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Preface: I write a review of all bikes I test ride and especially the ones I get as a loaner bike while my Rocket III Touring (R3T) is in the shop. This review comes from Oct 2014; long before I knew I would have one someday...

This review is for both a fall ride I did with the Southern Cruisers Riding Club (not an MC) and for a bike that’s not my own. Due to an extended stay at the shop with my Triumph, I am currently riding a 2007 Star Stratoliner. While it is true that I miss my own bike, I will Not say this loaner is a POS. I brought it home Saturday morning and instantly loved the smoothness coming from its 1900 CC V-Twin. Start-up was odd to me as I was expecting it to shake me off the seat, but no, it was silky smooth. Power comes on pretty quick after giving it some gas and even though it is heavier than the T-Bird Commander I had just returned; I didn’t seem to miss it at all when letting the Star do its thing.

The bike has the Star factory bags which are leather covered plastic. They are lockable and open and close very nicely. The bike has 18,900 miles on it, and it is 8 years old. This may account for the stitching that is coming undone on top of the right bag. Inside the bag, I have enough room to carry my lunchbox and several other items, including Pretty Pillion’s purse.

On Sunday, I took the Strato out for about six hours of ride time. Pretty Pillion and I first ate breakfast at Montclair family restaurant where she let me know that she needed her sleeve liners adding to her jacket; it was around 42F that morning. After eating, we rode north to Fairfax, VA and met up with 10 other bikes. Riding two-up on the Strato was a delightful time. That big V really does pour out some nice torque and with the Rinehart 2 into 1 pipe, sounds just right when cranked to WOT. I smile as I think about the good time we are about to have today.

One of the first guys I meet is Moonie who has recently traded his ’08 R3 for a new Honda F6B. Moonie would be the ride captain for today and others had commented that they would need to bring their “A” game as he rides his Honda as hard as he did his Rocket. This is going to be fun me thinks…

The group headed south towards Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant II at Fairview Beach, VA, just off on Hwy 218. We expected this ride to take us about 2.5 hours with one scheduled restroom break along the way. Pretty Pillion had already told me that she didn’t like having to fight with a front seat back rest. It really isn’t in her way when sitting down, but it does get in the way when she gets on or off the bike. The front seat is a Mustang with rider’s backrest and it fits me perfectly. However, the seat is much harder than the R3T’s and especially annoying when at a stop with both feet down. The front part of the seat kind of digs into the back part of my thigh. Pretty Pillion is sitting on an Ultimate seat and after initially complaining that it too was too hard, decided she liked it after all. The passenger backrest was her biggest bonus though and told me it was slightly higher than the R3T’s backrest; right where she needed it to be; guess I will be looking for a mod soon. The Mustang I sat on became more comfortable after ridding for a while, but I did decide that I wouldn’t put one on my bike anytime soon as it just seems to darn hard and after riding for several hours, it made me bum sore.

Out in the twisties, I had no problem keeping up with the F6B leading the ride nor the older Valkyrie behind him. The Strato wants to be ridden hard and has power to spare when getting busy on the Virginia By-ways. I am pleased with the lean angle as well and never touched down once. (Of course, if I had of done so, Pretty Pillion would have shown me her not so pretty side). Still, the bike leans well and drives hard out of the curves. I did notice that the Strato does not like lugging down like the HD engine does. Or for that matter, like the Rocket can be. One needs to keep the correct gear engaged and proper clutch and RPM control for those slow bends in the road. But once I learned where to keep the gear shifter, I ran the bike hard and had a blast.

Somewhere along the route, a pick-up coming towards us started honking his horn and flashing his lights. We were in loose formation about 60 MPH on this unlined two-lane and not sure what the driver’s issue was. We found out on the next curve though. A full-grown Angus bull was standing in our path with a little bit of himself hanging over the left lane and the right dirt shoulder. Him a big critter for sure! It is time to test the emergency braking power of the Yamaha on a curve. I am pleased to say that the big Star has decent enough breaks to hall us down from 60 to zero in a very short space of tarmac. Several of the bikes in the back locked up their rear tires to avoid hitting those of us in front. The Strato’s brakes felt real darn sturdy all the time I pulled them hard and did not lock up. This bike does not have ABS so I am very happy with their design. As for the old bull, he didn’t want to move either so a Goldwinger rode up on him with a horn that would make a train smile and finally got the bovine to depart. That was a close call for us all.

