Okay, right, we already had this discussion about whether a bike not powered by a rumbly big V-twin qualifies as a “Bagger” shortly before the K1600B blew everybody’s doors off in our Big Dam Tour last February. Instead of a big V-twin, this one’s got BMW’s 1649cc inline-Six, which not only out-torques all the big Twins – 106 lb-ft at 5200 rpm – it also demolishes them in the horsepower department: 132 hp at 8000 rpm is 57 more than the best-bagger runner-up’s 75. Yeah, but it lacks character, some say. Blow me, is the proper retort. Character schmaracter.
Throw in the fact that the Beemer is 106 pounds lighter than the runner-up, and you can see that in terms of performance, there’s really no comparison. She also won the Handling and Suspension categories in that seven-bike shootout: Set the electronic suspension to Cruise and you’re riding on a down comforter, flip over to Road and the thing instantly becomes a large sportbike. Natch, you’ve also got Dynamic Traction Control, lean-sensitive ABS, and all the modern conveniences. Add all that stuff up, and you have two motorcycles in one: a bagger and a big sport-tourer that’ll slay curves damn near as well as the other K1600s. BMW lowered the rear 2.8 inches to give a more baggerly profile, but there’s still plenty of cornering clearance. The price for that is the seat’s a bit higher than other “real” baggers, but the lightness of the thing still makes the BMW easier to paddle around on with my 30-inch legs than lower baggers.
There it is. Bimble down the boulevard in style with your chaps, wallet chain and best pal on the back when there’s no particular place to go (on this one the coal scuttle helmet fits). Ride like a maniac up the mountain for a Frito pie at the Crystal Cafe when the mood strikes; that ripping Six-banger makes noises like a vintage racing Jaguar when it begins spooling up toward its 8500-rpm power peak. Do any other baggers have quickshifters? I don’t think so. Ride it ’round the corner to the Piggly Wiggly for a couple steaks and flagons of ale, which will easily fit in the big bags. A motorcycle for all seasons. If that’s not character, it’ll have to do. I love this thing.
The collective butts of the MO staff logged almost 5,000 miles in the saddle of the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder, and we were more than a little reluctant to see it go when Yamaha requested we return it. So, what makes the Eluder special enough to be the runner-up in this year’s Best Bagger MOBO?
Let’s start with the Eluder’s 1,854cc air-cooled 48° V-Twin. This power plant is an all-new design created for Yamaha’s Transcontinental Touring line. Two counterbalancers keep the annoying vibes away while letting that V-Twin character come through when you want it to. The ride-by-wire throttle makes both ride modes and – essential for a bike destined to rack up long miles – cruise control. Thanks to an assist from Yamaha’s music division, the Eluder’s dual exhausts deliver road song that should bring a smile to any motorcyclist as they head down the great American highway.
Next up are the touring amenities. The saddlebags offer a spacious 9 gallons of capacity for the gear you’ll need out on the road. Yamaha outfit the Eluder with an easy-to-read 7-inch screen on its infotainment system. While there is a long reach to the touch-enabled screen, the system’s functions are all available via a button array on the left grip. Aside from GPS navigation and trip data, the infotainment system offers your choice of Pandora, SiriusXM, USB, AUX input, AM/FM, and CB radio. The sound system is plenty powerful, and those who like helmet speakers can use a wired connection.
While the Eluder came up short when compared to the winner of the Bagger MOBO, it’s a top-shelf cruise ship that will have riders racking up tons of miles over the open road. Congratulations to the Yamaha Star Eluder for being the Best Bagger of 2018 Runner-Up.