2018 Yamaha Star Eluder Review - First Ride

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Can a bagger be both amiable and have an attitude?

From the moment I thumbed the starter button, I knew I was going to like the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder. The exhaust note just hit me in the right place and made me smile. Now, the Yamaha product development folks would say that it was because the dual mufflers were tuned to slightly different notes so that they would harmonize, creating a more pleasant tone. Whatever, it worked. And then I got to let out the clutch and pull away from the curb.

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

Editor Score: 89.25%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 14.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score89.25/100

2018 Yamaha Star Venture First Ride

To say that the Eluder is based on the Venture would be a tremendous understatement. The Eluder is the Venture without a few key components. Visually, you’ll immediately notice the shorter windshield and the lack of a trunk. (Along with those two components you lose the electric windshield adjustment and the rear speakers with their dual-zone audio controls.) Couple this with a different color treatment, and the transformation is complete. The Eluder wears a blacked out engine, exhaust, and wheels which add to the aggressive silhouette. Although the two bikes have exactly the same dimensions, the Eluder looks lower and more muscular. The rest of the items eliminated from the Eluder’s manifest are: Sure Park, mid-fairing wind deflectors, rider backrest, tire pressure monitoring system, fog lamps, and heated grips. Of those, the only misfire is the removal of the heated grips, which are, along with the fog lamps and TPMS, available from the Yamaha accessory catalog.

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But back to riding the Eluder: The engine’s torque is evident from the moment the rider begins to release the Assist and Slipper clutch. The torque is available immediately off idle and, according to the MO dyno, reaches its peak of 105.8 lb-ft at a mere 2,800 rpm. The curve itself is relatively flat throughout the meat of the rpm-range – just where a bagger rider will want it. If we had to make any complaint about the 1,854cc engine, it would be that the ratio for first gear is too low, making it easy to hit the 4,800 rpm rev-limit on aggressive launches. The rest of the time the rider can surf the massive wave of torque. In fact, when riding around town, I frequently found myself a gear higher than I would typically ride.

The Eluder in its natural habitat, the open road.

With the all the Eluder’s available torque, the natural instinct is to let the engine grunt out of every low-rpm situation. Unlike many large-displacement twins, which shudder at low rpm with large throttle openings, the Eluder’s engine has a primary drive shock damper that smooths out the impression of the power. Yes, you can still feel the individual pulses, but the pistons don’t feel like they are trying to push the connecting rods out through the engine’s cases, like on some other Big Twins.

The air-cooled 113-cubic-inch engine gets its displacement from a 100.0 mm x 118.0 mm bore and stroke.

The EFI-tuning provides two different power modes, Sport and Touring. As one might expect, the Touring mode softens the power delivery when the throttle is opened. Out on the open highway, this makes acceleration buttery-smooth and blends nicely with the vibe-free nature of the big 48° V-Twin. At 75 mph, the engine is turning about 2,600 rpm and not a single offending vibration can be felt in the floorboards, the grips, or the seat. Get the Eluder up to 90 mph, and the engine feels even smoother. This bike will gobble up the pavement if you let it. Couple that with a 6.6 gallon tank plus our measured 40.4 mpg on the freeway, and you can travel a calculated 266 miles before you’re required to stop. Switching the Eluder’s ride mode to Sport makes the throttle response noticeably more snappy. Rolling on the throttle in a section of winding corners is more precise and crisper, making it my preferred mode once the road gets kinky.

While the Eluder isn’t going to win any awards with its 75.2 horsepower peak, the graph clearly shows that the wide, flat 105.8 lb-ft torque curve is what motivates this bagger.

