Yamaha Road Star Warrior 1700 Motorcycle Road Test

Yamaha attacks the muscle twin class with a bored-out, hopped-up air-cooled engine, an aluminum frame, and sportbike suspension and brakes. From the February 2002 issue of _ Motorcycle Cruiser _ magazine.

When you thumb the big motorcycle's starter button, the engine cranks reluctantly, and for a moment you think, "Damn, the battery's flat." But then the compression release opens so the oversized piston is no longer balked by that extra compression and the engine spins quickly, catches, and emits a deep, full-throated rumble.

"Oh yeah," you remember with a smile of anticipation, "this is the hot rod."

Each motorcycle manufacturer seems to have taken a different approach to the emerging muscle-twin class. For Honda, it was an entirely new machine, powered by the biggest production V-twin motor in the known universe. The liquid-cooled 1800cc engine in the VTX employed modern technologies but used them to make plenty of power without a lot of rpm. The VTX1800C's styling was not shy about stating its performance leanings. Harley's muscle twin, the new V-Rod, was its first all-new bike in half a century with a very modern, efficient mid-size engine built to rev. The liquid-cooled 1130cc V-twin arrived with aggressive styling that screamed performance (which the engine thoroughly backs up despite its lack of sheer displacement). Kawasaki lightly massaged its existing liquid-cooled Vulcan 1500 engine and cloaked it in styling with a high-performance message to crreate its Mean Streak.

Yamaha, too, built on its existing V-twin, the 1602cc Road Star, but when it was done, there was virtually nothing of the original left, other than the look and basic configuration of the engine. Though Yamaha believes muscle-twin buyers want some traditional aspects of a cruiser, like the air-cooled V-twin engine, it also sees a new, younger group of customers buying performance cruisers. As a result, the Warrior is a creative melding of the conventional and innovative, with an eye on the performance of the chassis as much as simple acceleration.

Yamaha started with the standard Road Star powerplant, bored it out to 1670cc, hopped it up to significantly boost the power (see sidebar below) and painted it black. However, the engineers and designers started with a clean sheet of paper when they drew up the chassis and other components. It was something of a surprise to learn that the old-tech air-cooled pushrod V-twin engine is wrapped in an ultra-modern aluminum frame, seemingly more at home on a sportbike than a cruiser. The frame uses aluminum tubing for the straight sections of the front downtubes and engine cradle rails, and aluminum castings for the rest of the structure. Going alloy reduces weight compared to the Road Star counterpart by over a third, or about 23 pounds. It also steepens the steering head from the Road Star's 32 degrees to 29 degrees and, in conjunction with the all-aluminum swingarm, it shaves 0.6 inches off the wheelbase as measured against the Road Star. Frame and swingarm are painted black, a disappointment to those who would have preferred to advertise that they have the good stuff.

The move to a high-performance chassis continues with 41mm upside-down Kayaba fork legs lifted from the R1 sportbike with different rates and all the adjustments except spring preload omitted. The triple clamps set front-wheel trail at 130mm, down from the Road Star's 142mm. At the rear end, the aluminum swingarm uses the same preload-adjustable single shock and the same kind of linkage as the original Road Star, but with stiffer spring rates. Smoother-working joints, including needle roller bearings in the aluminum linkage, provide more responsive suspension action.

Yamaha's remarks about the design and development of the Warrior can be read at the Yamaha Design Cafe.

Spinning at each end are three-spoke cast wheels, which contribute substantially to the 71-pound overall weight reduction between the XV1600 Road Star and the XV1700 Warrior and probably also reduce steering effort by reducing gyroscopic effect. The front hoop is over 13 pounds lighter than the 1600's wire wheel, and the rear is 12 pounds lighter. The front mounts a 120/70ZR-18 radial, while the six-inch-wide rear wheel gets a humongous 200/50ZR-17 radial. That's as much meat as any motorcycle packs these days. Yamaha lifted the front twin-piston brake calipers from its maximum sportbike, the R1, and matched them with a pair of 298mm discs.

When we first saw all that exotic chassis hardware a few months back, it had us lusting for a chance to expose it to some careening pavement. When our chance came, we promptly did just that. First, however, there was a getting-to-know-you period when we plunked down on the beast and learned how it felt. The pegs sit forward, though not as much as the Harley V-Rod. The handlebar is low and quite wide. Together, they put you into a moderate clamshell position, both your arms and feet stretching for their perches as you hunch forward from the wide but modestly padded saddle. The layout, though a bit of a stretch for shorter pilots, worked well enough in town and at moderate speeds but became a slight strain for all riders on the open road or when running through winding mountain roads for extended periods of time.

