It’s safe to say that the Yamaha press conference held in Atlanta earlier this month was, well, unusual. The purpose of the meeting was never made entirely clear, and a presentation by company spokesmen simply restated the rationale that prompted Yamaha to establish the Star line as a separate cruiser-only brand back in 2005. The company also had at least one of practically every model in the 16-bike Star range on hand for an all-day journalists’ ride, even though the vast majority of those machine have—except for colors and prices—remained in the lineup unchanged for quite a few years.
Although no real “news” materialized during the conference, the event did give the press a chance to ride a couple of 2012 models for the first time: the Raider SCL and Stratoliner Deluxe. But even that part of the meeting was unusual in that the SCL had been in dealerships for several months (but not available for magazine use), and the only material changes to the Deluxe are the inclusion of a Garmin 660 GPS receiver as standard equipment and the addition of a hinged door on the iPod shelf built into the fairing (iPod not included). Functionally, the Stratoliner Deluxe is no different than it was at its introduction in 2010.
The way in which these two models are created, however, is…here we go again…unusual. The $17,990 Deluxe actually starts life as a Roadliner cruiser that is converted into an American-style “bagger” by the dealer. The hard saddlebags, fairing, Garmin and all necessary wiring are part of a touring “kit,” which dealers can buy and install either at their discretion or when customers wish to buy a Deluxe. This model has been configured in the manner ever since its inception two years ago.
So, too, is the Raider SCL (which stands for Star Custom Line) the result of a partnership, this one between the factory, its U.S. subsidiary and two American aftermarket outfits. The factory in Iwata, Japan, builds the bike, applies its colorful Blazing Orange metalflake paint and graphics, equips it with stainless front-brake and clutch lines and stainless throttle cables, then ships it to the U.S. with a stock rear wheel but minus the front.
Upon its arrival stateside, the bike is delivered to a facility in Carson, California, where a two-tone, genuine leather seat replaces the original saddle, and the rear wheel is swapped for a stylish chromed one mated with a similarly styled rear pulley and a chrome belt guard. A matching 21-inch wheel is bolted on up front, and both ends roll on the stock 120/70-21 front and 210/40-18 rear tires. The wheels, pulley and belt guard are the result of a joint effort between Yamaha and Performance Machine in La Palma, California. Likewise, the seat is built to Yamaha’s specifications by Saddlemen in Rancho Dominguez, California. Only 500 of these Raiders will be built, each one fitted with an aluminum tank badge that denotes its number in the series.
What emerges from this “team” effort is a colorful, glitzy, $19,900 limited-edition cruiser that really does look like a bike that made a brief detour through a custom shop. And because the engine, chassis and suspension all were left untouched, the SCL performs just like any stock Raider. Its 1854cc air-cooled V-Twin bangs out impressive torque and a great soundtrack, while the bike handles more like a standard machine than the raked-out cruiser that it is. The buy-in ($5400 more than the base Raider, $4600 above the priciest Raider S) is a bit steep, but a Raider owner who decided to replicate the SCL on his own would likely spend more than this by the time the bike was completed.
Yamaha—er, Star—plans to build other SCL customs, though at this point, no one at the company is willing to specify which models might be the targets.