2012 Star Raider SCL and Star Stratoliner Deluxe

New Breed Of Metric

Seven months ago, Star Motorcycles threw down the gauntlet with the announcement that it would be producing factory customs. Limited edition models are old hat for major players like Harley (with its CVO series) but the concept is relatively uncharted for a metric manufacturer, so we listened. Now that the bikes are available, Star wanted to remind us that this was a big deal, and staged a launch event for the entire 2012 lineup, even though the only truly new model is the Raider SCL.

Let’s refresh: The Star Custom Line (SCL) series is meant to deliver “genuine factory customs” to the firm’s loyal customers. The first example of the concept is the new ultra-limited edition Raider, which piles on exclusive modifications that aren’t available from the Star accessory catalog. Chief among those refinements is a smooth metallic six-layer paint scheme dominated by a bold orange background with gold and black accents, and a special Star logo (with hologram) on the tank. Star and Performance Machine designed the 5-spoke chrome wheels and pulley, and stainless steel throttle cables and hydraulic lines come standard. A finely crafted two-tone distressed brown leather seat looks as broken in as your favorite pair of cowboy boots, and a limited edition aluminum SCL badge signifies the production number of the bike (just 500 have been produced). That’s over $6,000 of add-ons—if you could actually buy them.

As of this writing (April 2012), the Raider SCL was just starting to trickle into dealerships, and we got the chance to unleash it on the muggy backroads of Georgia and down the notorious twisties of Highway 60.

No matter how many coats of metal flake you put on it, this SCL is still a Raider—at least mechanically. That said, we hadn’t sampled Star’s best-selling big cruiser in over a year, and the bike’s performance chops were a revelation all over again. Packing an air-cooled, 113 cubic inch V-twin and rolling with almost 40 degrees of rake, the Raider SCL was nevertheless surprisingly nimble in the corners, with relatively light steering effort—the aluminum frame making for a much more manageable package than you’d expect. Another big bonus is the spot-on fueling. The twin-bore injector throttle bodies and a throttle position sensor meters the mix far more accurately than than traditional cables would, and the air-cooled pushrod engine is still a rip-roaring hoot, with meaty acceleration, a nice lumpy character and gobs of stump-pulling torque delivered to the meaty 210mm rear tire efficiently. Though power is instantaneous down low, the SCL’s 1854cc engine really likes to be wound out as well, with little drop-off on the freeway. Again, no surprises—just a refreshing reminder.

With no suspension changes from stock form either, the Raider SCL’s ride remained supple even on our bumpy one-lane backroad stretches, with the rear linkage soaking up hits admirably and maintaining straight line stability. Ergos are comfy for all (though shorter pilots will have a reach to the bars), and controls are well-placed. And though it’s requisitely cruiser-clunky, the SCL’s gearbox is still extremely solid and predictable, with no missed shifts on our ride. As on the stock Raider, braking also remains adequate, with dual front rotors doing an admirable job of hauling the custom chopper down from speed, with decent feel and little fade.

At the end of the day, this is meant to be a custom bike, and on those terms, it mostly succeeds—especially with a price below $20,000. The metallic flake paint is vibrant, and positively pops in the sunlight. The actual switch housings, however, feel like parts bin units, and look a bit rinky-dink for a build of this level. And while the beautiful, hand-stitched and logo-embossed seat looks appealingly unique, it’s not a paragon of comfort—though it probably isn’t meant to be. At $19,990, the Raider SCL is still a good chunk of change, but as far as production customs go, it’s a solid effort in a new subcategory. If the Raider SCL is a hit, expect to see other limited edition Stars down the road.

We also scored some seat time on the 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe, which gets a facelift for 2012—albeit a pretty minor one. Star stylists toned down the art deco streamliner design for 2012 by swapping in a more traditional single bar tank emblem, and deleted the front fender stay.

Mechanical changes are zippo (we really would have liked to see an ABS option), but the Strat Deluxe gets additional entertainment amenities in the form of a standard Garmin zumo 665 GPS and iPod/iPhone integration. There’s also a door to hide your device when you’re parked. The zumo brings Bluetooth and Sirius/XM connectivity, but the GPS unit itself is mounted rather awkwardly, essentially covering the ignition key slot. The zumo can be flipped back out of the way to access the ignition when not in use, but that seems like a clumsy way to integrate the feature. Otherwise, the Strat still offers the same appealing combo of comfort, nimble handling and zesty power, along with numerous options to customize it, thanks to a long list of available accessories from Star.

For specs, more details, photos, and information, check out www.motorcyclecruiser.com or see www.starmotorcycles.com. CR