With the wide handlebar, there is plenty of leverage with the quickened steering geometry to create light steering response, which makes the Warrior very handy in low-speed corners, tight traffic and crowded parking lots. It feels substantially less cumbersome than the VTX but shares some of the line-holding issues that mar the V-Rod in corners. In some fast corners, the tires seemed to have slightly different ideas about what arc they were tracking, but otherwise the cornering manners near the top for cruisers. The chassis package is the best of any cruiser to date. The suspension rates are very well sorted, making the bike settle solidly into corners even if the rider doesn't bend it in gently. Our only wish was for a slight increase in rebound damping at both ends. Nonetheless, the suspenders offer good control over bumps and dips to keep the Warrior tracking precisely and also soak up those big hits effectively.

Though we'd never have thought to complain about the standard Road Star's rigidity or stability in corners, if you ride the XV1600 and XV1700 back to back, you can instantly tell that the aluminum-framed bike is more rigid and steadier, tracking truer and remaining settled as you bend through a turn. It's easier to correct your line mid-corner too, and the Warrior does it with less drama than any other big twin. Of course, there is more lean angle than you get from the standard Star, which has less cornering clearance than almost any bike around. The Warrior lets you tip it in significantly deeper before a footpeg starts scratching the road then a couple of degrees farther before anything solid touches down. Though we wouldn't say it was particularly generous, the Warrior's cornering clearance is acceptable. One word of caution for those who like tilting the horizon: take care to make sure you don't drag your heels as a few riders have done. This is a bigger problem for those who are pigeon-toed and turn their heels out or who put the balls of their feet on the pegs, letting their heels hang down. Dragging heels can injure ankles or jam knees.

Though we were hopeful that the changes to the engine might bring a solid kick in the pants when we hauled on the throttle, engine performance is about what we anticipated. The 1670cc version of this engine ("the largest air-cooled V-twin," Yamaha reminds us) pulls harder and turns more rpm (5200 to 5700, depending on the gear you're in) before bumping gently up against the rev limiter than the 1602cc mill, which signs off at 4200 rpm. Yamaha tweaked the power delivery so that there is a slight surge as revs build. Though you don't notice it particularly, the power delivery is probably a bit more dramatic than if torque built in a nice, smooth, barely curling line. However, the sensation is smooth power delivery, increasing steadily with engine speed. The engine retains that under-worked feeling of the Road Star, and some riders said that the speed just sneaked up on them, frequently surprising them when they consulted the speedometer. Between the shortened gearing and the added power, acceleration is impressive, and to folks like us who feel that there is no such thing as too much power or acceleration, the added boost is a definite plus. It noticeably shortens passing distances, lets you squirt away from lights more quickly, and simply delivers more kinetic thrills per gallon.

Of course, we always want more, and there was a little bit of disappointment that the power tapers off sooner than we'd like. Unlike the Road Star, which just pulls back the spark when you hit the redline, the Warrior ends the party more gently in the first two gears (starting at 5700 rpm), using a combination of fuel injection and spark timing. The Warrior, at 12.71 seconds and 103.0 mph through the quarter-mile, easily runs away from the Road Star (14.85 seconds, 86.6 mph) and bests Kawasaki's Mean Streak (13.90 seconds, 94.2 mph) but gets left behind by Harley's V-Rod (11.92 seconds, 112.8 mph) and the big, bad Honda VTX1800C (12.30 seconds, 105.45 mph). Suzuki's aging Intruder 1400 (13.71 seconds, 93.2 mph) also plays in this league.

Throttle response was slightly sensitive off idle, but the progressive clutch made it easy to launch smoothly, either gently or hard. No one commented about the added clutch-spring pressure. Shifting was smooth, quiet and precise, and neutral was easy to come by. There was little lash in the drive train. Fuel mileage wasn't as good as the Road Star's, though we don't know yet if that is caused by the engine or just the effect it has on throttle hands. Riding behind the Warrior and a Road Star, the deeper, more solid drum of the Warrior's single-muffler exhaust is immediately apparent.

To keep up with all that forward energy, the R1-derived brakes up front make hard stops a low-effort event. One rider felt the rear brake was a bit too sensitive, but others didn't complain. We are pleased that Yamaha chose not to link the brakes. The front brake lever offers a screw-type adjuster to position the lever to fit your paw, a nice touch but not as nice as the cam-type adjusters which allow you to easily adjust for changes from thin to heavy gloves.

