STAR TRAVELER SCOUT BE BOBBED HEADS UP SAFE INVESTMENT
2018 YAMAHA STAR VENTURE TOURER
CW FIRST RIDE
Solo and two-up on Yamaha’s all-new luxury tourer
LUXURY STAR: More power, comfort, and convenience puts the all-new Star Venture Tourer galaxies beyond Yamaha’s previous touring Stars.
BY THE NUMBERS
15 Minutes it took to get into our first fight on the ride
one Smart husband for acquiescing to his wife’s choice of 2000s pop music overthe Dual Zone audio control with the Star Venture Transcontinental Option Package
Motorcycles are purposely marketed to get someone on the back of them, and yet small, hard, and high seats are the norm until you get to the touring category. But even then, seat straps, hot seats, and lack of amenities reign supreme. Yamaha seeks to change that with its latest fully dressed tourer, the Star Venture.
To prove it, big blue invited journalists and the toughest critics of all—their significant others—to come ride the new bike through Idaho and Montana over three days. For Team Gustafson, this meant bringing my new wife Kari.
THE V-TWIN OF THE VENTURE
Yamaha’s survey results revealed touring customers love the noise, sensations, and torque of a V-twin. So for the Venture, Yamaha has created a clean-sheet, air-cooled I,854CC (113d) engine. It features four valves per cylinder and produces a class-leading (claimed) 126 pound-feet of torque. To quell vibration, twin counterbalancers are used and composite engine mounts help provide character.
Yamaha is quick to note the packaging benefits of the Vtwin design as well. For example, it fits lower in the chassis than a V-4 would.
Secondly, the external oil tank is integrated into the aluminum subframe to reduce and centralize weight. For those still not convinced of the new motor versus the old Venture’s, it has more torque at far lower rpm than the V-4.
THE STAR VENTURE CERTAINLY SKIRTS THE LINES BETWEEN FUNCTION AND FASHION.
The engine might seem traditional, but the package that wraps around it is not. The throttle is electronic with two riding modes: a smooth Touring mode and a sharper Sport one. The “Sure Park” electronic parking assist has a separate electric motor, not the starter used to move the bike in sticky parking situations in both forward and reverse, which is a class exclusive feature. There’s also traction control and ABS to round out the rider aid package.
Standard options include a 7-inch full-color LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, an intercom, cruise control, and heated seats and back rests. Add the Transcontinental package (a $2,000 option) and you get GPS navigation, SiriusXM, additional speakers, and Yamaha’s exclusive Dual Zone audio control, CB radio, LED fog lights, additional onboard storage, and an alarmed security system.
Our trip began in Boise, where Kari and I arrived a neat 13 hours behind after being delayed in the wildest of frontiers: O’Hare Airport. Not only did it have to be good, but the Star Venture needed to live up to the lofty explanations that made fighting for electrical outlets among the delayed hordes worth it.
The looks helped. Many good bikes have failed in this segment due to straying too far from conservative lines. Hem too traditional, like many Japanese cruisers, and you look like a knockoff of the native competition. The Star Venture certainly skirts the lines between function and fashion. It has thousands of hours of wind tunnel testing, and it has 37.3 gallons of storage space aboard. But the external appearance is exceedingly restrained and handsome. Surfaces are crisp, not rounded. Chrome is used as an accent, not the main attraction, and it has some American muscle car-derived details.
Our first impression as a couple with the Star Venture went well. For one, it passed the first test of loading every piece of gear Kari wanted on the ride with 75 percent of the cargo room to spare. The top box can swallow two full-face helmets. I stuffed a backpack in a saddlebag, and there are nooks galore. Kari remarked immediately on how comfortable the seat was. Then the bickering started.
“How do I work the intercom?” she asked.
“Hold this button to talk and then release it when you’re done,” I said.
Intercom chirps on and off with no voice.
“It doesn’t work,” she replied.
“Did you hold the button?” I asked; which she retorts, yes. I explained the process again, but it didn’t work at all. Then the radio switched to a different channel. She hit the media toggle, not the intercom button. We rolled 15 minutes into the ride and had our first fight.
“Didn’t you listen when they were explaining it to you?” she asked.
“Yes, but I have to futz with it more,” I responded, already losing this round.
“No.. .you.. .probably.. .won’t,” came chirping in pieces over the intercom as she pressed and released the button.
To her credit, I didn’t listen all that well. But even through my own idiocy I mended all issues during a traffic stop. Our relationship survived the first 30 minutes of our journey. She selected 2000s pop hits as the desired music entertainment. Not being a total moron, I obliged this choice for the duration of the trip.
"YAMAHA STRESSED THAT COMFORT AND CONFIDENCE WERE MISSION CRITICAL COALS FOR THIS BIKE.
SMOOTH AS SILK
Yamaha stressed that comfort and confidence were mission critical goals for this bike. Not only from the seat, but from the controls, the power delivery, the ergonomics, every interface and design touch is purposely engineered to put rider and passenger confidence at the forefront. The more comfortable you are, the farther and more often you’ll want to ride.
Power delivery and accessibility were also a huge plus. The new motor has torque everywhere; even two-up and fully laden, the most the bike required was two downshifts on the steepest of inclines. At low speeds, it never snatched or snapped, and the slipper clutch was an easy pull affair.
At a claimed 963 pounds as outfitted, the Star Venture is no featherweight. And although an electric motor to help you park may seem anathema to what motorcycles are about, when it’s more than 100 degrees and you have to park on an incline, it’s better to flip the “Sure Park” switch and glide into it than wobble your way in.
Kari hasn’t been on the back of a bike much, but over the next two days she became at ease as we sliced through mountains and slabbed through the interstate. It was completely spoiling us.
Is it all good news? Almost. The brakes—298mm dual front and 320mm single rear—are strong for the class, and the ABS is very subtle in its application. The suspension—a 46mm fork and coilspring-and-gas-hydraulic-damper linked rear shock—is supple. However, the fork is harsh when hitting bumps at speed. Handling with and without a passenger is surefooted and about as athletic as one can ask from a tourer with forward controls and floorboards. It scrapes in the tight stuff, but there’s plenty of cornering clearance.
The good news is, it makes wives happy. Yamaha has hit the bull’seye by making a heavyweight touring bike more accessible and comfortable for the masses through a mix of thoughtful ergonomic design and smooth performance characteristics. It’s hard to imagine customers not kicking the extra $2,000 for the Transcontinental package on a long-distance luxotourer like this.
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled OHVV-twin
STAR VENTURE TOURER
SEAT HEIGHT 27.4 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 6.6 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 957 lb. (wet)
BASE PRICE $24,999