2009 Star Stratoliner S Comparison Review

Bryan Harley | December 9, 2009
The Victory Cross Country gets the nod for handling while the Star Stratoliner S wins hands-down in the engine department.
The Victory Cross Country enjoys a distinct edge in handling while the Star Stratoliner S wins the engine department hands-down.

We find a rare treat in the form of an open stretch of L.A. highway where braking isn’t required and use the opportunity to run through the gears. The Cross Country uses a 6-speed constant mesh transmission while the Star opts for a five-speed with a multiplate wet clutch. The Stratoliner S doesn’t suffer for a lack of a sixth gear overdrive and shifts more smoothly and quietly. The Victory’s 6-speed didn’t miss a shift but has the familiar clunkiness inherent of American V-Twins.

Both big cruiser touring motorcycles feature the standard relaxed, upright riding position, with the wide reach to the Strato’s bars being the only noticeable difference. At 18 inches, the Cross Country has some of the longest stock floorboards I’ve seen. It also has passenger floorboards, whereby the Stratoliner S offers passengers only pegs. Other passenger accommodations include a separate small pillion and a backrest on the S and a small pillion on the Cross Country. The Cross Country does make it more convenient to dial in rider’s preferences with four-way adjustable hand controls and adjustable handlebars. The stiff clutch pull of the Stratoliner S could benefit from a little adjustability.
 
As far as touring options, it’s sleek hard bags and a fork-mounted fairing versus leather-covered hard bags and a quick-release windshield. Starting with the Cross Country, its version of the batwing fairing reminds me of a stealth bomber. It blends aerodynamics and artistry. The cockpit instruments are easy-to-read and the blue backlights on the gauges at night not only put out a cool glow but illuminate the gauges well. Inside the cockpit are large dials for the

The Stratoliner S is a big bike with wide bars that requires a wide berth for turning.
The Star Stratoliner S is a big bike with ultra-wide stock bars that requires a wide berth in turns.  

speedo and tach and smaller dials for the analog fuel gauge and voltmeter. It also houses two 20-watt speakers with automatic volume control so when you’re revving up to get on the freeway, your tunes will crank up louder, too. Cool. It also has a push-button cruise control that operates easily via a chromed-up plastic housing that hangs below the throttle hand. An identical housing hangs off the left side that lets you scroll through the trip computer, including an odometer, two trip meters, average fuel mileage, average speed, fuel range, and instantaneous fuel mileage. At night, the 110w headlight is super bright.

Another bright spot on the Cross Country is its voluminous bags. The storage space, claimed to be 21 gallons, is impressive. They’re wide, they’re deep, and the available liners will hold mucho gear. The bags continue the sweeping lines created by the tank and integrate so cleanly into the back end that the bags and passenger seat could be mistaken for one piece. Color-matching paint helps the effect. Great bags, but be careful. The lockable latch is a little tricky, and the slick highway bars funnel air back to the bags. The lid of the bags has a considerable lip that the wind lifts up if the latches aren’t fastened fully. The bags came open numerous times, one time depositing our insurance papers on the L.A. freeway.

The Stratoliner S is the no frills tourer. No cockpit here. The bars instead are clean and free of instrumentation, with the

Its a tale of two bikes  a new touring cruiser with avante garde styling in the 2010 Victory Cross Country versus the art deco-styled 2009 Star Stratoliner S.
It’s a tale of two bikes, a new touring cruiser with avante garde styling in the 2010 Victory Cross Country versus the vintage art deco-styled 2009 Star Stratoliner S.

switchgear wiring running inside the 1.25-inch handlebar. The only gauge is in the form of a tank-mounted console that Justin says “looks like a fine watch.” In the middle of the clock-style instruments is an analog speedo, a small tach and fuel gauge. A small digital display includes twin digital tripmeters, an odometer and self-diagnostics. One grievance we had is a lack of a highly visible low fuel indicator. The speedo/tach also is in so tight that it’s hard to see unless you take your eyes off the road.

The quick-release windshield of the Strato S is less flashy than the Cross Country’s shorty wind screen but is taller and deflects more windblast. It also has detachable sidebags in the form of lockable, leather-covered sidebags. The leather works well with the classic styling of Star’s cruiser-tourer. Though the bags are much smaller in comparison to the Cross Country’s, they snap all the way shut easier and more reliably. And while the Stratoliner S doesn’t have the modernistic appeal of a slick neo-batwing fairing and forged aluminum highway crash bars, its level of fit and finish is admirable in its own rights. It balances the raw power of its impressive engine with throwback styling. It rolls with a sense of nostalgia from its art deco styling splashed on the gas tank, oil tank, and air filter covers. The fender strut on the front wheel provides more vintage appeal, and the honeycomb-shaped taillights are remnants of Detroit’s heyday. The Stratoliner S also gets a healthy dose of the chrome treatment, including its switchgear, front brake, clutch master cylinders and levers, belt guard, fork and fork covers, handlebar clamps, shifter, front pulley cover, rear fender stay and polished wheels.

MotoUSAs Harley dips into a heavy turn on the Stratoliner S with thoughts of Lagunas corkscrew dancing in his head.
Granted it doesn’t handle as sharply as the Victory Cross Country, but get the Stratoliner S tipped over and it holds its line well.

So after a week of flogging the 2010 Victory Cross Country and the 2009 Star Stratoliner around Southern California, we came away with these conclusions. The Cross Country is the better-equipped touring bike. Bigger tank equals better range, everybody likes better gas mileage, the storage capacity of its saddlebags is going to be the envy of all its peers, and its got cruise control. The Cross Country impressed with its touring set-up, handling and styling. But its choppy fuel delivery, lack of power down low and suspect brakes means that the bike that overall performed better during our test was the Stratoliner S. Its responsive feel at the throttle and ample pull throughout the powerband is impressive. The engine quietly put up big hp and torque numbers, meaning quiet in relation to engine noise because its two-into-one stock pipe makes big noise. Its handles the transfer of all that power to the back wheel smoothly while its brakes won’t leave you guessing. It doesn’t turn-in as sharp as the Cross Country, but is still stable in corners. An art deco vibe and plenty of chrome trim add the panache, and saving a little change like the $1209 difference in price is always a good thing.

Bryan Harley

Cruiser Editor | Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it’s chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to ‘Merican, he rides ‘em all.

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