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Life With Yamaha's Ultra-Cruiser Part One: Getting Acquainted
Something in human nature seems to require that we make judgments by comparison. It's not enough that a new motorcycle scores a direct hit on our senses. We can't seem to make up our minds until we've seen the superiority of the new machine demonstrated in a face-off against familiar bikes. In 1996 Yamaha set forth on a bold experiment, introducing their all-new Royal Star into the large-displacement cruiser market where retro style and image were perfected and V-twin powerplants rule. Comparison was inevitable.
But from my perspective, you cannot compare multi-cylindered motorcycles like the Royal Star and Honda's Valkyrie to V-twins. They defy comparison. Sure, even we at Motorcycle Online subjected the Royal Star to a shootout with a V-twin in our Road King vs. Royal Star comparo, but the cruiser market has evolved greatly in the past decade or so, and bikes like the 'Star or Valkyrie are fitting into a new niche where V-twins cannot hang - high-performance cruising. These bikes appeal to a different segment of the class.
I'll be chalking up over 10,000 miles in the saddle of Project Royal Star, and by the project's end this bike should be making quite a personal statement.
With that in mind, I felt justified to set out and see first-hand how well Yamaha's Royal Star truly fits within the new mold of comfortable cruisers that can be counted on to respond to occasional bursts of play while, at the same time, keeping me swathed in almost sinful comfort during extended rides. Will it still hold up under daily commuter abuse? And what about that essential element in cruiser ownership - customization? What accessories are available to the Royal Star owner that will allow him to turn his machine into a rolling statement of individuality that is so vital to the Boulevard Set?
To find answers, I embarked on a long-term project with a 1997 Royal Star, one where I could push the bike to its limits in all kinds of typical riding situations, looking for its performance boundaries and comfort shortcomings while seeking out aftermarket solutions. From the beginning, Yamaha engineered the Royal Star with modifications in mind. Customizing this bike is easy. And believe me, over the last two years, there has developed quite an impressive accessory market for the 'Star. I'll be chalking up over 10,000 miles in the saddle of Project Royal Star, and by the project's end this bike should be making quite a personal statement.In 1996 Yamaha set forth on a bold experiment, introducing their all-new Royal Star into the large-displacement cruiser market where retro style and image were perfected and V-twin powerplants rule. Comparison was inevitable.
I ordered up a bone stock, base model '97 Royal Star from Yamaha's press fleet. As you'll see from future installments, the intention is to tailor this project toward touring. So why not, you might ask, opt for the Tour Classic or Tour Deluxe versions instead? Simple. The base Royal Star comes equipped with a four-into-four exhaust system that has a sound all its own. Both the Tour Classic and Tour Deluxe have a more standard four-into-two system that just doesn't have the aural or visual sex appeal so desirable in a custom cruiser.
And since turnkey touring models of the 'Star retail for a couple grand more than the base model, I can take the savings and outfit our project with just the right accessories, detailing the costs involved along the way so that an owner can make his or her own choice in exactly how much cash they may want to invest in their personal machine.
After taking delivery of the bike, I immediately requested two touring items that would be absolutely essential: Yamaha's Classic Deluxe saddlebags and Tour Classic adjustable windshield, available from Yamaha's extensive Royal Star Accessories catalog. The windshield is available in three different heights: shorter RoadStar style along with a larger TourStar screen in mid and tall versions. All offer up to two inch height adjustment and are adjustable for angle as well.
I immediately requested two touring items that would be absolutely essential: Yamaha's Classic Deluxe saddlebags and Tour Classic adjustable windshieldSince I stretch the inseams at over six feet tall, I opted for the taller screen and also picked up a set of the clear lower wind deflectors (which are adjustable for height and angle too). Mounting was straightforward, and adjusting the windshield to its highest position was as simple as loosening the four clamping bolts and relocating the screen into the provided adjustment notches. The large windscreen and lower deflectors now provide me with ample protection from the elements, and I can still peek over the top of the windshield when required in inclement weather.
I chose to outfit our 'Star with the ribbed version of Yamaha's Tour Classic saddlebags. These bags hold an amazing amount of gear, with enough space to comfortably carry a long weekend's worth of luggage for two. Constructed of oxhide exteriors with a hard plastic interior shell to help hold their shape, they are stylishly attractive and exude a pleasing leather smell. Saddlebag mounting hardware easily adapted to the bike, with the bags comparatively easy to install.
So with its basic set up ready, it's time to hit the road and rack up some miles under Project Royal Star's deeply drawn steel fenders and fat tires. I'll cover routine maintenance chores and costs along the way, and concentrate on many of the Royal Star's assets and shortcomings. As mentioned, plans are to fully accessorize Project 'Star with the help of not only Yamaha's own extensive line of genuine Royal Star products, but with nods towards aftermarket firms like Pro-One, Race Tech and "Mr. Royal Star" himself, John Vaughn-Chaldy of Baron Custom Accessories, to help improve performance as well as appearance. Yamaha's Royal Star has the potential to be a standout performer in the ultra-cruiser class. With some well-chosen products and accessories, Project 'Star will be transformed into one of those machines.
Project costs to date:
Suggested retail - 1997 base model Royal Star: $13,699 Genuine Yamaha Accessories installed - Tour Classic Saddlebags - ribbed: $749.95 Saddlebag mounting hardware: $138.95 Tour Classic Windshield - tall: $299.95 Windshield mounting hardware: $99.95 Lower wind deflectors - clear: $45.95 Deflector mounting hardware: $107.95