By on September 13, 2012

TTAC’s readers are a brave group, and nowhere is that better-proven than in their willingness to let me abuse test their personal vehicles. From Time Attack Mustangs to Malaise Cadillacs, the Best & Brightest have consistently helped us bring them reviews of interesting vehicles. And I ain’t killed one yet.

Still, it takes a special sort of courage to loan out a motorcycle for a late-night ride up to San Jose’s Skyline Boulevard, particularly given the fact that upon receipt of the keys I then turned to Vodka McBigbra, my infamous traveling companion, and announced, “I’m gonna put you on the back of this bike and we’re gonna go riding down by old man Johnson’s farm, if you know what Prince meant by that, and I think you do.”

The V-Star 1100 was the affordable big-bore option in Yamaha’s lineup for nearly a decade, but the gigantism which affects cruisers and their leather-clad owners has caused the old soldier to fade away in favor of a V-star 1300. The new bike doesn’t have the handsome lines of its predecessor, at least in my opinion. I’m no judge of cruiser aesthetics but to me the 1100 looks right. Not too offensively West-Coast-Cialis-two-fattest-twins-in-the-Guiness-World-Record-Book-big, not too Sportster-883 tiny.

The 55-degree night caused V. McB to decide she’d be better staying back at the ranch and spending the evening smoking some, uh, locally-grown tobacco. Although I was wearing some Betabrand Seersucker Shorts which promised to in no way halt the impending flash-freezing of my reproductive organs, I don’t turn down a free motorcycle ride so in just minutes I’d rolled the V-Star out of its garage and headed up towards the 101.

Why do people buy cruisers? It’s a fair question, and in my Ninja-riding youth I figured it was down to some sort of testosterone deficiency coupled with mild retardation. After all, even though the average cruiser bike is fast by automotive standards (the V-Star has been clocked by the cycle press at 13.92 seconds in the quarter-mile, more than strong enough to wave good-bye to the Scion FR-S and BMW 328i) it has the lowest handling limits of any vehicle you can easily purchase off a showroom floor as a regular citizen. I’m not kidding. An F-150 will run away and hide from a cruiser on most twisty roads. Everything about a cruiser — the too-long wheelbase, the hideous fork rake, the usually-substandard brakes, the tires chosen for aesthetics over performance — keeps the pace slow. If you attempt to push the limits a little on a freeway ramp, you will scrape something in a hurry. My Seventies-era CB550, Kellee, would dust this thing around any racetrack out there, at least until the track straightened out. Performance just isn’t on the menu. Period.

So what. Within a half-mile, I was thoroughly and completely charmed by the vintage-looking Yamahopper. By throwing away any pretense at aggression, performance, or conventional go-fast virtues, the V-Star turns regular riding into a thoroughly pleasurable activity. A modern sportbike eggs you on to go faster, and faster, and oh my G-d I just blew by a cop back there doing 140 on the freeway and now I have to runnnnnn. The V-Star suggests that you relax. Look around a bit. It’s like being a passenger in a convertible, only even better. You can see the pretty girls, the nice-looking cars, the happy little trees. Unlike Kellee, who requires a tricky 3000-rpm launch at every stoplight and often chugs if I’m too conservative with the throttle, the V-Star rolls off from idle and can’t possibly be stalled. There are footboards instead of pegs. That’s kind of nice, although they seem awfully close to the ground in corners.

Around town, the 1100 has instant torque in all gears and throatily throws you towards the gaps in traffic. The brakes, which appear to be about the same thing you find on a Camaro SS caliper-wise, stop quickly without the front-wheel lockup that often plagues long-wheelbase bikes. Everything is very comfortable. There’s a backrest. This particular V-Star had an expensive CHiPs-looking front windshield which took the annoyance, but not the pleasure, out of the rushing wind. Although the only helmet I had was my Impact! Air Draft Carbon, I wasn’t bothered by it’s low neckline. This isn’t an R1 or S1000RR; you don’t need to actively look up to see the road, so you don’t need a relief cut in back. And yes, I obviously looked like a total idiot riding a cruiser around in a top-vented NASCAR helmet.

Once on the freeway, the V-Star isn’t quite as wonderful. The V-twin, each cylinder of which packs the same cubic capacity as the cylinders of a Town Car or the entire engine of my Honda CB550, starts to sound and act exactly like a paint shaker. I don’t mean this as some sort of odd metaphor. I mean it is exactly like a paint shaker. I worried that the engine would come apart for a while, but it’s just designed-in behavior. Unlike, say, an AMF-era Harley-Davidson which might die at any moment from unbalanced combustion activity, the V-Star’s shake n’ bake is pure artifice, as harmlessly authentic-ish as the lumpy idle on a Track Key-equipped Boss 302. This is a modern Yamaha. It won’t break.

As a matter of fact, the V-Star 1100 is well-known for its reliability, despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that it is air-cooled and was one of the last Yamahas without fuel injection. They are available at reasonable prices and usually with a lot of additional aftermarket equipment bolted on; the bike I rode had multiple expensive options for which the current owner, who bought it on the used market, didn’t have to pay.

Cost and reliability aren’t solid reasons to buy a cruiser, however. These bikes sell on the intangibles, so let’s cut the Yamaha’s heart out and weigh it, Anubis-style, against the demands of the class. The biggest problem with the V-Star is that it isn’t a Harley-Davidson. The majority of the chopper culture in this country — hell, a major part of the motorcycling culture in this country — is built around the Harley-Davidson brand. As a Yamaha owner, you’ll forever be on the outside looking in. You will have to explain again and again that your “Harley” isn’t one. You will be the target of contempt from the sort of people whom you might normally hold in contempt yourself. There may even be places where you wouldn’t necessarily want to park the bike lest it be the target of unfortunate behavior; I suspect that sort of thing doesn’t happen very much in the year 2012 but it’s certainly a possibility, particularly in the Midwest. The bottom line is that the V-Star isn’t a ticket to the full American chopper experience.

