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2011 Star Stryker: MD First Ride

Finding harmony in a marriage of style and performance is often difficult. This is particularly true when it comes to custom choppers, which have always been admired for their bold looks, but just as frequently notorious for their poor handling. The price of being seen on one of these style centric machines might have included an occasional trip to the ER, or worse, due to the shoddy engineering some of them were plagued with. Now, with OEMs making inroads into that ”custom chopper” market, the quality and safety of these exotic looking bikes is on the rise.

Yamaha is one of the OEMs that stepped in as mediator to strike a working balance between style and performance.  Two years ago they came up with the Star Raider, which we roundly praised, as did much of the moto-media. Now, they’re releasing the lighter, lower Star Stryker to fill a gap in their lineup of cruisers and compete with Honda’s mid-size Fury.

The 2011 Star Stryker is definitely a style centric machine, and according to market research conducted by Star, that’s exactly what 73 percent of mid-size cruiser buyers are looking for. With a ground clearance of 5.9 inches and a seat that rests 26.4 inches off the ground, the bike has one of the lowest profiles of any stock bike. The raked out front end is adorned with a 21 inch Bridgestone, and the single 320mm disc opens up the slender cast aluminum wheel for ogling. Out back, an 18 inch tire that’s over 8 ¼ inches fat helps give the bike the customary chopper stance and profile, and the heat sink that camouflages the liquid cooled 1304cc v-twin adds to the overall outlaw style.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas to give the 2011 Stryker a run for its money. With a cleanly shaven face, buzzed hair, and somewhat nerdy glasses, I don’t exactly look like the archetypal cruiser guy, and—surprise, surprise—I’m not. I’m the performance and functionality type, but, even before mounting the bike I was starting to take on the cruiser persona. What can I say, parked out on the curb, the Stryker looks enticing.

Once I fired up the metric twin, and started making my way down the motley streets of downtown Austin, I could tell it was going to be an easy bike to ride around town.  Coming to stop signs I rarely had to set a foot down, not because I was pulling a “California Roll,” but because the bike is exceptionally easy to balance. The super-low center of gravity and fat rear end seem to help a lot in the stability department.

Executing sharp turns at low speeds takes a little getting used to, but the steering is perfectly predictable, and after flipping a handful of tight u-turns, it feels almost natural. I can’t say I noticed much difference between the Stryker and other cruisers in this respect. Star’s trick of increasing rake with a triple clamp that angles forks an extra 6 degrees  helped maintain a reasonably low trail figure of 109mm and kept the bike from turning in too quickly at slow speeds. Also, the clutch pull is reasonable, and engagement is smooth, which adds to the overall predictability of the bike.

After crossing the Colorado River and leaving the streetlights behind, the other eleven riders and I headed  out on a 125 mile loop through the green, rolling hills that lie west of the city. That’s where we tested how the throttle worked. The 80 cubic inch twin really has a more than adequate amount of power, with a decent low end and a strong mid that opens with a kick to the power delivery curve that extends well into the top. It really revs out quite nicely for a cruiser. Applying a healthy dose of throttle was a satisfying experience on every occasion. The engine is basically the same one found in a V-Star 1300 with an expanded air box, a new power control unit and muffler to change its performance characteristics.

Though the short-stroke engine doesn’t have as pronounced a feel as, say, a long-stroke Harley, the single pin crankshaft does give the motor a traditional beat, and a bit of that locomotive style torque that sends you off in lurches. Crankshaft balancers keep engine vibration within reason, and even though the engine is mounted directly to the frame, vibration does not cause discomfort at the grips even after long stretches of continuous riding. The same cannot be said of the pegs, which are not as well insulated. But there is a remedy. Instead of riding with your feet on the pegs, simply rest the back of your ankles on them for rebel-style relief.

The Stryker’s  double-cradle steel frame provides a stiff backbone for the bike, and the fact that the engine is rigidly mounted keeps things from flexing much. Even with the long 68.9 inch wheel base, I didn’t feel much flex when entering turns aggressively.

After digging into the twisties, I have to say the Stryker handles well for a chopper. At high speeds, the fat rear tire makes it a bit tougher to lean in, and keep in line, but because the bike weighs in at 646 low-lying pounds, it’s really not a big issue. The bike is quite fun to ride through tight curves, and the low seating really adds something different to the experience. Of course, that low stance comes at a price: cornering clearance is compromised, and pushing the bike into an aggressive lean will scuff up the pegs.  In all honesty though, there’s also something truly satisfying about being able to push a bike to its performance limits, legally. It makes ordinary riding more engaging, and it makes you feel good about yourself!

