The cruiser class keeps getting bigger and better. Once a 1200cc V-twin was fine and dandy, nowadays however, flagship bikes like the 1700cc Harley V-Rod or Honda’s six cylinder Rune 1500 are setting new standards in the luxury/performance cruiser market.
Yamaha’s latest mega-cruiser, the Road Star Warrior 1700, is a direct rival to the Harley V-Rod; a respectable handling motorbike, in fairly subdued colours, which nevertheless packs a hefty punch when the throttle is opened. But is it fun? Alastair rode to Mumbles in exotic South Wales, to find out.
For me, the turning point was Honda’s Valkyrie 1500.
No, this isn’t a strange confession segment on Trisha, what I’m owning up to is actually liking some cruiser type motorcycles. Which is pretty much a borderline flogging offence in the goldfish bowl world of UK bike journalism.
You see, the unspoken rules are that sportsbikes are the best bikes – always – only real men can ride them fast and those who refuse to risk dodging Police cars at 150mph, in a frenzy of titanium knee-slider mayhem, are simply not hardcore enough to make any meaningful statements of the merits of various two-wheeled leisure toys.
Fine. Whatever. But I still like the Valkyrie’s Porsche type rush of power, I find Harley’s pull women like a footballer’s wallet and this Yamaha Road Star Warrior has one of the most addictive engines in the world of motorcycling. It rocks baby, full stop.
The other refreshing thing about the Road Star is that it can go around a corner reasonably well, without any sort of drama. Once, this sort of handling competence seemed an impossible demand upon factory cruiser design teams, but now, they seem to have the job sussed. The key to the Warrior’s nicely balanced handling is almost certainly its weight distribution. This bike carries itself well, at all kinds of speeds and its predictability gives the rider confidence.
Weighing in at a claimed 606lbs dry, the bike is fairly light for something that looks about seven feet long and appears to be hewn from volcanic rock. It has the same engine capacity as a typical family car and the motor itself looks a massively heavy lump. But the clever thing about the Warrior is the way that Yamaha have managed to make sure the bike steers easily, without any of the `flopping over’ effect which many cruiser bikes can demonstrate. In fact, up front, the 41mm Kayaba forks look pretty close to sportsbike spec and offer an unusually firm, almost precise, ride quality.
Unlike many 1990s cruiser bikes, the Warrior offers some useful feedback from the road via the handlebars, there’s none of the slightly vague `wandering’ sensation that you used to get on machines like the early generation Virago, or Kawasaki Vulcan models for example. The Warrior goes around corners with a touch of finesse – seriously.
The Warrior also excellent brakes at the front; twin 298mm discs with four piston callipers, which look straight off the original R1 sportsbike. They bite hard, which is another good reason for fitting forks which don’t have blancmange inside their tubes.
At the back, the swinging arm is a box aluminium affair, and braced, just like a sportsbike. There’s a monoshock providing supple suspension, which is – like the forks – adjustable for rider preferences. This is quality suspension, so if you feel like chucking the Warrior around a few pot-holed UK twisty bits, you can. Ground clearance was good – for a cruiser – as well.
But deep down, despite the sporty touches, this is a bike designed and built those of us who enjoy wearing tasselled jackets, cowboy boots and possibly Peter Mingfellow medallions too. It goes surprisingly fast, it handles decently, but the Warrior says `I’ve got some cash and I like to flaunt it baby,’ which is what every Harley, and Harley-wannabe bike, is ultimately all about. Personally, I say good luck to you, enjoy your bike, whatever it looks like…and have you ever considered dressing as Austin Powers on a Friday night at Jumpin Jaks?
Anyway, moving on…A digital fuel injection system keeps the power pulses smooth and Yamaha have spent time re-designing the cylinder heads and fitting ceramic liners inside the barrels, with lighter valve gear too. It has the feel, the crispness, of a modern hi-tech motor and as a bonus, it ekes out every drop of unleaded fuel, easily returning 50mpg. Yeah, OK, you’re right…fuel economy doesn’t really matter on an £10,000 motorbike…
That’s a serious chunk of dough for any motorcycle, but the Road Star Warrior is a beautifully made machine. For the money, it is a great sculpture of a bike, that looks built to last, with superb finishing on almost every part. Naturally, the Road Star comes with a long list of extras and the dull grey standard paint certainly begs for a snazzier alternative for a start. It may not cost Harley levels, but there’s no doubt that the Warrior could soon cost you another 3-4,000 notes once you have `personalised’ your pride `n’ joy. That hideously massive exhaust pipe would have to get skipped if I owned one…
Like the new Kawasaki Mean Streak, or the V-Rod, the Warrior makes a bold statement to the world; it says I might be cruising slowly, but if I feel like it, I can accelerate past 100mph in the next five seconds. Your R1 riding mates might not be impressed, but the average Vectra driver will think you are the Fonz. If that rings your bell then the Warrior will make you happy. It’s also a more than comfortable solo tourer, except that the exhaust prevents the fitment of any sort of useful luggage.
So where does all that leave us?
It’s a great bike to ride, but somehow, tootling around South Wales didn’t suit the Warrior. This kind of cruiser belongs in the city streets, gunning from traffic light to traffic light, showing off its blue neon dashboard at night ( yes, really ) and generally being a bit of a laugh for 10-20 mile trips maximum.
You can never really justify a cruiser bike in terms of regular use, especially in this rain-sodden country, but then is it really any different from owning a Fireblade that covers 1500 sunny miles each summer, even if the speeds are higher? Nope, the whole two-wheeled market is dominated by shiny toys, which are used as little as twenty days per year in some cases. Nobody needs a bike over 250cc, but hey, we all want one…
So of its type, the Warrior is superb. This is a class act; a swift, sweet-handling alternative to lavishing even more cash on a V-Rod. But – and it’s a big but – the Harley V-Rod will barely depreciate in value, whereas the Warrior could shed some 30% of its value in two years of ownership. I reckon the Warrior’s rarity will always put a premium on its used price over rivals like the Suzuki Intruder, or Kawasaki Vulcan, but the V-Rod looks set to be the cruiser to have for a few years to come.
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha road star warrior.
Engine Air/oil cooled V-Twin, four stroke
Bore x Stroke
97mm x 113mm
Gears 5 speed
Carbs None, digital fuel injection
Transmission Belt final drive
Claimed power 80bhp @ 4400rpm
Frame Aluminium tubular type
Front suspension 41mm adjustable forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, multi-adjustable
Front brakes Twin 298mm discs, 4 piston callipers
Rear brake Single 310mm, 2 piston calliper
Wheels/Tyres 130/90 16 in front, 150/90 16 in rear
Wheelbase 65.7 inches
Dry weight 606lbs
Fuel capacity 4.8 gallons
Colours Grey only for UK market 2003
Top speed 120mph (est)
Buying info Two year warranty, discount deals available
Price Around 10,000 (August 2003)