Star Motorcycle's new V-Star 1300 offers heaps of style and performance for its reasonable $10K price tag. Duke got an opportunity to test the new machine on a recent jaunt around the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A loafing V-Twin happily thrums its song below as it transports me gracefully along North Carolina's splendid Blue Ridge Parkway, framed by trees whose lush greenery is intermingled with the warm, earthy tones of leaves darkening as autumn closes in at nearly a mile high.
I'm riding past more trees in one minute than I see in Southern California in a year. The elegant fuel tank's rich paint reflects moving pictures of the surrounding colorful foliage back to the rider, floorboards occasionally skimming the meandering road near Mt. Pisgah in gentle strokes.
My mount for the day is the all-new V-Star 1300, the big-feature cruiser from Star Motorcycles that costs less than most people might expect. Cast a long look over the generous flanks of the V13, noting its excellent fit/finish and graceful styling, and you'll probably be surprised to find an MSRP of just $10,090.
You'll also probably be surprised to hear that Star terms this substantial cruiser "mid-sized." With a ready-to-ride weight approaching 700 pounds, this is certainly a huge step up from a Virago 250. But whatever you care to call it, it's virtually impossible to find a more nicely finished cruiser for under 10 grand.
Star Motorcycles (you can call them Yamaha, the parent company, but we can't) hasn't simply updated its aging air-cooled and shaft-driven V-Star 1100
, a venerable old warhorse that's remains in Yama...er, Star's lineup starting at $8499. Instead you'll find a 60-degree, 4-valve, SOHC motor with a fairly high 9.5:1 compression ratio for strong torque off the bottom. It gets its 1304cc displacement through an unusually oversquare bore and stroke (100mm x 83mm) for a cruiser. Conversely, Honda's VTX 1300 uses an 89.5mm bore and 104.3mm stroke to achieve its 1312cc size.
Star says this new mill boasts a significant 18 lb-ft jump in peak torque and a 13-pony increase over the 75-degree 2-valve motor in the V-Star 1100. With the 1300's narrower vee angle between cylinders, it's actually slightly smaller in size than the V11. And the V13 adds modern fuel injection through dual 40mm throttle bodies with 12-hole injectors. Roller rocker arms reduce internal friction, and strong forged rods are thrown around by a single-pin crank. An easy-to-change spin-on oil filter is fitted instead of the internal filter of the V11 that requires the removal of engine covers.
Like the recent Kawasaki Vulcan 900
and Honda's VTX, the V-Star's V-Twin is styled to resemble an air-cooled design but with the added benefit of liquid-cooled architecture. A compact radiator nestled tightly between the steel frame's downtubes keeps cylinder temps low, augmented by ceramic cylinder liners. Coolant lines run out of sight under the 4.9-gallon fuel tank that houses some of the fuel in a sub-tank under the seat. Brushed aluminum fins and internal cooling passages help pull off the air-cooled look.
As with many of its competitors, the liquid-cooled V-Star does its best to keep an air-cooled look with its discreet radiator mounted between the downtubes.
With 1304cc to lean on, the newest Star has no trouble matching or exceeding the Parkway's prescribed 45-mph speed limit, a fitting location of "relaxed twisty backroads" that Star's market researchers say is the largest usage category for a mid-size cruiser. Power is strong but not impressively so at lower revs. The VTX1300 and H-D's old 88-cubic-inch (1340cc) motor have more punch right off the bottom end before the V-Star motor overpowers them from the midrange on up.
Taking 10% off Star's crankshaft power ratings yields about 70 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque at the belt-driven rear wheel. The VTX's torque peaks at a competitive 72.1 lb-ft, and it does so at a much earlier 2800 revs as opposed to the V13's 4000-rpm maximum. It's up top where the Star really shines, with as much as a 13-horse margin (our estimate) over the 56.8 ponies of the shaft-driven Honda.
Aside from the slight deficiency in power right off idle, the motor in the V13 is a real gem. Not only is it blessed with smooth throttle reapplication, the engine vibrations are superbly quelled by single-axis, double-crankshaft balancers mounted to the left and right of the crank. They cancel high-frequency vibes while retaining a "pulse" feeling V-Twin riders appreciate.
Also aiding highway comfort is much taller gearing than on the V-Star 1100, with the V13's overall ratio in fourth gear equaling the ratio of top gear in the V11. I once saw 80 mph in second gear! However, this expense of torque multiplication combines with the relatively peaky motor to make it feel less grunty than similar-sized cruiser mills, especially at some of the higher elevations we rode.
Thankfully, the V13's clutch is very easy to modulate and has a fairly light pull for a cable-actuated unit. It's 10mm larger with an additional clutch plate as compared to the V11's. Square-dog gears in the transmission result in smoother shifts through the five-speed 'box via a heel/toe shifter. Overall, the transmission is above average for a cruiser, offering fairly smooth and precise shifting through its longish throws.
Star MC doesn't break any new ground in the chassis department - a Roadliner-esque aluminum frame wouldn't allow the V13 to meet its price point - so it's a traditional double-cradle steel frame. Despite its humble specification, the frame's four attachment points for the rigid-mount engine result in a chassis with better composure than you might expect. Flex isn't an issue at the kind of lean angles the V13's floorboards will allow.
Getting a healthy bump in performance over the V11's mill, the V-Star 1300 not only casts aside its air-cooled ways but also trades in the old shaft-drive for a new belt configuration.
