Honda Sabre vs. Star Stryker | Comparison

1300 Throwdown Part 2

Want attitude without the painful negative cash flow? Style without heft? Then you’re better off in the middle, it seems. Last issue, we poked under the hoods of the latest 1300cc cruisers from Honda and Star ("The Happy Mediums"), sampling their middleweight road warriors, the Interstate and V Star 1300 Tourer. In Part Two, we dig into the more street-savvy offerings from each manufacturer, pitting the pro-street Honda Sabre against Star’s radical factory custom, the Stryker. These low-slung, high-style rigs are more suited for trolling down the Sunset Strip than for a mile-munching road trip, so to match the machines to the task, we squired them through the unforgiving back alleys of downtown L.A.

As you’d expect, street-centric steeds are designed for maximum attitude. Of Honda’s new VT1300s, the Sabre is the focused boulevard cruiser. Its long stance is helped by a 70-inch wheelbase and a 41mm fork stretched out at a mild 33-degrees of rake. Streaking along its right side are burly, dual chromed exhausts, while the left-side driveshaft mimics a low profile swingarm rather than a clunky shaft. The same 1312cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 52-degree V-twin motivates all three VT1300 models, and the Sabre is priced in the middle of the pack, at $11,899.

Both machines feature long telescopic forks, but the Stryker veers more toward the power cruiser side of the equation, out-raking the Sabre with its 41mm stanchions kicked out at a 40-degree angle (a 6.0-degree offset triple clamp matched to a 34.0-degree steering head angle). Star’s bad boy may seem more compact, but its 68.9-inch wheelbase is only 1.2-inches shorter than the Honda’s. The Stryker’s double cradle steel frame carries a 60-degree V-twin with a single overhead cam, essentially the same mill developed for the V Star 1300, though this 1304cc twin powerplant gets a different airbox, mufflers and fuel-injection mapping. The fat-back Stryker slots into Star’s line at $10,990.

Kicking Rubber
Sidling up to the low-slung duo, our testers readily admired the flowing lines of the Sabre's fuel tank and silhouette—there's no missing the resemblance to the Interstate. The Sabre's front hoop rolls under fenders that are more chopped than the Interstate's fatties however, and its handlebars are lower and narrower. On the down side, its seat is also slimmer, and, as on the State, a sizeable share of the VT engine is covered in plastic.

If the Honda gives off a vibe of stealthy smoothness, the Stryker rolls in all cocky and self-assured, with more visual weight. Sure, there’s plastic in those head covers, but Star makes a point of advertising its fenders as 'all-metal,’ which adds to the Stryker’s fit and finish. Both bikes have their share of cool bits, but the Stryker’s curved cast wheels look more custom.

Star also spins a 21-inch wheel at the end of the 41mm fork, but it wears a chunkier 120/70-21 front tire rather than the Sabre’s knife-edge 90mm rubber, to ensure more solid handling.

Back In the Saddle
Swing a leg over either of these steeds and you'll get a similar experience. Forward controls and pull back handlebars mean the upright ergos are almost identical, with the rider's arms slightly higher on the Stryker, thanks to a 5-inch riser. Taller riders felt more in tune with the Sabre's roomier cockpit, though shorter riders also liked the fact that the lower, swept-back bars were easy to reach too. The Stryker's more compact ergos suited our smaller guys, and the seat heights—26.9-inches for the Sabre, 26.4 for the Stryker—fit all comers without complaint. The actual seats were another story, however; the bucket on the Stryker is a textbook case of how to make a supportive seat look stylish, whereas the Sabre's thin, hard pad felt like it was made for looks only.

Hit It
Thumb the Sabre's starter and the engine responds with a nice, meaty growl. Goosing the Honda's throttle results in immediate low-end pull and a fat midrange, though a couple of the riders remarked that the otherwise generous powerband runs out of steam up top. Snick through the well-sorted gears, and at the top of fifth you'll find yourself up around 85 mph—at which point testers were frequently reminded of the Honda's rev limiter, which kicked in around 4500 rpm.

The Stryker’s engine sounds more muted but feels more balanced by comparison, and roll-ons produced a surge of grunt and snappy acceleration. Gearing is fairly tall and power delivery is even, with a predictable, linear torque curve. Redline comes around 6600 rpm, so the Stryker feels like it has a touch more oomph—though less of that coveted V-twin lumpiness—than the Sabre.

Getting a Handle on It
Slaloming between San Mateo Street's 3-foot-deep potholes in downtown L.A. is an evolved form of defensive driving. Though both bikes have the same amount of rear suspension travel, when the road got angry, the Honda had most editorial keisters puckering in anticipation of jarring hits.

Tucking those big 21-inch wheels into turns was easier than you’d think, though, and both tracked well enough. Most of the bigger guys really liked the Sabre’s ride quality, with its looser, lighter handling, while thinking the Stryker was a bit too stiff. But two of the more experienced riders didn’t cotton to the chassis feeling 'hinged’ in the middle of fast sweepers, or the way the Sabre seemed to run out of travel more quickly on bumpy roads.

Aggressive riders simply preferred the way the solid, slightly heavier-steering Stryker reacted to inputs at speed—stably and predictably—though you were more aware of the 40-degree rake at slow speeds.

