2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe - Royalty Redone - First Ride

It's no secret that in the cruiser market, history repeats itself over and over again, but it should also be noted that it does not do so the same way every time. Case in point: Yamaha's latest iteration of the Royal Star Tour Deluxe.

When Yamaha jumped into the heavyweight cruiser melee back in 1996 with the Royal Star lineup, it combined the big V4 engine pulled from its venerable Venture Royal tourer with a long wheelbase and a hint of nostalgic styling. Although the bikes were beautifully appointed and carried a then-unparalleled five-year warranty, these first Royal Stars were ultimately disappointing due in large part to the 1300cc V4 engine's power deficit. Because of fuel-tank styling, the intake airbox was designed with limited volume, and the cruiser's get-up-and-go suffered as a result.

What's New
Yamaha market research revealed a demand for a moderate-duty touring bike that could double as an urban cruiser-in other words, a bagger you could undress. For the Tour Deluxe to be at home in either environment, Yamaha made it convertible and also applied the same power-boosting engineering that pumped up the Venture tourer. As in '97, this fresh version of the Tour Deluxe is positioned as a machine riders can both tour and cruise on comfortably.

The '05 Yamaha may chip in a quick-release windshield and passenger backrest among its raft of all-new features to earn the term "convertible," but powering the Royal Star is the same 1298cc, liquid-cooled V4 found in the Venture and V-Max, featuring a 10:1 compression ratio, four valves per cylinder and digital ignition. The difference from the '97 Royal Star's version of this engine is increased airbox volume (thanks to dual-air intakes in the lowers) that uncorks potential, allowing the same 98-horsepower output found on the Venture. It's a far better showing than the sluggish 60-ish number on the original Royal Star, delivering a broad spread of power with an emphasis on low-rpm torque-Yamaha claims 89 foot-pounds of the stuff. A 4-into-2 exhaust system with adjustable tips is fitted out back, and yes, the whole package is still shaft-driven.

Now You See It
The windshield tells you right away this bike's meant for touring, but hidden latches allow it to be quickly detached when you're in the mood for profiling around town. A similarly configured passenger backrest can also be removed or installed in less than a minute, no tools required-we tried. The standard color-matched lowers on the Tour Deluxe contain the big V4's engine intakes, thus squeezing more power from the mill without cannibalizing space. This leaves more room for the 5.3 gallon fuel tank, which was already in close quarters thanks to the Tour Deluxe's lower 29.1-inch seat height.

When we first threw a leg over the Tour Deluxe it all felt a bit much-Yamaha claims a wet weight of 844 portly pounds distributed onto a lengthy 67.5-inch wheelbase. A new wide pullback handlebar design stretched us out pretty far, but a deeply dished solo seat brought us sufficiently closer to the grips. Once we engaged the heel-toe shifter up from the long rider floorboards, however, the now free-breathing engine didn't disappoint.

Thank the 23-degree rake for a remarkably light steering effort, though we found the floorboards touching terra firma during serious cornering. A reinforced swingarm delivers straight-line stability, even at higher speeds, and a single internal counterbalancer keeps things relatively vibe-free, considering the engine is solid-mounted on a rigid chassis. Our Tour Deluxe's relaxed lope felt comfortable cruising at speeds of up to 80 mph. Floating rider and passenger floorboards, handlebar weights and a roomy seat added to the smoothness quotient.

We could engage the hydraulic clutch smoothly and predictably, and the redesigned levers fit our digits comfortably. A five-speed gearbox with overdriven fourth and fifth gears routed power through a quiet shaft drive with just a bit of jacking, and we liked the fact that the suspension on both ends of the low steel frame is adjustable-5.5 inches of travel on the 43mm fork with 4.1 inches of travel on the bottom link-type rear shock (again, just like the Venture's). Dual 298mm discs up front could be engaged easily enough with the wide levers, but it took some effort of both on the front and rear to really make an insistent stop.

Still, with its hidden monoshock rear end, large forks, big brakes and low center of gravity, the Royal Star rides as good as it looks. It is fairly maneuverable, easy to steer and stops hard with decent control.

All The Rest
To ensure you don't miss the touring possibilities, Yamaha has outfitted the Tour Deluxe with two color-matched hard bags and a category first-electronic cruise control. To which we say, it's about time. It's conveniently located on the right handlebar and is easy to operate with one hand.

Embracing the still-in-vogue retro theme of the old model, the '05 Tour Deluxe shimmers with nostalgic visual cues. Requisite chromed metal gleams from the instrument hood, running lights and engine cases. Yamaha also put in its current-generation clear turn-signal lenses and a huge, deep chrome headlight nacelle covering a powerful halogen headlight. An LCD instrument cluster functions as a "dashboard" display, and it looks like it came straight off an old Buick, with its chrome covered hood artfully blending into the headlight shell. Yamaha's reputation for stellar fit and finish is acquitted on the Tour Deluxe-the lustrous chrome and rich paint scheme would do any boulevardier proud.

