One could apply this adage to Star Motorcycles' approach to their latest bike release, the Roadliner. Anyone who is a fan of art deco "streamlining" will immediately see Star's attempt to reach back in time, at least in terms of styling. As Star's marketing material says, "It was a design era driven by emotion, not logic." And they dictate that it's "Star's original and unique direction (within the cruiser world)."
If nothing else, Star designers have done an impressive job of staying true to their styling direction. The Roadliner is a very attractive bike and it often garnered looks while stopped at an intersection or parked along the curb. Although color choices and use of the shiney stuff as styling cues are subtle, overall the bike is a pleasure to behold. With swoopy lines, low saddle height and wide, beach-cruiser style handlebars the `Liner certainly harkens to the `30s and `40s eras of motorcycle appearance. Some will probably even make the comparison to Indians of yore.
Coming in three trim levels, the Roadliner, Roadliner Midnight and Roadliner S, Star is vying for your attention whether you like your bikes in chrome or not-so-chrome. The Roadliner model comes in Black Cherry paint with most of its shinny bits polished. The Midnight variation, as you probably guessed it, is essentially all blacked-out. And the Roadliner S comes in either Pearl White or Charcoal/Bronze with all of it's bling-bling being chrome rather than painted to look chrome or just polished aluminum.
These bikes, as mentioned before, are real lookers. Star spent a lot of time focusing on every detail. For instance, the headlight is not only one large piece of chrome artwork but it also conceals the ignition when not in use by means of a sliding cover. All switchgear wiring is routed through those big, wide handlebars. The mirrors, master cylinders, levers (including foot controls), engine covers, exhaust, pushrod covers, cylinder head covers, cooling fins, signal light stems, handlebar clamp and a number of other items are either polished or chrome, depending on the model. The exception to this flashy dream is the Midnight model, which as mentioned earlier, is draped in black. Simply reading this brief description might have you running for the hills for fear of another chrome monster, but Star was discrete; they put the shine in all the right places. Nothing about this bike is gaudy. "Sophisticated" and "classy" are adjectives that spring to mind when you spend some time taking in this new era streamliner.
Another nice feature is the "multi-function meter", or gauge cluster as most know it. Being all one piece centered on the fuel tank, it's easy to take a quick glance downward and see how easily you can break the basic speed law while you watch the analog speedometer. The tach and fuel gauge are analog as well. Modern touches are found in the LCD trip meter, fuel trip meter and odometer. And the `Liner has some slickness to operating all these gauges and meters by way of the selector and reset switches mounted "passing switch" style on the forward part of the switchgear housing. Simply flick back and forth through the settings with a touch of your index finger. One final note on the gauge set up: when the night rolls in, the multi function meter will illuminate with a pleasant and soothing blue back light.
The Roadliner's beauty is more than skin deep. The aluminum frame weighs in at only 37 pounds (claimed) and consists of a total of eight separate pieces. The die-cast aluminum swingarm is made up of just five pieces and weighs 11.8 pounds; weight reduction was definitely on the minds of Star engineers. Said to have "tuned rigidity for great handling", the frame is definitely not inclined to flex like so many cruiser frames do. Wrapped inside the stout aluminum frame is the heart of the beast: an air-cooled, 113ci (1854cc), four valve pushrod V-twin motor with a bore and stroke of 3.9" x 4.6". In addition to air cooling, the Roadliner uses a dry sump oil system with "three scavenging points" to assist in keeping the oil cooled, which in turn is said to lead to cooler pistons. Twin counter-rotating balancers were engineered into the motor "to provide optimum `Pulse Character'" as Star puts it. Feeding this voluminous twin is handled by a 3.5 liter, under-the-fuel-tank airbox that gets sucked on by 43mm throttle bodies with 12-hole injectors. Power is put to the ground through a very smooth and quick-shifting five-speed tranny that twists the ponies onto a belt final drive.