If you don’t care about that experience, the decision becomes a lot easier to make. The V-Star is a genuine pleasure to ride at legal speeds, which is a statement that couldn’t possibly be made about any sportbike since about the debut of the GPz750. It’s cheap to buy, insure, and operate. There’s room for luggage and/or Apollonia Kotero. The performance envelope isn’t large but it adequately covers the spectrum of potential use. It couldn’t be easier to ride or operate, almost regardless of physical size (the bike’s owner and I are separated by about ten inches of height). It looks cool, sounds nice, and starts right up when you want it to. In my humble opinion, it’s better-looking than the Japanese competition, which makes it the obvious choice for the money.

There’s no cruiser in my immediate future — the idea of the “standard” still has too strong of a hold on me. Even if I wanted a more modern non-sportbike, I’d be more likely to look at a V-Max. This sedate and stylish Yamaha did make a pretty positive impression on me, however. If you’re riding one, and you see me riding, or perhaps pushing, my Honda, please make sure to wave, okay?

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59 Comments on “Capsule Review: Yamaha V-Star 1100 Silverado...”

  • avatar

    I’ve thought of getting a bigger, older cruiser for a while, but I can’t just get over 2 things: 1) How HEAVY they are and 2) how SLOW they are.

    I rented a honda vtx 1300 (2006) a few years ago and took the wife for a ride and she enjoyed it save for the stock seat. Everything about the bike just seemed BIG. OVERSIZED. “Does it REALLY need to be THIS BIG?” I though to myself. The first right turn after coming out of the dealership, I scraped the pegs without trying and scared the poop out of myself.

    I’m conflicted as some part of me wants something big/slow that I can take my wife on & not notice the weight on the back. This is not possible on my (2005) gsx-r 600. On the other hand I want something that isn’t going to bore me to tears, that is going to save me some gas $$, etc. I also can’t put up with carb’d bikes as I don’t like waiting for them to warm up. This was a major annoyance with the vtx-1300 (although I’ve heard the vtx-1800 comes with FI, I imagine that big is even bigger/heavier).

    I have about 3 years until I think about making my mid-life crisis decisions…

    Thanks for the review! It’s nice to see something different on ttac…

    • 0 avatar

      Having ridden a Japanese cruiser, now go ride a Harley. You’ll see the immediate difference. The Japanese bike is usually overcompensating for not saying “Harley-Davidson” on the tank (Suzuki Boulevards are the worst, the Honda VTX1800 isn’t far behind). Like all Japanese bikes, it looks great on the spec sheet. How it works in the real world is often a very different matter.

      • 0 avatar

        From what I’ve heard about harleys, I’m not sure, even if “better” that It’d want one due to the reliability. This is the same reason I don’t own a bmw, vw, or porsche.

        Is my stereotype wrong? Can I put 30k+ troublefree miles on a harley without worrying about issues?

      • 0 avatar

        I did. My Springer didn’t start giving me any kind of issues until the 50k point.

        One thing to keep in mind: If your idea of acceptable reliability is Camry, etc., there is no motorcycle in the world that’s going to make you happy. Motorcycles, by nature and market demands, are rather high strung beasts, way more maintenance intensive than automobiles.

        And any company attempting to market a low-strung, boring, commuter motorcycle will probably find themselves going belly up rather quickly. If you think we can get hypocritical regarding the rear drive station wagon with a manual and a diesel . . . we’re nothing compared to those who cry for a rational, sane 70+mpg commuter motorcycle. The couple that are out there (Honda Rebel, Nighthawk 250, Yamaha V-Star 250, etc.) sell only to sane beginners who are willing to give up looking cool for awhile so as to actually learn how to live with a motorcycle.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure about that….my 2005 gsx-r has been pretty “camry-like”. I bought it new (0 miles) and it’s just short of 26,500.

        Lube the chain every 500, clean/adjust chain every 1k, replace consumables when needed (brake fluid, brake pads) and replace oil once (full synthetic+oil filter) a year or every 5k and the thing has run like a top. Tires are a big wear item but after getting 8-9k out of tires most people get 3-5 out of I switched to the “touring” tires that are rated for 8-10k and expect hopefully 4 years 15-20k out of them.

        Just had valve adjustment done (10k miles late) and the shop said 4-5 hours at $90/hour and then only billed me 2.5 since they didn’t need adjustment.

        Only thing that would make life easier would be shaft drive.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m absolutely in love with my ’09 Ninja 650R. Yes, it looks like a sportbike, but it’s actually a cleverly-designed standard. Decent seating position (although the stock seat really sucks, mine has a Corbin that cost me almost 1/10th of what I paid the dealer to buy the bike new), nice, wide powerband (torquey with a solid sportbike-like rush and howl above 7K) and decent handling and brakes. It’s also stone reliable needing only basic maintenance.

        Decades of liter-bike ownership (2 FJs, a Superhawk and a Triumph Trophy) made me leery of the “little” Ninja, but it has proven to be a great bike. It cost me all of $5500 as a leftover, so I paid cash. It also gives me 50mpg. If I move to LA next year, I’ll commute on it, but right now, it’s a weekend fun bike on the PA backroads where it’s just right.

        [Edit] – This was meant as a reply to Sykerocker’s lament about smaller standards.