The ergonomic appointments were a satisfactory match for solo rides of a couple of hours and the occasional day trip. The rider's saddle is broad and well shaped but not deeply padded. The shape and position of the handlebar grew uncomfortable and tiring after an hour or so on board, and the width spreads you out in the wind. One rider spent a couple of days charging around on curving mountain roads and reported sore shoulders and upper arms, something that had never happened with other bikes. The footpeg position, though popular for profiling, wasn't comfortable for long. However, there is no alternative on long rides, since the passenger pegs, placed up high to clear the big muffler, are out of reach except to professional contortionists. They are even too high for passenger comfort, but that's not much of an issue because no one is likely to sit on the standard bitch pad (so called because anyone who does try to is going to bitch). Vibration was not significant, and the suspension does an admirable job of absorbing bumps and divots, large and small.

Some riders had difficulty taking in the information from the instruments at a glance, though this will probably improve with familiarity. The instruments are lit with a unique blue lighting at night, and the tach has a LCD band that shows rpm. A clock is part of the package too. Other unique lighting features include the reflector-type headlight and the LED taillight, which appears white until illuminated.

Overall, determining how the Warrior scores depends on your priorities. We'd say it is among the top cruisers, including other musclebikes, for chassis performance and handling. It's also among our top scorers for aesthetics, though this will depend on how you feel about the traditional engine, the appeal of that cutting-edge frame, that big muffler, and details like the taillight. We found it less comfortable than the VTX or the Mean Streak but more pleasant than the V-Rod. However, it can't match the V-Rod or VTX for sheer acceleration. At $11,999 the Warrior is second only to the Mean Streak in bang for the buck. There is no obvious all-around winner among the muscle twins at this point, but we'll know a lot more after our Big Twins comparison in the next issue.

High Points: **Sportbike chassis technology reaches cruisers; strong power with traditional engine; Star quality with an aggressive style.
**Low Points: **Abysmal passenger accommodations; no alternate foot rest for long rides; cramped seat.
**First Changes: **Aftermarket seat; add a passenger seat.


Friedman: **I like the Warrior's proposition the best of all the muscle twins to date: Get performance -- acceleration, steering and braking -- by reducing the overall mass and upgrading chassis components. The Warrior does this stuff well, and the rigidity and responsiveness of the chassis shows how effective this approach can be. I also like the Warrior's lines better than the other muscle twins, though I wish Yamaha hadn't been so timid about its use of aluminum, which I'd like to see extended to the bodywork, as on the V-Rod. There are plenty of details I'd rearrange if I owned one, but all the major pieces please me, including the big muffler.

But the affair began to lose its excitement as soon as I sat on it and found myself doing crunches to reach the handlebar and footpegs. OK, that's an overstatement, but the riding position really didn't jive with my view of how I'd like to ride the machine. My feet especially were too far forward. Even my kids don't like the imitation passenger seats that everyone is fitting to these bikes, and at 11 and 13 they are getting big enough now that the Warrior's pegs are crowding them, too. It might have been perfect when they were 5 and 7, though. I found the handling in faster corners a bit unsettling because the bike seems unwilling to hold a precise line. Finally, that old-tech engine in this modern, high-perf chassis seems a bit schizophrenic.

So far none of the muscle twins has supplanted the Valkyrie or the V-Max as my performance cruiser of choice, but I am delighted by the trend.

_Art Friedman
E-mail Friedman at _Art.Friedman@primedia.com _or at _ArtoftheMotorcycle@hotmail.com.

**Cherney: **Well, well, well... looks like we got ourselves a real live horsepower war -- among cruisers, no less! Apparently the V-Rod and the VTX opened some cans, and now there's worms crawling all over the place. Much as I liked the Harley's grunt though, the Warrior's no slouch in that department either -- with all that torque on tap, it's amazing how smooth its acceleration turns out. I'm still not sure about an air-cooled pushrod engine sleeping among all that high-tech componentry, but I was shocked at how slick this Yamaha handles, and not just for a cruiser. The suspension is topnotch, and a lightweight, all-new aluminum frame keeps it on track. Looks kinda sexy, too. Not too sure about the instrumentation though -- those blue lights on the gauges usually just bring back harsh memories of the alien abduction.

But with all this muscle around me, I think I'll be okay.

