Test Ride: Yamaha V-Star 1300

Words: Rob Harris Photos: Riles and Nelson

It was the invite that I needed and at just the right time. Two days in Asheville, North Carolina to try out Yamaha’s new V-Star 1300; and a perfect opportunity to get CMG’s long-termer test bike out for one long, last tour. A 1,700 km trip to get to Asheville, and a little further yet if you take the wonderfully twisty Blue Ridge Parkway!

Asheville itself is slap bang in the middle of some of North America’s prime motorcycle roads featuring said Blue Ridge Parkway, and a mere 150 kms from the infamous Deal’s Gap. The ride down on the FJR long-termer was sure to be a blast. But riding Yamaha’s newest addition – and 650 lbs of it – on twisties? Well that may prove to be a different experience altogether.

Either Yamaha had a lot of faith in their new cruiser or the route planner was a sport bike enthusiast.

WHAT’S SO NEW ABOUT THE V-STAR 1300?

The water-cooled deception is complete.

Good question, and the answer is: just about everything. I’d initially expected the 1300 to be a bored-out version of Yamaha’s best selling V-Star 1100, but not only is it a whole new beast from the ground up, it’ll join the 1100 in Yamaha’s line-up at least for 2007.

In order to keep up with ever-restrictive emission laws, the 1300 motor is liquid-cooled, although the designers have done an excellent job of hiding the fact. The motor comes with polished fins and not a hose in sight – either hidden by clever routing under the gas tank, behind frame tubes or internal drillings within the motor itself. The black painted radiator slots in between the frame’s down-tubes to complete the deception.

Unlike the wider cylinder spacing of the 1100, the 1300 gets a tighter 60-degree v-twin layout, making it a physically more compact unit to boot. The boost in cubic centimeters and a higher compression ratio give an additional 18 ft lbs of torque and 13 horses, though the 1300 is still happy with regular gas.

The V-Star 1300 Standard (rear) and Tour (front) .

Other updated technology includes fuel injection, four valves per cylinder, twin balancer shafts and a belt final drive (which allows for easier customization of the rear end than a shaft). Oh, and the new box features taller and wider gearing than found on the 1100 – Yamaha freely admitting that they wanted the 1300 to have a much more relaxed feeling at cruiser speeds.

Ergonomically, although the seat height is the same as the 1100 (at a low 715 mm) the bars are 22 mm lower and the seat 30 mm further back. The seat is also a flatter design (as opposed to a bucket), which should give the rider more room to move around, as well as provide accommodation for a greater spectrum of rider sizes.

The chassis is a double cradle steel tubed affair with the motor bolted solidly to it, possible thanks to the reduced vibrationess* of the motor with the twin balancers. This hangs off (non-adjustable) conventional 41 mm forks at the front and a single shock (with preload) hidden away at the back.

The looks are classic cruiser.

Fat tires and 16-inch wheels complete the low slung and meaty cruiser-look, with twin discs/two-pot sliding calipers doing the stopping business up front, along with a single version at the rear. Fenders are pressed steel and the gas tank is flangeless in order to give that classic cruiser look and feel.

As with all cruiser lines, Yamaha has developed an extensive line of accessories, with 38 new ones specifically made for the 1300 and 52 other ones that will fit.

*Is that actually a word?

ASCENDING THE ASPHALT OF ASHEVILLE

You don’t want no stinking tach! But you do want a speedo, and by mounting it on the bars, you can read it to boot.

Although Yamaha has done a lot to give as wide a range of rider physique as possible for the 1300, at 6’ 4” I’m definitely on the upper end of the spectrum, if not a little beyond. The super wide bars would graze my knees during low speed turns and the base of my back pushed against the back of the seat. But then, I’m not your average rider and although I had to make allowance for slow speed turning and do regular buttock shuffling I soon found myself warming to the Star.

The motor’s got a fun galloloping** feel to it, as you’re pulled along by the irregular power pulses. It’s not exactly arm-wrenching low down but thanks to the well-engineered balance shafts and surprisingly barking pipe, the sensation is exactly how you want it – characterful, but not intrusive. You can wind it up a bit to tap into some more horses, though I tended to keep the revs low and thumperty** unless the road gnarled up (which it did regularly).

Lots o’ chrome.

The fuel injection is glitch free too.

