(This article was published in the July 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)
Story by Greg Drevenstedt, Photos by Nelson and Riles
Starting in the late ’70s, metric cruisers, such as Yamaha’s 650 Special and Virago 750, Honda’s CB650 Custom and Nighthawk, among others, offered an alternative to American V-twins, with more reliability, higher performance and lower prices than Harley-Davidsons of the time. (Indian had yet to be reanimated, and Victory wasn’t even a twinkle in Polaris’ eye.) During the ’80s, freed from the stranglehold of AMF, Harley-Davidson worked hard to improve quality. When the economy thrived in the ’90s, the Harley juggernaut took off, culminating in year-long waiting lists and some buyers flipping new models like real estate speculators flipping houses. Not wanting to miss the rising tide, Japanese manufacturers responded by introducing cruisers that closely imitated Harleys, with air-cooled V-twins and retro styling.
Since the late ’90s, amid the rise and fall of motorcycle sales in general, cruisers have accounted for 45-50 percent of the market, boosted in no small part by the mainstream popularity of Jesse James’ West Coast Choppers and Discovery Channel’s American Chopper. Builders of blinged-out customs popped up everywhere like mushrooms after a spring rain. Rather than see some of its hard-won customers defect, in 1999 Harley-Davidson launched its Custom Vehicle Operations, offering several factory customs each model year that feature Screamin’ Eagle performance upgrades, generous coatings of chrome, wild paint jobs and one-of-a-kind touches found only on CVO bikes.
After Yamaha launched its Star Motorcycles division in 2005 to establish a cruiser brand identity separate from its racy sportbikes and dirt bikes, it went on to cultivate the “We Build It, You Make It Your Own” tagline, offering a wide array of Star Custom Accessories. But, as Harley-Davidson no doubt understood, as popular as customization is among Star buyers—on average, they spend $2,100 on accessories, usually when they purchase their motorcycle—some customers want the customization done for them, and a select few also want an exclusive machine that gives them serious bragging rights.
That’s where the new-for-2012 Star Custom Line (SCL) comes in, a broadening of the Star Motorcycles brand to include limited-edition factory customs. Just as the Roadliner helped launch the Star brand, the Star Custom Line is being launched with the Raider SCL, based on the raked-out Raider S that’s been in Star’s lineup since 2008.
“We wanted the Raider SCL to be bold and impactful, to make a statement,” said Aaron Bast, Senior Product Planner. With a six-layer, metal flake Blazing Orange paint job with custom graphics, custom chrome wheels, belt pulley and belt guard co-developed with Performance Machines, and a two-tone leather seat with color-matched stitching, the Raider SCL certainly stands out. There was one parked in the lobby of the hotel where Star hosted its 2012 press launch, cordoned off by a red velvet rope, and packs of jowly conventioneers in khaki slacks drooled over it like teenagers in an Apple store.
According to Bast, the Raider SCL will appeal to “the discerning cruiser rider, someone who will appreciate details such as stainless mesh cables and lines, the distressed leather seat and the aluminum holographic SCL tank badge,” which is engraved with the bike’s production number. Only 500 will be built this year, and they’ll be sold exclusively in the U.S. Such an attention-getting motorcycle comes with an attention-getting price—$19,990, a $4,800 premium over the Raider S.
Bast said we can expect to see more SCL models in the future, though he was tight-lipped about specifics. But, he admitted, it is important for SCL motorcycles “to have big cc’s; the SCL concept doesn’t make sense on a V Star 950,” an entry-level model in Star’s lineup. The Stratoliner Deluxe and Roadliner S, powered by the same 1,854cc V-twin as the Raider, would therefore make good candidates for SCL makeovers.
To maintain the exclusivity of the Star Custom Line, owners of existing Raiders won’t be able to buy, for example, the Raider SCL’s custom wheels, belt pulley or belt guard. If buyers of the Raider SCL want to further personalize their bike, Star offers an accessory rider backrest pad that matches the two-tone seat, and anything that bolts onto a stock Raider—windscreens, passenger backrests, racks, luggage, etc.—will fit on the SCL version.