_Andy Cherney
Beam Cherney up to your Intergalactic Battle Cruiser by emailing him at _andy.cherney@primedia.com.

**Elvidge: **Of course we went into the Warrior introduction carrying some lofty expectations. After all, when a company raves about its new baklava for six months before giving you a taste you've already formed a fantasy. I found I had to dial down my opinion only slightly when I initially got on the bike, and the more I rode it, the more I liked it in an entirely realistic way.

No, the aluminum frame and R1 components don't make it feel like a sportbike in stylish sheep's clothing, but it is a wolf of a cruiser. It's pretty effortless to ride in the twisties and I was especially impressed with its low-speed maneuverability and how the trimming from typical cruiser tonnage improves the ol' heave-ho duties around town. I like the look (although I think the Mean Streak offers a prettier line), and the Yamaha motor's appearance and sound are particularly sexy. I personally had no trouble reading the digitized gauges.

A big drawback for me, however, is the bike's lack of long-road intent. I'm comfy enough on short stints, but I'd like a different handlebar, and the total lack of respect for passenger accommodations -- especially aft footpeg placement -- is also disconcerting to those of us who use the rear set as an ergonomic alternative. It's impossible. Granted I don't use that position unless I'm on an open highway, but I can tell you not having it as an option would really cramp my style (which is balls-out all day). And as soon as I pick a guy up, he'll begin to bitch. So that's my biggest peeve.

This new big twin is destined to be extremely popular.

_Jamie Elvidge
For the lowdown on Middle Eastern pastries, as well as motorcycles you can write to Jamie at _Jamie.Elvidge@primedia.com.

The Hopped-Up Road Star

Yamaha is careful to let you know that it wanted this engine to be based on the Road Star's pushrod V-twin. The concept was run past focus groups, who, Yamaha says, insisted that it needed to have traditional V-twin traits, such as air-cooling and pushrods. The initial assumption was that the bike that became the Warrior would have an all-new engine, so that option was presented in these consultations. But American consumers wanted traditional technology, not those new-fangled camshafts stuck up over the cylinder heads. So, for better or worse, Yamaha built its performance twin around an engine that did not seem to be designed with performance in mind.

To pump up the power from a good old-fashioned American-style pushrod V-twin, the engineers employed some good old-fashioned American-style hot-rodding, a bit of modern technology, and a bigger airbox. The hop-up started with basics like boring the cylinders 2mm to 97mm, to raise displacement by 68cc to 1670cc. The cylinders' ceramic bore lining material was retained, and cooling-fin area was increased to address the added heat. The new pistons have an aluminum-oxide coating in the top ring groove to reduce wear.

The valve train was modified for the additional rpm available from the Warrior motor, which is designated XV1700 instead of the Road Star's XV1600. The four valves per cylinder, along with their springs, keepers, seats and seals are the same as the 1600's, as well as the hydraulic lifters. The rocker arms were redesigned to reduce the additional stress of more rpm, and the pushrods were also shortened to accommodate these changes. The hydraulic lifters from the 1600 are retained. The adjuster for each pair of valves was moved to the outboard valve, closer to the oil nozzle and both intake and exhaust camshafts have more duration than the original motor. Though maximum lift is the same as the 1600's cams, the crankcase had to be modified to accommodate the change in profile, so 1600 owners won't be able to use these cams. In fact, almost none of the pieces used to hop up the Warrior will adapt easily to the Road Star.

The cylinder heads saw extensive changes, with one-piece rocker bases for greater strength and heat dissipation, more effective cooling fins, and reshaped ports for increased intake and exhaust flows. Compression was bumped up a tenth of a point to 8.4:1, and like other powertrain components, the heads are black with polished fins.

Perhaps the most significant changes occur in the intake system. Instead of drawing on just the lone 4.0-liter airbox on the right side of the engine, the Warrior has an additional 3.5-liter airbox up under the fuel tank, which increases airbox volume by 115 percent vs. the Road Star. Limited airbox volume is the leading killer of cruiser power: manufacturers don't want to compromise the looks of their cruisers with those big plenums and are willing to give up power to avoid doing so. By doubling the airbox volume from the Road Star, Yamaha reduced intake resistance by 70 percent and significantly increased the power potential of the Warrior. On the down side, the lack of space under the tank reduces fuel capacity to 4.0 gallons from the 1600's 5.3 gallons. Both airboxes have their own intake openings and air filters. The right-side airbox connects to the under-tank airbox via a large duct, and the fuel injectors' throttle bodies plug into the bottom of the under-tank airbox.