Yamaha also understands the cruiser customizing tendency, so a full range of accessories (more than 100) have been designed in concert with the bike to offer personalizing options. The stripped-down, solo-seat version of the Tour Deluxe Yamaha showed us was especially eye-catching.

While this model may not appear to be a huge design leap, Yamaha fills a noticeable gap in its cruiser lineup with the more versatile Royal Star. The 2005 cruiser should be in dealers by the time you read this, in either dark red/black or silver/ black for an MSRP of $13,999. The five-year unlimited miles warranty stands, as does Yamaha's 24-hour roadside assistance program. -Andy Cherney

2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe
Suggested base price: $13,999
Standard colors: Red/black, silver/black
Recommended service interval: 12 months, unlimited miles

Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled, 52-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: Three valves per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1294cc, 79 x 66mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: 4, 32mm Mikuni
Lubrication: Wet sump
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Five speeds
Final drive: Shaft

Wheels: cast, 16 x 3.50 in. front, 15 x 4.0 in. rear
Front tire: 150/80-16 Bridgestone Exedra Bias Ply
Rear tire: 150/90-15 Bridgestone Exedra Bias Ply
Front brake: 2, 298mm discs
Rear brake: 1, 320mm disc
Front suspension: 43mm stanchions, 5.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: bottom link, air-adjustable, 4.1 in. travel
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gals.

Yamaha 2005: Dark Stars Mean Hot Midnights
In addition to introducing the Royal Star Tour Deluxe (see the first ride report on page 24), Yamaha rolled out new variations of some of its existing models at its June dealer meeting. Two bikes in particular, the Road Star Midnight Silverado and the Road Star Midnight Warrior, got our attention.

Although most of the changes and additions to the Star series are cosmetic, the Road Star Midnight Silverado, in addition to the blacked-out Midnight treatment and whitewall tires, also gets hard bags in place of the leather bags on the standard Silverado. At $13,499, it is $800 more than the standard Road Star Silverado.

Putting the Road Star Warrior in Midnight guise makes Yamaha's big-performance V-twin look particularly menacing. Blacking out the big pipe and airbox make it exceptionally dark. Red pinstripes on the wheels peep through the darkness. You'll pay a $200 surcharge to have it black over the $12,299 flame-and-chrome Warrior.

The Midnight concept has also been applied to the Custom versions of the V-Stars, both 1100 and 650, but in this case the MSRP is actually $100 lower than the flames-and-colors versions, which fetch $8199 and $5699 respectively.

Celebrating its 20th year, the V-Max wears 20th-anniversary badges, and each of the 2000 examples built for the U.S. will be numbered. It gets black wheels with red stripes like the Midnight Warrior and has a flamed paint job for the occasion.

All the models in Yamaha's '04 Star series (and the Virago) are back for '05. It seems to be a year of expansion in the cruiser market, with all the companies that have shown their '05 machines to date increasing their model counts.-Art Friedman

Cracking Velocity Output
Harley's Little Performance Garage Turns Up The Power
"CVO" sounds more like an overmuscled gas guzzler from Detroit than a high-performance bike division out of Milwaukee, but this limited-production venture has turned into something of a subphenomenon for Harley-Davidson. For 2005, Harley expands the performance-bending lineup to three limited-edition models-one more than last year. The Motor Company even chose to unveil the pumped-up trio to us recently at the Irwindale Speedway dragstrip-just to prove the machines have the chutzpah and horsepower to justify their stratospheric price tags. We had a crack at all three models, and can now definitely confirm that CVO doesn't stand for "chrome victim." Custom Vehicle Operations it is.

The Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide returns to the CVO lineup this year (reprising last year's role), boasting a painfully luminescent yellow-and-silver hue instead of last year's overwhelming orange, and two-tone teal and deep red color options. The big news here, though, is the Screamin' Eagle 103 Stroker Twin Cam engine, which at 1690cc is the largest-displacement engine offered in a production Harley. A raft of new-for-'05 components accompanies the power boost, including a new air cleaner and (naturally) acres of fresh chrome. A low-profile smoked wind deflector replaces the traditional "batwing" fairing, and the comfy custom seat comes fitted with a rider backrest. Thanks to an unexpectedly manageable hydraulic clutch, aiming this thing down the dragstrip was a controlled affair, even with a claimed 100 foot-pounds of torque transferred to the rear rubber. The new detachable, color-matched and chopped Tour Pak comes with an interior light and carry-out liner. A new push-button fuel door adds a "wow" factor, as do the chrome Thunderstar wheels and floating brake rotors. Also, the front and rear suspension have been lowered. Approximately 3500 examples of the Electra Glide will leave Harley-Davidson's York plant by the time you read this.

