2015 Star Raider Bullet Cowl Review

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The Gods of Torque looked down upon the land and saw the Star Raider muscling its way through the atmosphere – its rider clinging to the grips, vainly trying to become more aerodynamic – and they decided to help the poor mortal to better enjoy the awesome engine that their powers had wrought. By their command, salvation for the rider, in the form of a bullet cowling, descended from the heavens, magically attaching itself to the triple clamp. And all was right in the world.

2012 Star Raider SCL Review

Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly how the 2015 Star Raider Bullet Cowl came into existence, but the effect of one simple addition to Star’s muscular chopper is no less transformative. Since its introduction in 2008, the Raider has been all about attitude in the form of its 1854cc (113ci), 48-degree air-cooled V-Twin. Sourced from the Star Roadliner and Stratoliner, this engine was dropped into a chassis that is lower in weight and heavy on aggressive styling – with the fat 210-series tire and the 39° rake stealing the show from the Liner’s more pedestrian 190 and 31° bits. The result is a bike that, with its 21-in. front wheel and rearward angling lines, looks ready to launch.

On the leading edge of the lower pipe’s heat shield, the bolt that contacts after the peg feelers can be seen. The peg mounting bracket comes shortly thereafter.

But back to the engine. The two pistons operating through a bore and stroke of 100.0 x 118.0mm have, in the past, shown us dyno numbers which are certain to make a V-Twin torque junkie smile knowingly. To wit: 103.4 lb-ft at 2200 rpm and 81.8 hp at 4400 rpm. Whacking open the Bullet Cowl’s butterflies delivers a pull of similar proportions. Additionally, the power delivery is silky smooth with one small quibble. While maintaining neutral throttle is quite easy, the transition from neutral throttle to full-on engine braking can be abrupt. After some time riding this beefy Twin, it recedes into the background only to call attention to itself when it occurs mid-corner, like in a decreasing-radius highway entrance ramp. Big Twins are known for their healthy engine braking, so this characteristic should come as no surprise, but more modern EFI systems are able to alleviate this condition.

In the straight-up-and-down world of the Stop Light Grand Prix, tire-spinning launches and their tell-tale pavement tattoos are regular occurrences – unless you can restrain your inner hooligan. While riding at a more grown-up pace, the engine remains pleasantly smooth until it hits its upper rev range, and the only reason to go there is because you’re not behaving like a grown-up. So, around town, and even on the highway, the Raider’s 113 cubic inches offers tractable power delivery with only a hint of vibration at most speeds.

Say it with me: One-hundred thirteen cubic inches. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Speaking of riding on the highway, the bullet cowl from which this Raider gets its name is nothing short of a revelation. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, Star slapped new graphics and a bikini fairing on a Raider and called it a new model. The thing is: The bullet cowl makes the Raider much more fun to ride if you go any distance at elevated speeds. And I do mean elevated. When approaching the ton (not that MO would ever condone breaking posted speed limits), rather than struggling to hang on in the face of the wind blast, the Raider Bullet Cowl remains easy to ride with a relaxed grip on the bar. My 5’ 11” frame experienced no helmet-level buffeting at these speeds – unlike those barn doors of windshields that cruisers are sometimes saddled with. Enough air still makes it around the cowl to allow for effective cooling during hot weather, too.

Who would have thought that simply adding this sultry cowl would change the riding experience so dramatically? The mirrors’ shape is pretty cool, too.

The only criticism I could find about the bullet cowl itself is that it leaves a large, empty space on the inside of the cowl above the headlight – smack, dab in the middle of the rider’s line of sight – but I know if Star’s accessories department hasn’t already started working on some storage device, the aftermarket will.

Mainstream Choppers Shootout

Once you look past the improved high-speed riding experience (meaning any speed above 60 mph, actually), the Raider Bullet Cowl is the same fun-to-ride bruiser that it’s been since 2008. The dual 298mm discs, clamped by four-piston monoblock calipers, deliver impressive stopping power. Although low-speed maneuvers can be a bit awkward, the Raider’s handling is good for a raked out cruiser – with the handlebar offering plenty of leverage to muscle the bike when necessary. While the rear suspension only offers 3.5 in. of travel, Star managed to get the most out of the shock’s stroke, taking care of most road irregularities except sharp-edged bumps. In fast cornering situations, the chassis and the shock’s rebound will tend to wind up over rippling pavement, but the times that most Raiders are pushed this way are few and far between.

There’s enough room in here to pack your lunch.

The lean angle before the Raider touches down peg feelers is just a hair better than cruiser average (which is still a tad too soon). However, on the left, there is still room to lean the bike over even further before other hard parts start grinding. To the right, a muffler clamp ends the party shortly after the peg touches down.

First Ride: 2008 Star Raider

Star has taken a cruiser that has been around for seven model years and managed to make it seem new again with the simple addition of the bullet cowl – or maybe it was just the right time to rediscover what a fun bike the Raider has been all these years. The 2015 Star Raider Bullet Cowl is available in dealers now for $15,390. The only color option is Raven, but as is typical of Stars, the paint quality and the bike’s fit and finish are quite nice.

+ Highs

  • Intoxicating torque
  • Improved rider comfort
  • Did we mention the torque?

– Sighs

  • Limited ground clearance in right turns
  • We have to return it to Star
  • Only available in black (Raven)

2015 Star Raider Bullet Cowl Specs

Engine Capacity1854cc (113 cu. in.)
Engine TypeAir-cooled 48° V-Twin
Bore x Stroke100.0 x 118.0mm
Fuel SystemFuel injection
IgnitionTCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Valve TrainPushrod/Overhead Valve, 4 valves per cylinder
Final DriveBelt
Front SuspensionTelescopic fork; 5.1-in travel
Rear SuspensionSingle, preload-adjustable shock; 3.5-in travel
Front BrakesDual 298mm disc, 4-piston calipers
Rear BrakesSingle, 310mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front Tire120/70-21M/C 62H
Rear Tire210/40-18M/C 73H
Seat Height27.4 inches
Wheelbase70.9 inches
Rake/Trail39° / NA
Wet weight730 lb.
Fuel Capacity4.2 gal.
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

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2 of 14 comments
  • Scott. Scott. on Dec 01, 2014

    I would definitely consider this for my next bike but Star still doesn't offer even optional abs on anything but the VMAX. Get with the times Star, most of the competition has!

  • BIGREDD BIGREDD on Dec 11, 2014

    I absolutely love my '08. It's torque is addictive! In my 30 years of riding this is one of the best bikes I've ever owned! I get LOTS of compliments, especially from Harley riders. I'm a pretty large guy and this is one of the few "chopper" styled bikes that I don't look too big to be riding!