      • 0 avatar

        Low-strung, reliable commuter motorcycles are all over the place, and every manufacturer makes several, but they don’t get a whole lot of sales in the United States, to the point where it’s often not worth the bother of bringing them over.

        Somebody a few posts down mentioned the “Ninja 650R”. That’s a commuter bike that did great in Europe as the “ER-6”, but for the American market, Kawasaki knew they would need to glue on a “Ninja” sticker and a big ol’ sportbike-looking fairing (with a special edition that, I am not making this up, had Monster energy drink logo decals already pre-applied!) or not enough people would buy it.

      • 0 avatar

        @ Robstar – yes, your perception is a little skewed. Likely by H-D building genuinely unreliable bikes for a lot of years. In the early 1990s (WAY later than they should have), HD started adopting the same TQM practices that modern auto makers use and reliability went way up shortly thereafter. You can equate “AMF and the years following” with “Detroit malaise years” for a pretty accurate picture.

        Anecdotally, yes you can rack up that many miles on a HD. I bought a 100th Anniversary Fat Boy brand-spanking new in April of 2003. All regular maintenance has been done (mostly on time), and everything beyond oil changes has been done by the dealer. Two weeks ago I rolled past 40k miles, all of them trouble free and – just as important – many of them worry free as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you considered the so called Standards?
      1000cc standards have plenty of power, can do light touring and still handle good enough for 99% of riders.

      • 0 avatar

        The part that hurts is that a 500cc standard also has plenty of power, handles good enough to 99% of riders, can kinda do light touring . . . . . . but try to find one. Nobody bothers in an age where a 125hp 600cc four cylinder sports bike is considered a “beginners girls bike” in the US.

        1000cc standard? That’s a bit more than my Triumph. And with a three bag Givi (hard bad) setup and a small air-splitter windshield I’ve covered half the county in the past 17 years.

        Yeah, I’m an old fart. I still look fondly when 650cc’s was considered a big motorcycle.

  • avatar

    Nice review Jack, I haven’t ridden the bike but I agree with you on all the general points.

    If it’s your thing bikes like these are good used value, as the baby boomers finish with them. Can’t imagine paying full pop for a new one in light of the coming demographic shift.

    On the other hand, this isn’t my thing. I’m on a Kawi Concours, which is also overweight and obsolete but retains some sporting characteristics. It also cost $3k so I didn’t have to wait for a mid life crisis to own one. I’ve always owned a cheap motorcycle or two, right through mortgage, kids etc. Can’t beat the value, or the experience..

  • avatar

    I usually don’t read motorcycle reviews, but saw Baruth wrote this, which is like trying to resist checking out the rack of the busty chick who cuts your hair BECAUSE SHE’S WEARING A DAMN DEEP V-NECK SHIRT/BLOUSE WHATEVER (even if “checking out” that rack is an exercise in attempted but totally failed stealth peeks at what you mistakenly presume will be opportune times) in order to make bigger tips . Wives & girlfriends really should not be upset or surprised that this is the nature of things under these circumstances given that biological impulses are not suspended and that there are mirrors everywhere in establishments whereby said v-neck or blouse-unbuttoned, busty haircutters work.

    Given the very real and statistically high (relative to passenger cars/trucks) risk of serious bodily injury or death as a result of riding a motorcycle, I’ve chosen to take a pass on this activity, especially when I know the streets, roads and highways to be occupied by a massive number of incompetent, reckless, thoughtless, angry, hazardous, multi-tasking, multi-tasking-while-intoxicated, multi-tasking-while-baked, multi-tasking-while-angry-intoxicated-& baked, multi-tasking-while-angry-incompetent-reckless-hazardous-&-asian-woman drivers, etc., driving around in their Ford F250s/Camrys/CrownVictorias/Camrys/Escalades/Corollas/1984CadillacDeVlleBroughams/Camrys, which will kill you dead without skipping a heartbeat/CoorsBanquetBeer/text/phone call/makeup refresh/puff-puff-pass/shave/General Tso’s Chicken nugget.

    That brief preface brings me to my 3 main points:

    1) If there’s a lot more danger presented by riding a bike amongst passenger cars/trucks (and there is), why would one NOT do so on a fast & excellent handling bike, given the risk present (comfort can be achieved in a Cadillac DTS while few passenger cars can match the excitement of riding a high end Ducati)?

    2) If I were to ever buy a bike to cruise in comfort, it would be a Honda GoldWing.

    3) Harley-Davidson is actually in something of a state of financial and business-model mess amidst the Great Recession as fewer people are buying boats, RVs and motorcycles, and that HD is a privately held company with a high cost structure partially attributed to the fact they haven’t moved production from their Kansas City base– with assembly plants in Pennsylvania & Wisconsin, as well (a Chinese made Harley-Davidson would probably not sit well with their existing customer base– although a Alabama made one might be).

    Anyways, interesting read as always.

    • 0 avatar

      Riding/driving anything less than a semi in the Chicago area is risky. I’ve come back from vacation (in my car) at 1:30am monday morning and seen lines of semis 30+ deep (no cars inbetween) on the highway.

      No F-350 is going to win against a 40k+ pound semi in an accident.

    • 0 avatar

      You miss one point: Ride a motorcycle for a few years (5+) and you develop reflexes on the street that a car-only driver never comes close to. The ability to see things in the road 500 meters ahead, the ability to notice changes in pavement color with the immediate wondering of what it signifies, etc.

      I really believe that ALL car drivers should be forced to live on a motorcycle for a couple of years first.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t doubt that one’s reflexes will improve as one becomes a more seasoned rider, but some collisions will inevitably be unavoidable given the circumstances, and in those events I’m still betting that the 54 year old Asian Woman “guiding/aiming/piloting” her 3,300ish pounds of Camry while sitting 1 1/4 inch away from the steering wheel is WAY more likely to walk away (usually without a bruise, scrape or cut) from the twisted heap of formerly attached motorcycle parts than even the most experienced biker.