I had a chance to ride the Raider SCL in the lush, rolling hills north of Atlanta, Georgia. Before climbing aboard, I did a slow walk around the bike, taking it all in. It was a bright sunny day, and the Raider SCL’s chrome and deep, luscious custom paint and graphics really popped. Settling into the Raider’s wide tractor-style seat, which sits 27.4 inches above the ground, I lifted the hefty machine (730 pounds wet, claimed) off the chrome sidestand. Laid out before me was the 4.2-gallon flangeless fuel tank, slathered in metallic orange paint and topped with a large chrome console housing the speedometer with an inset fuel gauge and small LCD display. More chrome covers the handlebar, bar risers and clamp, triple tree, mirrors and headlight nacelle, and wiring for the switchgear is routed inside the handlebar for a clean look.
A quick stab at the starter button fired up the 113-cubic-inch air-cooled 48-degree V-twin, which has four pushrod-actuated overhead valves and two spark plugs per cylinder. Fuel is injected, the 5-speed transmission has a hydraulically actuated wet clutch and a heavy-duty belt turns the rear wheel. The big twin rumbled authoritatively and the 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust, equipped with Yamaha’s torque-boosting EXUP valve, had a satisfyingly thunderous tone. Mechanically, the Raider SCL is unchanged from its base-model predecessor. When we put a 2009 Raider S on the dyno (Rider, October 2009), it twisted the drum to the tune of 86.3 horsepower and 110.3 lb-ft of torque—impressive numbers. The Raider SCL pulls hard, especially when short-shifted to keep revs close to its 2,500 rpm torque peak, and it cruises easily at highway speeds without excessive vibration.
Everything about the Raider SCL feels solid, as if the whole bike was carved from billet. Holding it all together is a light, rigid cast-aluminum double cradle frame and a Controlled-Fill aluminum swingarm. The fork, which has a 33-degree rake plus a 6-degree yoke angle for 39 total degrees of rake, has 5.1 inches of suspension travel and the hidden rear shock compresses 3.5 inches. You wouldn’t think so by looking at it, but the Raider SCL makes short work of rough pavement, handles well and has decent cornering clearance. While chasing Yamaha/Star fast-guy test rider Mike Ulrich on twisty, coarse State Route 60 between Dahlonega and Suches, I was able to keep up a brisk pace without too much effort or too many sparks. Then again, with a low-profile 210-series, 18-inch rear tire and skinny 21-inch front tire, the Raider SCL isn’t exactly flickable, but what chopperesque cruiser is? Monoblock calipers grip the dual front discs powerfully, though a firm pull of the lever is required.
As far as cruisers go, the Raider SCL has a nearly ideal riding position. The handlebar is at a sensible height, width and distance from the rider, allowing for bent elbows and minimal shoulder strain. On some cruisers, at highway speeds you have to fight to keep your feet on the pegs or your legs from splaying apart, but not on the Raider. The footpegs are well-placed, not too far forward nor too wide, allowing the rider’s knees to naturally hug the tank. No herniated discs or painfully twisted hips.
The Raider SCL’s big chrome headlight nacelle provides a mesmerizing cyclorama of scenery, reflecting trees, blue sky and clouds gliding past as I rode through the wooded countryside. It can also be a harbinger of things to come, with menacing dark clouds turning the nacelle to a smoky gray. Fortunately, heavy rain pelted us only on the last few miles of our ride. Really, my only complaint about this bike is the prospect of keeping all that glimmering paint and chrome in tip-top shiny condition. A Raider SCL owner might need to convince that kid down the street who mows his lawn to moonlight as a bike polisher.