Getting the bulk of the cosmetic enhancements in this group is the new Screamin' Eagle Fat Boy, which offers up a stylized, polished steel pan-style seat and a trick, metal grind-look paint scheme atop a fuel-injected 103-cubic-inch Stroker motor (that's 1690cc again, kids). It replaces the Fat Boy's standard Twin Cam 88B mill, but retains that same fuel injection. The engine uses big-bore cylinders, and a new flywheel assembly, pistons and balance shaft combine to increase bore and stroke to 3.87 x 4.37 inches. The engine also features a new teardrop-shaped chrome air-cleaner cover over a Stage 1 air cleaner kit and a heavy-duty starter. Exhaust gases are directed through new downturned mufflers with chrome heat shields, and like the Electra Glide, the heavy-duty clutch is hydraulically controlled. A fat, 1.25-inch handlebar on new risers routes wiring internally and offers a drag-style tach mount. We were laughing like maniacs launching the Fat Boy down the 1/8th mile strip, though its 100-foot-pound torque output was decidedly harder to control thanks to a heavier clutch pull; because of its riding position, however, many of us agreed it was perhaps the most fun of the three bikes to ride in canyons (even though the lowered rear suspension resulted in more frequent contact with the asphalt). The York facility will churn out 3400 units of the model.

The CVO barnburner for '05 though, is the new Screamin' Eagle V-Rod-its enhanced 103-inch, 1250cc Stroker motor married to the V-Rod's light chassis makes a resounding impression. If you thought the old V-Rod was a hooligan bike, this limited-edition big-bore version is sure to turn you into a speed demon. With CNC-ported cylinder heads, 105mm big-bore pistons and optimized cam timing, the V-Rod had us hurtling down the dragstrip in a hurry. A headlight shroud and bucket produce a sleek look upfront. It's the only one of the '05 CVO trio that hasn't been lowered, but that's only because there's nowhere left to go on the hydroformed frame.

The freshly minted CVOs, of course, don't come cheap-the Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide tops the list at $29,995 a pop, followed closely by the wallet-melting Fat Boy at $27,995 (higher in California). With its favorable power-to-weight-ratio, the V-Rod's a relative bargain at $25,995. Only 2400-3500 units of each will be available, so what're you waiting for?-Andy Cherney

Victory 2005:Hammer And 8-Ball
Victory more than lived up to its promise of a new bike every year, expanding its line to eight models by rolling out four new motorcycles or variations on existing ones: the 1634cc, six-speed Hammer; the 8-Ball, a blacked-out, lower-price variation of the Vegas; a Ness Signature Series Kingpin; and the Kingpin Deluxe.

A fresh take on styling and the new Freedom 100/6 powertrain make the Hammer a distinctively different member of the Victory line. The company sees power cruisers as an emerging and growing market segment, and the Hammer hits that target right on the mark. The power part of the formula comes from a pumped-up version of the already potent Freedom V-twin. Bored out for an additional 127cc to 1634cc so it can boast 100 cubic inches (it actually comes up about 5cc short), the engine has revised camshaft and oil-pump drives and new primary gears, a narrowed sump and a more muscular profile. The sixth speed is an overdrive to lower engine speed out on the highway, but Victory claims the added power means you can still pass without a downshift. Labels proclaiming "100 Cubic Inches" and "Overdrive 6 Speed" ensure that you don't miss the Freedom engine's new stats in the Hammer.

The Hammer strikes outside the engine bay as well. It's pretty hard to overlook the huge 250mm-wide rear tire, which also brings a narrower belt for the final drive. But you don't have to stand behind the Hammer to be struck by its looks. A new side cover and seatback/tailsection treatment give the Hammer a hard-hitting profile as well. It is also the first cruiser to use a sportbike-type removable passenger-saddle cover to streamline the look but make the seat usable when you want it.

Rolling in at the other end of Victory's model range is the Vegas 8-Ball, designed to get in under the $13,000 mark, which the company regards as a significant price point for cruiser buyers. However, the route Victory took to get there is certain to make the bike more appealing to some buyers. By blacking out many of the polished and chrome pieces, giving it a solo seat and identifying it with a simple 8-Ball graphic, Victory cut costs and also created an edgier, tougher style. Although the wheels, pipes and speedometer case remain shiny, Victory darkened the engine cases, fork sliders, triple clamps, handlebar, belt guard and sprocket, turn signal cases and other details to create its gritty style.

