Yamaha’s Star Division forges art-deco styling into contemporary V-twin muscle to build a true Orient Express.
By Bill Heald
When you’re a big, burly V-twin cruiser, you are obligated to be a stylish steed; if not, you’ll just get lost in a sea of look-alikes. This is true regardless of brand, and Star Motorcycles knows that when you have a machine that is overwhelmingly defined by its chrome and contours, you’d better make a bold statement if you want to get noticed.
The Star Roadliner has accomplished this feat, and in the proud Yamaha tradition, this larger-than life steam train is wonderfully functional as well. The Midnight edition (in raven black, of course) is the ultimate expression of this artistic bike, and as good as it looks, the beauty is certainly not skin-deep. The bold design and excellent detail work (that really does look like the finest in industrial art from the twenties and thirties) house a really powerful, rewarding ride that is surprisingly agile, considering its 750-pound bulk.
Engine type Air-cooled,
The secret to the Roadliner’s success lies deep within the engineering of its huge 1,834-cc, aircooled V-twin and the chassis that surrounds it. The dark, polished cylinders have acres of meticulously machined cooling fins that give the big mill the aura of a classic steam boiler. The exhaust note perfectly suits the personality of the machine with a low, rumbling growl that has an addictive cadence thanks to a computer-controlled twin-bore fuel injection system (which also provides silky-smooth throttle response). As if this engine doesn’t already have enough grunt, an Exhaust Ultimate Power valve boosts torque further in the 2,500 to 3,500 rpm range for instant response, especially when passing on steep hills. Not only does the Roadliner Midnight look like a sleek locomotive from 70 years ago, it pulls like one, too.
Unlike other big heavyweight cruisers, the Roadliner ditches the traditional steel-tube frame for an unusually stiff aluminum unit. Also departing from typical cruiser design is the weight distribution, because with roughly 50 percent of the weight on the front tire, it’s much closer to sport-bike territory. When you top this off with excellent suspension components, you get a really sweet-handling ride that steers much quicker than its vast 67.5-inch wheelbase should allow. Wide, flat bars give you plenty of leverage to change direction quickly, and, as a result, the bike’s size disappears as you whip through traffic. Strong, progressive brakes bring things to a halt in short order (much quicker than an actual locomotive, fortunately). The optional quick-release passenger backrest we sampled makes for a comfortable perch for your favorite riding companion, too, which is great—a stimulating cruising experience like this absolutely must be shared.
If you buy a motorcycle on looks alone, the Roadliner Midnight’s awesome retro appearance might just light your candle. But if you want a motorcycle that really does ride as well as it looks, this truly is a mount that merits serious consideration.