2018 Yamaha Star Venture
Yamaha

2018 Yamaha Star Venture First Ride Review

Yamaha’s new Luxury Liner Means Business

The bagger world has come a long way in recent years, and each OEM is vying for that top spot. After riding the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture, it's clear that this is a special motorcycle that will definitely leave consumers scratching their heads before they drop coin on a motorcycle most everybody else already has. However, now that the Star Venture is out, and currently sitting on showroom floors, Yamaha's now tasked with convincing the market that spending $27K on its grand touring machine is the way to go.

After a three-day trek through Idaho and Montana, I was definitely impressed at how well the Star Venture treated not only myself, but more importantly, my missus. Yes, Yamaha invited my better half to join in the fun for this launch because the company understands that a lot of touring guys like to trek two-up. And they definitely didn’t spare any expense with keeping the wives happy with the new Star Venture. They really paid attention to all the boxes we want checked when buying a bike. Buyers want to know: Is it comfortable? Is it fun? Is it spacious? Does it have enough power? What about wind management?

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
Controls, accessories, and display on the 2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

You see, the last Yamaha touring bike I rode was a V-Star 1300 Deluxe a few years ago. That bike didn’t really do much for me. It was fine, but I didn’t leave with any sort of favorable impression after a couple days. With Yamaha’s new Star Venture, I’m ready to take that bucket list trip from coast to coast.

Yamaha’s goal with the new Star Venture was to blend the emotional V-twin luxury market with the sport touring and adventure touring markets. Hence, the birth of its catchy tag line, “Transcontinental Touring.” They did a great job making sure that tag lived up to its touring prowess. The Venture really was built for the long haul.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Let’s start with Yamaha’s main focal point that basically serves as its starting point: the 113ci air-cooled V-Twin engine. First things first, the 113ci V-Twin engine boasts 126 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm. Now, that’s at the crank, I’m curious what the rear wheel torque figures are after we test it on our dyno (we’ll report back with our findings soon). The 113 also comes equipped with Yamaha’s chip-controlled throttle (like ride-by-wire) and is strong and beefy in the low rpm range, which is where a touring motorcycle really needs it. I wondered why a water-cooled engine was nixed for this mack-daddy, but after talking with the design representatives from Japan, the reasons for an air-cooled plant were many: it was lighter, narrower, and allowed them to keep the weight of the engine in the crankcase, which in turn provided a much lower center of gravity. And after doing a lot of research with category consumers’ feedback, it turns out that the majority of you guys really do prefer air-cooled bikes. The cool thing about this engine was that the exhaust sound was literally tuned by Yamaha Music. Over the course of months, engineers from Yamaha Motorcycles and Yamaha Music worked together to come up with the perfect note, and I feel they really achieved a winner. Having heard hundreds of exhaust pipes over the years, Yamaha’s factory effort sounds as good off the showroom floor as most any aftermarket pipe. Also, this 113ci Twin features dual counterbalancers, which makes for a very smooth ride. More vibration equals more fatigue, which in turn equals less time in the saddle for enjoying your ride.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
Jordan Mastagni at 5'10" on the Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Yamaha stuffed its new air-cooled plant in a hybrid steel main frame and cast aluminum sub-frame. No, the Venture is not lightweight at 963 pounds (wet weight), but it doesn’t feel like a boat. And it’s not top-heavy. The hybrid frame has also been outfitted with with isolated rubber engine mounts to dampen vibration, making for one smooth and enjoyable ride to make the long hours in the saddle seem more comfortable.

Speaking of upping the touring time in the saddle, the Star Venture is equipped with a 6.6-gallon fuel tank. Yamaha claims a minimum 220 miles per tank. However, talking with one of the Yamaha product guys, he says that with solo, casual riding he was able to get that up to around 280 miles. That is pretty much what my 26-gallon Tundra gets to a tank!

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

The Star Venture was aggressively styled without being obnoxious. I can see the front fairing being somewhat polarizing to consumers, but to those who can see it for its utility will appreciate the fact Yamaha was able to incorporate four large LED headlamps, a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, and cargo pockets to boot... In other words, you need something large enough to fit the aforementioned.