      • 0 avatar

        There are very few “unavoidable” collisions. Getting rear-ended at a stoplight, for example, is unavoidable. Many collisions where the car driver is at fault are still avoidable if the motorcyclist is riding more defensively. For example, that Camry is going to change lanes without signaling, and so I’m going to make sure I spend as little time as possible in the lane next to it.

        Motorcycling is unambiguously more dangerous than driving a car. However, the statistics are inflated by the fact that a startlingly high percentage of motorcyclists (higher than car drivers) are unlicensed, untrained, and/or intoxicated. Take the MSF course, wear all the gear all the time, ride a bike that matches your skill level, don’t drink, and don’t ride like a retard, and you’ll probably be okay.

      • 0 avatar

        Reflexes is probably the wrong word. “Skills” is better.

        One thing car drivers don’t realize is how big the road is. You have way more escape routes on a motorcycle than you do in a car. You actually have way more escape routes in a car than you know, but you don’t realize it until you have a motorcycle.

        Plus you learn to treat every other vehicle/pedestrian/animal/stationary object as if it were actively trying to kill you. That awareness definitely transitions into car driving.

        My personal hypothesis is that european drivers are so much “better” because more of them grow up on mopeds and scooters and learn to use much more of the road.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 @ aristurtle.

        Once you subtract the people who were trying to kill *themselves* from the motorcycle accident statistics, something like 75% of what’s left are crashes caused by something well within your ability to think hard about and avoid it.
        I think a couple of the major ones are people turning across your path (oncoming left turns, red-light runners…) and people changing lanes into you without looking (happens to me once a week on average).

        THINK and LOOK as you’re approaching intersections, don’t chill out NEXT TO any vehicle, look in cars ahead of you for people texting/phoning/doing makeup and assume they’re going to do something legitimately dumb at the instant you pass them.

        After a little while on the road your Spidey-sense gets pretty well tuned.

        About the only things I really worry about on the road are road hazard that I don’t see in time – a pile of wet leaves or gravel in a corner, shucked retreads hidden by cars in front of me, stuff like that – and seriously dense traffic (I-25 through downtown Denver in rush hour) when people are REALLY going to drive like idiots to gain 2 car-lengths and there’s pretty much nowhere for you to go when they do.

      • 0 avatar

        If I recall correctly, the Hurt Report showed that about 50% of all two-vehicle motorcycle collisions are caused by a car turning left across the motorcyclist’s right of way, which is *really* incredibly specific for half of all collisions. Now, the Hurt Report was a while ago but anecdotally this still seems to be a huge issue, to the point where I slow down and get ready to panic-stop when I’m going through an intersection and the oncoming lane has someone ready to make a left turn.

        And, yeah, dense fast-moving traffic can be rough. The stretch of I-95 between DC and Baltimore always seems to have everyone bumper-to-bumper at 85+ MPH. Statistically, collisions are far less likely on limited-access highways than they are at intersections, but I imagine the severity must be quite a bit worse when they do happen.

      • 0 avatar

        > 50% of all two-vehicle motorcycle collisions are caused by a car turning left across the motorcyclist’s right of way

        A friend of mine is three days out of the ICU from exactly that scenario. Bike looked fine in the scene photos. He certainly wasn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        A friend of a friend who rides a Honda something-or-other, not quite GoldWing, told me once that when you decide to bike, an instructor told him to just ** KNOW ** that you will put the bike down at some point. Be careful, anticipate that the other guy will run into you, and WEAR YOUR GEAR!!!

        He’s had a couple of incidents with the Honda, with only a little fairing damage and some scraped leathers as a result. No broken bones or anything other than a couple cuts and bruises.

        Me? I enjoy something with a little fun, so a Ninja would be my speed. However, I also like airbags, climate control, seat belts, etc., around me, so I’m not gonna get a bike anytime soon if ever. And believe me, *** I *** will give someone on a bike all the room they need and more–I try to get as far ahead of a bike as I can, or else stay as far back as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      Btw, this is a link for stats in my state — IL

      131 motorcyclists killed in Illinois in 2010

      ONLY 2 of the deaths had a dot approved helmet!
      11% killed had no motorcycle license!
      40% killed had some trace of alcohol in them!
      only 1 (not 1%, 1!) of the impaired drivers had any type of helmet!

      A lot of these conditions are controllable to statistically (at least) improve your chances of living.

      Of course this doesn’t included maimed/paralayzed/etc motorcyclists…

      • 0 avatar

        On my way to work today, on I-5, there was a motorcyclist in my blind spot to the left of me for at least a few minutes before I switched lanes to the right.

        I could not see him in any mirrors. I easily could have veered over to the left, by relying on my mirrors, and probably have killed him. Or at least have seriously injured the guy.

        That guy needs to be more careful. And gives me even more reason to look over my shoulder when changing lanes and not always relying on my mirrors.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      Sorry Deadweight. I do follow bikes. I go through a few each year for fun. Its cheap fun.

      Harley is publicly listed. They closed at $45.73 USD on the NYSE today. They make bikes in India. They are expanding based on image.

      I puzzle over the actual image (part horse, part steam engine, part bad boy, part freedom of care (as a young stupid person who spends his $ on a bike instead of college (me but that was a Norton Commando) )). Harley riders access all of these images. Harleys are not bad, some do like what they do for how they do it. They don’t break down anymore. Thanks Porsche and Mahle. I might rent one for the Rt 66 ride in a year or two.

