With the rise in popularity of the touring/cruiser models the competition for motorcycle enthusiast dollars has become fierce. It seems few riders are strictly tourers anymore, and the aesthetic charm of the cruiser genre has taken a bite out of the high-mile niche.
Never one to rest on its laurels, Yamaha has emerged with a machine that might satisfy the ever-conflicting desires of motorcyclists with its new Royal Star Tour Deluxe.
As I strolled through the stunning countryside on my way to Monticello, the plantation of Thomas Jefferson, it finally dawned on me what the Royal Star Deluxe embodied: a true tourer that likes to play dress-up for occasional cruises down the boulevard.
For a while I was a little miffed by the Deluxe’s conflicting identity. Is it a tourer? Well, it can’t be a full-blown long-distance machine because it lacks some of the amenities offered on luxo-barges like the Honda Gold Wing and BMW K1200LT. But then again, it’s not really a cruiser because, well, it’s a V-4, and not a very quick one at that. At first, I wasn’t truly convinced there was any market for this machine because it didn’t have any concrete identity.
However, it seems as though my inability to grasp the concept was truly a symptom of my own preconceived notions of what a bike should be. Even before I swung my leg over the Deluxe, Yamaha’s PR people hit me with a barrage of pie charts, graphs, and statistical charts that proved there was unequivocally a market for a blended machine such as the Deluxe.
As I sat and listened during the media debriefing, it sounded like Yamaha took a Royal Star Venture and just repackaged for people who don’t want all the crap on itâ€¦whhiicchh, in all honesty is what they did. But that’s not to say it’s a naked Venture. A host of new features and ergonomic standards give the Royal Star Deluxe an identity all its own and, despite my hesitancy to accept a machine that blurs the lines between cruiser and tourer, Yamaha did a damn fine job.
Aesthetically, the Royal Star Deluxe doesn’t possess the jaw-dropping good looks of Road Star Warrior. However, it is certainly a good looking bike and will do well to fool the less than hardcore enthusiasts on Main Street into thinking it’s a chrome-laden V-Twin cruiser.
After turning a few miles, my first thought was this machine was destined for long hauls on the asphalt. It performs the touring function beautifully. The windshield is large and deflects windblast at just about any speed, and the wide comfortable seat is perfectly suited for longer rides.
However, the one theme that kept popping up during my time with the Tour Deluxe was its ability to convert between tourer and around town cruiser. Yamaha’s Star Line has been at the forefront of metric cruiser customization for the last few years. With the Tour Deluxe, Yamaha is taking it a step further by instituting features which allow owners to make changes to their bike within a matter of seconds.
Those looking to take to the boulevard for the day can take advantage of Yamaha’s technological advancements which allows the rider to change the Royal Star Deluxe from a tourer to a cruiser in just a few seconds. The engineers at the tuning fork logo have designed the windshield and sissy bar so they can be removed quickly. Simply depress two levers and remove the desired apparatus. Not only does the system work as well as advertised, it is truly a remarkable feature for people who don’t want to be pigeon-holed into cruising a tourer or vice versa. Yamaha also included a multitude of interesting little goodies like exhaust tips that can be swapped out with the turn of a screw.
A set of capacious, locking hardbags comes standard on the Deluxe. With 9.3 gallons of space, there’s plenty of room for supplies for an overnight trip or a lightly-packed weekend. They might not be big enough for multiple days like those on a Venture or Gold Wing, but this bike is about dual personality capabilities, which begs the question: What’s wrong with multiple personalities?
All this hardware is fun to play with, but nothing stands out on this machine more than its cruise control. We’re talking about real cruise control, not a throttle lock or some goofy apparatus. A push of the button, just like on a car, and the bike’s electrowizardry takes over to keep the Royal Star with a mph or two of your set speed. For the first time in my life I rode with my right hand down at my side while cruising on the freeway. Ah, the freedom.
Okay, so it’s got a few cool features, but what about the bike?
The Venture-inspired Deluxe utilizes a version of the liquid-cooled V-4 originally designed for the venerable V-Max. The Deluxe doesn’t pull anything like Mr. Max, but it’s heavily detuned for use on a cruiser-style bike with touring capabilities.
Feeding the cylinders is a set of 32mm Mikuni carburetors with heater circuits. The carbs dish out a smooth and even dose of power through the powerband and nary a hiccup emerged during my ride.
Yamaha claims peak horsepower at the crank of 98 at 6000 rpm and peak torque of 89 at 4750. While we weren’t able to get specific numbers during the press introduction, the bike feels like it might offer somewhere in the high 70s in terms of horsepower, similar to the old Venture.