While the claim of “near-Sport Tourer level handling” in our press briefing may be a bit overblown, the Eluder’s steering is responsive, making it easy to hustle through a series of corners. I would rate the cornering clearance to be similar to that of current touring model Harley-Davidsons – which is pretty reasonable. The Eluder’s suspension is well-suited for the weight it carries delivering a good balance between the suppleness required to soak up freeway expansion joints and the firmness necessary to control chassis pitch in undulating corners. Big hits are absorbed by the rear suspension’s 4.3-inch travel without the jarring impact of bikes with shorter travel suspension. The two times that the Eluder’s measured 874-pound weight is noticeable are when backing into a parking space (The Venture’s Sure Park was sorely missed.) and when performing U-turns on a two-lane road. Once in motion, the Eluder’s bulk melts away.

The Eluder’s wide handlebar gives enough leverage to make direction changes surprisingly quick which can almost make the rider forget what a long, heavy bike it is. Note the replaceable feeler on the outside edge of the floorboard.

Weather protection on the Eluder is exactly what you’d expect from a modern touring motorcycle. Being able to close the vents in the fairing lowers kept my legs noticeably warmer on our chilly ride. However, I did discover that the short windscreen (which is standard fare in baggers) creates some buffeting around the top of my helmet. While this turbulence isn’t enough to jostle my head, it causes enough noise to make riding without earplugs too loud for my tastes.

A touring bike’s infotainment system is becoming ever more important as all of the manufacturers are packing in additional features with each new model year. The Eluder’s implementation is quite good. The easy to read 7-inch screen is located high in the fairing so that the rider doesn’t have to take their eyes too far off the road to look at the screen. The screen is far enough forward to be a long reach to touch, but I found that I only used the touch screen when parked and entering address information into the GPS. Otherwise, the 6-button control cluster on the left grip could easily handle any of the functions I needed while in motion. I could easily change music sources (from Pandora, SiriusXM, USB, AUX input, AM/FM radio), check information screens, and even use the built-in voice-commands to make phone calls directly from the system and my wired headset. The GPS, although a little chatty about traffic issues ahead, was easy to read at a glance, though I wish it would automatically zoom in as a turn was approached (particularly in urban areas).

The display screen is located ideally for a quick glance down from the road. The screens are easy control from the left grip. Unfortunately, there’s one big problem…

As much as I like the Eluder’s infotainment system and all it offers, I did experience a glaring problem with it. My iPhone 6, when in the storage compartment with the USB charging port, caused the GPS to crash repeatedly. The GPS screen would completely disappear from the system screen. Only turning off the Eluder and restarting it could bring the GPS back. Additionally, when the GPS was having issues, the buttons on the handlebar control behaved erratically. At first, I thought I had a bad test unit, but after I changed to a new bike to ride home from the event, the symptoms reappeared. Engaging my phone’s airplane mode prevents the problem, as does storing my iPhone in one of the saddlebags. Still, this is a major issue. In fairness to Yamaha, I must note that I was the only one out of 9 riders to have this problem all day. One other rider had the erratic button issue at the end of the day, but he has since told me that, after swapping bikes for his departure, the problem has not reemerged.

The infotainment system display is controlled by the cluster of buttons on the top left.

Naturally, Yamaha suspects there is something wrong with my phone, but that doesn’t explain the other rider’s issue. So, I’m left with the problem being caused by one of two possibilities. First, the Eluder’s firmware is clashing with my iPhone 6 (which has, as of this writing, the most up-to-date system software available). If this is the problem, a firmware update will probably remedy the problem. The second possibility is that my iPhone 6 is an electronically noisy example of the model, and the Eluder’s system simply can’t handle the interference. If this is true, then Yamaha may need to find a way to shield the infotainment system’s control unit from interference put out by noisy phones. Either way, Yamaha is actively trying to resolve this problem, and I will update this review when I receive an answer.

(Update: Yamaha has informed MO that the problem is a firmware-based issue with changes Apple made to iOS 11.2.2. A user-installable fix is currently being developed. The update will be available here with instructions for how to perform the software upgrade at home.)

The electronically-locking bags are large and easy to load.

