful. It may feel light and easy to handle for an experienced rider but for any person with no experience to compare to it’s a big and heavy bike. Since just about every new rider lays a bike down at least once I’d recommend learning on a generic basic bike around 300-500 cc and doing the beginners damage to it..

    • absolutely agree!!

      i just traded ny vstar 650 for a used 2012 950 tourer. i had the 650 for 4 yrs and dropped it twice. this 950 is 100lbs more plus has a much bigger kick in the throttle. not a bike for a newbie rider.

      i love this 950 tourer. it is such a joy to ride. it takes no work to handle it, very smooth.

  4. I’ve had the pleasure of owning and riding a vstar 950 since buying new in 2009. Have had no issues or desire to change after 5 seasons. Upgrades added were after market engine guards, Memphis Shade Batwing Faring, Mustang Seat, Air Wings, and Oxford Heated grips.

    One comment on review, the valve check interval is incorrrectly stated as 4000 miles however, per the owners manual ( page 7.3), it is 25000km or 16000miles. Please update this error as prospective purchasers use these numbers when making their decisions.

  5. I purchased a yamaha 950 tourer last year with only 4000 on it. I ride all seasons (heated gear). I absolutely love this bike. I just added led lights, speaker/amp, phone holder, and drivers back rest. It looks really good at night with all the led lights on. I did this to be more noticeable because I ride a lot at night. I think I will own this bike for a long time. I had started out with a yamaha 640 and soon wanted more power, but do not get me wrong, the 650 is a great bike also!

  6. i purchased a 2009 950t this past july with 3.5k mile. for me it is a comfortable bike to ride. most tanks i am getting about 55 mpg. i do get some viberation at about 70 mph, so i have not ridden it much faster than that. i have been averaging about 1000 mile per month, mostly thru the mountains of new mexico, with some in town cruising. i am pleased with the purchase of this bike and would recommend it to others.

  7. I love my 2012 950 xvs blew the original motor downshifting when I should have up shifted with a worn clutch put a 2009 950 motor in it with new clutch I bought on eBay for 700.00 very easy to put in bike feels so much more powerful now I have put 9,000 miles on this bike in 7 months and this bike took all the beatings I put it through very impressed with this bike it’s like driving a lazyboy chair very comfortable

  8. I love my 2015 Yamaha V*950 T, I bought it new in 2017 and now I have about 36,000 miles on it. Before this bike I road a Yamaha 650 custom for five years and put over 50,000 miles on that bike. The 650 custom is an excellent bike for a new rider and I enjoyed it for five seasons. However I wanted a little more power and fuel injection. The 950 is a big enough bike to ride across country and I get about 55 miles to the gallon however if I was ride just on the highway the milage would probably go down to 47 miles per gallon. It’s big and comfortable enough to ride two up. The bike is so comfortable it it’s like riding on a rail, changing gears is extremely light the brakes are excellent it is overall an excellent bike.


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