First Ride: 2008 Star Raider

Fists in the wind and in the face of a slowing market.

story by Pete Brissette, Photograph by A. Palaima, and Star Motorcycles, Created Oct. 23, 2007
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Does the world need another cruiser, or custom-like cruiser for that matter? Yamaha offshoot Star Motorcycles thinks so, and as evidence of the motorcycle company's confidence it unveiled the Star Raider in September of this year. We recently took home a test unit to find out how it performs.

When Harley-Davidson's announcement that it would be scaling back its shipments for the third quarter of 2007, and Victory's modest 2008 retail sales projections were pointed out, Bob Starr (really, that's his name), Yamaha’s General Manager of Corporate Communications, reminded us that the cruiser segment is still the largest part of the industry and that Star "wants to be a big part of that." Derek Brooks, Product Planning Manager for Star Motorcycles, explained that when the Raider project began over two years ago, Star knew then that the growth of the industry wouldn't last, “but that there were still opportunities to be had.”

2008 Star Raider

Thus we now have what Star says is a new concept for cruisers, what it calls a "modern performance custom."

Motorcycle.com got its first look at this new custom back in September. We'll gloss over most of the specs here, but be certain to check out Kevin Duke's story on the unveiling of the 2008 Star Raider.

Using what they already had, the excellent 1854cc (113ci), 48-degree air-cooled V-Twin from the 'Liner bikes (Roadliner/Stratoliner) with it's high-for-a-big-Twin compression ratio of 9.5:1, Star came up with another all-aluminum cradle-type frame and swingarm to hold that monster of a mill. Employing styling very similar to many customs, the frame has a rather airy opening around the front cylinder (thanks to internal wiring and a tall steering head), allowing you to see right through to the other side, enjoying the shiny valve cover along the way. Another aspect worth noting is that the engine's twin counterbalancers allowed Star to hard-mount the engine to the frame without concern for the usual vibes.

"In a segment that often sees skimping on brakes in the name of style, Star has bucked the trend here..."

During our initial rides over plenty of freeway miles and a good portion of curves and twists, the Raider exhibited only a nominal amount of buzz through the footpegs and handlebars. Even then, most of the tingle came when the engine was rapped out near its rev limit. Speaking of the handlebars, be sure to take a close look to discover a dearth of wiring. Taking yet another cue from the custom world, wiring has been routed inside the mildly bent bars.

An instrument cluster inlaid on the fuel tank hearkens to many cruiser designs, including the Roadliner/Stratoliner, but it also includes useful features like a low-fuel countdown.
The Raider, like many Star bikes, offers a good canvas for customization, many of which are bolt-on. This one is the work of Jeff Palhegyi, a longtime contributor to Star’s design and customization efforts.

In a quest to fulfill the performance aspect of the "modern performance custom" designation, the Raider uses fuel injection with 43mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors (rather than four-hole squirters) for better atomization and throttle response, something found on current high-tech sportbike systems. Indeed, fueling was excellent, and feedback from right-wrist inputs was instantaneous and free of hiccups. The EFI system is fed by a 3.5-liter under-the-tank airbox that allows for a straight intake tract and a "clean engine design for easy personalization." There's that custom cruiser thing again.

What's left of the fuel mixture after it passes through that meat-eater of an engine takes one final trip toward destiny and into the path of a three-way catalyzer and EXUP (EXhaust Ultimate Power valve) hidden inside the stylish exhaust. More important than the fact that this exhaust runs clean is how it sounds. It sounds great! There's just enough snort and growl to compliment the tough look without, well, getting looks.

Putting the claimed 123 ft-lbs of torque (approximately 106 ft-lbs at the wheel at 2,500 rpm) to the reasonably-sized 210/40-18 rear tire is the job of a narrower (than on the 'Liners) but stronger than ever carbon-fiber belt. Slowing all that pavement-chomping power is the job of two – yes two – discs and calipers up front, as opposed to the single-disc setup on similarly themed choppers. The 298mm rotors are squeezed by four-piston mono-block calipers. They do just as claimed, providing very good feel and strong power. In a segment that often sees skimping on brakes in the name of style, Star has bucked the trend here, and you'll be a much happier rider because of it.

Out back the Raider has a large 310mm rotor and single-piston caliper that doesn't have the same quality of feel or power as the front brakes but is still capable of lockin' 'er up.

Two things were paramount in this bike for Star: all-day comfort and handling. After most of a day in the saddle I was reminded that riding cruisers can be really fun or really not fun. What often makes the difference is how cozy you can be whilst plundering and pillaging the boulevard. With a carved-out saddle, relaxed reach to the bars and pegs, and just enough narrowness at the point where the fuel tank meets the seat, the Raider was surprisingly comfortable to ride. Contributing to the cush was the supple suspension. The 46mm KYB fork and horizontally-mounted shock did such a good job of soaking up expansion cracks and rough pavement that I had to remind myself that I was riding a "custom."

"Many cruiser fans will have to come up with a good excuse if they don't consider the Raider..."

