2006 Star Stratoliner Press Introduction
Highway 249 is a wild roller-coaster, going from 2,000 feet up to 6,500 feet in just 20 miles. The trip to the summit and down to the Coachella Valley below is a carnival ride packed with heartbreaking twists and turns, happily on smooth pavement that encourages aggressive riding.
This demanding stretch of pavement might not be the best place to ride a luxury touring cruiser, but Star Motorcycles, Yamaha's new cruiser brand, wanted to demonstrate the new bike's sporting prowess along with its luxury and touring features. How well did it work? To find out, I was sent to the money-scented town of Palm Springs, California, to take advantage of Yamaha's hospitality and the area's spectacular winding desert and mountain roads.
Why was Star having a separate press intro for this 700-pound touring cruiser, which looks like an accessorized Roadliner, a bike Star launched just a couple of months ago? And why would they put a touring barge like this on some of the swoopiest, twistiest bits of pavement in the area? To help explain, Star's Brad Bannister hosted a presentation to explain the differences between the touring cruiser buyer and the more traditional buyer.
He started by pointing out that touring cruiser riders, or "TCs," purchased enough motorcycles -- more than 75,000 last year industry wide -- to justify having a separate model and press intro to get the word out to this very different demographic.
Touring Cruiser riders are different from their Cruiser brethren because they ride their motorcycles more often, and for greater distances. In addition to being older and more experienced riders, Yamaha's research suggests that TCs also care more about practical aspects like passenger comfort, wind protection and luggage capacity. Sure, Kawasaki's low-tech Concours sport tourer will do it all for half the price, but TC buyers are not just practical-minded drudges; appearance, sound and performance are also crucial to these folks.
With its new Star cruiser division, Yamaha hopes to lure an even greater number of these aging-but-credit-worthy consumers into their fold with models like the high-style Stratoliner.
Styling is at the forefront of almost every aspect of the Stratoliner. Designed to remind us of vehicles and architectureof the 1930s and `40s, the bike is awash in swoopy, flowing, Art Moderne lines. Starting at the beautiful, sweeping headlight nacelle and ending with a stylishly tapered aluminum swingarm, there are lavish dollops of style everywhere on the big bike. For those of you think the chrome accents on the tank are too Iron Man, they are put on there with double-sided tape so you can take them off easily. Components like the triangular LED taillight and pointy turn signals accent and counterpoint the smooth, flowing lines from custom components like the brake and clutch master cylinders and chrome front fender supports.
Those of you who read our Roadliner intro story will find the tech briefing eerily familiar, as the two machines are essentially exactly the same mechanically. You can read more tech stuff in Managing Editor Pete Brissette's intro story, but here are some of the things Star felt were important to emphasize with this model.
Aside from a rear shock with more preload, a simple, easily removable package of touring accessories - windscreen, luggage and sissy bar - sets the Stratoliner apart from its Roadliner cousin. The ample windscreen is available in three sizes: 17", 21" and 24" high, although just the medium 21" screen comes standard. The 1430 cubic-inch, hard-case saddlebags are plastic and finished with nice, soft leather. The lids flip outwards and lock in the center. They mount onto their mounts with easy-to-use Dzus fasteners, but the industrial-looking black steel frame they are attached to stays on
the bike; they don't come for looks, but rather to help you clean and maintain your Stratoliner. The tall sissy bar clips neatly onto the fender supports and locks, like the screen and bags, with the ignition key.