Yamaha goes stylish with Roadliner cruiser line

November 04, 2005|by ARV VOSS/Motor Matters

Star motorcycles, a division of Yamaha, has just launched an all-new lineup of heavy metric cruisers under the moniker "Roadliner." The big bike comes in three trim levels: Roadliner, Roadliner Midnight and the top-of-the-line Roadliner S. Soon to follow will be the Stratoliner, which will essentially be a fully equipped "bagger" version of the Roadliner series.

The Roadliner is a turnkey factory bike with a truly custom, 1920's era, Art-Deco look about it. Directional and running lamps are teardrop-shaped units both front and rear, not unlike the taillamps of a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. The brake and taillight is executed in a trapezoidal shape, with a clear lens and red LED lights behind.

There's really no prominent Roadliner badging. For that matter, identifying the Roadliner at all, if not familiar, is difficult at best. Yamaha appears subtly stamped on the lower, right side engine case, and there is an easily removable, small Yamaha decal on the rear fender behind the passenger pillion. Star logos are positioned sparingly and very discreetly, adding to the cruiser's custom aura.


Power for the Roadliner models comes from a 113-cubic-inch (1854 cc) air-cooled, pushrod OHV, and 48-degree V-Twin engine with twin-bore fuel injection and throttle position sensor. The motor makes 101 horsepower at the crankshaft (91 hp at the rear wheel) and 124 lbs.-ft. of torque at the crank (yielding 117 lbs.-ft. to the road). The big motor mates to an all-new, smooth sequential 5-speed manual transmission, with final power delivery being belt drive. The engine mounts in an all-new aluminum frame that weighs a mere 37 pounds. The aluminum rear swing arm with just eight components realizes more weight savings. Exhaust exits via a large chrome, two-into-one right side setup, with an authoritative and pleasing, but not offensive, rumble.

Total dry weight for the Roadliner S is 705 pounds, but the low center of gravity and excellent balance result in the bike seeming much lighter, making for effortless transitions from turn to turn. Assisting in delivering a comfortable ride quality are 46 mm dual forks with 5.3-inch travel up front and a single-shock Link-Type rear suspension with 4.3-inch travel. The Roadliner S rides on Bridgestone radial tires - 130/70-18 in the front and 190/60-17 aft. Wheels are burnished 12-spoke hollow cast alloy. Bringing the big cruiser to a halt are 298 mm dual front discs assisted by a 320mm single disc at the rear. Fuel capacity is 4.5 gallons, including the reserve.

The Star Roadliner press launch was staged out of Portland, Ore., with the ride running along the spectacular Columbia River Gorge, over the beautifully scenic Mt. Hood Highway and back to Portland. More than 200 miles were covered on the breathtaking and enjoyable ride. All the test bikes were Roadliner S models, with one accessorized bike along for photography, and one Roadliner Midnight. A base Roadliner was on display for the presentation. The base model is finished in Black Cherry with satin trim features and painted wheels. The Roadliner Midnight is, as one would expect, a blacked-out version - Raven in color, with minimal chrome, while the Roadliner S is tricked out with lots of chrome parts and accessories.

The S version comes finished in a two-tone Charcoal and Bronze or monotone Pearl White. My ride was done in Pearl White and came with a base price of $13,880 and a final sticker total of $15,500.

The Roadliner S comes without windshield or bags (which are available optionally), but is equipped with a removable (for that preferred solo look) passenger pillion and pegs. There are large full floorboards for the rider, with a rocker shifter, whose rear arm is a removable, metal spoon or blade affair that is better taken off.

SUMMARY: Essentially, the new Star Roadliner S is a work of art that isn't priceless. In fact, it is very reasonably priced considering the content and fit and finish. The Roadliner S will get you from point "A" to point "B" in high style, leaving many observers with the impression that it is a full custom motorcycle, rather than a showroom stock cruiser.

The Roadliner S's big motor is capable of launching the heavy cruiser into a "wheelie" mode. I didn't try it, but it can be done. Power delivery is both instantaneous and smooth, with a very broad and forgiving torque curve. Gear changes are also smooth, up or down. Braking is positive and effective when combining front and rear, or lightly touching only the front, while the rear alone seems to require more force that it should, which may be a good thing, avoiding lockup.

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