      They gave up on competing on engineering decades ago. In one year, went from offering the sportster as a superbike to a bar-hopping cruiser. Same bike year over year, the problem was Honda 750. Classic success story for the business books. Work smarter not harder.

      Cruisers are OK, as in not an evil thing. Riding one and liking it is Ok. Even if its a Harley for 2x the price and 5x the cachet among Harley riders.

      If you want basic fast fun reliable road transport look at Honda CBR250 and PCX150, then Kawasaki EX250. Both bring this cheap small fun to the US, to keep ahead of China. They are moving large amounts of this machinery here in a small renaissance if you think a few thousand is large. They sell countless millions of tiddlers outside the US.

      Do not think, before buying a bike, that you will avoid injury by accelerating or handling out of trouble. You avoid it by not getting into it.


  • avatar

    Why a cruiser? Well, I’ll toss in a few thoughts on that subject, bolstered by 36 years of motorcycle riding, and the flying of three different sets of colors in three M/C’s (plus a still good standing relationship with a couple of chapters of the Outlaws M/C).

    1. Cruisers are undemanding. Unlike a sportsbike that’ll happily hospitalize you if you get stupid, careless and/or intoxicated, a cruiser is an amazingly forgiving ride. Of course, you’re not going to push it too hard, ride too crazy, or get in way over your head because the geometry of the bike just won’t entertain such behavior. This is awful important in the U.S.A., where licensing standards are bloody pathetic for a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license – at least compared to Europe.

    2. There’s a visceral, er, feeling in riding a cruiser. I laughed at that thought during my early cruiser days (Vulcan 88, 750 Virago). Then I got that 1000cc ironhead Sportster and realize that yes, on a warm Saturday night cruising down the main drag laid back, right hand on the throttle, left arm just hanging down – you really do feel like you own the biggest, stiffest dick in the valley. No matter how much you KNOW the reality is nowhere near close.

    3. Cruisers are a wonderful palette to bolt on (or seriously build) your own personal bike. More so than any other alternative, other than stripping down an old vertical twin and installing cafe bars and rearsets.

    4. You don’t care that (in my case) my 110k ’95 Triumph Trident would take me from Richmond to Daytona in one day, stopping only for gas – while doing the same trip on my Springer Softail would mean two days, a motel in the middle, and much longer gasoline stops. Long enough to usually let the engine cool down.

    5. Riding in a pack of 20+ bikes with the club brothers is heaven on earth. Riding in a 250+ bike pack at the funeral of an Outlaw brother who’s stuck with you for the past two decades is . . . . words cannot describe.

    Cruisers are not about anything quantifiable. They’re beyond that.

    • 0 avatar

      The few times I’ve ridden cruisers, they have scared the crap out of me. I like having my feet under me and standards and sportbikes (and even dual-purpose bikes) just give me a greater sense of being in control.

      But, as they say, to each his own. I went on a group fundraising ride a few weeks back. It was fun, but I tend to prefer me, my wife on the back, the road and little else.

    • 0 avatar

      You raise some interesting points, but really it seems the appeal to you is the lifestyle.

      There isn’t just a choice of sportbikes or cruisers, so there are plenty of motorcycles that can give you the undemanding, more relaxed ride. I personally wouldnt buy a sportbike, nor would I buy a cruiser. A custom bobber is more my style, or maybe I would go as sporting as a Ducati Monster. They are all visceral.

      As for “customizing”, I fail to see how bolting on a bunch of accessories that every other cruiser owner also bolts on is in any way unique. Thats like saying you all dress uniquely, wearing the same “colors” as you put it.

      Everything else you mentioned has to do with the camaraderie that comes with joining a club. Though I doubt the chess club members feel like they ever have the “biggest stiffest d*ck” LOL

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Buddy and I traded bikes one Saturday many years ago. The V-star is a great cruiser. I asked him why he got his V-star instead of a Harley. Williams response: “Lots cheaper than a Harley, gotta keep the wife happy”.
    Harleys aren’t cheap and that leads to two groups of Harley fans. The 1st group actually owns and ride their Harleys. You can get Harley Owners Group (HOG) plates in VA. The second group is the No, I don’t own one but I have three Harley t-shirts ilk. They’re usually people who will never be able to afford a Harley; it’s their object of lust.
    I think a motorcycle purchase is much more personal than anything with four wheels. Cruisers aren’t for every one. Want a sport bike, something off road, just something to ride on a pretty Sunday morning, even a Vespa? I don’t care, you’re another person who rides.
    A Ural with a sidecar is looking pretty cool to me.

  • avatar

    I own and regularly ride a vintage Harley, a modern Harley, and a gaggle of vintage and modern Vespa scooters. I have many friends that ride Japanese cruisers, and often switch with them for extended rides. The Vstar is the best of the breed, but they are still chasing Harley on many fronts, most notably paint and chrome quality, resale value, and believe it or not reliability. My favorite ride? My vintage ironhead Sportster, followed by my modern Vespa GTS.

  • avatar

    Love cruisers. Want one badly – make mine Yamaha, Suzuki, or Honda. I don’t need to pay extra just so it says “HD” on the tank. (Especially since I will certainly be buying used.)

  • avatar

    I’m agreeing with DeadWeight, as much as I really wanted a bike and had several chances to own one, I just can’t get past that fear of crashing. A year ago, I was awake, just waiting for the alarm clock to go off and I heard a LOUD THUMP. I’ve lived on a fairly busy road most of my life and I knew that sound – car wreck. It turns out a poor dude was coming home after working all night, riding a Harley, and a drunk wet-back crossed the center line. The impact was so great that the Harly rider was literally cut to pieces. The highway was closed for hours. The car driver only got 4 years, 4 f..king years for killing a man, no insurnce of course and I’m not even sure he had a license or a visa to be here.

