2011 Yamaha Star Stryker - First Ride

Chopper Wars.

2011 Yamaha Star Stryker - First Ride

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No, Star's new midsize custom was not named for the troubled Lt. Ted Stryker in Airplane, but that's not important right now. What's important is the economy, and it's in the toilet. If you're a giant multinational motorcycle manufacturer, it's no time to swing for the fences; it's time to go for what you know. What's worked for Star in the past has been cruisers, and right now, the hottest cruisers would be custom ones, i.e., chopperesque. Which in layman's terms means Star needed a midsize bike to combat the Honda Fury. The big-displacement Star Raider does alright, but it's $14,990. The V Star 950's okay, and nothing's particularly wrong with the V Star 1300—so the new Stryker takes that bike's engine and hits a nice, custom-bike line drive up the middle.Looks are what it's all about in this class, and the Stryker comes through with a Yamaha-quality level of paint, fit, finish and a lack of plasticity that few other manufacturers can match. Forty degrees of rake take you all the way back to Chopperville, but six of those degrees are in the triple-clamps, helping to keep trail at a reasonable 109mm. That means the Stryker exhibits perfectly benign steering habits at slow speeds along with unshakable stability when all wound up, a thing the bike's 1304cc (80 cubic-inch) liquid-cooled V-Twin seems to like.

2011 Yamaha Star Stryker - First Ride

The blacked-out Raven Stryker sells for $10,990.

Four-valve heads inhaling through a pair of 40mm throttle bodies spritzing fuel from 12-hole injector nozzles produce a pretty potent Twin that’s torquey enough down low, but 100mm forged pistons stroking through 83mm (ceramic-composite) bores like to rev, too. (The Star Raider also uses 100mm pistons but swings them through a stroke of 118mm.) In fifth (top) gear, the Stryker really needs a downshift below 50 mph. But rolling the throttle open from 50ish produces good acceleration that really takes off at around 75 indicated and keeps pulling hard past 100. The gearbox is clunky and driveline lash could be a bit less, but those won’t be deal breakers if you like the look and that the Stryker also sports belt drive, a 210mm rear tire and the lowest seat in the Star lineup at 26.4 inches. Yamaha’s prognosticators say 35 percent of Stryker buyers will be women.

The overall package is easy enough to love if you like cruiser ergos, though at 5-foot-8, I have to stretch my legs to reach the forward-set footpegs. The manufacturers knock themselves out to get a knuckle-dragging seat height, then make us shorties stretch our legs to reach the foot controls. Problem is, if you move the footpegs closer, taller riders complain. It’s a compromise.

Regardless of your inseam, feet-forward ergos don’t allow your legs to help absorb bumps, so the seat and suspension better work. On the Stryker, they do, the rear end using all 3.9 inches of travel only on the biggest bumps. And though a wheelbase of 68.9 inches is way long and the 210mm-wide rear Bridgestone is way wide, you can still ride this one like a real motorcycle. Decent cornering clearance and reasonable brakes mean hustling the Stryker through curvy roads and around town is fun as well as fashionable.

The blacked-out Raven Stryker sells for $10,990. Impact Blue or Reddish Copper versions are $250 more and, of course, the Star parts and accessories people are chomping at the bit with veritable truckloads of shiny bolt-on things and black leather raiment.

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