I wonder if they make fireproof pants?
It’s strange the things that go through your head when stuck in a traffic quagmire on the 401. Toronto’s notorious highway was in fine congested form as I slogged across the city after picking up the Star Eluder from Yamaha’s HQ.
At that moment, on a stiflingly humid, 30-degree day, I was fearing my left pant leg was about to ignite.
The massive Yamaha bagger I was riding had otherwise, up to that point, been very accommodating. The saddle is about as wide as a sofa compared to most bikes I ride, and twice as comfortable as any piece of furniture in my home. It’s heated too, a standard feature on the Eluder, which I double-checked wasn’t set to Scorch.
The big V-Twin throws a hell of a lot of heat back at its rider, especially on the left leg. Imagine sitting atop the world’s cushiest woodstove and you’d get the idea. It shouldn’t be surprising that 1,854 cc of air-cooled engine would generate some warmth, especially crawling through traffic on a sizzling summer afternoon, but this seemed excessive.
The Eluder, at 397 kg (damn near 900 lbs!) weighs almost exactly what the other two bikes parked in my garage do, combined. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating at first, hauling it up off the side stand and powering around the parking lot. Once underway, the mass is mostly forgotten, as the smoothness of the engine and precision of the throttle help the big bagger get rolling with ease.
By the time I reached the on-ramp, I was starting to dig the comfort of the generous floorboards and the stereo pumping out some hard rock tunes.
Twisting the throttle with some gusto, I ripped through first gear pretty quick and kicked it up into second. Then, half a breath later, the engine coughed as it bounced off the rev limiter. Third through sixth have longer legs, but those first two gears are ridiculously short.
Hampering the fun further, the 4,850 rpm redline chaperones the revs with a fuel shutoff as lenient as a Catholic schoolmarm, making it tough to get any real momentum going around town. It’s a shame too, since the Eluder’s engine is wonderfully smooth, especially for such a big V, and it’s pulling hard when it slams into the rev limiter, making me wonder how much steam was left in the boiler.
I get it, engines like this aren’t meant to be wound out like a sport bike, but this thing is allowed fewer revs than a diesel truck. Of course, the Eluder’s engine has the torque of a diesel truck, too; 126 lb-ft, actually. And when cruising between 2,000 and 4,000 rpms the engine is in its sweet spot, moving the bike effortlessly.
At highway speeds, the Eluder will happily pull hard from 2,500 rpms in fifth or even sixth gear, with surprising gusto. It’s here – at speed – that Yamaha’s bad-ass touring bike hits its stride and makes the rider want to keep heading toward the horizon, just to see what’s there. With my favourite tracks blaring via the Bluetooth connection, the thought of riding cross-country with the Eluder on a sunny (but not too humid) day becomes a great fantasy.
There’s nothing wrong with switching off the tunes and enjoying the sound of the engine for a bit. It’s sensibly muted by Screamin’ Eagle standards, but the Eluder’s matte-black pipes emit an unmistakable V-twin thrum with a few pops and cracks for good measure.
My test bike was fitted with Yamaha’s taller accessory windscreen that, when coupled with the fairing, did a good job keeping the wind buffeting off me. Having ridden so many naked bikes lately, when I first merged into traffic, thinking I was doing around 110 km/h, I looked down to see I was travelling much quicker than that. Fair warning: it’s a deceptively smooth and fast machine.
The six-speed transmission is fantastic. Shifts are accompanied by a definitive thunk, leading me to believe it’s made out of serious, heavy-duty stuff to withstand all that torque. The clutch action is smooth and true.
The belt-driven Eluder has traction control, ABS and two drive modes. I used Sport most of the time, and it gives a snappier throttle response versus Touring, which softens the response for smoother cruising. Cruise control is standard, and easily operated with buttons on the right bar.
At nearly 2,500 mm (98 inches), the Eluder is a long bike, with a stretched-out wheelbase (1,710 mm). This aids the Yamaha’s straight-line stability, and also contributes to its great ride. With 130 mm travel from the 46 mm fork, and 110 mm from the rear monoshock, the Eluder offers plenty of pothole absorption. In fact, the rear suspension offers more than double the suspension travel of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide – the Eluder’s natural, V-twin nemesis.
While I’m not a high-speed knee-dragger, my two-wheeled preferences tend toward light, nimble bikes that can be thrown around on tight, low-speed hairpins with barely a hip movement. The Star Eluder is not that sort of bike, obviously, and yet, even around town, I had no difficulty nipping through traffic, though I’m not sure I’d be keen to try much lane-filtering on something so wide.
The back-swept bars provide lots of feel and good control, and while the floorboards will be the first thing to scrub in a lean, they do give more area than a forward-mounted peg to put leg pressure down and initiate turns. Yamaha’s more staid touring bike, the Venture TC, has the Sure-Park back-up gear that’s absent from the Eluder, but thanks to its low 700 mm (27.6 inch) seat height, I never had any problem parking the big beast. I wouldn’t want to try to push it up hill, though, or shuffle it around much on gravel.
The Eluder’s best attributes are wasted in town. Something so smooth and so comfortable deserves a long-haul trip. The pair of hard boxes and litany of cubbies, containers and storage ports swallow up 67 litres of stuff, and can be easily locked or unlocked at the push of a key-fob button. And the 25-litre fuel tank should allow between 300 and 400 kilometres between fill-ups, depending on how you ride.
The Star Eluder fills a sweet spot between hard-core, ‘Murica V-twin baggers like the Street Glide and Indian Chieftain, and the more sedate, 6-cylinder touring bikes like BMW’s K1600 B or Honda’s Goldwing. Yamaha has made the V-twin in the Eluder silky, but left some character built-in. Plus, the blacked-out bodywork and utter lack of chrome (and the quad-light fairing) give just enough edge for the cool factor that is arguably lacking from the 6-pot competitors.
At $27,099, it’s priced right in the wheelhouse of all of those bikes, too, although touring necessities like satellite radio, GPS navigation and heated grips are all options that can quickly push the price nearer $30-large.
Yamaha’s Star designers do an excellent job of studying the coolest bikes from the domestic brands, then releasing their own polished interpretation of it. The Eluder gives all the attitude (if not the cachet) of the American bikes, but with an extra helping of refinement.
Now, if they could just throw in a pair of flame-proof pants…
2018 Yamaha Star Eluder key specs:
Engine: 1,854 cc, air cooled, OHV, 8-valve V-twin
Curb (wet) weight: 397 kg
Torque: 126 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Wheelbase: 1,710 mm
Length: 2,490 mm
Seat height: 700 mm
Brakes: Twin-disc, 298 mm, 4-piston caliper front; single-disc, 320 mm double-piston caliper rear, standard ABS, linked front-rear.
Front suspension: 46 mm telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Adustable link Monocross
Tires: 130/70 R18 front, 200/55 R16 rear