They are elemental in design yet they don't cut corners when it comes to amenities like full-range audio. The Valkyrie and the Venture pack plenty of motor, particularly the Interstate.
Even better, both of these bikes take you down the long and winding road in comfort and style.
We felt that the Yamaha Venture possessed a better integrated design. In some ways, it seems almost as though Honda rushed the Interstate to market to counter the Venture. For example, except for the top case, the Valkyrie's bag system was awkward to access while the Venture's was easy to use. The Interstate's CB/Audio system offered a lot of functionality, but it gave us flashbacks of Windows NT -- overdesigned and complex to operate. Even worse, it wasn't loud enough.
On the other hand, the Venture's audio system, in our opinion, offered the same core functionality -- radio, CB, on-board intercom -- while sounding better. Well, at least it was louder. We also liked the Venture's retro-styled digital ruler speedometer -- a small but inspired slice of design. The Valkyrie's analog speedo and tach were functional but a bit lacking in imagination.
However, the Valkyrie Interstate offers a stronger motor, better brakes and superb night-time visibility. The Venture is still a Royal Star and while the V-four engine has been re-tuned for a bit more grunt, compared to the Interstate, it feels underpowered, particularly when riding up inclines or traveling with a passenger. But then perhaps the Venture's less powerful motor this isn't such a bad thing considering that the Venture's brakes often felt overwhelmed and were prone to fade.
Mechanically, the MM Limited is no different than the 1999 Venture and offers, instead, special color schemes and badges. The MM limited comes in Pearl White/Ivory with saddlebag hinge emblems, a brass serial number plate and a commemorative key. The MM Limited is a little pricer than the standard Venture with an MSRP of $16,099 USD.
While both motorcycles handled surprising well -- with the edge to the the Interstate at higher speeds -- although, quite obviously, neither motorcycle can be classified as light-handling or "flickable." The Venture's front end had a tendency to swim a bit on higher speed sweepers and we felt that that the very tall and not particularly aerodynamic windscreen contributed to this. On the other hand, even though the Valkyrie's front end was a bit undersprung, it still felt a little more stable at higher speeds. Perhaps the fork-mounted fairing was more aerodynamic. In any case our evaluators gave the edge to the Interstate when we rode faster. In short, we liked both motorcycles, but when we sat down to make a preference, the staff chose motor over design. Both motorcycles take take you where you want to go and do so in style, but the Valkyrie does it with more grunt.
The Yamaha Royal Star VentureYamaha calls the Venture the flagship of their Star Motorcycle line-up. It certainly lives up to its billing, with goodies such as air-adjustable suspension, cruise control and full audio with front and rear speakers. The Venture also offers over 130 liters of cargo space and comes with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance program that is one of the strongest support packages in the motorcycle industry. The 1294cc, V-four, liquid-cooled powerplant is inherited from the Royal Star but has been tweaked with a larger capacity airbox (increased from 3.2 liters to 9.7 liters), larger carburetors (four 32mm Mikunis compared to 28mm Royal Star carbs) and new cam timing to help give the Venture a little more oomph. What we liked best about the engine was its pleasant, unique pulse, a sensation that doesn't feel as raw as a V-twin Harley but not as smooth as the flat-six Valkyrie. It's a vibration that reminds you that you are on a motorcycle, yet it never feels so overwhelming that after one hundred or so body-numbing miles you being to wonder why you ever decided to ride motorcycles in the first place.
Horsepower tops out at 79.2 hp at 6250 rpm and torque peaks at 76.7 foot-pounds at 3850 rpm, not bad but significantly less that the 90-plus rear wheel horsepower and torque produced by the Interstate.
Still, while Venture's engine produces adequate power, it needs very one of those ponies to haul its well-over 800-pound body across America's highways. In some situations, such as in heavy freeway traffic where a quick hit of power is often appreciated, a little more torque and top end would have been welcome.
Where the Venture shines is in its esthetics. A tastefully designed chassis surrounds the engine and offers enough chrome to highlight the motorcycle's lines, yet not too much as to overwhelm it.
Both the front and rear suspension are air-adjustable and the Venture offers a plush and comfortable ride. Ground clearance, an issue on Royal Stars, is good but not as much as the Valkyrie's. The long, 67.1-inch wheelbase provides a stable platform for spirited highway touring, and we found low and cruising speed handling characteristics better than we expected.
Compared to the Valkyrie, the bike is a little top heavy and two-up riding, while pleasant, was a bit more of a challenge than on the Interstate. Still, both these bikes were designed for passengers and so if we seem to be critical, it is because we are splitting hairs for the purposes of this comparo.