Still, with its 1294cc of displacement and 10:1 compression ratio, it pulls reasonably well down low and through the midrange before really shining as the V-4 is rolling along at cruising speeds. Roll-on power feels similar to that of a lighter 1200cc V-Twin. Although it lacks the low-end punch that a Twin gives you, it makes up for that by offering a more linear powerband and higher rev range. Third-gear pulls are especially dramatic when the revs are up, and the overdriven fourth and fifth gears allow the pilot to lazily cruise along the highway with negligible vibration and good fuel economy. Expect about 180 miles of cruising range from the 5.3-gallon fuel cell.
The Deluxe feels right at home winding its way through the countryside or cruising on the highway. The air-adjustable front fork with 5.5 inches of travel performs admirably on the road, soaking up bumps while providing consistent feedback in and out of tight corners. Likewise the 4.1 inches of travel offered by the rear air-adjustable suspension absorbs road undulations much like a tourer should. Moreover I was impressed at how well the Royal Star Deluxe stayed planted, which is due in large part to a low center of gravity. Yamaha went to great lengths to keep all 844 pounds of wet weight near the earth, which improves overall handling and performance.
Even though the suspension is predictable when pushed through tight corners, the Royal Star Tour Deluxe has trouble playing the role of sportbike. As with most cruisers, floorboards touch down at relatively modest lean angles.
Scrolling through the 5-speed transmission is accomplished with the flick of a heel or toe. The gears are neither too tall nor too short and provide enough room in the rev range to get the bike up at a reasonable velocity. The tranny performed beautifully throughout and I never missed a shift. In conjunction with the ultra-smooth clutch, shifting duties are a breeze.
Bringing this leviathan to a stop is done with is a set of 298mm twin-piston calipers in the front while braking duties out back are accomplished with the help of a 4-piston 320mm disc brake. The binders on the Royal Star Tour Deluxe are absolutely outstanding and are perfectly suited for a bike this size. They won’t induce any stoppies, but for a bike this big they do a superb job.
Ergonomically, the Royal Star Tour Deluxe is a comfortable bike. Hands rest comfortably on the wide rubber-mounted bars and feet fall naturally on the extra-roomy rubber-mounted floorboards. While some Japanese cruisers tend to fit smaller frames, Yamaha went to great lengths to ensure the engineering department across the Pacific gave enough room for the supersized American butt. Sure enough, my 6’0″ 190-pound frame fit the overall size of the bike pretty well.
The controls are easily accessible. The brake and clutch levers are big and wide, providing an excellent target for the hands and need but a couple of fingers to actuate. The horn and blinkers function as expected and are set in their tradition UJM placement. Down low, the wide pedal brake and heel-toe shifter feel and look like sturdy components.
The seat height is similar to that of the Venture, measuring in at a reasonable 29.1 inches. Riders who are vertically challenged might have some difficulty maneuvering the bike in tight spots, but stop lights should be fine for most people. Speaking of tight spots, the Tour Deluxe is a rather nimble bike considering its substantial heft. Even though it weighs more than the 768-pound Harley-Davidson Road King Custom, it is far easier to maneuver when performing U-turns on a two-lane road.
While I am impressed with the overall finish of the Deluxe, I was torn on its instrument cluster. The retro speedo is dressy, but velocity is indicated using a digital LCD needle which, aside from being pretty cheesy, is very difficult to read during the day, especially in situations where speed varies. It’s easier to see at night, but the LCD needle has got to go. Indicate speed with LCD numbers or with a traditional speedo so it can be read at a glance. What Yamaha came up with for the Royal Star Deluxe is second only to the ZX-10’s tach in terms of hard-to-read gauges.
In addition to the speedo, the Deluxe offers dual tripmeters, a fuel tripmeter, clock, fuel gauge, and indicator lights for cruise control and overdrive, water temperature, and low oil level. It sounds the instrument space might look like the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon, but Yamaha did an excellent job of hiding said indicators when they are not in use.
Don’t like the exhaust tips? No problem, turn them around or swap them out for different ones with the turn of a screw.
The technical specs of the Royal Star Tour Deluxe aren’t out of the ordinary, but that’s not to say the bike isn’t. Yamaha included a bunch of cool features on this machine and slapped them on a respectable motorcycle. No, it’s not a brand new bike, but at $13,999 the Royal Star Tour Deluxe is superb touring machine that is much cheaper than a competitor like the H-D Road King which costs $16,995, the BMW K1200LT at $18,660, and its touring-oriented cousin the Venture, which comes in at $16,999. Unlike the Venture and KL1200LT, it offers the ability to quickly transform the bike into a cruiser.
After a full day of testing, there’s little question the Royal Star Tour Deluxe will receive ample interest from the motorcycling public. Although it doesn’t adhere to strict cruiser standards, it passes the cruiser test with its beefy, low-slung looks. Yes, it’s a V-4 not a V-Twin, so it stands slightly apart from the pack.
We think a rider who is on the road for the enjoyment of riding as opposed to showing off their ride will find the Royal Star Tour Deluxe to be a perfect fit.
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