We felt like good ol’ fashioned rustlers as we steamed around Laughlin and roared around the Mojave Desert on the 2011 Star Raider S.
There’s something about a motorcycle that doles out over 100 lb-ft of torque as low as 2600 rpm that speaks to me. I love a bike that makes me tighten my grip on its bars from the power surge every time I twist the throttle. When a bike’s twin-bore electronic fuel injection is dialed in just right and it responds to the demands administered by your throttle hand like its hard-wired into your cerebrum is close to motorcycling Zen. In the past, Star Motorcycles power cruiser, the Raider, has elicited this effect on me, so when I heard I would get an opportunity to ride the 2011 Raider S at the Laughlin River Run, I was anxious to once again reacquaint myself with its 1854cc V-Twin.
We familiarize ourselves with the bike’s characteristics with a few cruises up and down Casino Drive. Its saddle is low and wide, giving us solid footing as we make the crawl up the boulevard. When we do get rolling, forward-mounted controls and pullback handlebars leave us stretched out, comfortable but at the ready. The bike’s custom-inspired styling is balanced between a 21-inch tall front wheel which shrinks the space created by a fork set at a 40-degree rake angle and a healthy 210mm backside that sits at the opposite end of an almost 71-inch wheelbase. The bike’s muscular stance benefits from the 48-degree V-Twin’s big pushrod tubes and burly 2-1-2 down-swept pipes streaking down its right side. Star’s cool “Blue Glacier” paint is splashed on its fenders, fuel and oil tanks, while tribal graphics contribute to its curb appeal. Stop and go, light-to-light traffic has the engine idling more than running on a day approaching 90-degrees and the air-cooled powerplant is putting out heat on the inside of my thighs and the stiff pull of its clutch lever is giving my left hand a workout, so I give the Raider S a rest before the next day’s scheduled 100-mile ride.
The morning brings whipping winds and unseasonable cold. We ramble over to the Colorado Belle to pick up our card for the Early Bird Poker Run before setting out to our first destination, Mother Road Harley-Davidson in Kingman, Arizona. The first jaunt is a 27-mile ride with a long climb on Arizona 68 through the Mojave Desert. The landscape varies between sandstone pillars and striated layers of earth, forced through the Earth’s crust during our planet’s infant stages. Desert browns are broken by yellow and blue wildflowers dancing in the wind. The angle of ascent is steep, but the 113 cubic-inch powerplant of the Raider is propelling us up the incline like there’s no hill at all. The pass tops out at over 4000 feet and a healthy amount of windblast is hitting us in the face making us aware that the air is considerably colder up here, but the elevation change is having no effect on the potent Raider mill or its smooth fueling.
Kingman, Arizona’s Mother Road Harley-Davidson was a miniature Laughlin, with booths, vendors, food, and live entertainmant.
The roads leading into Kingman have seen better days. Potholes are trying to eat my front wheel and sometimes indentations in the road are big enough to swallow the Raider whole. Fortunately, the suspension on the Raider S is shielding me from the brunt of the assault and the front end is staying firmly planted. The same road almost caused a tank-slapper a few years back when I rode this way on the 2008 Big Dog Pitbull as a giant pothole sent the front wheel shimmying, a testament more to the Raider’s capable 46mm fork and single-shocked swingarm than a slam against the Pitbull’s arrangement.
It’s easy to find our first stop. Mother Road Harley-Davidson is holding its own 10th Annual Laughlin River Run party. Motorcycles fill the parking lot and street as live music spills into the air. Drag Specialties and Memphis Shades are busy hawking their wares and the Budweiser taps at the beer garden are already flowing. We pick our next number, get our card stamped and set out for the next stop, the living ghost town known as Chloride.
An almost 20-mile straightaway on US 93 gives me an opportunity to open the Raider up. The belt-driven Raider S is smoothly transferring the bike’s prodigious torque to the rear wheel as we hang on tight and bang through the gears. At 75 mph, there’s still plenty of roll-on power left in 4th gear but we click it up into fifth to drop off a few rpm. The bike hits the 85 mph mark with little effort and a clear view of the flat road ahead entices us to ride even faster, but a sign stating that the area was patrolled by aircraft prevents us from pushing it any further despite plenty of pop left untapped.
We stopped by the VFW in Chloride for some warm chili, friendly banter and to draw another card in the poker run.
Chloride is a living ghost town. “There are ghosts of buildings that used to be lived in, ghosts of mines that used to be producing minerals, and ghosts of people that used to live there,” says the town’s website. Our stop is the Chloride VFW where the locals have big pots of hot chili bubbling and hot dogs boiling. A big bowl of chili is just the tonic to warm me up from the inside out and the Chloride residents gladly exchange in friendly banter. On chilly days like today, I’m thankful for the little things like a bike that fires up first time at the push of a button. Kick starting and magnetos have a novelty about them, but today I’m grateful for modern conveniences like electric starters.
Though the Raider’s pipes look like they put out a big bark, the exhaust note teeters more toward the modest side, a fact I’m sure Chloride residents appreciated when I took a ride around town to check out some of its ghost buildings. I find an abandoned Arizona Central Bank and park the 2011 Raider S in front like a rustler getting ready to rob the bank. The scene is a contrast in eras. On the one hand stands a dilapidated building with bars on its windows, paint peeling off its walls surrounded by cactus and tumbleweeds. On the other sits a testament to modern motorcycle technology, from its ceramic-composite plated cylinders to computer-controlled fuel injection.
Before leaving, I’m lucky enough to find a few curves on the outskirts of town. With its gaudy rake angle and big front hoop, you’d expect some flop out of the front end of the Raider S but instead it’s steering is very predictable. The bike is long and low, so it’s by no means a canyon carver, but it doesn’t track like a bike with a 40-degree rake angle, either. Even more impressive is the stopping power applied by the dual 298mm front discs. The Raider S needs strong brakes to neutralize the power provided by its mill. Star has done a great job finding a happy median between the two.
The abandoned Arizona Central Bank in Chloride is a stark contrast to the modern styling and performance of the 2011 Star Raider S.
We head out of Chloride before there’s any sign of the miner’s ghost who’s said to haunt the streets of the town. The afternoon sun has warmed up the air a few degrees so our trip back to Laughlin is a tad more enjoyable. Riding the 2011 Raider S has been like catching up with an old friend. Our time in its saddle made us once again appreciate the bike’s power, its smooth delivery, slick shifting and how it provides a quality ride on rough roads. It handles better than you’d expect for a bike with a 40-degree rake angle and a 210mm wide rear tire. Steel fenders add to its curb value and details like having a fork lock that’s accessible from the seat are bonuses in our book. Its engine did a get a little toasty in stop-and-go traffic on a warm day and quite a bit of wind creeps over its bars at highway speeds. The seat is low enough and the bars are high enough to duck in behind to deflect some of the wind and the problem could easily be remedied with a quick-release windscreen from Star’s accessories shop. But we can overlook a bit of wind buffeting as long as Star doesn’t touch that engine that is easily one of the best in its class.