Despite a long 70.8-inch wheelbase and a raked-out look, it doesn't come at the cost of an ill-handling bike. Star engineers used a little trickery in order to achieve the chopperish 39.2-degree fork angle. The Raider’s steering-head rake angle is actually a more modest 33.2 degrees, but a major offset of the triple clamps results in the stylishly desirable raked out fork. This leaves the Raider with a reasonably short 102mm (4 inches) of trail. Couple those dimensions with the wise choice in the aforementioned rear tire size and the equally smart (not skinny) 120/70-21 front tire, and what you get is a bike that's easy to turn in and very tractable through corners. Straight-line stability is even more impressive. Road surface imperfections, even those encountered well in excess of the speed limit, did little to upset the chassis.

On my initial ride, I had the opportunity to ride a Stratoliner back-to-back with the Raider. My purpose was to see if Star could do the same thing with the Raider that they did with the 'Liner: create a stylish cruiser with a brute of  a motor that actually handles like a motorcycle should, and do it in a package that is 20 pounds lighter than the 'Liner's claimed 750 lbs. wet weight. Verdict? Good job, Star!

The Raider shown here has the handling, braking and engine to back up the bling-bling offered by the chromed-out, higher-end S version.

The Raider draws its inspiration from the chopper/custom world but manages to pull off the requisite look without compromising handling dynamics. Its introduction creates serious competition for the likes of more established names out there by not only looking the part, but also by performing better than many of its brethren. And at a substantial cost savings.

With the base Raider's MSRP at $13,180 and the chrome-ladened, flame paint Raider S topping out at $13,980, many cruiser fans in the market for something like a Victory Vegas 8-Ball (the bare-bones model at $13,599) or a Harley Softail Night Train (MSRP $15,895) will have to come up with a pretty good excuse if they don't consider the Raider.

Your faithful Motorcycle.com crew aims to find out how the Raider stacks up against its natural competitors. Look for our “Mainstream Chopper” shootout in the coming weeks.

The Perfect Bike For…
 Someone who wants all the performance, power and looks of a custom they so often see on TV these days, but at a price they can afford and the piece of mind that comes from Japanese reliability.
 Highs:     Sighs:
  • Awesome, tire-shredding engine

  • Great attention to detail

  • Very competitive price for a high level of fit and finish
  • Portion of exhaust header near rider's right leg brushes against leg and creates wide stance when putting foot down at stop
  • CARB requirements for evaporative fuel canister detracts from look... no place to hide that junk on such a bike. Sorry, California.
  • Clutch pull rather heavy, gets tiresome after a while

Pete's Duds

Shift XC Jacket

Harley-Davidson FXRG-2 Boot

Shoei RF-1000 Nerve (blue)

Icon Pursuit Stealth Leather Glove

Specifications:  2008 Star Raider  
Engine Configuration
Engine Displacement / Cyl. Angle
Engine Cooling System
Compression Ratio
Valves Per Cyclinder
Bore x Stroke
Fuel Delivery System
Throttle Valve Size
Air Filter Type
Exhaust System Type
Ignition System Type
Lubrication System
Oil Capacity
   Oil change
   With filter change
   Total
Fuel Recommended
Fuel Capacity (Reserve)
Transmission Type
Clutch Type
Secondary Drive
Primary Drive
Primary Reduction (Ratio)
Secondary Reduction (Ratio)
5th Gear
4th Gear
3th Gear
2th Gear
1th Gear
Frame Design
Caster Angle (Fork Rake) / Trail
Front Wheel Travel
Rear Wheel Travel
Front Brakes
Rear Brake
Front Wheel
Rear Wheel
Front Tire
Rear Tire
Overall Length
Overall Width (H/Bar lever ends)
Overall Height
Wheelbase
Seat Height
Ground Clearance
Dry Weight
Wet Weight
GVWR
Battery Capacity
Charging System Output
Valve Adjustment Interval
V-Twin, 4-stroke, Pushrod / Overhead Valve
113 cu.in. (1854cc)/48°
Air Cooled
9 : 5 : 1
4
100 x 118 mm
EFI Mikuni Injector x 2 w/ TPS
43mm x 2
Oil-coated paper element
2 > 1 >2 w/ EXUP /02 sensor & 2 catalyzers
Digital TCI w/ 32 bit ECU
Wet Sump
Oil Capacity
   4.3 qt.
   5.2 qt.
   5.5 qt.
Unleaded Premium /91 or higher octane
4.1 gal (0.8 gal)
5-speed
Wet multiplate-disc
Carbon Fiber Ribbed Belt
Spur Gear
72/51 (1.412)
37/30 x 66/31 (2.626)
24/30 (0.800)
26/28 (0.929)
29/25 (1.160)
33/21 (1.571)
38/16 (2.375)
Double Cradle / Aluminum
33.2° (39.2°)
130mm (5.1 in)
90mm (3.5 in)
4-piston monoblock x2 / 298 x 5.0mm discs
1-piston pin-slide / 310 x 6.0mm single disc
3.50 x 21 / Cast Aluminum 5-spoke
7.50 x 18 / Cast Aluminum 5-spoke
120/70-21 Metzeler ME880F Marathon 62H
210/40R-18 Metzeler ME880 Marathon 73H
2572mm
925mm
1165mm
1799mm (70.8 in)
695mm (27.4 in)
146mm
692 lbs.
730 lbs.
1179 lbs.
12V / 18Ah
14 VDC x 32 Ah = 448 Watts @ 5,000 rpm
Check every 16,000 miles

Related Reading

2008 Star Raider First Look 

2008 Victory Models

2008 Harley-Davidson Models

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