One of the items just under Pretty Pillion’s purse in the left pannier is my first aid kit. She used it before the ride to wrap up a small cut on her finger. Then I used my medical tape to fix the left blinker housing that has been supper glued sometime in the past but had come loose once more. About 20 minutes after the bull incidence, we heard a funny chirping sound in our headsets. As we were discussing what the noise was, I realized it was a bike horn coming up behind us. One of the riders in the back had gone down. We flipped a looey and hauled a$$ back. Paul is one of those fellows who refuses to give up riding and has a handicapped license plate to attest to that fact. When turning left from a stop sign, he felt the rider on his left was crowding him some, so he swung out to the right a little too far and departed the pavement in a slow speed right fall over. Before the ride, I had spoken to him after watching him limp over to introduce himself. He mentioned his limp is from a broken right ankle years ago, along with a broken right leg from another time and a right knee replacement surgery that needs to be done again. He also said it was time to have another surgery on his right shoulder, as the last one didn’t work five years ago. Tough ol’ fart I thought. Anyway, he went down on his right side and initially had his right foot stuck under his 1500 Vulcan. He was sitting upright by the time I got back to him and I broke out my little first aid kit for the third time today.

After accessing him, we determined that he had nothing broken but would surely feel the bruises over the next week. His Kawi fared well too with just a little dirt and one piece of flash needing removed. Lucky guy I thought. Oh, and the rider who pushed him off the road paid for his lunch later. (The riders behind them said the offending rider was nowhere near hitting Paul though and they think Paul simply misjudged how far he was out in the turn; Se la vie…

With two close calls under our collective belts now, Moonie slowed the pace just a little. We stopped at the park for the schedule break and spoke with one of the other two-up riders that were also on a Stratoliner. His has the full fairing on the front with aftermarket hard bags. He was describing the differences in the bikes to his Girlfriend and I got the idea that she is new to both him and to riding. I left him alone to tell her of the wonders that the bike has to offer, no need to steal his thunder when I have my own Pretty Pillion along for the ride.

The rest of the ride to Tim’s was fun and we both had a blast on this great machine. Once there, Moonie and Dinah (who rides her own Street Bob) told us this was called Terry’s ride. Terry was a former member of the group who was taken out by Breast cancer last year and today is her birthday. We toasted her memory and enjoyed our good fortune of riding with new friends and the feast to we are about to eat.

After eating lunch, Pretty Pillion and I took off solo as everyone was going their own way home. Hwy 218 is a very fun road to test out a new ride. I usually do this piece of tarmac by myself to ‘feel-out’ a bike. But since I had been riding for several hours now, I felt I could test it two-up without too much extra risk involved; (and Pretty Pillion was in the mood for a spirited roll anyway). This is where I developed a deeper appreciation (almost love) for this bike. Hitting the twisties, even two-up felt relaxed and controlled. I didn’t get stupid, but I did reach my comfort level and the bike had more to give. Engine breaking is very useable on this bike and one of the only areas better than my R3. It is not a major plus, but it does work well when driving hard and not wanting to use as much brake.

One of the negatives on this bike is the fuel tank is not as big as the R3. I figure the bike gets around the same mileage as the Rocket so I can’t go quite as far on a tank. Also on the negative side, I’ll mention again that the Mustang seat would have to go. After spending so long in it, this one is not for me. If I bought this bike, that would be one of my first changes. I would also get a windscreen as I have become used to riding with mine on the Rocket. But with that said, I must admit that I do enjoy the full blast of wind I get from riding without the shield in front, just not on near-freezing days. It will have to be easily detached though.

Monday morning comes along and it’s time to go to work, the temp has dropped down to the high 30s F and I remember that the dealer had said this bike had sat for three weeks without being started before I took it on Saturday. Even with a full day of riding, I was concerned the battery may be suffering from an overnight stay outside in the cold. No need to worry though, it turned over right away without hesitation. It looks like it’s going to be a good start to the day.

I do not have my heated gear right now with my Rocket in the shop so I just layered up like I did when I was too tough for heated gear. On the freeway, I held on as the Star hit 80ish MPH and felt exhilarated listening to the pipes and feeling the smoothness pushing through the icy air. The head light is very well suited for this speed and I did not need the bright light at all. I think the Star gives out more usable light than the just returned T-Bird’s dual lights.