Star Motorcycles had its entire lineup on hand at the press launch, and there were relatively few changes for 2012. A new handlebar here, tweaked styling there, as well as new colors and pricing. The big news this year is the Star Custom Line and its inaugural model, the Raider SCL. Star clearly put a lot of effort into this bike, with assistance from GK Design International and Jeff Palhegyi Designs, both located near Yamaha’s Southern California headquarters. Higher performance and better road manners made the Raider S the crowd favorite in our four-bike custom cruiser comparison in October 2009. And now, in a category where looks often trump everything else, Star has knocked it out of the park with the Raider SCL, and it did so with a sticker price that’s nearly 10 grand less than the least expensive Harley CVO. We’re already looking forward to what Star comes up with next year.
2012 Star Raider SCL Specs
Base Price: $19,990
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 48-degree OHV V-twin, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 x 118.0mm
Transmission: 5-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 70.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 39 degrees/4.0 in.
Seat Height: 27.4 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 730 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gals.
Average mpg: NA
This is a well written review about a very bad motorcycle.
The bike is a white elephant.
The company is going to be dead within a year.
You don’t know what your talking about. I test drove a 2010 Raider. A great ride! I’ve owned three Harleys, presently have a Goldwing, and I would love to have this as a second bike. And you are saying that Yamaha will be dead within a year????? Please explain.
Nick, you have your HD head up your butt. Everything Yamaha makes is better than all the rest. This comment really shows your ignorance.
… Yamaha company closing within a year.?? Impossible.
I bought a 2014 Raider S in Galaxy Blue with 2,011 miles off eBay in May 2022 and had it shipped from N.C. to Georgia. It is my 25th bike (I’m 65) and the best of all of them. I want to ride it all the time. I love the looks, the seat comfort, the torque, the stock pipes sound, the transmission shifting, the handling, the braking, the massive air cooled engine (no radiator), the belt drive, the handlebar controls, and the 210 rear tire. I feel cool riding it and have never felt that way with all my other bikes. The only thing I don’t like is having to remove three oil drain bolts for oil changes.
I think the price of the bike is going to deadin the sales, except for those that can really afford to buy them… That price has no Saddle bags, foot boards or sissy bar w/ pad… Now, Truimph had the right idea with the Thunderbird, all the Accessories came with the bike with one price from factory, I don’t want to put out that kind of cash & then have to purchase all the extra’s…Sorry..
Oh yeh, needs a larger fuel tank…
I agree with the article. This is one beautiful bike. I Ride a 2009 Stratoliner S and I can testify to the awesome engine. I ride with a friend who has a 2011 Harley Streetglide with the 103 CI engine with a stage 1 setup and I can pull away easily top end and at a roll-on with awesome torque available and good horsepower.
I think it is like my S-liner with a low center of gravity and feels much less top-heavy than the harley, even though the overall weight is roughly the same. I would sure like to have this Bike.
Just curious. Did you happen to take a Greyhound from Cali to Georgia? If not, my bad; I’m just looking for someone.
No, sorry, not me. I traveled from Az. to Michigan, but not by bus!
To me it looks a little butt end heavy with the big pipes et. al. but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder 🙂
I really have to agree with you about those pipes. They are way too large.
I have to agree with you on the design. To my taste the rear fender looks terrible. Why not just make it a straight fender?
For 20 large you really have to love it.
Yep those japs are good at making copies of the original, its too bad they can’t make their own originals as popular as Harley is. There is nothing like good old American originals!!!
Hey Jim, Maybe I am just an old fart but I have over 50 years of mc riding under my butt on American, European, and Japanese bikes…Isn’t it more important that in the brother/sisterhood of riders we simply enjoy the sport together rather than bash certain brands. I went through my “Harley Years” and all the stuff that comes with that loyalty but I never (at least in any serious manner) thumbed my nose at folks who had different rides. I find the older I get the more interested I become in all brands and styles of motorcycles. I have my preferences as you do ,but I think the greater variety is good for the sport.