Decent wheel control is offered by a 41mm fork with a bump-soothing 5.3 inches of travel. At the rear, a linkage-type single shock produces a reasonable 4.3 inches of travel, a handy 0.7-inch margin over the VTX's twin-shock setup. The swingarm, though steel, is styled in a way that looks like a cast-aluminum unit and is long for good suspension control. Rear preload is the only adjustment on the Soqi shock, and reducing it by one click to suit my light weight had the desirable effect of increasing rebound damping to acceptable levels. A rider load of 280-plus pounds will need the preload set to its highest position.
The roads surrounding the press launch's home base in Asheville, NC, are mostly of the twisty kind that motorcyclists love, and here the V-Star proved to be quite capable. With steering geometry not much different from the stable VTX1300 (32.7-degree rake; 145mm of trail), the V13 can be smartly hustled around the sinuous curves of the Great Smokey Mountains with pleasantly neutral handling. As on all cruisers, the limiting factor is ground clearance, leaving enough of a margin for error to not over-tax the stock Bridgestone (or Dunlop) tires in 130/90-16 and 170/70-16 sizes, front and rear, mounted on seven-spoke cast-aluminum wheels. Its available 36 degrees of lean angle is the same as the V11.
The V-Star's front brakes have a weak initial bite that many cruiser riders prefer, but a healthy squeeze reveals the full power of dual twin-piston calipers and 298mm rotors that can howl the front tire. The rear brake, with a single-piston caliper and same-size disc, is strong and easy to control without lockup.
Star MC created the V-Star 1300 in what it calls a "full-size" chassis to fit larger riders who may have been cramped on the V11; its 66.5-inch wheelbase is nearly 2 inches longer. Compared to the older model, the V13's seat is 30mm rearward and the bars are 27mm lower, while the floorboards are in the same location. The seat remains at a reasonably low 28 inches.
It's true that the 1300 will fit taller riders much better than the V-Star 1100, but smaller pilots will find it on the large size. The stock handlebar placement was a bit of a reach for my short frame, but a more comfortable solution was found after rotating the 'bar rearward.
When it comes to cruisers, the bike ain't worth nothing if it doesn't look the part. We think the V-Star pulls off the trick nicely. It at once looks long, low, sleek and classy. It's led by a cool headlight that Star calls "modern classic," and the line of the headlight shell is followed by a thin-profile seamless fuel tank with a stretched look. Fenders are "genuine steel," says Star, and feature a more dynamic cut than a classic style, edgier and more modern.
The new V-Star's powerplant produces ample output on the top end, but its initial grunt down low doesn't match the oomph of its competition.
Several attractive bits set the Star apart from other bargain cruisers, including the attractive seven-spoke aluminum wheels and matching drive pulley, curvaceous taillight, bespoke switchgear, and a remote meter reset on the handlebar. Its instruments, framed by a chrome surround, are attractive and easy to read except when the sun hits the glass face at some angles. The handlebar-controlled toggle that switches between the dual tripmeters, clock and fuel count-up tripmeter when the 1.0-gallon reserve is activated is very handy. Also handy are the self-canceling turnsignals, a cheap-enough feature that should be included on every high-end bike but aren't.
The ability to customize a cruiser such as the V-Star is important to consumers. Star reps tell us that customers spend an average of $2300 on accessories, and two-thirds of that is usually dished out at the time of bike purchase. There's already 38 new accessories for the V-Star 1300 that should be at dealers the same time as the bikes, including a plethora of T-6061 billet accessories, "Comfort Cruise" seats with more resilient foam, and windshields in three different heights.
Star has also placed the stock two-into-one exhaust's oxygen sensor in front of the muffler for easy aftermarket slip-on fitment while retaining factory-level throttle response. An accessory muffler is often one of the first mods a rider makes, but we're so happy with the burly and pleasantly loud stock exhaust that we think it's unnecessary. Also, by using the carbon-fiber belt-drive, customizers have the ability to more easily fit fat-tire kits and radical suspensions.
For an extra $1100 over the standard 1300, you can order your V-Star with the Tourer package that transforms the cruiser into a light-duty tourer. In addition to the tall windshield from the accessory catalog, the Tourer also comes with a passenger backrest and leather-covered hard-shell saddlebags that are smallish but useful in size and are conveniently keyed to the bike's ignition switch. My experience aboard the Tourer revealed a significant amount of coverage from the 23.25-inch shield, which is tall enough to force a rider to look through it rather than over it. Buffeting only becomes intrusive above 75 mph.
The V-Star 1300, shown here in its Tourer guise, is in its element when exploring the sublime backroads of North Carolina.
So, as I rolled back in to the hotel in Asheville, I began to catalog my complaints about this newest V-Star. The list is quite short.
I'd hoped for a bit more punch at the bottom end of the V13's powerband, though its strength up top is likely to lead the class. Since its counterbalanced engine is smooth on the highway, it might be a positive move to go up a couple of teeth on the rear sprocket to lower its gearing for more snap around town. Also, although described as mid-size, the V13 isn't for newbies or those small of stature. Perhaps the biggest threat to sales success is that Kawi's Vulcan 900 is value-priced at just $7299, nearly $3000 less than the more powerful and nicely finished V-Star.
But as I sat taking notes about the nearby V-Star, engine ticking away contentedly as it cooled from my ride and pedestrians complimenting me on the bike, it was easy to imagine this Star would be more than enough to satisfy even discriminating riders. The gripes mentioned above are only the kind of small nits that a paid motojournalist can get away with whining about as we try to justify our jobs to an adoring public.
The V-Star 1300 is one sweet machine that is going to make a lot of cruiser consumers very happy. To do it at only a tick over $10 grand makes the achievement especially impressive.
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