Despite the miserable economy and state of the motorcycle industry that we’re all painfully familiar with, cruiser sales suffer the least, according to info from Derek Brooks, Product Planning Manager for Star Motorcycles.
During the launch of the 2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe, Brooks pointed to industry sales data supplied by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) that highlighted how cruiser sales accounted for the largest share of total motorcycle sales in the past five years.
Cruisers outpaced all other segments by literally tens of thousands of units sold.
In December ’09 cruiser sales were roughly 250,000 units according to a graph created from MIC figures; the next highest category, Sport, saw roughly 100,000 sales in that same period. Talk about your cruiser staying power.
So, not only have cruisers proven a safe product bet the past five years, as of late the bagger scene has taken off, too, allowing brands further expansion opportunities into the sales-reliable cruiser segment.
With the Stratoline Deluxe, Star is ready to ride the swelling bagger wave.
Based on the Roadliner platform, the Deluxe is something of an already-accessorized Roadliner. Put each ‘Liner next to one another, and there’s enough on the Deluxe to create an all-new model. However, if you already own a Roadliner and now relish the notion of your Roadliner in bagger form, you’ll be able to accessorize your ‘Liner with the 13.7-gallon saddlebags and fork-mounted fairing that largely make the Deluxe what it is, when those items and other Star accessories geared toward the ‘Liners are made available in the coming months.
But if you’d rather just have the package ready to go, the Stratoliner Deluxe is expected to hit dealers mid-May with an MSRP of $17,490.
Wind in your face…or not so much.
With a 200-plus-mile ride covering freeway, canyon and surface street environs, as well as several hours seat time, there was ample opportunity to get acquainted with Deluxe’s fairing and saddlebags, both of which were penned by GK Design International, located in Lakewood, California. The international design firm has done numerous projects in the past with Star, as well as its parent company, Yamaha.
First impression of the new fairing is that it sits somewhat closer to the rider than what the Victory Cross Country’s fairing did based on my not-so-long-ago time aboard the Vic. I expected that maybe I’d have to endure excessive buffeting from the Star’s shorty windscreen, but the opposite was true.
A lengthy freeway blast at anywhere from legal to less-than-legal speeds revealed limited buffeting for my 5-foot, 8-inch frame, while a fellow rider that stands near six and a half feet also had no complaints. The fairing does an admirable job of creating a pocket of mostly still air in front of the rider, taking a lot of the windblast off the chest area.
The hardbags’ integrated styling looks sleek, and the single lock/pushbutton latch makes opening and closing them easy as pie. Even while waiting at a stoplight it was a cinch to simply reach around to the bag(s), pop them open, access or deposit what I needed, and shut them, all with one hand.
Star proudly boasts of its claimed position as top seller in the metric cruiser segment. The brand points to steady growth in the past seven years and touts a market share more than two times greater than the next competitor in the “high-end” cruiser category
According to Star’s own surveys it has been the second-most recommended brand since its 2005 introduction -- H-D is still the leading cruiser brand.
Bold claims indeed, but we can buy into the boasting considering what an excellent machine the company has in the Roadliner platform. Let’s take a look at the core of the ‘Liners and what makes them so desirable:
The above mostly objective data is easily digested, but until you’ve ridden a Roadliner or Stratoliner model, you can’t appreciate just how neutral steering and stable the chassis is in seemingly all sitches.
And although third gear seems a tad short to us, the monster mill is easily capable of pulling 4th gear from way down low. You’re certain to get into impoundable speeds long before the tach ever reaches redline.
"...the monster mill is easily capable of pulling 4th gear from way down low."
Ergos are roomy and the saddle is wide, as is the handlebar. Styling is, well, it’s always subjective, but we unabashedly proclaim the Roadliner-based models as attractive if not downright purdy!
We’re not sure what perfect is, but with the line of ‘Liners, Star might’ve come close to perfecting the big-bore cruiser platform.
The Deluxe comes iPod ready with a cable nestled into an in-fairing compartment. Unfortunately the iPod dock is open to the elements, and two days riding witnessed a fair amount of dust collecting in the iPod’s nest. A door for the compartment will be available as an accessory, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Star wouldn’t just include it in the first place. Certainly this little compartment door couldn’t push the bike’s retail figure past the point of desirability...
A left bar-mounted chrome controller handles moving up and down through tracks as well as manual volume control. The two deeply recessed speakers offer auto-adjusting volume control, too. As you ride, speaker volume adjusts up or down in relation to ambient noise; an unexpected feature that’s appreciated. Speaker sound quality was excellent. I could easily hear the tunes at freeway speeds even while wearing earplugs, and the sound was crisp, rather than distorted, at high volume.
Ol’ K.Duke made the excellent point that merely offering iPod readiness is an easy way to provide music for the rider, as it negates the need of a radio receiver and/or CD player, both of which add weight and complexity.
The only drawback I found in the Deluxe’s relatively simple iPod controller was the inability to move from one section of music to another. In other words, track selection, forward or back, is only linear. This also means you’ll need to make your track or playlist selection before connecting to the iPod cable. But, if you’ve a lengthy playlist, then this isn’t much of a negative.
Star makes an adapter for non-iPod MP3 players if you’re one of the few music lovers on planet Earth not indoctrinated into the Apple collective.
The rare opportunity to calculate fuel economy during a new model launch saw the Strato Deluxe achieve an observed 41.5-mpg from its 4.5-gal tank. That seems on par, as during the test of a Roadliner in our Godzilla Crusiers Shootout, that bike sipped petrol at a rate of roughly 38-mpg.
A new class leader, or playing catch up?
The many things that we enjoy about the Roadliner, like its powerful but smooth Twin, light steering complemented by excellent stability, precise, effective brakes and comfy ergos are now joined by the practicality of a wind-busting fairing and useful saddlebags.
We could rave all day on the virtues of the Strato Deluxe, but it has some serious competition in the form of the Victory Cross Country.
The Vic offers a more robust dash package that includes a radio tuner and is also MP3 capable, has greater luggage volume (21 gallons vs. 13.7 gallons) and provides cruise control as standard. The Cross Country, like the Strato Deluxe, also utilizes an aluminum frame.
Both sleds have excellent front binders for sure, but the Star’s 113-cubic-inch Twin is likely more potent than the Vic’s smaller 106 mill.
When we last dyno’d the Roadliner in 2007 it pumped out a hair under 90 hp along with 109 ft-lbs, while the last time we dyno’d Victory’s 106-cubic-inch Vee in the form of the Vision during our Luxury Touring Shootout, the Vic engine saw 85 hp and 102 ft-lbs. Not a huge gap, but I can tell you from having ridden both motorcycles within a short interval of one another, the Star’s dual-counterbalanced mill is notably smoother than the Victory’s engine that can get a tad buzzy in the 3-4K rpm range.
But what might really get the Star in a tizzy is the Victory’s price tag. With an MSRP of $17,999, essentially only $500 above the Stratoliner Deluxe’s retail figure, the Victory Cross Country makes a case for itself in light of the comparisons made above.
We don’t know ‘bout you, but we think that sounds like an excellent battle. And we can’t wait to pair up this duo for what could be one of the best motorcycle comparisons of the year!
2007 Star Roadliner Review
2007 Godzilla Cruisers Shootout
2010 Victory Cross Country Review
2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide vs. Victory Cross Country
All Things Yamaha/Star on Motorcycle.com