That new-fangled part of the intake tract -- the electronic fuel-injection system -- samples air and oil temperatures to determine engine temperature. It also has sensors for intake vacuum and temperature, atmospheric pressure and the bike's angle of lean. Yamaha says it meets EPA regulations without a catalyst or O2 sensor, though there is an air-induction circuit that lets air into the exhaust system to allow escaping gases to fully burn. The 40mm throttle bodies, one for each cylinder, demonstrate how much more air the 1700 inhales, compared to the 1600 with its single 40mm carb. They get fuel from an electric fuel pump, which has its own small fuel reservoir.

Another departure from cruiser tradition, that two-into-one exhaust system, with its huge 6.3-inch-diameter, two-foot-long muffler, further improves breathing. It also provides a deeper, fuller exhaust note than the 1600's dual mufflers. The tuned stainless steel 38mm header pipes are equal length.

OA Ratio - XV1600 - XV1700

1st Gear - 8.663 - 8.705
2nd Gear - 5.612 - 5.785
3rd Gear - 4.123 - 4.252
4th Gear - 3.221 - 3.429
5th Gear - 2.666 - 2.932

There are a few minor changes in the bottom end, such as an additional oil groove in the connecting rods' lower ends. The clutch gets a stouter diaphragm to apply added pressure on the plates, and the oil tank atop the transmission is reshaped to fit the new chassis (though capacity of the dry-sump system is unchanged). There are new ratios for first, fourth and fifth gear sets, for the secondary reduction in the primary and for the final reduction, where a 32-tooth sprocket replaces the 33-tooth item on the 1600. The final drive belt is also about 9mm narrower on the 1700, making room for the wider rear tire. The net effect of the ratio juggling is shorter gearing in all five gears.

Of course, the added power is just part of the explanation for the Warrior's performance gains over the Road Star. The 70-pound difference in dry weight is worth a quarter-second on the quarter-mile as well.

-- Art Friedman

2002 Yamaha Road Star Warrior

Designation: VX1700
Suggested retail price: $11,999
Standard colors: Gray, dark blue, red
Yamaha web site: www.yamaha-motor.com
Warrior site: rswarrior.com
Online owners' organizations: ISRA and STAR

ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN Type: Air-cooled, 48-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHC, 2 intake valves, 2 exhaust valves, operated by pushrods, screw and hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1670cc, 97 x 113mm
Compression ratio: 8.3:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection, two 40mm bores
Lubrication: Semi-dry sump, 5.3 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32

Wet weight: 658 lb., 53% rear wheel
GVWR: 1058 lb.
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Overall length: 96.1 in.
Rake/trail: 29 degress / 5.1 in.
Wheels: Cast alloy, 3.50 x 18 front, 6.00 x 17 rear
Front tire: 120/70ZR18 Bridgestone Battlax BT020 tubeless
Rear tire: 200/50ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT020 tubeless
Front brake: 2, double-action, double-piston calipers, 298 discs
Rear brake: single action, one-piston caliper, 298mm disc
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.3 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.3 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal.
Handlebar width: 35.2 in.
Seat height: 28.1 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.3 in.

Charging output: 430 watts
Battery: 12v, 14AH Headlight: 6.0 in., 65/55 watts
Taillight: LCD
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD tachometer, odometer, clock, dual tripmeter; lights for neutral, high beam, left turn signal, right turn signal, engine failure, low fuel

Fuel mileage: 31 to 43 mpg, 38.3 mpg avg.
Average range: 153 miles
Rpm at 60 mph, top gear: 2490
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 78.5 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 12.71 sec., 103.0 mph

To see how the Warrior fared in our 2002 Big Twins Comparison, read this test. If you'd like to see how it performed in our Musclebike Shootout, click here.

Additional motorcycle motorcycle road tests and comparison tests are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Photography by Kevin Wing.
Yamaha gave the Warrior and entirely new aluminum frame and mated it with the old-tech air-cooled engine.
The big muffler is controversial. Most people don't seem to like it, but a few love it.
We like the cool blue glow of the instrument lighting but find the LCD display hard to read an inerpret at a glance.
Much of the front end was lifted from the R1 sportbike, including the brake calipers, upside down fork, and the axle. The three-spoke cast wheels mount tubeless radial tires.
It is the same basic design as the Road Star's engine, but not much else of the original remains.
These are the 2004 Warrior paint schemes. The ergonomics changed a bit for 2004.