When the shaft doesn't need...
When the shaft doesn't need to act as the swingarm, style can dictate what the shaft assembly should look like andYamaha chose to leave the shaft uncovered. A hard-tail-style swingarm completes the look.
Yamaha had big plans for the V-Star while it was in development. It takes the place in Yamaha's lineup occupied for 17 years by the Virago 750. To accomplish this goal, the Star needed to be full-sized, not a little bike, certainly not an "entry level" bike. By all rights, the company succeeded. Not a single person on the street that we asked in our informal poll (who wasn't already familiar with the V-Star) guessed a displacement smaller than 1000cc -- most estimated much higher. The quality of the finish, refinement, and attention to detail on the V-Star add to the big-bike (read expensive) image. How many motorcycles costing less than $6000 have self-canceling turn signals? Much less ones that work in a fairly unobtrusive way? How did Yamaha do it? If you look closely, you can find signs of cost savings: the drum brake and the visible pollution controls, for example. Yamaha also used parts from other motorcycles: the 535-based engine, the Royal Star's brake light and turn signals -- even the gas cap. We also shouldn't fail to consider how much a year of exceptional European sales of the Drag Star, a bike which could be the twin of the V-Star Custom, can offset the tooling cost of all parts which the V-Star and the Drag Star share.
Regardless of how Yamaha achieved the V-Star's attractive price, the Classic delivers above and beyond its retail value -- called "perceived value" in marketing-speak. Want a big bike without the big entry fee? The V-Star fits the bill, only betraying its smaller displacement and cost in a couple situations. Want a V-twin that has the look and feel of a Royal Star? Look at the V-Star's fat tires, fenders, fork covers, and accessory list.
Was the V-Star Classic worth the year's wait? Our testers answer with an unequivocal yes, but you owe it to yourself to go to your Yamaha dealer to see firsthand.
High Points: Good looks, full-sized feel in a middleweight package, throaty exhaust note, impressive selection of bolt-ons, good suspension, great price!
Low Points: Ugly EPA hardware on left side of engine, ugly allen bolts on speedometer housing.
First Changes: Remove the passenger strap and its ugly chrome brackets, take off the stickers to clean up the looks and confound the ignorant.
Friedman: Back in the Pleistocene era when I started riding, a 650 was a big bike. Those days seem to be back.
Every time I meet a motorcyclist who hasn't heard of the V-Star, I ask him how big he thinks it is. Everyone guesses a displacement into four digits, often something in excess of 1500cc. Even our assistant who rode it back from Yamaha came back complaining that it was so slow. Turned out he assumed it was "a 1000 or something." The Motorcycle Formerly Known as Drag Star looks much bigger than a 650, and people are floored when they learn it's a mere 650 with a price under $6000. It's not only physically large, but it brings the kind of elegance and finish quality you associate with a bigger, more expensive cruiser. It's also plenty roomy for me.
A fan of Viragos, including the 535, I worried that the people who created the Royal Stars would make a slow, unwieldy machine in this new middleweight. Not so. I have no complaints about the power, and the bike responds to steering with the responsiveness of a middleweight, belying its size.
If you compute value by dividing cost by displacement, then the V-Star may score poorly. By any other criteria, it's a hell of a deal.
Very little about the V-Star...
Very little about the V-Star Classic (the "650" is still silent, even after the 1100cc version was announced has changed. This is the 2004 model, which still sells for $5899 in black.
Brasfield: Although I was interested in Yamaha's new entry into the U.S. cruiser market, I wasn't excited by the prospects. Too many big changes that are just around the corner were distracting me. However, like the guy who's traveled all over only to finally open his eyes and fall for the girl next door, I've been captivated by this machine.
Just looking at the V-Star is a pleasure. The level of detail in the finish is impressive -- even before considering the under-$6000 price. Riding the V-Star is even better. The exhaust note rings truer than any other bike in the class.
The performance, while not earth-shattering, only feels limited when accelerating at highway speeds or while climbing long hills two-up. The suspension handled almost everything I threw at it. The V-Star is a well balanced machine.
In short, the V-Star has become one of my favorite twins. If this bike had been around during our 800s Comparison, I think it would have fared well -- possibly even been a contender -- despite having a displacement too low to technically be part of the class.
The middleweight plot thickens.
You can contact Motorcycle Cruiser's former associate editor via his website: www.Evans Brafield.com.
1998 V-Star Classic
Suggested base price: $5899
Standard colors: Black, red/burgundy
Extra cost colors: NA
Standard warranty: 12 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 4400 miles
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Air-cooled, 70-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke: 649cc, 81 x 63mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Carburetion: 2, 28mm constant-velocity
Lubrication: Wet sump, paper, cartridge-type filter, 2.9 qt.
Transmission: Spring type clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 5.3:1
Wet weight: 540 lb, 53% rear wheel
Wheelbase: 64 in.
Overall length: 96.5 in.
Rake/trail: 35 degrees / 5.7 in.
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 16 x 3 in. front, 15 x 3.5 in. rear
Front tire: 130-90-16 Dunlop 67S, tube-type
Rear tire: 170/80-15 Dunlop 77S, tube type
Front brake: Single-action caliper, 11.7-in. disc
Rear brake: Drum, rod-operated
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.51 in. travel
Rear suspension: 1 damper, 3.86 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.3 gal., (0.9 gal reserve)
Handlebar width: 34.7 in.
Inseam equivalent: 31.5 in.
ELECTRICAL & INSTRUMENTATION
Charging output: 280 watts
Battery: 12v, 10 AH
Forward lighting: 55/60-watt headlight
Taillight: 1 bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, turns signals, neutral, engine
Fuel mileage: 37.2 to 45.0 mpg, 40.1 mpg average
Average range: 172 mi.
RPM at 60 mph, top gear: 4180
200 yard, top-gear-acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 69.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 15.91 sec., 80.4 mph
A road test of the similar Yamaha V-Star 650 Custom is also available on this site.