The ergonomics also make you feel pretty good, at least for a while. The seating position is comfortable for a guy who stands 5 foot 10 inches like me, and neither the pegs nor the bars are too far off.  It does take a bit of effort to cover the rear brake though, as you have to hold up the weight of your own leg to do so. Some of the other riders at the press intro were much taller than me, and they also had a comfortable experience on the bike. But for a very short rider, the story might be different. With my hands planted on the grips, I had only the slightest bend in my elbows, so someone a few inches shorter might feel like they’re hanging from the bars.

The deep cradle-like seat offers moderate lower back support, and the 4 gallon tank offers about 160 miles of range, but frequent stops are still essential to keeping things comfy. After our longest stretch, about an hour of continuous riding, I did start to sense mild lower back fatigue. The suspension is quite good for a low rider, with only the roughest bumps bringing out the stiff end of the spring.  

The 5 speed gear box worked perfectly well, and for a big v-twin it was relatively smooth. The gearing is tall and the engine is torquey, so down shifting to make a pass on the highway is not really necessary. Also, 5th gear is more than adequate for high-speed cruising, and I didn’t care to risk testing its upper limits. I also  had the chance to give the brakes  a good squeeze when a streetlight popped out of nowhere, and they brought the steel beast to halt rather promptly. The huge rear contact pad probably helped a bit.  All in all, the bike handles very well, and is a blast to ride.

Compared to the Honda Fury, the Stryker is quite a bit different. The Honda features what looks like a much bolder break with custom, mixing traditional elements like a lean, skeletal frame and a long stroked engine with an innovative shaft drive and ABS brakes. Of course, some of those new fangled features might be considered sacrilege by dedicated cruiser riders, and that’s one point where the Yamaha sets itself apart. The Stryker offers metal fenders, a low maintenance belt drive, a more muscular appearance, and a base msrp of $ 11,000—that’s $2,000 dollars less than the Fury. And it’s that tiny little detail at the end there that will probably make a big difference. Here at Motorcycle Daily we’re curious to see whether Suzuki or Kawasaki will join the party, and introduce yet another raked-out, fat tired, chopper a la OEM.

36 Comments

  1. Damian Bole says:

    Nice bike Jonas and great coments, your cousin!!! see ya

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  2. jomama says:

    it looks like they asked a child where to put the headlight, and thats as high as he could reach? i too agree, it seems disjointed in its treatments. when is an engineer going to figure out a way to get rid of the hideously large rear pully, and buck rogers backpac they use to cover it up, on a belt drive bike?

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    • MikeD says:

      The belt can only bend(one drawback) so much around the front pulley w/o damaging itself(chains can get away with a LOT there).
      So, yeah…unless they do the final drive reduction inside the transmission too i don’t see that rear pulley getting any smaller, nor it’s protecting shields.

      Same thing people complained about with the 1125R and 1125CR. Looks WACK but it has a reason behind it.

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  3. MGNorge says:

    “MikeD says:
    But i would rather have that than Dirty Stretchy Chain or Jacking Shaft.”

    Modern chain and shaft drives seldom anymore have those stereotyped problems. On looks alone, Yamaha’s treatment surrounding the belt drive and its shrouding is too heavy handed for my taste. I think even Harley pulls that off better.

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    • MikeD says:

      I can backup my Dirty Stretchy Chain comment. I have one on my SV1000N. Im always on top of it tho. No lack of lubing or adjusting there. But it does get Nasty Crud(chain,wheel,etc) and it does stretch but that goes w/o saying it.

      Last drive shaft system i rode was a 1982 GS1100G, it jumps like a wild horse under heavy rigth hand syndrome. Would like to test something newer…cause i hate lubing,cleaning and adjusting that chain.

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  4. Sandy says:

    It appears to be a very polarizing design. Some riders, I’m sure, will like it and some won’t. I don’t. To me, it looks like a random collection of parts from different bikes. The new, Fury inspired 1300 line from Honda has better lines in my opinion. Not so cluttered, and a lot more stylish. Then again, I felt the same way about Yamaha’s Raider, and changed my mind when I saw one up close. Maybe this one looks better in person also. I’d have to see this one up close as well, because it looks pretty bad in the photos.

