The PR folks at Star Motorcycles (the manufacturer formerly known as Yamaha) sure know how to launch a new cruiser. International motojournalists have been lucky enough to travel to some of the preeminent riding locations in the world to sample new Star cruisers. This fall, the exotic locale to which the majority of the motorcycle magazines in the world would travel to obtain photos and riding impressions of the new V Star 1300 was Asheville, North Carolina. People who weren't fortunate enough to visit Asheville back in the days when it hosted the Hoot are probably wondering why the heck Star would choose rural North Carolina instead of some place really cool.
The answer is simple: Consider the V Star 1300's job description. According to Star's research, roughly a third of people in the midsize cruiser market are planning to spend their riding time exploring winding roads. Now, get out a detailed road map of the North Carolina mountains. If any part of the country could be labeled a nirvana for motorcyclists, it would be western North Carolina. Toss in the beginning of autumn, with the associated changing leaf colors, and you've got a perfect place to get to know a new cruiser. Of course, as the introduction came to an end, we began to wonder how the newest Star would adapt itself to the less-idyllic world of daily use. Only time would tell.
The first obvious assumption about the V Star 1300 would be that it will replace the V Star 1100. Surprisingly, however, the V Star 1100 will remain in the Star line for 2007. Instead, the 1300 slots into the gap between the 1100 and the Road Star, filling out the deepest model line in metric cruising. A quick comparison of the V Star 1300 and the 1100 provides a nice overview of what cruising has become since the little brother's introduction as a 1999 model.
The second obvious-and also incorrect-assumption about the V Star 1300 would be that the engine is merely a bored and/or stroked version of the 1100 mill. However, the V Star 1300 sports an all-new liquid-cooled, 60-degree, V-twin engine. The oversquare 100mm x 83mm bore and stroke yields a 1304cc displacement. This engine configuration is somewhat surprising since, as an engine becomes more oversquare, it tends to lose bottom-end torque-something most V-twin cruiser manufacturers strive for. The payoff for having a shorter stroke tends to come in the midrange and top end. Four valve heads control the fuel mixture's path through the combustion chamber. The 1300 weighs in with a 9.5:1 compression ratio compared with the 1100's 8.3:1-a hint that Star was looking for more power from the 1300. The single overhead cam controls the valves via friction-reducing roller rocker arms. The more efficient rockers also allow for higher valve lift ratios to increase power output. In true Yama..., er, Star fashion, power-robbing friction is also minimized with ceramic composite cylinder liners.
Because cruiser riders like to have a big pulse from the engine, a single-pin crankshaft is utilized. To cancel out the inherent high-frequency vibration of this design, two single-axis crankshaft balancers tune out the unwanted vibes while keeping the desirable pulse. This is no toss-away idea, either. When running an oversquare engine, the pistons are larger in diameter than the stroke's length, meaning that more weight is thrust up and down with each stroke. These larger pistons mean that larger vibrations need to be tamed. Nothing less than the rider's enjoyment is at stake.
In a nod to the engine's classic (read: air-cooled) styling, water and oil lines are routed internally, leaving a better view of the brushed cooling fins. Plus, the radiator is tucked stealthily between the frame's downtubes. Clever hose routing completes the illusion with the upper hose rising up to the space under the tank while the lower is obscured behind the motor mounts. A wet sump oil system aids in the uncluttered look and helps to keep the engine's mass centered and low in the chassis. V Star 1100 owners will be envious of the 1300's spin-on oil filter tucked out of sight under the engine.
The fuel-metering duties occur in dual, 40mm throttle bodies fed by 12-hole fuel-injector nozzles for better atomization. The ECU monitors and updates the mixture via an oxygen sensor. When combined with the three-way honeycomb catalyst hidden away in the 2-into-1 exhaust, the closed-loop system yields emissions that meet both 2008 EPA and EU3 regulations. The benefit to riders, however, is that the oxygen sensor will allow the engine to self-adjust to atmospheric conditions, such as altitude, and deliver the best mixture and, hence, the best power possible for the riding situation. (See, a press introduction in the mountains does make sense.)
Power is transferred from the engine to the transmission via a 10mm-larger-diameter clutch. To assist in managing the increased horsepower, nine fiber plates (an increase of one) are called to duty. The transmission features taller gear ratios, with fourth gear on the 1300 providing the same ratio as top gear on the 1100. A true overdrive fifth gear on the 1300 also helps to keep the vibrations at bay by helping minimize the engine speed to the tune of 450 rpm during highway riding. The Star engineers claim the tachometer (if there were one) would read only 3400 rpm at 70 mph.The gear dogs are square cut for more precise shifting. Finally, the stylish but old shaft has been replaced by a slinky carbon-fiber-reinforced, 28.6mm belt.
To create the big-bike look and feel, the V Star 1300 had its wheelbase bumped by 1.7 inches over the V Star 1100's. Despite the increased length, the seat height is still a inseam-friendly 28 inches. The styling is what Star reps termed "modern classic," and, you know, the term fits. The shapely headlight nacelle complements the lines of the tank when viewed from above. The sultry shape of the tank owes at least some measure to the clever 0.4-gallon sub tank located below the seat; the main tank can maintain the appropriate proportions without sacrificing looks, touring range or mass centralization. The instruments' move from the tank to the handlebar is also a practical as well as stylistic change. Riders won't have to take their eyes as far off the road to check the gauges, and when they do, the object they're looking at is quite pleasant.