The Star Venture’s infotainment system is probably the best out there right now as far as a variety of options… If you get the Transcontinental Touring option (add $2,000 to the price tag). But with that (and since it’s what I tested) you get Bluetooth connectivity via smartphone, USB connectivity via portable device, intercom (hard wired), CB radio, Pandora streaming feature, turn-by-turn GPS, SiriusXM radio streaming, and much more. And this infotainment setup is cool because it’s equipped with a first-ever dual-zone audio feature, meaning you and your passenger can listen to different audio sources at the same time (she can stream Pandora while I rock out to my USB audio library). It’s also controllable via touch, voice, or from the toggle switches located on the left side handlebar or on the screen itself. Now, it’s a little intimidating figuring out how to navigate at first, but after a few days futzing around, it’s actually a lot of fun to use. The only issue I had with it was that when Yamaha asked me to send a couple helmets prior to the launch because they wanted to install their new headset, I was unpleasantly surprised to see they’d drilled a dime size hole in each of our new Arai helmets to install their communication cord. WTF?! And when using the system, I don’t like being plugged in with a cord. Isn’t this the 21st century, I thought? Is Bluetooth not ready for dual-zone audio? I guess not, according to Yamaha. However, I guess I got used to it, somewhat. Even though I’d get off the bike multiple times with the cord still attached to my helmet (insert whiplash sound effect here). I guess if you’re going to buy this motorcycle, you’re probably going to wear the same helmet with it anyway once you get your comm system installed. So I learned to get used to it.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Now, riding the bike is very “smooth.” That was the adjective I’d overheard repeatedly from the other five journalists. We were all pretty impressed with the 113ci engine and how much torque there was in the low-end rpm range. “You gotta short-shift it,” said one of the Yamaha staffers. And he wasn’t kidding; the powerband was limited to that of about 4,500 rpm until being governed out. I wasn’t quite used to that. However, after heeding his advice, I noticed how low you could turn the revs without any lugging whatsoever, a very nice feature. So many times I’ve been in the low revs in Fifth or Sixth with plenty of other baggers I’ve tested, and I guess I’m just used to downshifting in order to pull past a big rig, which simply wasn’t the case with the Star Venture. And because it features dual counter-balancers in the crankshaft, it simply doesn’t lug like other baggers.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
A very comfortable seat and backrest for both rider and passengerStar Motorcycles

The passenger seat and rider seat are also equipped with seat heaters (standard), and the passenger’s backrest is heated, too.

From a comfort angle, you’ll have no issues with the Star Venture whatsoever. The rider seat features a three-position adjustable backrest that moves forward or backward to provide some much needed support. The passenger seat and rider seat are also equipped with seat heaters (standard), and the passenger’s backrest is heated, too. And they worked well, too. My only gripe is that the rider can control his seat heater from the infotainment system instead of a simple two-position switch or something. I’d simplify turning this off and on more easily rather than toggling through multiple menus on the infotainment screen to adjust. However, your passenger can also control the seat heaters from the rear, but how will the rider know if she’s turned them off or on? Not a huge deal, just something I noticed. Because we were riding through some pretty warm temps during the day (100-plus Fahrenheit), I really noticed how well the adjustable upper wind-deflectors worked. I specifically wore my Roland Sands perforated Ronin Jacket to this launch because I knew how hot it was going to be, and the wind deflectors fed a nice steady stream of air to my upper torso. When I wanted a break, I simply closed the vents and it redirected the airflow to my knees and upper shins. Down below I kept the adjustable lower fairing wind vents open at all times because it was so damn hot, but I like they offered two vent options aside from the adjustable windscreen (moves 3 inches up or down, and is controlled from the dash).

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Now, a lot of the cruisers I ride nowadays are equipped with traction control. But none of the baggers I’ve tested have ever offered this feature, until now. The Star Venture not only comes equipped with traction control, which combats your rear wheel sliding out when coming in contact with road debris, oil, water, etc., but it’s also equipped with Yamaha’s D-Mode (Drive Mode), which allows you to adjust the throttle response settings from SPORT to TOUR with the push of a button (located on the fairing).

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Another highlight for the Star Venture is it comes equipped with Yamaha’s exclusive Sure-Park parking assist feature (forward and reverse). At first I balked at the option. I didn’t need any help backing up into a parking spot. Or did I? I shoved the ego aside and tried it out up a steep gravel hill, and was amazed at how easy it was to use. It’s driven from an electric motor, and doesn’t even require your bike engine be running. And forward? Uh, isn’t the motorcycle already equipped to handle that? Yes, but there’s no need for the clutch, so you can easily pull forward to get into a tight spot with ease. Because the Sure-Park is driven by an electric motor, you have approximately 45 seconds in either direction to get your bike where it needs to go before a prompt tells you it’s about to time out. So don’t be hasty when parking with the Sure-Park.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
A very roomy trunk on the 2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

As for storage, there are so many compartments to stuff belongings. Not only is the trunk huge, it’s better than most because just the lid opens, and not the upper half of the trunk. In other words, you can open your trunk if your passenger is still seated. You can fit two full-face helmets…and plenty more. The passenger also has two cubbies to stash goods on each side of her backrest (part of the trunk), but the trunk is a very smart example of usable space. The saddlebags provide ample space, nothing to get over the moon about, but there are also two stash cubbies located in the cockpit to the left and right of the handlebars; perfect for a phone (since the USB port is located in the right cubby), and the left is great for your wallet or something of comparable size.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
Plenty of room for both on the 2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles

Dubbed the Transcontinental Touring machine, Yamaha’s new Star Venture was made for just that: It’s loaded with everything you and your passenger need for living the good life on two wheels.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture
2018 Yamaha Star VentureStar Motorcycles