    That man died on my property, his family put up a memorial. I take care of it every time I mow, it’s my reminder not to get a bike. And – the guy was 53, same age as me.

    • 0 avatar

      I can certainly understand. But as I get older, the idea of dying on my bike gets less objectional. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not what I have in mind, but compared to wasting away to cancer as two very close family members have done in the last few years, it doesn’t seem so bad. But more importantly, riding my bike is still a source of great joy and, heaven knows, one has to grab all the joy possible in this all-too-short life of ours.

      My wife and I joke about taking up increasingly dangerous pastimes as we get older. In a few years, I’ll try skydiving!

    • 0 avatar

      That is a moving story that you might convey more effectively without the racist crap inserted into it.

  • avatar

    My dad has this bike, almost exactly like the one pictured. He loves it.

    I’ll admit I have some trouble understanding the cruiser psyche. My first bike was a small cruiser, and I did love it, but it wasn’t large enough to fully qualify in the same way the liter-plus bikes do. With my 6’2″ self on the seat, my legs weren’t actually all that far forward. I customized that bike a bit. Pix:

    Graduated from that bike to a 1987 BMW K75 and saw the light of standards. I’d always wanted a standard, but this was the first I’d actually ridden. It was far more comfortable despite its engine not being all that much larger (100 cc difference from my first bike). Sold that bike last year after a few years of ownership and a lot of maintenance mostly related to its early fuel injection system and a foam-rubber damper in the fuel pump that clearly was not designed with ethanol gas in mind. I still miss its alien-like idle sound and effortless, tractor-like torque in nearly any gear.

    I will have another bike someday. I have lusted after old-school Brit bikes since my youth, and currently love the Triumph Bonneville and Royal Enfield’s classic Bullet, which apparently got an all-new fuel-injected engine a couple years ago that is reportedly much more reliable than the original 1955 carburetor-equipped engine. The downside: Neither Triumph nor RE have dealership support closer than about three hours away from me. I went through the headaches of mail-ordering parts and accessories for the BMW for that very reason, and don’t know if I care to repeat that experience.

    • 0 avatar

      K75? You’ve owned the best standard motorcycle made. Had an ’87 K75C, got it for free (wife’s booty in her divorce)and absolutely loved it/was bored to tears by it (yes, both – simultaneously). Absolute no drama, just that wonderful competentness on the highway that people spend lots of bucks to buy German.

      You ride Triumph, you get used to long distance service. Right now I haul mine 250 miles each way back to my old home town (the dealership opened the year after I moved – of course) which isn’t bad because it gives me an excuse to get with the (M/C) family once or twice a year. In 17 years I’ve gone thru four Triumph dealers, 3 absolutely excellent, one fair, and the last local dealer I wouldn’t let touch my bike under any conditions.

      • 0 avatar

        “K75? You’ve owned the best standard motorcycle made. Had an ’87 K75C, got it for free (wife’s booty in her divorce)and absolutely loved it/was bored to tears by it (yes, both – simultaneously).”

        I’ve been told it is the cream of the crop as far as standards are concerned. Mine was a very low-mileage example, too. Bought with 17,000 or so on the clock and rode it another 10,000 or 12,000 before selling it. BMW riders more knowledgeable than myself told me the 75 was actually preferable to the 100 because the 75’s smaller block allowed for fitment of a counterbalancer where the 100 didn’t have space for that and as a result wasn’t as smooth. I know the 75 was the smoothest bike I’ve ever seen/heard/ridden.

        Nearest Triumph dealer to me is Ultimate Motorsports (formerly Destination Motorcycles) in Knoxville, TN. At least they’re easy to get to for us, just hop on I-40, make a right at their exit followed by a quick left, and you’re there. The nearest Enfield dealer, on the other hand, is 130 miles away in Lexington, KY and would be anything but easy to get to from my location. Advantage at this point goes to Triumph, though I like the simplicity of the Enfield slightly more (gets me back to thumpin’!)

  • avatar

    I knew a guy who had one of these and he bragged about taking off all the Yamaha badging which I thought was idiotic , but to these types being a brain washed single brand rider is everything ! He eventually got the Harley he wanted and could finally leave the emblems on even though the fuel injection , suspension , wheels and other parts were Japanese or sourced from other countries . Me I finally found the perfect bike for me with my 09 DL650 V Strom . Plenty of torque and power ,comfort , accessories galore , handles great , gets 55 mpg , over 60 when I cruise around at slower speeds with my Harley riding friends . Someday I’ll get a cruiser styled bike like a Goldwing based Valkyrie Interstate or better yet a 1983 Honda CB1000 custom with the inline 4 , air suspension, 10 speed tranny and shaft drive – always wanted one of those !

  • avatar

    OK, first, let me just say, this is my bike. Or rather, it’s one of my bikes. This is the bike I ride out in the country, on long rides up the coast of northern California. I take it camping. It’s an RV.

    I commute by motorcycle on a 2007 BMW F800-S. I like sportbikes, I like standard bikes, and for their purposes, I like cruisers. I’m not anti-anything. And yes, I own a car as well.

    I buy used bikes because if you keep your eyes open, you can find ridiculously good deals on motorcycles. People buy new bikes thinking they’ll love riding. They usually get the bike they’ve always dreamed of, which is not a starter bike but rather a bike that is much bigger than they’re ready to ride. After a few tries, they get scared and after a few years of watching their impulse purchase sit in the garage, they dump it on Craigslist.

