We were in the town of Bowling Green for the Star Touring & Riding Association (the official club of Yamaha) annual Star Days rider gathering. Think of it as a Honda Hoot, but for Yamahas and you'll get the picture. Also at this gathering, Yamaha used the opportunity to introduce to the press two new cruisers and an entire range of performance products.When we talk about middle or lightweight cruisers, bikes like the V Star and V Star 1100 come easily to mind. These are the sort of machines that introduce people to the motorcycling world. Because more and more people are taking the smaller displacement cruisers seriously these days, they're becoming a more common choice of vehicle on which to commute or tour with. Yamaha noticed that buyers were modifying their machines by adding a number of goodies such as windshields, saddlebags and backrests. Addressing their customers needs, Yamaha decided to offer those parts as standard equipment on some models for the 2002 model year. Thus, the V Star Silverado and V Star 1100 Silverado were born. Think of them as the "Luxury" versions of the regular V Star and V Star 1100 series of motorcycles and you'll know where Yamaha's going with all of this.
As a package, the new models only add to the functionality and all-around capability of the more bare-bones models. In the hot Kentucky air the adjustable windshield did its job and redirected the hot and humid air away from the rider. This allowed us to ride with our visors up in a relatively calm pocket of, well, hot and humid air. The airflow was redirected to the very tops of the taller riders in the group (6 feet and above) whereas our more average-sized friends reveled in the calm, still air.Another welcome addition on these bikes are the bags. We were glad to see that the included bags not only complemented the styling of the bike, but were also effective. Although we didn't like dealing with the buckles, Yamaha press noted that the bags were meant more for the weekender than for the round-towner. So we query, "If that's the case, then why are the bags fixed-mounted to the bike?" We surmised that if you do plan on "weekending" then you should put your worldly goods in a duffel bag of some kind. This bag would then get placed inside the saddlebag, ready for easy removal of its contents.
The Road Star Silverado features much of the same treatments as its smaller brothers, with the addition of white-wall tires to boot.
A nice touch to the bags, though, is that the leather saddlebags are water-resistant. A late afternoon flash thunderstorm quickly proved this. Unfortunately, Calvin's Levis weren't as waterproof and resulted in a condition known as Wet Leg.Though subtle, handling differences between the faired and un-faired models included slightly sluggish steering at high speeds and a heavier-feeling front end at slow speeds. This wasn't ever a problem, just something that was noticed over the course of spending a few days back-to-back on a number of different models. Overall, the bikes all handle pretty well as far as cruisers go. Dragging the floorboards through some corners proves a fun exercise since all the Yamaha cruisers feel remarkably well balanced and sure-footed.
Of course, the only way to make these cruisers better is to add some more power. Like Cleo the psychic, it seems that Yamaha has been doing a bit of mind-reading of their own. They will soon be launching a line of performance parts called "Speed Star." It just sounds fast, doesn't it? These products will mainly be high-performance upgrades to the current Star line of cruisers.To test some of the components out, Yamaha equipped a Road Star Midnight Star with a variety of Speed Star parts. While nothing in particular was ground-breaking (aftermarket companies have been offering their own performance parts for years), it's the fact that more and more manufacturers are acknowledging and encouraging people to upgrade their rides that we found so refreshing. And Yamaha's definitely at the head of the pack. If you're going to go out and hop-up your bike, then you might as well have the manufacturer involved in the process.
All in all, the Silverado series of machines appear to be for the person who's more interested in riding, versus tinkering with, and upgrading their bikes. Not only do you get all the extras, but you get them factory installed. Personally, we'd like to see more machines like the Road Star Midnight Star, but then again, everybody has their own unique tastes.