We knew it would happen sometime, and last week, the email arrived. It’s time for us to return our much-loved 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder. Dang. The Eluder has been a popular mount with the MO staff and has performed a variety of duties in the more than 3,000 miles we’ve racked up in the time it has graced our collective garages. So, as we prepare to say farewell to the Eluder, I’ve decided to look back on our time with it.
Nothing has really changed since the first ride: The harmonized notes emitting from the dual exhausts still puts a smile on my face. The grunty engine still allows for the rider to run a gear higher than usual. Our complaint about having an overly short first gear has been adapted to by our muscle memory. Almost as soon as the bike gets underway, the clutch is coming in for the shift to second gear. It’s almost automatic, meaning the rev-limiter rarely gets tapped in first gear anymore. Not that it was a big deal in the first place.
We’ve done just about everything you can do on a bagger with the Eluder. We’ve toured on it – where it placed second in our 7-bike shootout. (Or you could say it won first place in the more traditional V-Twin class of the current crop of baggers since the six-cylinder BMW won’t appeal to traditionalists.) We’ve commuted on it. (Well, Ryan Burns, who managed to eschew the draw of motojournalism and find himself a real job with an office to commute to and everything, put the Eluder through the daily bump-and-grind for a few weeks.) We’ve shopped for groceries with it. We’ve even gone on a canyon ride with Eddie Lawson, no less. (Although he did tell me later that he had to pass me to get away from the sound of dragging floorboards. Yeah, that’s why he passed me…) For the last few weeks, I’ve loaded up the left saddlebag with foam pads and made the Eluder my photo mule for hauling my camera and lenses to shoots.
While this extended time with the Eluder has made me appreciate how competent the bike is, it isn’t without flaws. When we initially tested the Eluder, the weather was cold, but now summer temperatures are starting to creep into the mix, and well, the Eluder puts out significant heat on the rider’s left leg – even with the vent in the lower fairing open. So, there’s that. Also, contrary to my initial assessment, the seat hits me (and only me out of all the riders) in a funny place on my coccyx so that it is quite sore at the end of a long day in the saddle.
Finally, there’s the complaint I had about the infotainment system not playing well with my iPhone. Here’s what I said in my First Ride Review:
”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.”
I’m happy to report that after applying a firmware upgrade to the Eluder in the comfort of my own driveway, the issue has vanished. Although the instructions said the process would take 45 minutes with the bike either idling or connected to a battery charger, the update completed itself in just 25 minutes, and the system has been flawless ever since. My extended time with the Eluder’s GPS has, however, led me to crave an autocomplete feature when entering an address in the GPS. Why would engineers think I should have to type out the entire state name when it’s obvious I want California after only a couple of letters? Other than that nuisance, I found the GPS to be intuitive to use.
But enough about what I think of the Eluder, let’s hear from some other MOrons:
John Burns: “What can I say? The Eluder’s a great bike, a Big Twin that runs along as smoothly as a Gold Wing somehow or other. It’s got its own unique Darth Vader style that the kids dig – but for me, it simply lacks the performance chops of both the K1600B it lost out to in our Big Dam Tour, and now there’s a Honda Gold Wing in my driveway that needs a bath. Because all I do is ride the thing everywhere. It’s every bit the appliance the Eluder is, but lighter, faster and just as everything else. Though maybe not quite so cool looking…”
Ryan Burns: “‘Hey man, what is that thing? A Yamaha? Damn, you lookin’ all spec-ops n sh*t on that thing, bout to take off in the air and sh*t!’ – (Man at Red Light)
“I am a big fan of the styling of the Eluder from all angles. It looks aggressive and sharp, but not in an overly buggy way which I feel has taken over a lot of Japanese bikes these days. Yamaha straddled the line here very well. With that aggressive look, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed in the oddly low rev ceiling. Say hello to 2nd gear sooner than any other bike you’ve tried to rip away from a light on. Beyond that complaint, the Eluder cruises for days, handles well, is equipped with the right stopping power for the job, and comes with the extra features and storage to make me a happy camper in the days I spent with it.”
On my last weekend with the Eluder, I decided to take it on a fun ride up the Angeles Crest Highway for a Sunday breakfast (and a little MotoGP viewing). This famously twisty road isn’t exactly where you’d think I’d want to go for my final ride with the Eluder before the freeway slog back to Yamaha HQ, but the bike is so pleasant on a winding road. Put it in third gear, and you’re good to around 70 mph before the rev-limit forces you to shift. So, with the exception of some longer straight sections, I just kept the Big Twin in third from the base of the mountain to the Newcomb’s parking lot – and back. The gobs of torque and the well-sorted suspension had me smiling the whole ride as the floorboards casually skimmed the pavement, adding their rasp to the bass of the exhausts.
Thinking about that ride makes me want to jump on the Eluder and do it again. Yeah, I’ll miss this bike. If you’re in the market for a bagger, take a long look at the Eluder. While the $23,999 MSRP isn’t cheap, you get a lot of bike for the money, and you can’t go wrong with that.