2008 Star Motorcycles Raider

Choppers Hit the Mainstream


You know you want one. One of those choppers that thumbs its nose at conformity and convention, something that says you’re a bad-ass who shouldn’t be f@#ked with but yet which comes with a factory warrantee.

So Star Motorcycles has answered your call with its Raider, a new bike that promises the personality of an OCC chopper with the reliability of a Maytag.

“This design and idea is a more cutting-edge side, not the traditional old Western-type of cruiser,” Tommy Yasunaga, the Raider’s project manager since coming to the U.S. in 2005, told Motorcycle.com. “This is the kind of bike that is very custom. We made sure to keep it sharp – don’t use more round shapes. And we focused on more details.”

The new Star Motorcycles Raider brings the chopper to the masses. At 37 years-old, Yasunaga is right in the target demographic for the Raider. It’s part of a shift in the cruiser market that is turning away from the “Classic” heavyweight character with fat tires and fenders.

Now, thanks to exposure via TV shows and their tough-guy expressions, more riders are opting for something more in the mold of a “Custom” chopper with their lighter style, a large-diameter front wheel, openness around engine and arms-forward riding position. According to MIC data for cruisers over 1300cc (mostly Harleys), 63% of them are in the Custom theme compared to 37% Classic.

To that end, the Raider is endowed with what Star calls “take-off movement imagery,” with tight body forms and a “rock and roller attitude.” The intention was to express a look that is tough, proud and confident, with a show-off cool pose. Yasunaga also used inspiration from a “Black Art” theme: wicked, evil, suit of armor, gothic, precise, modern.

“That idea came from that young feel – so how to show the more young-minded feeling or image,” Yasunaga told Motorcycle.com. He also mentioned in reference to the Raider the Japanese term Kodawari, which “means we don’t give up anything – no compromise. I think we achieved this target.”

The take-off movement the Raider’s designer spoke of is evident in this profile shot, with the pipes, fenders and fuel tank all arching upward like a P-51 on a runway.
Although with chopperesque styling, the Raider thankfully does without an ape-hanger handlebar. The riding position is actually kind of sporty.
Forming the basis for this brand-name chopper is a raked-out new frame that is fashioned from lightweight aluminum. The swingarm is also crafted from the lightweight alloy, but in its case it is formed using the high-tech Controlled-Fill casting process that can output components in beautiful, smooth curves. A flangeless gas tank with a sub-tank mounted below the seat keeps the weight of fuel fairly low in the chassis.

Yamaha, er, Star, says the goal with the Raider was to produce “the modern performance custom” along with “best-in-class power and exhaust tone.” To that end, the Raider’s frame rails are filled with the 113 cubic-inch (1854cc), 48-degree V-Twin from the exceptional Roadliner and Stratoliner series.

Its air-cooled/pushrod design is one of the most attractive cruiser powerplants extant, and it looks even better in the Raider thanks to the frame’s extended steering head area that allows more daylight to pass through when looked at in profile. With its four overhead valves and two plugs per cylinder, the 1854cc motor is one of the strongest among cruisers. The exhaust system, a nicely arched set of dual mufflers, is a 2-1-2 setup with an EXUP exhaust valve and two catalytic converters. “It’s got the best sounding exhaust I’ve ever heard on a production bike,” said Derek Brooks, Yamaha’s Product Planning Manager, whose opinion can typically be trusted.

“It really defines the essence of the Star Motorcycles brand,”

Star boasts that the Raider has “all-day comfort with a confident riding position” plus “unsurpassed handling character.” Until we get to ride it, we’ll have to take their word for it, but we can tell you that the ergonomic rider triangle feels quite good. Star reps spoke of finding a good balance for the bike, so it should be interesting to see how it rides with its laid-out 39.2-degree rake, 120/70-21 front tire and 210/40-18 rear Metzeler ME880. A horizontally mounted rear shock takes care of bumps out back while a skinny fork softens blows up front.

“It really defines the essence of the Star Motorcycles brand,” said Bob Starr, Yamaha’s General Manager of Corporate Communications, at the Raider’s press reveal.

The Star brand was first launched in 2005 as the cruiser offshoot from Yamaha’s extensive lineup of bikes. The plan was to make Star edgier and future-focused, with an emphasis on personalization and being artistic.

With the Raider copping a bad-mutha chopper ’tude, Star Motorcycles is set to expand its dominance of the big-cube market among Japanese OEMs.And the plan seems to be working. Awareness of the Star brand was boosted from 23% to 40% in the course of just one year, according to Star research. And consideration for a Star motorcycle among cruiser owners went up from 8.7% to 19.5% in 2006. In the high-end cruiser market (1300+cc), Star Motorcycles outpaced the industry in percentage growth, becoming the number-one selling brand in this category among Japanese OEMs

This new Raider will likely add another stimulant to Star sales once they reach dealerships in October. The standard Raider has black accents whereas the Raider S has the chrome bling. The Raider comes in a black/black combo or red/black and starts at an MSRP of $13,180. The S model's base retail price is $13,780 and comes in a choice of a flamed red version or one in Tommy Blue, named after the bike’s project leader.

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