Amen brother, That is what riding is all about. I like all bikes on an individual basis. Harleys are certainly neat but so are a lot of different bikes. I would get kind of bored to limit myself to one brand for 50 years when there are so many incredible machines out there, past and present, But that is just me, and diversity is what makes life interesting, isn’t it?
ever hear of lipstick on a pig?, I’ll stick with rain drops on my Hog thank you
After viewing the specs and test riding a Triumph Thunderbird, the Triumph is 50 lbs. lighter, has a 5.8 gal. fuel tank instead of a 4.2, couple of thousands cheaper, the torque is only a few less than the star, 107 vs 110, no big deal….Oh!! it has a 6 speed transmission, not a 5…. Check it out, I think you will like it….
I agree, that is a nice bike!
Good Lord this thing is uuggllyy! Most of the parts look like they came from different bikes and screwed together with their eyes closed!
Seriously….anyone who is looking at buying a Harley wouldn’t give this thing a second glance, ESPECIALLY with all the wacked decal graphics and duck-tails stuck on it. GEEZ!
you’re dumb and ignorant. your comment just proved it.
Sorry Greg. Ordinarilly, I would not blast somone’s machine so mercilessly, but you asked for it.
I would be embarrassed to stand NEXT to this thing, let alone ride it. What has happened to your taste?
To each his own… I happen to own number 388 of 500 and I love it. I didnt like the stock pipes and changed to vance and hines 2 into 1 before I drove it off the showroom force but don’t knock my bike and I won’t knock yours. lol
I do not like the front or rear fenders, and that exhaust system would be the first things to go. Low and Mean make reaper fenders and a chin spoiler for the raider…that and a set of cobra pipes would round out the improvements. Matching that 6 layer metal flake paint would be the biggest challenge. Might as well start with a standard Raider and do your own custom. Probably be cheaper, with the bonus of truly calling it your own. I own an unmodified Stratoliner with the same engine and can tell you that no stock Harley Bagger including the CVO will match my bike for acceleration.
HD’s may not be as powerful as some of the cotmepition or worth all the money you have to shell out for them but they are solid bikes with components made of metal, not chromed plastic like I see on most metric bikes. A well cared for Harley can last for generations and can be rebuilt over and over again. The raider is like a disposable lighter. Looks good, works great but sooner or later it runs out of butane and you have to throw it away
talk about shelling out money…you harley owners do that in a big way and get a lot less in a big way and it will last a lot longer than a harley also so before you go ragging another bike you might want to see one in person and ride it and I’m sure you will change your tune
Geez, the HD crowd has so soured me on that company. For the most part, I like HD’s but not for the money nor reliability. I’ve had my HD buddies ridding bitch on my VTX when their bike broke down….I go to Rolling Thunder and it’s a sea of black HD bikes. Fine, but it’s not for me. Ride what you like and enjoy the fact we all understand the thrill of the twist of a wrist. I like this Yamaha, but not for the MSRP$…I have found it for $17.500 which is more reasonable. Big Dogs and Victory bikes have my attention because like the metrics, my local bar already has a few dozen black HDs. Ride on.
I have had a 2001 HD Electroglide which I loved. Then when the Raider came out I bought the 2008 Raider S and put over 54000 miles on it with no problems and loved it more than my HD. More power with the 113 for a big frame like mine, oh ok fat guy. When they came out with the SCL I said they were making a mistake at $19990. For that kind of money I’ll go back to a HD. Well I now have an SCL. But I found too good of a deal not to pass it up. I got it from Tejas Motorsports for $16,255 plus a $1000 mail in rebate. I kept my 2008 clean and got 1500 more than I owed so I couldn’t pass it up. I’ll use the rebate and get Freedom Performance Sharp Curved Radius pipes and a fuel controller. It will be sweet! I’ve had it 2 weeks and already got over 1000 miles. Yamaha has a winner with the Raider but the MSRP on the SCL is too high at $19990. Check the internet and travel to get a lower price.
you can find a few online for $15k which is way cheaper than a harley with near specs.
Owned a Harley liked it, Owned a Warrior liked it. Own the SCL and love it. Please Harley is just a bike. Not what they used to be. This bike wont need to be rebuild, so keep your Harley and enjoy the rebuild.