I hate to end my review of the Eluder on a down note. So, I won’t. My time with the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder has been tremendously fun. When in motion, the Eluder does not feel as large as it is. The handling is responsive, and accelerating out of corners with the harmonious V-Twin exhaust note is my kind of music. Get it out on the super slab, and the engine’s smoothness will have you creeping up into supra-legal speeds without even noticing it. Good thing it’s got cruise control. The riding position and comfy seat combine with the 6.6 gallon tank to require you to stop infrequently – and that’s the way to cover ground. The remote-locking saddlebags and the three fairing storage compartments hold a combined total of 19 gallons of gear. Although heated grips are an option, the heated seat is standard.

The Eluder is available in three color choices: Raven (black), Impact Blue, and Liquid Silver. The base price for the Eluder is $22,499. I tested the GT option package which bumps the MSRP to $23,999 and gains the GPS, SiriusXM, CB radio, and a security alarm. Eluders are starting to trickle into Yamaha dealerships now, and if you’re interested in them, go take a gander. The Eluder looks really nice in three dimensions.

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

+ Highs

  • A full meal for torque lovers
  • Riding position and saddle ideal for multi-day treks
  • Handling that belies its size

– Sighs

  • My iPhone 6 causes aberrant infotainment system behavior
  • Noisy buffeting around the top of my helmet
  • Too easy to bump the rev-limiter in first gear

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder Specifications

MSRP$23,999 – Impact Blue – GT Option Package – Availability TBD
$22,499 – Impact Blue – Availability TBD
$23,999 – Raven – GT Option Package – Availability TBD
$22,499 – Raven – Availability TBD
$23,999 – Liquid Silver – GT Option Package – Availability TBD
$22,499 – Liquid Silver – Availability TBD
Engine Type113-cubic-inch (1854cc) air-cooled OHV V-twin; 8 valves
Bore x Stroke100.0mm x 118.0mm
Compression Ratio9.5:1
Fuel DeliveryYamaha Fuel Injection with YCC-T and D-Mode
IgnitionTCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper wet clutch
Final DriveBelt
Front Suspension46mm telescopic fork; 5.1-in travel
Rear SuspensionSingle shock with remote preload adjustment; 4.3-in travel
Front BrakesDual hydraulic disc, 298mm; Unified Brake System and ABS
Rear BrakesHydraulic disc, 320mm; Unified Brake System and ABS
Front Tires130/70R18 Bridgestone Exedra
Rear Tires200/55R16 Bridgestone Exedra
L x W x H98.0 in x 38.4 in x 55.5 – 50.2 in
Seat Height27.4 in
Wheelbase67.6 in
Rake (Caster Angle)31.0°
Trail5.7 in
Maximum Ground Clearance5.5 in
Fuel Capacity6.6 gal
Fuel Economy40.4 mpg
Measured Weight874 lb
Warranty5 Year Warranty Coverage* (*1 year limited factory warranty + 4 years Yamaha Extended Service = 5 years coverage.)
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.

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2 of 103 comments
  • Marshall Miller Marshall Miller on Mar 03, 2018

    The fact that it doesn't play nice with a defective overpriced fruit brand won't affect me at all. It seems it wasn't the bike's problem at all. I'll buy the bike to ride it, not do conference calls and fight with iTunes.

  • Mikeinkamloops Mikeinkamloops on May 31, 2018

    No mention of the incredible heat coming off the left side of the engine? It was a relatively cool day for our test ride (under 20 Celsius, or under 70 f) yet my left calf got seriously baked, even while moving at 60 mph! I’d hate to ride it on a hot day!
    Otherwise, it handled ok for a big, long bike. Power was good, but the rev limiter cuts in at 4600. Windshield is useless, bags are huge, but openings limit what can fit. The bike is super wide —no way you’re splitting lanes! Styling is personal taste; the infotainment screen seemed ok, I liked the sport vs tour modes. I’m tall and the seat was way too low for me, even compared to my Road King.
    In conclusion, it eludes me. No way I could put up with that engine heat. That needs to be fixed pronto.