First Ride: 2011 Star Stryker

Back to the Future

The fat "classic" look lives on in touring bikes, but is mostly out of fashion for straight-up cruisers. The sales charts reflect that. A happy exception to the malaise of big-displacement bikes' sales has been Star's Raider. Despite a big motor and the price tag to go with it, it's defied overall market trends and has been a hit. The next logical step, then, was to scale down and do it again.

Star's answer is the Stryker. Taking the existing V-Star 1300 powerplant, Star engineers molded it into something akin to the Raider. It apparently wasn't easy, as the bike got sent back to the drawing board at least once in the early stages.

But while the Raider's success might have inspired Star bean counters to look down the price spectrum, the stylists and engineers were determined to give the Stryker its own identity. The family resemblance is unmistakable, with the downward lines at the rear end hailed by some as visionary, and derided by others as unfortunate, and the raked front end and high neck returning as the unmistakable hallmarks of the semi-chopper-y Raider.

To differentiate the smaller Stryker, it was given a sleeker fuel tank. Since Star didn't want to sacrifice range, the skinny main tank is supplemented by a 1.1-gallon auxiliary pod under the seat, for a total of four gallons.

The other half of this 1300's DNA is the V-Star 1300, which donated its engine and transmission. There are some changes in the airbox and pipes, and most importantly in the ECU, which gives the bike a more snappy feel and bit more bark out of the pipes. I didn't ride the bikes back to back, but I had ridden a V-Star the week before, so it was fresh in my mind. The engine is a wide, 60-degree V-twin, with a single overhead cam actuating four valves per cylinder. Besides the powertrain, there is also a handlebar-mounted speedo that bears a resemblance to the unit on its V-Star cousin.

The tires are a big part of the bike's look. Wide at both ends, the Stryker floats a 210mm rear tire out back and while the front is a tall 21-incher, it maxes out its contact patch with a 120mm tread. The rear tire is a low-profile affair, which allows it to tuck up into the rear fender for a slammed look without giving up too much travel. Getting a raked-out skinny(ish) front and a fat rear tire to play nice is a somewhat dark art, but the magic combination on the Stryker is a 34-degree neck with 6 additional degrees of rake in the trees for a total of 40 degrees. The raked trees cut down the trail to a scant 4.3 inches.

As for fit and finish, the details are generally fine-with a few nitpicks. The front fender is slightly overstyled, with an extra flare at the tail that seems out of place. The front motor mount on the rigid-mounted (and counter-balanced) engine is bolted straight to the top of the head...which comes off as kludgey. However, there are lots of things to like on the Stryker. The nicely shaped tank and the cool double-barrel, 40mm throttle bodies which peek out from underneath make the whole thing radiate a brawny cool.

Though individual paint schemes are not usually worth mentioning, the Black version is one bad-ass looking ride. With pipes and various other erstwhile chrome pieces done up in alternating flat and glossy black, it looks like a completely different motorcycle from the more blingy red and blue versions. The best part is, the black one is $250 cheaper.

Riding the Stryker is even better than staring at it. Between a super-low seat, a fairly narrow width and a moderate reach to the forward controls, this is a bike that will fit a wide range of riders. At 6-feet-tall, I was near the limit of who would be truly comfy on it, but it should also scale down nicely for far smaller riders. The Stryker also finds that right-sized balance between feeling substantial but also feeling easy to toss around. It's got good pickup, and not just for a 1300, with nice sound coming from the drooping tailpipes.

Handling is almost perfect. It's light-steering (without feeling jittery), fairly solid in the middle of corners, and the only hiccup comes if it hits irregularities when leaned all the way over. Then, the Stryker will tend to stand up. Cornering clearance is very good, which is not a given on a long bike like this, and is well-matched to the quick-steering nature of the machine. The transmission is buttery smooth, and has well-spaced gear ratios that match the engine just about perfectly.

On the open road at speed, engine vibration is present, but not annoying, and the riding position doesn't make the rider into a parachute either. Solid gas mileage means that little 4-gallon tank can actually throw down some miles, while the supportive seat does nothing to discourage this.

So while the overall look might bring back the 80s, the refined ride screams 21st century. The Stryker may not have the minimalist, sleek styling of Honda's new crop of 1300s, but it also makes fewer excuses for performance, and is priced hundreds less. Star might still be pushing the big bikes, but they've fleshed out the midsize niche with a fun, stylish ride.

Now, about that name...

Specifications

2011 Star Stryker

Base Price: $10,995

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled 60-degree v-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 304cc, 100x83mm
Valve train: SOHC 4-valve
Compression: 9.5:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission: 5-speed
**Final drive: **Belt

Chassis
Overall length: 99.6 in.
Wheelbase: **68.9 in.
**Wet weight:
646 lbs.
Seat height: 26.4 in.
Rake/trail: 40 degrees/4.3 in.
Front tire:120/70-21
Rear tire: **210/40-18
**Front brake: **320mm floating rotor, 4-piston caliper
**Rear brake:
310mm rotor, single 2-piston caliper
Front suspension: 41mm fork, 5.3 in. travel
Rear suspension: single shock, 3.9 in. travel
Fuel capacity: 4 gallons

Flat black pipes and alternating flat and glossy black finishes give the Raven Stryker a more sinister edge.
Fuel cap console is low-profile, in keeping with the sleek tank shape.
The 2011 Star Stryker's resemblance to the Raider is unmistakable. This Reddish Copper color option retails for $11,240.
The Impact Blue version of the 1300cc Stryker also sells for $11,240.
But the Raven version of this middleweight machine goes for just $10,990 and it looks like a completely different machine.
Low profile LED lights tucked under a real steel fender bring up the rear.
Classic belt drive allows for more customization options.
The Stryker's seat height is just 26.4 inches, so you feel in the bike when on it.
The Stryker's handlebar-mounted instrument pod includes a fuel meter for convenience.
The tall, low-profile 21-inch front tire wears a 120mm tread and manages to get along surprisingly well with the fatter rear rubber. We're still not sure about that front fender flare, however...
The 210mm rear tire's low profile allows it to tuck up under the fender snugly, without sacrificing too much travel.