    This bike was purchased by me this summer from a woman who bought it new in 2006 after pricing a Harley. Harley Davidson wanted $20,000 and 23% interest on a new Heritage, and that was without some of the doodads she wanted to add to it — a CB radio, locking hard bags, etc. Her husband rode a GoldWing and she was tired of trying to keep up with him on a 600cc Shadow. She was also 5’3″ — my height.

    So they went to look at Yamahas. This bike was $10,000 new, and Yamaha was willing to finance it at 2.9%. With all the extras — the aftermarket seat, a CB radio/intercom, the locking paint-matched hard bags, custom risers for the handlebars, passinglamps, extra chrome bits here and there, crash bars, on and on and on — the price came to $14k.

    She was thrilled. Until she got a call from Harley-Davidson telling her that she’d won one of the 3 “X-Men” motorcycles Harley was giving away that year. She collected her prize and rode the Harley for the next couple of years while the Yamaha sat in the garage. Occasionally, she’d take the Yamaha out but she never put the miles on it that really justified its purchase. Her husband kept the bike in the garage on a trickle-charger under a cover and rubbed it with a diaper once a week.

    One day she got a call from an X-Men collector, someone with a lot of money. He offered her list price for her Harley — $25k or so. So she sold the Harley, paid off the Yamaha and rode it for another year. But riding was starting to aggrivate an old back injury, and so she stopped. And the Yamaha went back to the garage.

    They listed it on Craigslist, but by now it was 2009 and the market was flooded with bikes no one could afford. They listed it again in 2010 and 2011, but still no buyers. I saw the ad in 2011 and wanted it badly, but didn’t have quite enough cash for the purchase and wasn’t willing to take out a loan to do it. I figured I’d save my money and one day next summer, I’d find something similar.

    Sure enough, in June of this year they re-listed the bike. I called and told them that if it was everything they said it was, I would buy it.

    And that’s how I came to buy this bike — with 4,000 miles on it — for $6,500 — cash. I’d looked at used Harleys, and almost bought a 2006 Road King with 25,000 miles on it for $13,500. But I’m glad I didn’t. For half the price, I got nearly as much bike with fewer miles and more doodads and it fits me better. And with the BMW taking all the commuter miles, I ought to be riding the Yamaha for the next ten years or more, exploring California.

  • avatar

    Oh, and aside from always wearing a helmet, jacket, gloves and boots whenever I ride, I also wear an airbag vest, and I never drink more than one light beer (with food) before riding. 15 years of riding motorcycles, and the only accident I’ve had was a 5 mph “dump” when the front wheel hit a rock mid-turn.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    And now it’s time to turn the Yamaha V-Star 1100 Silverado over to TTAC’s tame racing driver. Some say, he’s convinced the Hell’s Angels to turn in their leathers in exchange for shiny, gold windbreakers. And that he’s traded in his seersucker shorts for the far more appropriate jort chaps (as*less, of course). All we know is, he’s called the Jack!

  • avatar

    I end up with Jack on this, I can see why other people are attracted to cruisers, but I feel no attraction, I have ridden various HD products and a Honda Shadow and they leave me cold. This is made worse on any bike with forward controls, I just cannot deal with them. On the other hand standards and sport tourers resonate with me since despite its “cafe racer” label my old BMW R100S is more of a fast touring bike by modern measures. There is an annual motorcycle dealer demo event where I have tried all sorts of things and I found a Royal Enfield Bullet way more fun than a Harley or Gold Wing, although the Ducati Super Moto and BMW F800GS blew all of them away.
    Come to that, a big dirt bike or adventure tourer is actually a great sport bike alternative, at one demo I was able to hang with the Ducati group on a BMW G450X as long as we were in the twisties and didn’t get dropped until we hit the highway.

  • avatar

    wonderful article. my first street bike was a ’76 cb 550f. fun as all git out at 55mph. i went thru the sport bikes going to gpz750, gs1150, gsxr1100 and always looked down on everything about cruisers, especially h-d’s. a few years ago the wife got a 700 virago and i was surprised how competent it is. not to mention i could actually have fun at 45 mph. what a concept! on the gsxr fun started at a somewhat loftier velocity; get to 95 and then decide whether to just cruise along at that speed or go fast. fast being anything over 145. i wouldn’t buy a cruiser myself, i’d go for a tuono or maybe a guzzi stelvio now but i have more respect for cruisers; just not the h-d posers. anyway great article. very, very well written. thanks for bringing back some special memories.

  • avatar

    Thank god my Ninja-riding youth gave way to Ninja-riding middle age … and (with a little luck) soon to Ninja-riding old age.

  • avatar

    Thanks a million for the motorcycle review, TTAC!

    I used to be a sportbike (GSX-R 600) kind of guy until I deployed to Iraq and one of the conversations turned to scooters. I purchased one on a dare by my buddies and haven’t gone back. It’s so much easier to enjoy the ride when the clutch and your legs are taken out of the equation. I love it.
    I have nothing, but respect for other two-wheeled motorists even if some don’t respect my ride. I like parking my little Genuine Psycho Buddy next to other motorcycles at Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters and observe how my little scooter steals attention away from bikes costing three or four times as much.

  • avatar

    The entire Harley vs Japan culture was something I wanted to avoid. I’m not a huge fan of most Harley’s and I don’t care for cruisers or sportbikes.

    Which is how I ended up on a Triumph Bonneville, just a nice relaxing ride on a standard shaped bike.

    I really enjoy the bike, it’s fast enough to get on the freeway but riding on a freeway on a bike is pretty boring. I have to admit it’s fun to stand on the pegs while you’re going down the road, can’t really do that on a cruiser.