Two-up or solo, the front end does have a tendency to swim ever so slightly in high speed sweepers, but we attribute this more to the extremely tall and flat windscreen.
Max horsepower = 79.2 hp @ 6250 rpm.
Max torque = 76.7 lbs/ft @ 3850 rpm.
Ah yes, that tall windscreen. It offers excellent wind protection, but because it is so tall, flat and upright, it seems as though it was not designed with drag coefficients in mind and, as a result, it creates wind resistance that makes the Venture's front end feel like it's swimming through the turns.
However, we must add that the particular staffer who noticed this admitted he sped through a freeway exit ramp sweeper at about 85 miles per hour. Of course, the Venture is not a sport bike, and because the speed limit in most American jurisdictions is 75 mph, take this observation as valid but one that many riders may never experience. However, we do have one complaint about the windscreen that is relevant for almost all riders. Moisture tends to collect and bead, limiting visibility in wet weather. Again, due to its tall and upright design, the wind hits the screen at almost right angles rather than a more sloped angle where the airflow assists in pushing the moisture off and over the windscreen.
While a good rain wax or an anti-fog cloth helps, there are times when the wax has faded and you can't find the cloth, and it is then that the fog and misty rain are particularly vexing. Caught during a recent storm, we had to pull off the road a few times and wipe the screen. In dry weather the windscreen performed as designed, offering excellent wind protection. The floorboards are a nice touch and we preferred them over the Valkyrie's foot pegs.
Page 2"In addition, the heel-toe shifter, while confusing to our sport-bike oriented staff members, was more than welcome with our cruiser riders."
The seat is comfortable, although two taller staffers -- after a few hours on the road -- complained of slightly stiff lower backs. Fuel consumption averages about 34 miles per gallon, and although total fuel capacity is 6.0 gallons (including reserve) the fuel warning light came on after approximately 4.5 gallons of fuel were used.
|Specs: Yamaha Venture|
|Engine : 1294cc DOHC, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, 70° V-4 |
Bore x stroke: 79 x 66mm
Carburetion : 4x 32mm Mikuni CV
Front brake : Dual 298mm Twin-piston caliper
Rear brake : 320mm Single-piston caliper
Front tire: 150/80-16
Rear tire: 150/90-15MC
Wheelbase: 67.1 inches
Seat height: 29.5 inches
Fuel capacity: 6.0 gallons
Dry weigh : 807 lbs
MSRP : $15,999 USD
The Venture's bags are well-built and better integrated into the bike's overall design than the Valkyrie's, even thought the Venture's top bag developed a glitch and refused to open more than half-way. Other accouterments that stand out include the 50's inspired, ruler-type digital speedometer.
The Venture lacks a tachometer, and although it makes a nice reference point, a tach isn't all that necessary on a touring motorcycle. The audio system -- with an intercom system, CB, full audio, cassette deck and easy-to-use handlebar-mounted thumb controls -- sounds as good as any stock audio system offered on a motorcycle. Cruise control is a nice option, even though we never used it.
The brakes need work. The dual front 298mm discs with two-piston calipers and a 320mm rear disc with a single piston caliper aren't strong enough to stop the Venture without a considerable squeeze and push and both levers.
In fact, one staffer noticed the rear brake's propensity to fade and commented that he wasn't even sure why it existed except to perhaps to comply with federal safety laws.
While this might be an overstatement, the entire staff found the soft and overwhelmed brakes to be the weakest link on an otherwise attractive, well-built and well-designed motorcycle. While the Venture is the better integrated motorcycle, the Honda Valkyrie Interstate might be nothing more than an excuse to showcase the 1520cc.
The flat six-cylinder engine that makes 94.6 hp at 5800 rpm and 91.9 foot-pounds of torque at 4700 rpm. Basically, the Valkyrie engine is a hopped-up Gold Wing engine reconfigured with six 28mm carbs (compared to the twin set found on the Gold Wing), revised camshaft timing and a freer flowing exhaust. The Interstate also receives a rear rubber engine mount to reduce transmitted vibrations along with revised spark timing and carb settings for improved mid-range performance. As opposed to the Venture's pleasing pulses, the Valkyrie Interstate is silky smooth, perhaps too smooth for those who prefer to feel their engine.
Max horsepower = 94.6 hp @ 5800 rpm.
Max torque = 91.9 lbs/ft @ 4700 rpm.
Even so, anyone with a bold throttle hand and callous disregard for speed limits can take this motorcycle places where no touring motorcycle belongs, with monstrous torque offering fearless freeway acceleration and ample horsepower creating the potential for triple digit straights, should you be so reckless and irresponsible.
