Star’s midsize cruiser, the V Star 950, may fit the bill, but for me, this bike comes up short in the power department. While the classic-styled V Star 1300 offers plenty of power, it showcases a two-into-one exhaust, floorboards, fat tires, fat tank, fat fenders and a “sit-on” riding position that doesn’t do much for the feminine side of me. That’s why I was excited to see Yamaha, the parent company of the Star line of cruisers, introduce its new, custom-styled Stryker, which uses the V Star 1300’s engine but is otherwise all new.
To see if Star is on target with its prediction that the Stryker will appeal particularly to female riders, I flew out to Austin, Texas, for the official press introduction of the new Star Stryker. Our group didn’t spend too much time rolling through the city streets, which seemed to be under major construction. Instead, we headed west to the hilly countryside where long sweepers are the norm.
At a glance, the Stryker looks very much like the Raider, but it’s actually an all-new motorcycle weighing nearly 100 pounds less. Comparing profiles in the photos below, the backbone of the Stryker (seen on the left) is arched, while the 1900cc Raider sports a straight line with a farther reach from the seat to the bars and footpegs. The Stryker’s tank is sculpted in a slight arch, with the instrument dash located in the center of the handlebar in contrast to the Raider’s tank-mounted unit.
Star uses the V Star 1300’s liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin engine for the Stryker, adding a new 3-liter air box and electronic control unit (or ECU, the “brains” of the bike). Twin 40mm throttle bodies, 12-hole fuel injector nozzles and a closed-loop system with a new O2 sensor in the 2-into-2 exhaust deliver smooth, torquey power to the rear wheel via custom builders’ top choice for a final drive, a belt drive.
A single-pin overhead crankshaft and forged connecting rods provide the traditional V-twin pulse, while two single-axis, dual crankshaft balancers eliminate vibration from the rigid-mounted, stressed-member engine. This means you get the feel of the V-twin engine without the annoying vibration that numbs your hands and shakes your mirrors. But if you’re looking for big, V-twin sound, you won’t find it with the stock pipes. The two-into-two system delivers a quiet note that will please your neighbors but might leave you wishing for a little more volume.
Rake measurement is 40 degrees, just enough for a custom look but not too far out to affect handling. The 41mm forks allow for 5.3 inches of travel, providing the rider with decent steering control. Up front, a 120/70-21 Bridgestone Exedra radial tire on a 21-inch, five-spoke, cast-aluminum front wheel adds to that easy steering feel, but the tire is just fat enough to stay planted even when pushed hard and fast.
Slow-speed maneuvers are surprisingly easy, and I was particularly impressed with the extreme degree of the turning radius, making tight U-turns easy. The beefy 210/40-18 inch rear wheel has a cool, fat width and a appearance. Rear tires found on one-off customs are usually so fat that turning takes real effort, but the 210mm on the Stryker doesn’t compromise handling for style. A preload, adjustable shock hidden underneath offers a decent 3.9 inches of travel, enough to soak up bumps and bruises on the road without jarring the rider.
Braking response is impressive considering there is only a single disc up front with a two-piston caliper. One disc was used instead of two so as not to block the fancy front wheel. But the extra-large, 320mm diameter disc does the job of stopping quickly and effectively. A single caliper on the rear 310mm rotor also does its share of brake duty well. ABS is not an option on the Stryker.
The Stryker’s tall, open-neck steering head, along with the super-low seat at 26.4 inches, places my hands forward and a bit lower than shoulder level with bent elbows. The reach to the forward footpegs is easy for my 5-foot-7 inch frame, and should accommodate riders shorter than me comfortably. The tank is tapered toward the seat, which helps riders reach the ground even more easily.
Levers are non-adjustable, meaning smaller hands may have to reach a bit with the stock setting. On the plus side, they are the wide type of levers usually available from an aftermarket company. These are easier on the fingers than narrow ones because of the larger surface area. The folks from Star tell me they are working on a deal with a notable aftermarket company for high-quality, adjustable levers that would fit the Stryker.
