It’s a good thing the V Star 1300 Deluxe is such a civilized machine. If not, the swanky folks in Santa Barbara might not have been as charmed watching a dozen throttled through their storybook city. But as Yamaha would have it, this pack of quietly badass V Stars brought only waves and smiles. They aren’t excessively loud, or too black or oh-so-trendily chopped. Just a bunch of bright blue, old school cruisers with cute balloon tires. Or maybe the Deluxe models’ freshly minted fairing and saddlebags made it look like we were all leaving town. Whatever the case, the launch of the new 1300 Deluxe was a happy affair, especially if you were lucky enough to be riding the bikes instead of watching them.
“Casual Full Dress” was the catchline of the event. Yamaha’s Senior Product Planner, Aaron Bast, used the phrase to describe trunkless touring cruisers that utilize fork-mounted fairings and are generally lighter in weight and amenities than their more fully full-dressed cousins. That would make Harley-Davidson’s Street and Road Glides and Kawasaki’s Vaquero “CFD” tourers, as opposed to Victory’s Vision or Honda’s luxury-laden F6B.
Bast also told us it’s not just about looking cool anymore. He says those days are gone. Today’s riders want a bike that’s a statement, sure, but it also needs to be a wise choice. A bike that has curb appeal, but also very practical amenities, and most important to current buyers he says, value.
This is where it all makes perfect sense. The V Star Deluxe, at $13,690, is a lot of bagger for the buck. Its only competitors are the aforementioned big guns, and those are $3400 to $6000 more than this latest Star, and none offer standard GPS or satellite radio capability.
I had a day-and-a-half to measure the Deluxe’s value-to-capability ratio on the array of road surfaces encircling Santa Barbara. Tightly twisting backroads, tattered single lanes, fast, sweeping highways and bum-numbing freeways, it’s all right there.
Performance-wise, there were no surprises. Ninety percent of this new model already exists in the tried-and-true V Star 1300 and V Star 1300 Tourer, first released in 2007. These models use a 1304cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin that spools up nicely, especially at higher revs. Well-tuned fuel injection delivers the goods smoothly.
The combination of a double-cradle steel frame, belt drive, plush, well-controlled suspension and a beefy brake kit make the 1300 V Stars a pleasure to ride on winding backroads. Yes, there will be a lot of benign scraping if you’re riding aggressively. Also, the V Star 1300s are a tad excitable at middle-of-the-country Interstate speeds, and due to quick steering, a relatively high center of gravity and extra-wide handlebar, they require a commanding hand in parking-lot maneuvers.
For touring, the Deluxe is quite comfortable for riders sub-XL. The all-new batwing fairing and tall windshield, combined with situp ergonomics, stock floorboards and a wide, supportive rider’s seat make a picnic out of long spells in the saddle. The batwing’s oyster is the integrated, yet easily removable, Garmin zūmo 665 GPS/audio system, which provides glove-friendly touch screen, turn-by-turn navigation, 3D views and free lifetime map updates. It’s also Bluetooth compatible, waterproof and SiriusXM capable so subscribers can have on-the-fly access to all-important weather and traffic conditions.
A hand controller just off the left grip lets you toggle between iPod and satellite radio, volume and music tracks. It’s very functional and easy to use. Sound from the two fairing-mounted speakers is surprisingly bold and clear—in fact, superior to some luxury-tourer systems at highway speeds.
Other touring-oriented assets include new Deluxe-specific top-loading hard saddlebags that hold a respectable 15.2 gallons combined. That’s 5.2 gallons more than the V Star 1300 Tourer’s bags. The Deluxe bags are lockable, as well, and play a key role in the bike’s pleasant aesthetic unless, of course, you haven’t given them the positive snick they require to close fully and ride around all day with an erect lid. Out on the road, 4.9 gallons of unleaded fuel will come in handy. If the Deluxe is on par with its siblings, you can expect mpg in 40 range.
A spin in the pillion position was telling. A touring bike should accommodate a significant other, providing comfort and security, if not luxury. The Deluxe 1300’s stock passenger seat is fairly well cushioned and wider side-to-side than some pavers that pass as pillions, but it’s short front-to-back and doesn’t provide a secure-feeling bum patch. If you expect to do a lot of two-up riding, you’ll want to opt for the pleasantly scooped accessory touring seats and matching backrest combo. It will cost you almost $1500 for the complete touring saddle setup, but hey, how can one put a value on peace and quiet. For further nag-snuffing, add the passenger floorboards. And then some highway pegs for yourself so you can stretch out.
I was able to sample such an accessorized V Star 1300 Deluxe, and as a passenger was very pleased, especially when we removed the rider’s backrest, which will pen in the willowiest of maids. Accessorized or not, the Deluxe can’t be called roomy, but your co-pilot will have a clear view of the road ahead thanks to a huge step between the rider seat and pillion. In fact, you might want to go heavy on the pushups because even a short passenger sits so tall in the saddle she’ll be clutching your man cans instead of your waist.
For anyone who doesn’t measure satisfaction by size, the Deluxe is a dynamic, flexible motorcycle. In its standard configuration it’s a very viable touring mount. Chuck the passenger seat and add the shorty screen and some of the slick bolt-ons Yamaha is offering for the bike and you’ve got yourself a pretty mean ride to flash around town. If you’re thinking of a full-on custom project, the bike’s simplicity and use of steel make it a great starting point.
Yamaha researchers could be right. Maybe it’s no longer about looking like we just rode out of some biker flick. But turning heads while making a buying decision that positively affects our bank accounts? That will always be cool.