Also, the transmission is smooth and shifts are rarely missed. Even though the Interstate's 66.5-inch wheelbase is more than one-half inch shorter than the Venture's, the Valkyrie felt and handled like the longer motorcycle. Cumbersome in town and through heavy traffic, the Interstate didn't feel balanced until we motored above 40 mph.
Like the Valkyrie standard and the Tourer, the Interstate tends to fall into stops. Suspension, except for rear preload, is not adjustable, and the front end is sprung a little soft, where the heavy fork-mounted fairing seems to add a little too much weight. As such, the Interstate swims a little in the higher speed corners. True, the Venture does as well, but the Interstate did so more predictably, and once we got used to the Valkyrie we railed through sweepers faster than the Venture, irregardless of the power differential.
|Specs: Honda Valkyrie Interstate|
|Engine : 1520cc SOHC, liquid-cooled, 12-valve, opposed-6 |
Bore x stroke: 71 x 64mm
Carburetion : Six 28mm diaphragm-type CV
Front brake : Dual disc Twin-piston caliper
Rear brake : Single disc Single-piston
Front tire: 150/80R17
Rear tire: 180/70ZR-16
Wheelbase : 66.5 inches
Seat height : 28.7 inches
Fuel capacity : 6.9 gallons
Dry weight : 774 lbs
MSRP : $15,999 USD
"The fit and finish is typically high-quality Honda."
The Valkyrie Interstate offers 130 liters of cargo space, and the side bags are well made in that that are not flimsy, but they are awkward to use. Basically, the side bag tops are not fastened with hinges but attached by cables, so to open you have to unbuckle the lock and lift off the entire top. To close you must line-up the top with the bottom of the bags and buckle. It was difficult to do this, both opening and closing and every time we opened them it felt like the first time.
Eventually we became bored with fiddling with them, so if the top case were full and we were riding solo, we often found it easier to strap luggage across the passenger seat. The instrument panel is laid out well if not a bit traditional: a circular, analog speedometer and tachometer with an LCD odometer along with the usual warning lights and handlebar-mounted audio controls.
Except for Calvin Kim, who actually put in time to learn the idiosyncracies of the audio controls, the remainder of the staff were too lazy to figure out how to preset radio stations, adjust for bass and treble and move between the radio and the CB/intercom.
In any event the radio wasn't very loud; in fact it was difficult to hear through wind noise at freeway cruising speeds. Unlike the Venture the Interstate doesn't offer a tape player or cruise control. Wind protection on the Interstate is excellent. The windscreen is smaller than the Venture's, and while you will receive a bit more blast, the majority of the sight lines are above screen and you don't have to worry about clearing precipitation drops, and those that do collect flow off at speed. The handlebars are a bit wide, adding to the Interstate's lumbering handling at lower speeds, and our hands were less protected than on the Venture. Still, weather protection was more than adequate, and we have no serious gripes.
The Valkyrie Interstate provided excellent night-time visibility, both for the rider and in traffic. The headlights are powerful and the fog lights help increase both rider's visibility and the ability to be seen in traffic. The rear tail light, with brake lights on the top case as well as on the bumper, provides more than adequate visibility in traffic.
The Valkyrie Interstate is comfortable, although we did prefer the Venture's forward-set floorboards to the Valkyrie's foot pegs. The Valkyrie's seat, however, certainly isn't anything to write home about. After an hour or so our fannies screamed for relief. However, since the Valkyrie consumes about one gallon of gas for every 28 miles -- its cruising range is about 130 miles -- fuel stops and stretch breaks conveniently correspond.
The downside is that sore butts and frequent pit stops do not necessarily make for the most desirable touring conditions. Low mileage aside, the Valkyrie's brakes are adequate. While they aren't two-finger sensitive, the brakes provide ample stopping power, certainly more than the Venture's. All in all, however, the Interstate's brakes, along with the rest of the motorcycle, do what they are designed to do -- get you from point A to point B with a little grunt.
Both the Honda Valkyrie Interstate and the Yamaha Venture are excellent motorcycles that serve the same purpose but do so from different perspectives. Both cost the same -- $15,999 USD (the all-black Interstate we tested lists for $15,499) -- so picking between the two depends on priorities.
The Venture, with its well-integrated design, provides first class comfort, style and accessories with an adequate powerplant. The Valkyrie Interstate slides toward the performance side of the scale while offering decent comfort and a competitive number of goodies.
MO tends to favor the performance side of the equation, thus we tipped the scale in favor of the Valkyrie Interstate. Still, if you're more concerned with style and if the Yamaha's roadside assistance program appeals to you, then you might make the Venture your choice. MO? We are suckers for motor, and for that reason we're choosing the Honda Valkyrie Interstate.