The folks at work are starting to wonder just how many bikes I have. In the last week, they have seen me ride in on the Royal Star Deluxe, the T-Bird and now the Stratoliner. I got as many questions from the work crew on this bike as I have on either of the Triumphs; mine or the T-Bird. Evidently, there is something magical about the big Yamaha as well.

Before I wax all poetic and get you guys thinking I am going to trade my beloved Rocket, let me assure you that I am not. I just happen to admire a wide variety of motorcycles.

Another of the big issues I do have with this Star is the location of the speedometer. It is much closer to my belly than even the R3T’s is; and that is no good. I found that when I was pushing hard the day before, that I had to rely much more on the seat of my pants to judge my entry speed since I could not afford the time to look down and find the darn thing. So, take away a few pretty points for bad speedo placement.

On the way home Monday afternoon, I rolled up to the light to enter the HOV lanes and an R6 pulled alongside me. He wasn’t trying to challenge me by any means, but I figured he would roll by once we were established on the HOV. Didn’t happen, I pulled away from the start and steadied out at my normal 80ish. I saw him slowly catch up but he didn’t go around. He was lying as low over his tank as he could get, and I was sitting upright feeling the breeze. Looking at the two of us, one would easily guess that he was speeding and be less inclined to think that I was. It is all about presentation. I believe this as he got pulled over a short time later and I did not. Evidently, the cop thought he must be the one going faster as no one sits upright on a cruiser and goes that fast, right? Maybe that is why. In any case, it is a reminder that Johnny Law is still out there, and I get a pass on this ride. As for sitting upright, here is where that rider backrest shows its true worth. If I compare this bike to the Commander that has no backrest with neither of them having a windscreen, the Star is much more fun at freeway speed as the backrest helps keep me upright. Yes, I know any bike could have a backrest, but I haven’t ridden with one in so long I had forgotten many of its merits.

While I hope to get my bike back Tuesday, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed riding this bike in its place. Actually, all three bikes loaned to me while waiting for mine have been good in their own way. I just won’t be trading my Rocket for any of them anytime soon…

The loaner bike is in the picture below.
Tire Wheel Fuel tank Plant Vehicle


Flash forward to June of 2020 and a cousin of mine in South/East Texas calls me to say he is giving up riding after a fall over at a stop sign. His bike is a 2006 Stratoliner with 117K miles on it. I drove down and brought it back in my pickup getting only one speeding ticket in Louisiana; dang it.

I named that bike Yamato since it is as big as a battleship and from Japan, and it is a Yamaha, so, Yamato.

I had to change the starter relay almost right away and put two new Bridgestone Exedra Max tires on it. I love these tires on my R3T, especially in the rain. They work really well on this bike too.

Yamato was all OEM and the original seat felt great compared to that Mustang on the loaner. Power was great and with the windshield, riding at single digit temperatures was no issue. I took the bike on work trips loaded with my equipment and clothing with no issues.

I took Pretty Pillion on a lunch trip to Gettysburg to meet up with a member from the V-Star forum. While going around a round-about, the left hard points touched down. Her voice in my headset surprised me as much as touching down did. She thought the bike was falling apart. I told her it was no big deal we just scrapped some metal is all. In a very calm, yet metered voice, she said "DO NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN"! Yes ma'am...

Riding to work a few weeks later, I hit a bump on the freeway and the back shock let loose at the seal. I lost all the fluid inside. Well, the bike is old and has a lot of miles, so I except it will need some work.

Over the next few months, I got it up to 121K miles before the fuel system told me to F-off. I troubleshot for several weeks and discovered the fuel pump had gone out. I replaced it and found about a teaspoon amount of powdery/wet rust in the auxiliary tank where the pump sits. The new pump was great, but the bike still would not start except on ether. I believe that when I last filled the bike up, and I put some injector cleaner in the tank, that the cleaner worked too well and caused a bunch of crap to dislodge, clogging up the system. In the end I sold Yamato (as is) to a fellow just divorced who knows how to work on bikes.

Here is Yamato:
Tire Wheel Fuel tank Plant Vehicle


I would surely enjoy having another of these awesome machines and shame on Yamaha for discontinuing the line!
 
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