The Arlen Ness Signature Series Vegas returns for '05, though this year is was actually put together by Cory Ness, Arlen's son. The '05 version has a new purple color, new wheels, braided-steel cable sheaths and an animal-pattern-textured seat cover. However, this year also brings an Arlen Ness Kingpin with a similar treatment-lots of Ness-designed billet, plenty of chrome, Ness wheels and a unique black-and-blue paint job. There will be limited runs of both of the Ness Signature bikes.

Victory's final addition to the line is the Kingpin Deluxe, a Kingpin with a windshield, leather-covered hard saddlebags and a passenger backrest. Counting the Deluxe, Victory's line has doubled, since the '04 models-including the Vegas, standard Kingpin, and Touring Cruiser-all return. The Vegas gets a saddle reconfigured for greater comfort, and it and the Kingpin now have self-canceling turn signals in addition to the usual color changes. The Custom Order Program will again be available to buyers at Victory's site (www.victorymotorcycles.com) between August 1 and October 27.

Victory now has enough products to draw almost any cruiser enthusiast into its showrooms-and keep his head swiveling once inside.-Art Friedman

Suzuki's Boulevard Brand
Suzuki kicked off a major new commitment to the cruiser market by introducing a new sub-brand called Boulevard. Initially it simply encompasses lightly massaged and renamed versions of Suzuki's existing cruisers, but over the next year it will bring increasingly fresh and exciting new bikes. And Suzuki has promised a continuing stream of new bikes well beyond the 2006 model year.

Belatedly admitting that its involvement in the cruiser market has lagged, American Suzuki President Masaaki Kato told dealers, "It's not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important launches in Suzuki's 41 years of selling motorcycles in the U.S."

The old familiar names are gone, replaced by alphanumeric designations, with a letter denoting the type of cruiser as a prefix for the engine size in cubic inches. The old slim-style cruisers-the original Intruders and Savage-are now the Boulevard S models. Thus the Intruder 1400 becomes the S83, the Intruder 800 becomes the S50, and the Savage is now the S40. The classically styled machines have a C prefix, and the Intruder 1500 and Volusia 800 become the C90 and C50, respectively, and both get fuel injection along with the Cs. All of those bikes are slated to hit Suzuki showrooms in Boulevard form in August. By the end of the year, touring versions of the C series are also due. The C50T and C90T will have windshields, leather saddlebags and passenger backrests.

The musclebike-style cruisers that were formerly Marauders lead off with an M, although the old Marauder 800 is gone, and at the June dealer meeting Suzuki said it was unsure of the future of the Kawasaki-built Marauder 1600, which if carried forward would become the M95.

However, the M series seems to be where Suzuki will initially make its most important moves. Early next year it will debut the Boulevard M50, a freshly styled, fuel-injected, shaft-drive 800 V-twin that replaces the Marauder 800. In a year, it will roll out the M105, a liquid-cooled V-twin of approximately 1700cc, presumably fuel-injected. The concept drawing Suzuki flashed suggests a long, low bike with hidden rear suspension, a small fairing, a 19-inch front wheel and a riding position with the pegs and handlebar well forward. Discussions of the Boulevard line repeatedly mentioned "Suzuki DNA," which it defined as "a blend of advanced technology, uncompromising power and performance, nimble handling and outstanding value." Most of those characteristics suggest performance cruisers.

Although Suzuki's first step in its trip down the boulevard may seem a bit disappointing, we think this move could hold great things for fans of Suzuki cruisers. The changes to the carryover models are small, but they are positive. The minor styling changes are well-executed. The small sissy bars are gone from the S83 and S50, and the tool kits have been moved to faux airboxes. We had the chance to ride the bikes briefly, and though we couldn't feel any additional power from the GSX-R-style fuel injection on the C50 and C90, throttle response was a bit crisper. The C50 would have been as dominant in our 800 comparison as the Volusia was. Suzuki has also given new emphasis on customization, with an expanding line of Boulevard accessories, that includes everything for bolt-ons for the bikes (and the new additions for the converted models should fit the old bikes they replace), a large line of Boulevard apparel and even stuff like Boulevard-brand finish-care products. Suzuki is also encouraging and educating its dealers to get more involved with cruiser customers.

Suzuki was the only major company that hadn't made a strong push into the cruiser market, and its Boulevard series (which won't be called that in Europe because of some trademark conflicts) signals that it is now ready to do so. It also seems to be doing so without leaving fans of its existing bikes out (except perhaps for owners of the Marauder 1600, who might be able to boast that they have a rare collectible). A series of formidable new Boulevard models and competitors' reactions to them could make the cruiser market more exciting than ever.-Art Friedman