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  5. GP says:

    Another $10k+ cruiser. Yawn.
    Affordable, small bore, multi-cylinder “dual sports” are where the (US market) action is.

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  6. Steven S says:

    Good looking bike, I would ride it in a flash. Nice job Yamaha. Very stylish, sounds functional, and Yamaha dependable. A winner. All the new bikes are really good, it really boils down to your personal taste.

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  7. mike says:

    Nice blend of style, power, and price. Nice to see something other than big heavy weight cruisers. Yes the custom chopper fade is over, but the Raider & it’s little brother the Stryker are affordable & very cool looking motorcycles. (in my eyes) Great to see something new other than bold new graphics.

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  8. zeus xarras says:

    monster bike!!!!!!!!! at a reasonable price, at least yamaha, like kawasaki! came out with some new product!! and the stryker is nice low seat height, lot of power and built by star, very well made, maybe harley will do something??? naaaaa!!! who we kidding, every bike there make is 20,000 thousand

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  9. dan says:

    Another new chopper style bike? Don’t they realize that it’s a bit late? A bike targeted at the previous generation rather the next.

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    • MikeD says:

      So, whats seems to be the next big fade, sport tourers or big dual sports ?
      I have heard the same on different boards, OEM Choppers are a dead horse. Maybe so…(looks around).

      Report this comment

    • dean says:

      There is still a market for relativly inexpensive mid size chopper – crusiers. Even though dead, custom choppers paved they way of design for these bikes, for now, and the near future.

      Report this comment

  10. Cranky Bob says:

    OK folks…keep moving….nothing to see here.

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  11. Vrooom says:

    OK, I’m not likely to buy a cruiser, bought one once, never again. While undoubtedly this is a reasonably reliable and high quality machine, looking at the rider position, I seriously doubt it’s comfort. Despite your analysis “vibration does not cause discomfort at the grips even after long stretches of continuous riding”, I’m presuming long stretches of continous riding weren’t more than 50 miles or so, given the 125 mile length of your loop? If they make a cruiser with the pegs beneath the rider (rather than forward putting all your weight on your tailbone), let it lean like a standard or sport tour bike, weigh less than 550 lbs. wet, and get performance on par with the aforementioned standard (say similar to a Tuono), have at least 150 miles range in a tank, then I’m a customer. Too bad that new V-max is so pug fugly.

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  12. Bill says:

    Uuuugha yet another mix parts cruiser , just what we need !

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  13. Bo_knows says:

    Yamaha, or rather Star, needs to do something about the ugly tree growing rampant in the design department. Like the Raider, the Stryker pales in comparison to the “plastic-fantastic” Fury in terms of beauty (in my eyes at least). While Honda has moved on to building maintream bikes that look like customs, Yamaha seems to be trying to build bikes that look like 1990′s Hondas. I’m not sure if Yamaha is still smarting from the roadliner experience (one of the best bikes nobody wants to buy) but after years of classic styled (and successful) V-stars and road stars, this new direction is confused at best.

    Thankfully the engineering department has made sure the bikes run and ride much better than they look.

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    • MikeD says:

      I never knew what to make out of those “2 Wheeled Stream Lined Locomotives” with all the “Overweight and Tacky Art Deco B.S Styling”, and don’t even mention that Fugly Cigar looking Pipe.
      Owners say they are good bikes, Anvil reliable and LazyBoy comfy with Decent handling and Liter than they look (Biased? Most probably)

      But if it doesn’t go thru the eyes it sure won’t go thru the Wallet or Check Book.

      Report this comment

    • Scottie says:

      “One of the best bikes nobody wants to buy” – I love my Stratoliner, but the styling is polarizing. It’s powerful and handles very well. The Victory Cross Roads and Cross Country are the only other big cruisers that handle as well, but their engines are too buzzy for me. If Star decides to remain in the big cruiser market they will likely build an aluminum framed Road Star and put the 113 motor in it.

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      • MikeD says:

        I always hoped they would DROP that 1854cc Beast inside the RoadStar Warrior and make it even more KILLER. But SMELLS like Star is about to discontinue it, shame really, they left a great bike go shitty and DRY, it never got a real refresh(different paint & wheels don’t count), and that new fresh VMAX on the lineup ain’t helping with the cause (OverPriced Ape).
        I rode a Raider with the 1.9L Twin, nothing but butter smooth torque and power.