After a couple of hours in the stock seat, my lower back started to ache. I tried taking the pressure off my butt by bending my elbows more to lean in, but it wasn’t sustainable. Luckily, Star brought along a couple of Strykers tricked out with some Star custom accessories, so I jumped onto the black one with the Comfort Cruiser solo seat attached. For $310, this seat offers a deeper saddle position, which supported my lower back better than the stocker. Maintaining a position closer to the handlebars will have to be accomplished with a new seat unless Star comes out with some accessory handlebar options.
The instrument cluster with analog speedometer has everything you need, including a fuel gauge with quarter-tank measurements. The switch to toggle between gauges is located on the right handgrip control, and switches the LCD readout between an odometer, two trip meters, clock and fuel gauge so you don’t have to take your hands off the grips.
A keyed seat release on the left-side panel removes the one-piece seat exposing a small compartment big enough to hold just the included toolkit and owner’s manual. If you want more storage, Star’s Stryker and Raider design includes external fender struts that can be used to mount saddlebag supports. Bungee cord mount locations that don’t rub painted parts are tough to find, so adding a fender luggage rack may be the only alternative to saddlebags or backpacks.
The Stryker delivers an easy, relaxed ride in what I consider a visually striking package. The bike was right at home on Texas’s open, rolling plains, and cruising to the mesmerizing V-twin pulse reminded me why cruisers are still the most popular style of motorcycle out there. But when some quick switchbacks came into play, we had to slow down and adjust our lines to avoid scraping the pegs (or boot heels). While plenty powerful, the Stryker’s not meant for sportbike lean angles.
Riding back into Austin at rush hour, we ran into some high-traffic, pothole-ridden highway situations. The strong, maneuverable bike was easy to wind through any hairy traffic and road surface hazards we came across. The five gear ratios are well-positioned, with a lot of torque at the bottom end and a true fifth-gear overdrive that relaxes the motor on the highway.
The modern, macho styling of the Stryker may or may not be your cup of tea, but with a plethora of customizing options, it’s an open palette to personalize. The Star Accessories group used the same outsourced design team that helped in the design and development of the Stryker to come up with more than 60 accessories that are already available for this new bike. This means not only are a variety of parts available to choose from at the point of purchase, but their styling is consistent with the bike’s theme and they’ll bolt on without fabrication. It also means that mounting points for accessories were designed right into the bike. Steel fenders were used intentionally so that customizers can cut, chop and bolt right to the stock fenders.
The Stryker is available in three color options: Raven, Impact Blue, and Reddish Copper, and each has its own graphic design on the tank. The wheels on the Raven and Reddish Copper models are black, while the Impact Blue version gets silver wheels. The less expensive Raven model has other details, like the flat-black finish on the exhaust, lower fork legs, fender struts and other components.
Specs At A Glance: 2011 Star Stryker
Seat Height: 26.4 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Weight: 646 pounds
Price: $10,990 for Raven, $11,240 for Impact Blue or Reddish Copper
The Stryker is perfect for the cruiser rider looking to move up to a modern, custom-styled, larger displacement machine that’s easy to handle and offers a traditional V-twin feel without having to plunk down the kind of money needed for an American V-twin. In the metric motorcycle world, the Stryker is a comparable alternative to a Harley, and with the long list of accessories already available, a rider can order them when purchasing the bike and have them installed before taking delivery.
About the Author
Tricia Szulewski has maintained the woman rider’s perspective in RoadBike magazine since 1999. As the magazine’s art director and staff writer, Tricia feels incredibly fortunate to have a career combining both her passions—art and motorcycles. She is an MSF instructor and logs thousands of miles each year on anything that shows up in the company stable. You can find some of Tricia’s bike reviews, adventures, product evaluations and more at RoadBikeMag.com.