I own a Raider s 2009, good bike,comfy and handle good,
The SCl is a nice bike but only orange?
The Raider need a bigger, gas tank , Yamaha can improve it by adding and over drive[6 gear], One of the best cruiser on the road and you don’t need to fix it like my wife’s Harly all the time . Dan.
Just bought a SCL for $13,999 brand new. Blows away my Wide Glide in performance and handling. And this thing pops with the paint and all the chrome.
where u get it for 13,999.00?????
Where did you get the 13,999 price?
I am debating what bike to buy next myself.
Honda fury, Yamaha Raider, Harley Super Glide or wide Glide, Triumph ??? I don’t know what I want. My last couple of bikes were A Vmax and a Zrx1100.
I recently traded my HD Ultra Classic in on a new Raider S, not the SCL I’m 6-2, 230 lbs. I owned the Ultra Classic for 4 years and always felt cramped in the saddle. The Raider is like riding an easy chair. If I didn’t know better, I would say it was made for me. The Raider is very powerful and shifts so much smoother than the Harley. The body design of the Ultra Classic always felt top heavy and hard to handle at slow speeds. The Raider is lowered and stretched, making it a dream to handle.
I’ve done the Harley thing and I won’t be back….
I just purchased a 2012 SCL for $14900 with a $100 gift card and the $1000 back from Yamaha out the door price so I really got it for $13800 out the door. I original went in for a Stryker 2012 for $9400 out the door but I made an offer to the dealer on the SCL because it was the only one they had and it was there for a while. My last bike was a Suzuki Intruder 1400 and this bike is much larger but handles very well for being such a large bike. I agree that it needs a larger tank because your range will be way under 200 miles or you may be pushing it alongside the road. I’ve had one Harley, a few Hondas, two Yamahas and they all ran great and gave me many years of riding. Just enjoy the riding and who gives a sh… what bike it is just enjoy your time on them. I think it’s one great looking bike and mine is 88/500; there are a few 2012 still out there you just have to look and hold to your guns and you can pick them up for what they should be charging for them.
I picked up a SCL 2012 early in 2013, I paid $14,900 with a $1000 back from Yamaha and a $100 gift card from the dealer so my out the door price was $13,800. I’m very happy with the bike, I’ve owned other makes, even a Harley but I’ve like the Yamaha’s best. I’ve been riding since I was 14 and I’m 60 now. The past bikes I’ve had have been nice bikes but this bike is just nice to ride and looks great. Enjoy the bike you have whatever the make because each maker has its nice touches to their bikes so enjoy the ride and do it till you can’t do it anymore. Ride until you die.
Man , so many haters . Just ride what you like and can afford . I personally own a 2014 Raider SCL .No I didn’t pay almost $20k for the bike , actually my dealer had one for less than $13k out the door .
Already had a Harley rider pull up beside me and complement me on the looks . That’s all I needed to make my day !!!!
See , not everybody who rides a Harley is closed minded .
RIDE . ENJOY . Show a little love for your fellow rider .
Bought new ( zero miles ) 2012 Star Raider SCL 81/500, 10-20-14 from Chuck at Cycle Springs in Clearwater FL. Out the door price including taxes, etc. was $13475. Added at local Yamaha dealer black Cobra 2 into 1, FI 2000 Power Pro, matching brown/black s/bs,Switchblade shorty w/screen and crash bar. Both FL and local dealerships were top drawer. Bike is awesome. At age 77 ( admitting to 38.5, lol ) and having owned/ridden over many years, Harley’s, Honda’s, Victory’s, others, new fuel injected bikes from all of the manufacturers, like most new cars, are unbelievably outstanding. As an old retired Army colonel and as a young grave digger long ago, I say that everyday you can throw a leg over any bike is a good day. Ride safe!
I like your wisdom…throwin’ a leg over any bike!!
Just got a 2012 scl raider. My roadster has over 100000 on it with no issues. Hope I get the same out of thistock bike as well.