1997 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe
Motorcycling's heavyweight cruiser championship is turning into a crowded arena these days as each manufacturer throws their contender into the fray. Harley-Davidson has upped their bid for a title with their new Heritage Springer. Kawasaki is relying on the punch of their Vulcan 1500 and its paint-can-sized pistons to uphold company honor. Meanwhile Honda continues to bask in the glow of their Valkyrie, proving a large-displacement V-twin isn't a necessity for a boulevard championship. In this tough battle, manufacturers must field a strong, capable entrant or risk taking a beating in the sales department.
Yamaha jumped into this melee last year with their Royal Star and Royal Star Tour Classic edition cruisers. Combining the big V-four pulled from their venerable Venture Royale tourer with a hint of "nostalgic" styling, the Royal Star line has held its own in the struggle for cruiser supremacy. For 1997 Yamaha added the new Royal Star Tour Deluxe to their line and threatens to send contenders scattering with the Royal Star's strong 1-2-3 combination.Backing up Yamaha's trio of heavyweights is their unparalleled five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and Royal Star Service. This includes 24-hour roadside assistance, round-the-clock emergency towing, locksmith service, dealer locator service, trip interruption benefits and a customized trip planning service, all at your fingertips with a call to their 24-hour hotline.
Recently the motoring press were given an opportunity to sample all three varieties of Royal Star, as well as several other bikes from Yamaha's stable of customs during a stunning debut weekend at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in California. Having all three bikes available for back-to-back comparison made the subtle differences between each model more apparent. Yamaha has carefully positioned each individual Royal Star model for a different segment of buyers: Base model Royal Stars are "boulevard cruisers," Royal Star Tour Classics are "casual tourers" while Yamaha's new Royal Star Tour Deluxe is being positioned as a machine riders can both tour and cruise on comfortably.Powering all Royal Stars is the same 79 cubic inch, liquid-cooled V-four featuring a 10:1 compression ratio, four valves per cylinder and digital ignition. With such an impressive stat sheet one would expect Royal Stars to be speedy machines, but they've been configured to deliver a broad spread of power with an emphasis on low rpm power and torque. There is but a single difference between Royal Star, Tour Classic and Tour Deluxe motors -- a four-into-two exhaust system is fitted to the new Tour Deluxe, while a four-into-four system graces the Royal Star and Tour Classic. All three variations of Star attain similar performance figures, although Tour Deluxe models emit a deeper exhaust note.
Embracing current trends where "nostalgic styling" is desirable, Tour Deluxes are a visual blast from the past. White wall tires and art-deco styled black and white color schemes whisk riders away to a simpler time. Requisite chromed metal gleams in the sun as light reflects from the headlight, running lights, engine and stylish exhaust. Tour Deluxe versions sport a solo seat and luggage rack in place of a passenger pillion, and two hard saddlebags for touring.Not only is the luggage stylish, it's functional as well: Saddlebag lids come completely off to allow easy loading and unloading. Enough clothes for a cozy weekend fit in the available cargo space. If you are traveling solo, the standard luggage rack provides enough space to mount a sleeping bag and tent, leaving saddlebag space for clothing and supplies.
Although solo seating is standard, passenger accommodations were not overlooked by Yamaha. A small luggage rack can be removed, and in its place a passenger pillion, complete with floorboards and backrest, can be installed in less than fifteen minutes.
We got a chance to test the Tour Deluxe's mettle while sneaking away from our Yamaha tour guides and journeying up Palomar Mountain (the same slope Brent chases RZTom up in a video clip from our Video Archives). Steering effort is remarkably light for such a sizable machine. Floorboards will grind against the pavement during more serious cornering, but a lightly modified riding style will lessen contact until corner exit. Straight-line stability was very good, even at high speeds during wind gusts. Performance was very respectable as our Tour Deluxe pulled an indicated 115 miles per hour, and felt comfortable cruising at speeds of up to 80 mph.Of Yamaha's Royal Star trio, the Tour Deluxe version won our vote for most comfortable. A revised solo seat brings riders closer to thick, one inch handlebars and grips. Vibration was practically non-existent throughout the machine, save for a light shaking in the floorboards and saddle. After several hours aboard a Tour Deluxe, we were still fresh and ready for more mileage.
We found Yamaha's Tour Deluxe to be their best heavy cruiser offering to date. With the Royal Star, Yamaha has forged not only a line of premium cruisers, they've created three separate canvases that form a starting point for Star owners to work from. Yamaha has also made it clear they intend to do more than wish upon this Star -- they want you to ride one, and with a National Dealer Demo program slated for 1997, one of Yamaha's Royal Stars may yet shine in your garage.