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  14. Steve says:

    might as well go for a V-Rod.. the V-Rod is pretty much bullet-proof & HD dealers are everywhere…. plus it is way faster….

    I saw a Fury a few months back & was really surprised! Not bad… I wouldn’t trade my Road King for it but it was much nicer than most Japanese cruisers/V-Twins in my opinion…
    you could also get a Victory for around these prices….

    Report this comment

    • chris says:

      V-Rod bulletproof compared to a metric cruiser? I have a friend whose V-Rod wants to shake itself to death, fender’s and other bits keep stress-fracturing, maybe that Porsche engine is bulletproof, but the bike is a Harley thru and thru. I’ll bet the Yamaha is more reliable in every way, and cheaper than the V-Rod mystique

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      • Goose says:

        I’ve never owned (or even ridden) a V-Rod but I’m amazed at all the experts who just know Harleys are such unreliable junk. I rode my first modern (yes, the old ones were junk) Harley in 2006 and liked it enough to buy my FLT a few weeks later. I did six hundred miles (virtually all twisty, narrow back roads) in two days camped in beautify Mono Hot Springs between on the now 22K miles old FLT a couple of weekends ago and can’t wait to do it again. I’m still waiting for that famous lack of reliability to kick in. I liked the FLT enough to buy an XR1200 last winter.

        I’ve owned a number of Japanese bikes, three Italian bikes and over a dozen BMWs and I don’t know why people keep insisting Japanese bikes are perfection on wheels. I’ve been stranded three times by Yamahas, not once on my Harleys.

        YMMV,

        Goose

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  15. MGNorge says:

    The belt and pulley covers and shrouding look like they came off a large scooter. That gives the bike an overall heavy appearance which the Fury gets away without. I’m not a chopper fan but a bike’s a bike. Trying too hard with style.

    Report this comment

  16. Jeff in New Hampshire says:

    IMHO that thing looks terrible. The exhaust and rear fender area in particular are all disjointed and sloppy looking. The “scallop” decal on the black one’s tank is rediculous. Are we sure this thing didn’t come from China? It definately does not look like an $11,000 motorcycle.

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  17. kevin from Australia says:

    what an awesomely disgusting looking bike, was it designed in the dark????

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  18. ABQ says:

    Sitting upright in the wind wearing a fullface helmet without a windshield must of been what discouraged you from testing the top speed. It does look good for getting around town.

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  19. MikeD says:

    I think is a good looking bike and hope it sells a lot. Specially with the Ladies since it has such a low seat.Thumbs up for the Belt Drive too.

    Small complaint tho, i know this bike is suposed to be an Entry Level OEM Chopper thus the use of some cheap “looking” parts.

    But why use a CHEAP Looking square section steel tubing swing arm? Cheap to build? I know, but Cheap doesn’t have to “look” Cheap. Same goes for the V-Star950 from wich i think they borrowed it.
    Give it Solid Welded On Milled Terminals at the wheel’s end of the swing arm. I think it would make wonders for the square tubing item appearance. Or use the aluminium one from the V-Star 1300(No new R&D Costs)

    Its got old fashion Screw and Lock Nut adjustment(great news for some DIY but it normally hold clearances for less miles than shim under bucket). Front valve cover seems to be used as a motor mount too. Cruisers should have Hydraulic Lifters, a lot of them don’t rev past 6K.

    Ok, done whining. LOL.

    @Drew Kazee: Im all up for a stripped down VMAX too. Strip away all the Electronic Gizmos and BS that makes it a PORKER and sell a bare bones unit a la 1969 ZL1 427 COPO Camaro . Just the basics Ingridients to have a Killer and sell it for $13K. Maybe they could make money off of it and truly justify all the R&D $$$ spent.

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  20. Cajun58 says:

    I’m pretty sure there is not a set of objective styling criteria that a chopper is supposed to follow. I don’t like the looks of this bike either but like anyone else
    it’s just my opinion.

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  21. The styling is totally disjointed. Choppers are supposed to look slim, minimalist and possess a “flowing” style. The back half of the bike is BULKY. How hideous is the “bodywork” surrounding the belt drive. Sorry, the Stryker makes the Fury look beautiful and I don’t like that either.

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  22. Drew Kazee says:

    A reasonably priced Vmax would have been better.

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