Simply looking at the V Star 1300, one can see how far cruiser styling-and fit and finish-have advanced in eight years. From the the sexy reflector headlight to the shapely swingarm that employs stylistic touches derived from the Roadliner, the V Star 1300 comports itself as you might expect a flagship model to, rather than a midsize cruiser. The seven-spoke cast aluminum wheels and even the tank emblem (which emulates the speed lines of the Roadliner's tank) add to the visual value of the V Star 1300.
Although the look of the V Star 1300 is large, simply sitting on the bike and taking it off its side stand illustrates how keeping the center of gravity low created a more parking-lot-friendly feel. The metal fenders are ample yet seem more streamlined than true "classic" versions. The combination of the black frame and engine components naturally draws the eye to the select chrome or polished items on the engine-adding perceived value. (A side note: Both the engine and rear fender bear the name we were asked never to mention in reference to Star Motorcycles: Yamaha.) The seat is wide and comfortable enough for all-day rides.
The exhaust note is rich and deep, thanks to the large-diameter muffler outlet. The clutch is easy to modulate-which is a boon in commuter mode. Unfortunately, parking-lot maneuvers are complicated by a handlebar bend that can trap your knees against the tank-increasing the already-wide turning radius. Off the line, the engine's power has a slight flat spot. Extensive riding around town highlights that the 1300 is more responsive to throttle inputs than the 1100. Shifting is super slick. Move outside of the urban environment and you will find some driveline lash making throttle modulation mid-corner a little more abrupt than it needs to be. Aside from the aforementioned flat spot, the fuel injection is flawless and doesn't exacerbate the lash. The counterbalancers do their job, making most engine speeds vibration-free. People who plan on touring on the V Star 1300 won't suffer from the tingles associated with high-frequency vibrations. (Which is a particularly good thing, since Star Motorcycles also offers a mechanically identical touring version of the 1300.) The power delivery is midrange-heavy with ample top end, making for big smiles every time the throttle is twisted open. While downshifting always helps to speed overtaking maneuvers, the V Star 1300 rider gets to choose between using midrange grunt or an enjoyable run up to the top-end power.
Negotiating corners is quite easy. The bike responds to steering input crisply. Changing lines mid-corner is not a problem. The suspension manages to maintain the delicate balance between plush and firm. The ride never feels soft, and most bumps are absorbed quite easily. The V Star 1300's ability to rail through undulating sweepers illustrates how well the suspension does its job. Although a single-backbone steel frame is used, there was never a hint of flex thanks to the rigidity the solid-mounted engine adds. The preload-adjustable shock is tucked away out of sight, adding to the clean lines of the 1300.
The V Star's ground clearance is better than you'd expect from a cruiser with floorboards. (In fact, the Star leans farther than a VTX 1300 without touching parts.) The only real performance issue with the V Star 1300 is the brakes. The two-piston, single-action calipers are decidedly old tech. They do a decent job of hauling the bike down from speed-but only if you put enough muscle into the lever. Four-piston calipers would probably remedy this quibble. Still, in a panic stop situation, the brakes do get the job done.
With the introduction of the V Star 1300, Star Motorcycles has upped the ante in the midsize cruiser market. While keeping much of the friendly personality of the 1100, the newest Star is a big improvement and well worth the $10,090 asking price. If you have a hankering for a touring version, you'll get a windshield, saddlebags and a passenger backrest for $11,190 or $11,390, depending on your paint choice. Motorcycle manufacturers may pick ideal riding locations to introduce their new products, but when the impression of a bike only improves with each additional hour spent in the saddle once you're back in real life, you know it's a winner. The V Star 1300 is one of these motorcycles.
* Big styling
* Good power
* Impressive handling
* High-effort brakes
* Flat spot off idle
* Handlebar can trap rider's knee in tight turns
* Try different brake pads
* Ride the rubber off it
I've always liked the V Star 1100, and I thought it would be difficult to improve on it-much less to improve on it dramatically. Well, Star Motorcycles has pulled another rabbit out of its hat. The V Star 1300 has just about everything I'd want from a cruiser in this class. The fit and finish are top notch, and the bike functions quite well for everything from running errands around town, to posing at the coffee house, to lunchtime jaunts in the local hills. Give me some better brakes, and I'd be bouncing off the walls.
Call this bike a heavy middle- weight or a light heavyweight, but it sure seems like Star's done its homework-the classic styling works in sleek flourishes and shapes, fit and finish are impeccable and ergonomics are spot on.
For a heavy bike, it steered surprisingly lightly, and low-speed maneuvers were a snap (good cornering clearance here, too). Suspension was predictably unassuming-bumps were noticeable out back, but more complacent under the longer-travel fork. I would've liked a bit more brake for my overeager corner entrances, too.
Sure, I'm nitpicking, but that's because it's pretty clear the V Star's a winner right out of the gate.
Sweet. I like a big bike that rides like I can pick it up and carry it across the street. Nothing heavy here: the V Star 1300 is a mover, strong in the mill and athletic in the chassis. An easy ride. Of course, it's true the bike doesn't have enough brakes to stop itself when you wick on the (impressive) throttle, and that does, uh, slow my affection just a bit. Funny Star would short change the bike in this area, when it's otherwise the quintessential blend of high-tech components and charming nostalgia.