Our bevy of testers was a bit confused when laying eyes on the 2011 Star Raider S with its raked-out front end dripping in chrome. To us it looked to be more of a chopper than a highway shredder. A polished 1854cc pushrod engine seemed primed for profiling at the local hangout rather than tearing up the pavement. The powder blue paint job doesn’t really scream performance cruiser either, but grabbing a handful of throttle does. It may not look the part, but The Raider S is a performance cruiser when the rubber meets the road.
Despite having almost 40 degrees of rake, the Raider was surprisingly nimble in the corners. Steering effort is light and it dips into a turn with just a flick of the bars and minimal body English. On the way down the mountain Steeves and I decided to throw down with him at the controls while I mashed on the Suzuki. No matter how hard I pushed I couldn’t shake Steeves.
“When the pace picked up the Star handled the curves pretty damn good,” said Steeves. “It didn’t pull any bait and switch maneuvers which inspired confidence to push Dawes and the M109 all the way down the mountain.”
Despite have a chopper-ish, raked-out front end, the 2011 Star Raider S handles the mounatin curves with confidence even when the pace is well above what would be deemed reasonable for a cruiser.
The Raider’s suspension was just as at home on the freeways as on the curving back roads of Southern California. On the interstates the Star was in high demand due in part to its supple ride on the notoriously bumpy stretches of the I-5 and 1-15. Potholes and cracks in the road had zero effect on the straight line stability as the rear linkage soaked up everything we could throw at it. The Raider is just as smooth as the Victory on the freeway, but doesn’t suffer the same
fate as the Hammer in the corners. Its third place scoring in the handling and suspension department is not a condemnation but rather an affirmation of its prowess, as the top three were very close in performance in this regard.
In addition to a smooth ride, the Star earned a unanimous decision as having the best controls and rider position. The pull-back handlebar risers bring the controls within easy reach and allows for an upright seating position. The forward foot peg placement creates a comfortable bend at the knees that helps fight off lower back and seat fatigue when pounding out the miles. Combine the Raider’s best in class ergonomics with its supple ride, and you also have the winner in the comfort category.
In the motor department the Raider was a stump puller when the clutch was dropped and power was fed to the rear wheel via its cushy belt drive. Once off the line the power still pulled strong but not on the same level as others in the test. It was obvious this mill was designed for lumping around with the ability to lay the smack down at any instant the need arises. The power pulses coming from the pushrod engine were lumpy and had a more of a Harley character than the Night Rod did. It felt like it would be great fun with loud pipes in a parking garage, setting off every car alarm in the joint. The chart from the MotoUSA dyno tells the tale with the lowest horsepower at 83.89 and the highest torque at 108.38 lb-ft.
The sound emanating from the swoopy chrome exhaust pipes was nice and lumpy, a perfect V-Twin cruiser lope. Proving that loud pipes are not needed to sound cool or save lives, the Star was the second-quietest bike in the test but sounded great. Readings on our decibel meter read 97db at idle and 106db at half throttle.
Out at Chuckawalla Valley Raceway the Raider S turned in a mid-pack performance in every acceleration test we threw at it. With a 13.29-second E/T at 103.72mph in the quarter-mile and a 0-60mph time of 4.46-seconds, the weight of the Star reared its ugly head. We expect if the Raider was lighter like the Night Rod or Victory, it would have ranked near the top of the charts.
Rowing through the gears in the Raider, it has just the right amount of clunk you expect out of a cruiser transmission, yet is precise and trouble-free. Every time the Victory’s Transmission was mentioned the discussion eventually turned to how nice the Star’s gearbox was. As Steeve’s put it, the transmission is “clunky, solid n’ cool.” And with that the performance chopper racked up another 10 points.
Although not the best performer at the strip, the Star Raider S is a great motorcycle for stomping down the block and carving up the local mountain roads.
The dual 298mm front rotors combined with the 310mm single rear do an admirable job of hauling the Raider down from speed. The lever feedback is positive and conveys where you are in terms of traction rather well. In our 0-100-0mph and 60-0mph test the Star did not perform as well as expected. Once again the portly curb weight of 735 pounds hindered the performance of this cruiser. A fourth place finish is the best the light-blue chrome chopper could muster in the braking test at 131.07 feet from 60mph.
“The brakes worked well all day even in the tight corners above Lake Hennishaw,” said Ray Gauger. “They never faded and felt strong enough for what the bike is intended to do.”
When calculating the fuel mileage after the first gas stop after a long cruise on the freeway, the Star posted an amazingly high efficiency of 54.5 mpg. After double and triple checking my math the number stood. The second gas stop after blasting through the mountains resulted in 27.3 mpg, showing the widest swing in fuel economy of any of the bikes in this test. Averaging out at 40.9 mpg gives the Raider a 172-mile range with its smallish 4.2-gallon tank.
After the votes were tallied the Star Raider S earned the bronze in our 2011 Performance Cruiser Smackdown. In the end, the weight of the Raider hurt it in the performance categories, dragging down its high marks in comfort and drivetrain. It really is a sharp looking bike despite the baby-blue paint; I would say this is the bike for anyone that wants to roll into the local bike show and pull attention away from the $30,000 custom choppers.