What's Your Style?
The Sabre's pretty similar to the Interstate, though the group felt it was a lot more fun around town and preferred its overall ride quality. The Stryker, on the other hand, is a totally different machine than its cousin, the V Star 1300, and we'd say it performs just as differently from the Sabre. If you favor relaxed loping with up-to-date style, the Sabre's probably your machine; if you want a tighter emphasis on performance, you'd do well to look to the Stryker.

2011 Honda Sabre 2011 Star Stryker
Base Price $11,899 As Tested: $11,899 $10,990 As Tested: $11,240
Colors Blue (2011); Red, Black (2010) Black, Red, Blue
Standard Warranty 1 year 1 year
**Engine **
Type Liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin Liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke 1312cc, 89.5 x 104.3mm 1304cc, 100 x 83mm
Valve train SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression 9.2:1 9.5:1
Fuel system EFI EFI
Transmission 5-speed 5-speed
Final drive Shaft Belt
Overall length 99.6 in. 99.6 in.
Wheelbase 70.0 in. 68.9 in
Wet weight 659 lbs. (676, ABS) 646 lbs.
Seat height 26.9 in. 26.4 in.
Rake/trail 33 degrees / 4.6 in. 40 degrees / 4.3 in.
Wheels 5-spoke cast aluminum 5-spoke cast aluminum
Front tire 90/90-21 120/70-21
Rear tire 170/80-15 210/40-18
Front brake 336mm disc, twin-piston caliper 320mm floating rotor, four-piston caliper
Rear brake 296mm disc, single-piston caliper 310mm disc, single, two-piston caliper
Front suspension 41mm fork; 4.0 in. travel 41mm fork; 5.3 in. travel
Rear suspension Single shock; 3.9 in. travel Single shock; 3.9 in. travel
Fuel capacity 4.4 gal 4.0 gal
Fuel Mileage 44.1 mpg 42.1 mpg
Average Range 197 miles 175 miles

Riding Positions

Billy Bartels
:: 6 ft., 200 lbs., 33-in. inseam
I had a hard time picking between the Interstate and the V-Star Touring in last issue's test, but this time: It's the Stryker, hands-down.

I’ve been a fan of Honda’s 1300 line since the Fury came out. The Sabre is an easy-handling bike that’s ideal for a casual rider who wants to bop around town on a head-turning ride.

It isn’t as pretty as the Sabre, but as a motorcycle, the Stryker reigns supreme. The seat is supportive; the layout compact, yet roomy enough for my frame; the motor torquey and able to rev out as well. Handling is tight, and perhaps heavy compared to the Honda, but stable at all speeds, unlike the wigglier Sabre. The Stryker is for real riders who demand much of their motorcycle and expect it to perform.

Andy Cherney
:: 5 ft. 7 in., 160 lbs., 30-in. inseam
For bikes that are so much alike on the spec sheet, these two are worlds apart on the road. If the Sabre will win hearts and minds with its cooler, slicker silhouette, and good-enough ride and engine characteristics, then the Stryker will win adrenaline junkies on the hunt for real performance and tangible comfort.

I didn’t think I’d like the too-rangy and stretched-out Sabre, but it nearly won me over with its quiet competence. This motorcycle doesn’t do one thing particularly well, but it nails the essence of cruising—an easygoing, relaxingly paced ride with just enough style to turn heads. The seat is pretty crappy though.

The Stryker’s more planted, more solid, more free-spinning...there’s just more _there _there. But I sure like looking at the Sabre.

Hold On: There's a Harley Too

The 1200 Custom Returns
Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this comparison, Harley released a brand new 1200cc machine. Of course, the 1200 Custom wasn't available for us to snag a ride on, but we think it would have compared favorably with the other two bikes in this shootout.

Though engine displacement is down 100cc against both the Sabre and the Stryker, the new Custom carries the same general premise; that is to say, a casual bar hopper that emphasizes style and simplicity over pricey embellishments. Plus, it's priced in the same neighborhood, at about $10,300 for the base model.

Where we speculate it would diverge wildly is in the handling department—a 10 inch shorter wheelbase (a mere 59.9 inches), a 30 degree rake and a nearly 60 lb. weight advantage will likely make it a more agile bike than either the Sabre or Stryker. For more details and specifications, see the BTL section in this issue.

2011 H-D 1200 Custom
MSRP $10,299 base model
Engine 1200cc air-cooled V-twin
Transmission 5-speed
Wheelbase 59.9 in.
Wet Weight 582 lbs.
Seat height 28.5 in.
Rake 30-degrees.
Fuel Capacity 4.5-gal.

Gear Exam

Shift Vantage Jacket
I'd been wearing the Vantage for months before it occurred to me that it was, you know—real motorcycle riding gear. The loose cut and casual vibe didn't clue me into its functionality at first, but I've since come to find that the Vantage is a pretty full-featured piece of kit.

Articulated design means it doesn't bind, the CE approved armor is removable for added versatility, and the premium leather feels plenty protective. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wear it riding cross country—it's not waterproof or insulated—but it's so comfortable, I reach for it almost every day in the summertime. And the distressed leather (on the Vintage model) looks pretty cool.
$349.99 at