Unintimidating may not be the sexiest descriptor ever applied to a motorcycle, yet unintimidating is right up the alley for those just starting out on two wheels. An entry-level motorcycle needs to be easy-to-ride, functional and fun. The Yamaha’s V Star 250 pulls off all these feats quite well.
The 250 street bike market isn’t exactly robust these days in the bigger-is-better USofA. Riders not interested in a scooter or dual-sport have few options from the major OEMs. Kawasaki corners the sporty side with its class-dominating Ninja 250R, while Honda offers its Parallel Twin-powered Rebel (the Nighthawk no longer in the rotation). Suzuki delivers two options in its new single-cylinder TU250X (Read our 2009 Suzuki TU250X Review) and GZ250. The V Star 250 is notable as the lone V-Twin 250 from the major players. (Note: Hyosung’s GV250, which we were unable to secure for a comparison, also sports a V-Twin.)
It packs a little punch with its 249cc engine, but the V Star 250’s V-Twin configuration helps it stand out in the 250 class.
Formerly known as the Virago 250 (cooler name by the way…), the little V Star’s 249cc engine resides down in the itty-bitty end of the displacement pool of the Yamaha Star Motorcycles lineup. While the 60-degree V-Twin won’t get mistaken for the big ol’ 1854cc mill powering its Star Raider sibling, it does deliver a more authentic cruiser look than most of its 250 rivals.
A single 26mm Mikuni carb feeds fuel to the air-cooled V Star engine, and liberal use of the choke lever, located on the left hand controls, is a must on cold starts. Thumb the electric starter and the 250 manages city streets quite well, once it shakes off its wake-up call. Two-valve heads top cylinders with a 49mm bore by 66mm stroke, the compression ratio an even 10:1. Dyno runs show a modest peak of 18 horsepower and 13.8 lb-ft of torque. So while the Star ain’t going to win many drag races (see sidebar), it does produce manageable, newbie-friendly power.
Lightweight at 327lbs fully-fueled the V Star 250 is quite easy to ride, with a low, inviting 27-inch seat height.
Acceleration is brisk enough to navigate helter-skelter city traffic, with smooth throttle and fueling ensuring the hamfisted newb won’t get frustrated with herky-jerky inputs. The Star’s little motor can rattle up to 55mph without trouble. After that, climbing up to 70-ish and beyond is possible, making it freeway capable in a pinch, but it takes a long time rung out to get around something like a 65mph-bound semi. Daily superslab work is just over its head, in our opinion, at least for carting around our 205 lbs. However, its near-70 mpg efficiency makes for a quick, reliable commuter on surface streets or tamer highway speeds.
A five-speed transmission gets the job done, though the clutch engages at the very end of the lever, an odd trait for a beginner mount. Neutral also proved sticky or hard to find, at times, with the left shifter pedal still pressing down in spite of being in first gear.
As far as brakes are concerned, the single 282mm disc/two-piston caliper front and rear drum aren’t overpowering, but they get the lightweight machinery stopped. It’s almost unfair to compare the V Star to its bigger, high-performance kin, but we would have liked more bite, as the front in particular required a hefty squeeze. That said, stomp the rear pedal, strangle the right-hand lever and things slow down quick.
It may not win many drag races, but the little V Star will still get you out on your favorite backroads – in our case up in the woods here in scenic Southern Oregon.
The V Star’s diminutive size and ergonomics tailor to the smaller statured, a big potential selling point. Dropping a heavy bike is a real dilemma for experienced and beginner riders alike, so tipping the scales at 327 lbs fully fueled a tipped over V Star represents a far less daunting challenge than the 700-plus lbs of many larger displacement cruisers. Another high point, the low 27-inch seat height makes reach to the ground simple for all but the most vertically challenge.
The flip side of the small ergonomic package is that taller riders feel cramped. The foot controls, in particular, impede larger feet, which can’t rest on them easily – the rear brake pedal being the most egregious offender in this regard. (One test rider kept wondering why the V Star was so slow, until he noticed his size 14 dogs were continuously dragging the rear pedal.)
The light weight and low seat height make those persnickety low-speed maneuvers a little simpler, the easy reach to the ground accommodating wayward beginner’s foot dabs. The size and weight make the V Star easy to move at any speed.
“With such high handlebars and a low weight, the V Star is easier to move around the garage than a full-size dirt bike,” agrees MotoUSA’s dirtiest employee, off-road editor JC Hilderbrand. “I never worried about pulling straight into a parking space like I do with big cruisers because I knew it would come right out.”
On the open road the Star is remarkably easy to toss around the bends. The twin rear shocks are preload adjustable, allowing bigger riders to stiffen things up if needs be, but the bike feels fairly stable cornering. Before they know it, erstwhile beginners will find pegs scraping along in tune with their growing confidence.
“The suspension is pretty springy on the front end but it does well enough at the speeds it’s capable of,” says Hilderbrand. “Double shocks on the rear end are entirely unremarkable, but, again, how spectacular do they have to be for a cheap, entry-level ride? Overall I was comfortable on surface street debris like potholes, mancovers and railroad crossings.”
The V Star 250 lines up well with riders looking a easy-to-ride bike that’s lightweight with an easy reach to the ground.
It’s difficult to look at the 250 next to a larger bike and not think it too tiny, but appearance is relative. Stick a 6’2” 300-lb man with a beer gut and beanie behind the controls and, yeah, the V Star 250 looks puny. Stick an easy-on-the eyes lady onboard, built more to scale with the Star’s dimensions, and it looks like a proper little cruiser. The solid-looking right-side exhaust and spoked wheels are all highpoints of the bike, but that V-Twin engine layout solidifies the cruiser pretentions and makes the Star looks bigger than it actually is (sort of like that kid in Junior High with the authentic five-o’clock shadow).
“The styling is pretty dang good, considering,” concurs JC. “It’s definitely not going to impress any ladies at the local hangout (not that it matters because it barely has the muscle to haul them home anyway). However, the V-Twin arrangement with black accents in the cooling fins look alright in my book. Same goes for the staggered pipes and spoked wheels. The biggest problem are the bulky, outdated signals and taillight. Slimming those down would go a long way. The mini ape-hangers aren’t my favorite either but anything lower would be horrible ergonomically, so pick your poison.”
At $3990 the V Star 250 represents an affordable, respectable-looking entry to the cruiser ranks.
We’d wager the value factor of used specimens fairly high to, as trading up to a bigger ride will likely come after just one or two riding seasons for many. Then again, casual riders may find the little Star scratches their motorcycling itch just fine.
Small bikes invite a slagging because, well, they’re small and not terribly exciting. Yet test riding the Star drove home the point that you don’t need pornographic displacement and horsepower numbers to have a good time on the road. The V Star 250 still delivers grins under the helmet and does a fantastic job as an unintimidating, entry-level mount. While it’s not going to turn everyone’s crank, the V Star 250 does what it’s designed to do, and it does it quite well.