  • avatar
    Jon Fage

    You fail to mention the true jewel in the Yamaha crown – the Road Star. My 2001 “Roadie” is customized with exhaust, paint and a number of other features. I never make apologies for not having a Harley – in fact, I think it annoys my Harley riding buddies when my bike gets all the attention!

    The Road Star has a number of “real Harley” features – most notably, a 1600 v-twin and belt drive – unlike the smaller metric bikes with shaft drive or chain drive.

    A couple of years ago, I had the chance to rent a Harley Road King in Texas for a week. I found the Harley amazingly annoying to handle – it was very “tippy” in the front end. I resent the F-150 comment in the article – my Roadie is a pussycat to handle – I have no problem with the steep curves of the Niagara Escarpment near Milton, Ontario, and the dips and turns of Canada’s best riding road, the Forks of the Credit, near Belfountain, Ontario.

    I feel that the Road Star is the best large displacement cruiser ever made.

    • 0 avatar

      “Easy to ride in the curves” does not equate to “corners quickly.” Most motorcyclists, in my experience, overestimate how fast their rigs actually corner. I remember being proud of how well I was doing in the hills on my Ninja – leaning it over as much as I dared at the time, rolling on the throttle past the apex, etc. – and then realizing I wasn’t gaining any real ground on the Camry in front of me.

      My ’89 Ninja 600 couldn’t outhandle an economy car of the same year… by a long shot. At the time I had a ’92 Jetta, and always said I went faster around curves in the VW than on the Ninja. I have no doubt that an F-150 could easily keep up with a cruiser. Even modern sportbikes won’t touch even fairly pedestrian cars in the tight stuff unless the rider is very skilled and brave.

      This of course says nothing of sweepers or other situations where the road opens up a bit. Lots of horsepower and very little weight are a hell of a thing at that point!

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe it’s just the drivers around here, but I almost _always_ pass cars on the curves rather than straights when I’m on my bike. People seem to slow down excessively when turning…..

  • avatar

    Forks of the Credit Road is the best driving road in Canada?

    No wonder you guys turn to snowmobiling and circuit racing with such enthusiasm! That road wouldn’t qualify in the top five in Central Massachusetts, let alone a continent masquerading as a country.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon Fage

      OK, so I’m a little enthusiastic about the Forks of the Credit. The roads in southern Quebec offer some great twisties and the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is one heck of an experience. But the entire area of the Niagara Escarpment, from Niagara Region all the way up to the Bruce Peninsula offers some great roads – you just gotta find them.

      I like riding in America, but I keep getting speeding tickets. Your hardcore local sheriffs (sir, you were doing 46 in a 45 – that’s a $50 ticket) and the fact that no one else in the world can possibly understand the old English system of miles takes all of the fun out of it.

  • avatar

    I rode from Charlotte to Texas once. My Mother in Law rode one of these while I was on my KLR650. I think the 650 single on my bike vibrated less but it got her there without incident.

  • avatar

    And I guess in the Dual Sport culture Harley = BMW

  • avatar

    I have a 2006 Honda 599 (Hornet in Europe), a bike I humbly consider one of the most underrated bikes available in the US during the last decade. Fast, comfortable, unassuming; I love it. Thing is, after riding 10K miles a year for a long time, the last two years have been brutal. Ohio has had two mondo hot summers in a row and, at 44 years old, driving in air conditioned comfort has a whole lot more appeal then sweating like a stuck pig at 70MPH with a breeze that feels more like a blast furnace. So the poor bike hasn’t seen much riding.

    I like cruisers of the 750 and below variety. Anything over 500-600Lbs and 1000cc’s is compensating. The cruisers nowadays approach and in some cases exceed 2000cc and tip the scales at well over 800Lbs. But forget the weight; that much displacement creates a lot of heat. Any ideas where it all goes??? That’s right, backwards on the rider. No thanks, I’ll keep my 600.

  • avatar

    I found a 2004 v star 1100 on craigslist several months ago. 1200 miles on it. I paid 3200.00 for it, and it’s a lot of bike for that kind of money. starts every time, good power in all ranges. 47 mpg so far. It feels solid, sounds good, looks good. My brother has 2 Harleys and they are nice too. I’ve road them both. an 07 street bob, and a 98 road glide. I like my Yamaha just as much or more. for the money I’d choose it again. I’ve never road a motorcycle that I didn’t like. too much time is spent comparing the ins and outs. just enjoy your ride. I do.

  • avatar

    jocul4635’s right. I got my 1100 Custom new in ’05, after an awful lot of research and experimentation. Price was not an important dynamic in the equation: I wanted what was right for me regardless of cost, regardless of anything. After all, I am the one who has to ride it. When it comes to motorcycles, I don’t favor any brand over another, or any philosophy, country, any anything. Nor do I disfavor. It was, and still is, a little like choosing a guitar or meal or just about anything – it’s not about somebody’s, or everybody’s concept of “better,” it’s about what feels right for me, (or you!)

    Here’s a shot:

  • avatar

    Having just picked up an’06 V Star 1100, I thought I’d revive this page to say great bike, and great review.

    The Harley-Davidson snobbery thing tends to get overblown in urban mythology. Real bikers in my experience don’t give a crap what you ride, as long as you ride. Bonus points if your bike is paid for, if you do your own maintenance, and if don’t feel the need to wear brand-coordinated fashion apparel like so many retired dentists.

    On the “slow” cruiser thing: The V Star does indeed feel lazy when you revel in the low-end torque and shift by ear (since after all there is no tach). But when you realize that it’ll hit 60 mph in second gear, it’s like discovering Mr. Hyde under your white lab coat. Forget that it’s a cruiser and use those revs, and it runs like a scared ape.

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