When spent gases exit the motor they do so through the "first for a cruiser" EXUP-enhanced exhaust system to emanate one of the best sounding exhaust notes found on an OEM cruiser. The exhaust is a two-into-one unit that is claimed to improve low-to-midrange torque at between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm. A catalytic converter is attached to keep the EPA happy. When the bike is at idle it's difficult to discern if it's even running. But blip the throttle or twist it open to get between shifts quicker and you'll find yourself asking how they were able to get past stringent noise emissions standards. It simply sounds great. As a quick side note, the muffler can be exchanged without removing the EXUP valve.
PAGE 2 With a claimed wet weight of 750 pounds, stopping the `Liner is of utmost importance. The job up front is handled by a set of four piston, mono-block calipers clamping onto twin, 298mm floating rotors. A 320mm disc does the job on the back wheel. These binding units are attached to 12 spoke cast aluminum wheels; 17" for the rear and 18" up front.
Climb aboard the low and wide Roadliner and you can't help but feel you've stepped back in time a little. The wide, sweeping bars and low saddle height (you truly feel as if you on a saddle, again reminiscent of Indians) have `cruise' written all over them. Reach over the handlebar clamp to access the ignition switch -- which is hidden underneath a sliding cover that's part of the headlight housing -- thumb the starter switch and listen to the starter motor lazily spin until the big twin rumbles to life. You will immediately begin to think someone swapped out the stock exhaust for a throaty but subtle aftermarket set-up. The exhaust note is as significant to the overall design of the bike as the general appearance is.
The next step in your adventure is to operate the clutch. Grab the well contoured and finely polished lever to find an effortless pull and tap the `toe' shifter into first gear. Nothing more than a smooth, reaffirming thump and you're in gear. Twist the throttle gently as torque is on tap from just around 2,000 RPM. Staying on the shifting theme, clutchless up-shifts are another testament to Star's refined and robust tranny.
Getting up to speed quickly is a smooth and rapid process. The Roadliner will have you in hot water with the local constabulary in a hurry if you're not careful to mind the speedometer. Cruising speeds of 80-plus miles per hour are an easy affair and despite the lack of a windscreen, windblast isn't an issue. Wind the throttle up in a roll-on and the `Liner will gladly oblige and have you in the highly illegal range without a complaint. This low-slung machine is just as stable and confidence inspiring at 100 mph as it is at 65 mph.
Look for an opportunity to test the aluminum frame's alleged stability, on a sweeping on ramp, and you'll be hard pressed to find so much as a wiggle out of the bike even at speeds far in excess of the posted on ramp limit. The Roadliner is as solid in it's handling as Star claims it to be. Find a slower, meandering section of winding road and you'll again be fighting your own suppositions on how a bike this big should handle. Steering is neutral and the low center of gravity makes the initial turn-in surprisingly light and easy. The leverage from the beach cruiser bars obviously contributes to this but the Roadliner effortlessly steers itself against the common notion instilled by earlier cruisers that they just don't turn well. Ground clearance is at worst average and even less of a concern as the big floorboards do a good job of insulating the grinding sensations.
Speaking of sensations, Star found a nugget of gold in their counter balancer design as only a moderate amount of vibration works it's way up to the rider through the bars and the rest of the bike. And this is easily remedied by up-shifting and letting the torque monster do it's job. Once you've done this, all is well again in the smooth department.
Star has also done a good job of considering the probable passenger that you'll want to share your riding with. A large, roomy and comfortable seat is perched over the rear fender.
When you've had enough fun and you're ready to pull her in from the road the simple but effective twin calipers up front do as good a job or better than using all the brakes on most cruisers. The feel is sensitive and the application is fairly linear until right near the end when an additional amount of force is required to haul it to a complete stop. But considering the heft of this neo-streamliner the brakes are more than adequate.
If you're in the market for a new cruiser and are growing tired of the dime-a-dozen customs and the increasingly common look of most cruisers, pay attention to the Roadliner. Hitting dealer showrooms in November, according to Brad Banister of Star, the Roadliner is sure to make in-roads in the cruiser market. So if you're a softy for things of yesteryear but want the technology of tomorrow -- or at least of today -- this bike is a must on your short list of bikes to consider.