INTRO – By Editor ‘arris
You know, I usually edit out Mr. Boss’s introductory blurbs. They never have anything to do with the story at hand, are usually bizarre and, well, a tad crude. Apparently it helps him loosen up for the task ahead. This time however, I‘m leaving it in. It still doesn’t make sense, but it is in keeping with the odd and messed up philosophy of CMG …
“The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering. It cheapens and degrades the human experience, when it should inspire and elevate. You are an exception.”
Tom Waits wrote that bit about author J.T. LeRoy, a person, unsure of their gender who was raised a truck stop whore by their Mother, but it coulda been about me. Except for the whore and truck-stop part.
IT’S A CRUISER WORLD
On a 2000km road trip between Toronto and Winnipeg last year, I was surprised by the quantities of luggage-laden motorcycles I encountered on the Trans Canada, exploring this vast country of ours.
A greater surprise was that at least half of these bikes were cruisers. The remainder was comprised of new Gold Wings, Sport/Sport-Touring bikes, BMW’s and one really old dude on a Honda CM250, who wins my respect for being so wrong. If I had caught him, I would have had him send his resume to Editor ‘arris.
It makes sense that there were so many cruisers, as they comprise the majority of street bike sales in Canada, but long distance touring on one? Geez, that just sounds kind of painful. Not always though, as I found out after a two week stint with the 2004 Yamaha Road Star Silverado, where no post-ride massage (therapeutic, of course) will be necessary.
For 2004, the Road Star Silverado has undergone some subtle changes from the previous year. The most important change being a 2mm increase in bore that bumps the air/oil cooled displacement up to 1670cc. Hmm, that’s the same size as it’s evil twin – the Warrior – which makes sense, ‘cause that’s where most of the engine upgrades came from.
The 2mm bore increase helps provide the Road Star with a reported 15% increase in horsepower (thanks to a higher redline) and an 8% increase in torque over the previous 1600 version. This gives a very usable 106ft-lbs of max torque at a very low 2,500rpm What that boils down to is a motor endowed with torque of D-Cup proportions, bundled in the traditional V-twin style.
The motor is the main source of the big Silverado’s charm. It lopes along with an utterly relaxed feeling on the highway. Relaxed enough that you might not even realize you are in fourth gear at cruising speed with another cog still available. In fact, that extra cog is an overdrive, for even lazier cruising.
Roll-on power is stout and downshifting to pass is rarely required. Accelerating aggressively lets you bump a soft rev limiter without a harsh drop in power from the linear power band. This makes spirited two-up riding very smooth, with the added benefit of no knocking of helmets.
But spirited riding is not the Road Star’s strength – that lies in relaxed cruising.
Nice vibes are imparted through the (wider for 04) seat and bars – the net effect is that long rides are not taxing to the rider or passenger. Any intrusive vibes are kept at bay thanks to new rubber-inserts in the floorboards and rubber-mounted bars with end weights.
In fact, a 300Km day as a passenger for Miss Mary’s first ride of the season yielded no discomfort at all. She was appreciative of good seat support and a functional backrest, and her presence was only noticeable at low speeds and stopping.
The largest factor in rider comfort is due to the full windshield – equipped with two manual height adjustments and some play in each position for slope. I found that the stock position – while letting me have a clear view just above the screen – would buffet my helmet at highway speeds. I resolved this by moving the shield to the highest position. Although this forced me to look through the shield, optical quality is good so it was easy to get acclimatized to.
Sadly, all this protection couldn’t stop a bee with a vendetta from nailing me in my only unprotected area between my helmet and wraparound glasses. For all my gal fans – do not worry – my mediocre looks remain unscathed. Bee’s aside, the big wind pusher did an admirable job of redirecting wind blast.
The R1 inspired brakes are shared with all the Road Stars, and are up to the task of hauling the 712lb Silverado down from speed. However, as soon as the Silverado was in motion a rattly metallic sound was present until front brakes were applied – the front pads anti-rattle mechanism being anything but! Yamaha was aware of the problem on our pre-production tester and advised that it would be addressed on production models (sounds like the same problem on my ’76 XS650 … although those brakes are sadly not R1 inspired – Editor ‘arris).
The front 43mm forks dampened all of the hazardous road conditions we encountered, although I actually thought I’d bent a rim on one particular pothole I nailed dead center on a highway on-ramp. Despite the tremendous pounding, the front sucked it up and the bike remained stable. The rear is supported by a single shock with 4.3” of travel. One or two up, it worked very well with no bottoming or back pain.
Considering its length (1,685mm wheelbase) and heft, the Road Star proved surprisingly light in the steering department. Low speed maneuvers are happily uneventful, but there was some vagueness from the front during higher speed cornering, and I wasn’t always able to maintain a consistent arc. The floorboards also hit the deck easily but have provision for replacement inserts for the more aggressive among you.
THE OTHER BITS
Fit and finish were up to the task. Tank mounted gauges were visible, functional and attractive. The controls are comfortable and well laid out and the heel portion of the shifter only caused me to plonk into neutral by accident a few times. This is a big improvement for me.
Rear views are clear at any speed with the excellent mirrors.
The ignition key is mounted at the front of the gas tank and offers the ability to release the seat and lock the steering. This proved a bit fiddly for me, and I inevitably ended up popping the seat when attempting to apply the steering lock. A little practice helped, but the mistakes allowed me check the oil level via the under seat dipstick more frequently.
A new white-lensed, LED tail-light is effective and an esthetic improvement over the ’03 model.
Standard in Silverado trim is soft saddlebags, which are oddly non-removable. They do offer up a decent capacity and easy access by utilizing quick release connectors under the belt straps. There are no provisions for locking however, so bag inserts that are easily removed would seem like a good idea.
If you’re in the market for a tour capable cruiser, the Road Star Silverado is up to the task. With a suggested retail of $17,099 it’s significantly up on the similar (although less charismatic) Kawasaki 1600 Classic and Suzuki 1500LC, although almost two grand down on the new Kawasaki Vulcan 2000. But if you compare it to that other bastion of push-rod v-twins, the Silverado costs a whopping $8,300 less then Harley Davidson’s similarly equipped Heritage Softail!
That will come in handy when you buy a Yamaha WR450F and all the off-road gear you need!
Hmmm … what to do?