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2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe: MD First Ride

Photos by Riles and Nelson

If you saw a “bagger” coming down the road a few years ago, chances are (1) it was a Harley-Davidson, and (2) it was a bit strange looking with its cut-down windscreen and lowered stance. After all, tourers weren’t supposed to have so much “attitude.”

Baggers are now all-the-rage, and other manufacturers have entered the game, including Star Motorcycles. Introduced by Yamaha in 2005, Star doesn’t play for second place. Although H-D continues to dominate the category, Star is already the No.1 selling metric cruiser brand, and has more than twice the market share of its closest metric competitor in the “high end cruiser” category.

The Stratoliner Deluxe we tested a few days ago in Southern California combines Star’s proven, powerful 1854cc air-cooled, pushrod v-twin (see our discussion of this 91 horsepower gem here) with a new purpose-built chassis and styling.

Incorporating the same lightweight and stiff aluminum frame and swingarm found on other large displacement Star cruisers, the Stratoliner Deluxe carries 4.5 gallons of fuel (0.8 gallons in a low sub-tank) and rolls on 12-spoke aluminum wheels (17 inch rear and 18 inch front) slowed by 4-piston calipers gripping dual 298mm front discs and a single-piston caliper on a 320mm disc in back.

The integrated, fork-mounted fairing and saddle bags represent the “tourer with attitude”, Star style. The fairing, despite its tiny wind screen, offers surprising protection, including complete coverage of the rider’s hands. The screen will throw relatively smooth wind at the shoulder level of most riders. A taller screen and faring “lowers” will be an option available from Star.

The saddle bags are larger than those previously offered by Star- 13.7 gallons of surprisingly useable space. The bags are well finished and easy to operate (and lock). We used removeable bag liners (also available from Star) with handles that allowed us to conveniently carry our overnight lugage into our hotel.

Logging 210 miles the first day, I found the broad seat very comfortable and supportive (including a small lip I could press my lower back against). The instruments are on the tank, which makes them more difficult to read at speed than dash mounted instruments. The dash itself houses two 5 inch speakers and a cubby already wired for your ipod (MP3 wiring also available).

The Stratoliner Deluxe is extremely stable at high speeds (even when dealing with some strong cross winds), but is relatively nimble at lower speeds. Credit Star’s light, but stiff alluminum frame and swingarm.

That big V-twin was every bit as good as we remember it to be… flexible and smooth. The fuel injection is spot on, and the bike pulls hard off the bottom and revs well for a big twin. You probably won’t find a standard cruiser V-twin more powerful than this one from a major manufacturer, with the possible exception of Kawasaki’s Vulcan 2000. The bike offers more than enough torque for a passenger and luggage.

The engine is smooth and only a slight vibration was felt through the floorboards while cruising the highway. Nevertheless, you get plenty of V-twin character and feel from the classic looking, air cooled unit.

That stiff frame allows the Stratoliner Deluxe to react quickly and directly to steering inputs. Although the bike did not always hold it’s line for me in fast sweepers, I think this had more to do with the rear suspension setting (I could have used more spring preload to raise the rear of the bike).

The standard suspension settings were otherwise fine for my 205 pounds. As a practical tourer, however, the Stratoliner Deluxe really should have more ready access to the rear shock spring adjustment. It was explained to me that a threaded adjuster requires removal of at least one saddle bag (not too difficult) and an awkward reach to access the shock with a spanner wrench. Not something you want to deal with when you decide to throw your spouse, or significant other, on the back (with or without some luggage).

Products like the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr inspire Star’s design team

Suspension balance is important on this bike largely because it handles so well. Star’s design ethic (which they refer to as “neo-classic streamlined”, but google “streamline moderne”) includes modern technology and high performance. We have already told you about the high performance engine, but the aluminum frame is just as impressive. It forms the basis for lighter, and more positive steering than you would expect from a machine of this size and weight.

We had no issues with the transmission, and the brakes seemed more than adequate for this class of motorcycle. The beefy front brakes should handle the extra weight of a passenger and luggage without complaint.

Styling is always subjective, but we find the Stratoliner Deluxe eye catching and imposing (in a good way). Star has their unique take on “retro”, as we discussed earlier, and we like it.

So Star has introduced a worthy contender in the bagger category. Stylish, but practical, the 2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe can look cool and edgey while delivering you and your 13.7 gallons of stuff comfortably and swiftly. At a U.S. MSRP of $17,499, the Stratoliner Deluxe should be available at your Yamaha/Star dealer later this Spring. For additional details and specifications, visit Star’s web site.