The clutch is quite light and the gear change is positive, but slightly heavy and needed a firm boot at the heal-and-toe shifter to get initiated. Once moving though, it clicked into place without complaint. Maybe not sport bike slick, but well within the character of the Star. Passing is helped by dropping it down a cog, though the tall gearing keeps a relaxed burble at highway speeds.

Talking of highway speeds, the standard 1300 (sans fairing and hard bags) was remarkably easy on the rider up to speeds of 110 km/h. The Touring version comes with a very tall non-adjustable screen, that didn’t seem to be all that necessary, as the ride wasn’t that much calmer as a result.

The overly tall screen on the tourer makes riding in the rain a tad nerve- wrecking. Squidgy** front brakes are the only other complaint.

It also broke my cardinal rule of screens insomuch that I had to look through it, not over it. Getting caught in rain for the last 15 minutes of the day’s ride was not fun with a wet visor (no wind to push the rain off) AND a wet screen to peer through after that! Oddly, Yamaha chose to slap the tallest of three options onto the Tourer, something that I think will see healthy sales of the smaller option.

While I’m on the Tourer (okay I’m not on it now … I like to sit on pigmies while I type), the leather covered hard bags are … well, leather covered hard bags. You don’t get to use them really on a launch, especially if you happen to have a tank bag (although I doubt many cruiser riders would use a tank bag – spot the guy that rode down on an FJR!).

Maybe the only component of the standard 1300 that I didn’t warm to was the braking. Twin discs up front and Yamaha engineering should have given something pretty sharp when it came to scrubbing off the momentum, but the initial bite was very soft. A good squeeze would eventually get a good bite, but the result was an inability to precisely gauge braking pressure to road conditions.

Of course, this may not be a big issue to the average cruiser type as I probably ride the bike harder than the intended owner, but then doesn’t everyone deserve excellent brakes? The rear is of similar character, but that suited the rear fine as it meant rear lock ups had to be intended, not accidental.

Belt final drive.

** I think I made up those words too.

FUN WHERE I LEAST EXPECTED IT

Where I was most surprised with the 1300 was just how much fun it proved to be in the twisties. Despite the relative heft of the machine (and rider) and long wheelbase, it proved to be quite nimble and once we’d managed to lose the slower (mainly American) journos amongst us a string of V-Stars could be heard scraping floorboards along the Blue Ridge Parkway around Asheville.

This is a picture of ‘arris enjoying a cruiser.

Scraping floorboards? Yes, but fear thee not, the strong and rigid chassis of the Star meant that this behaviour would not upset the stability while cornering and replaceable skid inserts on the boards mean that you can have fun now and pay (a small amount) later.

Did I mention the suspension? By most standards it’s way basic, with the only adjustment being preload at the back, but I was amazed how well it actually works. I had a very brief ride on Suzuki’s M109 muscle-cruiser earlier this summer and was appalled at the thorough beating I received by the ultra-stiff rear suspension. The V-Star’s was soft to absorb all bumps, yet stiff enough to keep the handling together. Perfect.

But I digress. I’m the first to admit that I am not, and never have been a cruiser guy. Locked-in rider position, weak motors & brakes and suspension designed to cripple have never appealed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Yamaha have gone a long way with their new 1300 V-Star in making a cruiser that can handle, be (somewhat) comfortable and … yes … I’m going to say it … fun!

At the end of the day as I chugged along the Blue Ridge Parkway, meandering through the sweeping turns amid flaming orange trees, a beating motor and thumping exhaust below me, I actually got it. The bike was meant to do this. This was fun!


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike

Yamaha V-Star 1300 (standard)Yamaha V-Star 1300 (tourer)

MSL

$13,799.00$15,299.00

Displacement

1304 cc

Engine type

V-Twin, sohc, liquid-cooled

Carburetion

2 x 40mm EFI

Final drive

5 speed, belt drive

Tires, front

130/90-16

Tires, rear

170/70-16

Brakes, front

Dual 298 mm discs with two-piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 298 mm disc with two-piston caliper

Seat height

715 mm (28.1″)

Wheelbase

1,690 mm (66.5″)

Dry weight

283.5 Kg (624 lbs) (claimed)303.5 Kg (668 lbs) (claimed)

Colours

Black metallic, Dark purplish-blue metallic, Deep red metallicBlack metallic, Red metallic, Silver

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