Editor’s Note: In the first chapter of the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture Review we covered the riding experience and what it’s like to pilot this 957-pound giant. In this follow-up test, we cover some of the features that make it stand out from the V-Twin crowd. On a side note, for added technical information, please review the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture Preview piece. So without further ado…
Creature comforts – it’s what separates a good touring motorcycle from a great one. You name ‘em, and the Yamaha Star Venture has got them. These handy and intuitive features to complement its fine mechanical qualities further elevating the experience behind the handlebar.
The centerpiece of the Star Venture is its seven-inch full color and touch sensitive display. It’s sandwiched between classically styled analog gauges that resemble time measurement pieces – nice touch, Yamaha. Within the gauges, there’s a fuel level meter and a small LCD to show trip mileage, D-Mode, and a gear position indicator.
One gripe though: when the clutch lever is pulled, the gear position indicator goes blank, so you don’t know what gear you are in, say if you are at a stop. Fortunately, the Venture’s big air-cooled Twin pumps out enough torque that you can launch away cleanly in second or even third gear.
The infotainment system is so advanced it includes a separate, 115-page manual. Thankfully, if you’re like us, tossing every manual in some random drawer to never be seen again, you’re likely to have an easy time acclimating to and learning many of its settings, without reading.
Menu functionality is straightforward with logically written sub-menus to locate and adjust individual details, like turning the CB or intercom system ‘on’ or ‘off’. Like the smartphone in your pocket, the display is touch sensitive so you can make changes that way, or use the handy joystick located within thumb’s reach on the left handlebar. The electronics also have the ability to execute voice-activated commands.
We used either, and often times a combination of both depending on the ride. It’s important to note, however, that Yamaha recommends keeping both hands on the controls at all times during rides.
The screen is bold and bright regardless if you’re riding at high noon with the full intensity of the summer sun overhead or near twilight. Plus, the text font and choice of menu/background colors are crisp, defined and easy to read. Yet it doesn’t distract from the task at hand—riding.
The infotainment is the command center for the motorcycle where all adjustments, including windscreen height, communication, music, navigation and phone commands are made. It also displays route and turn-by-turn navigation. MPG, range and fuel consumption information can also be shown. Heck, there’s even the ability to add a rear view camera to make backing up even easier.
Additionally, you can control windscreen height, and the rider’s heated grips and seat, in three-level increments, here. The passenger, on the other hand, makes adjustment manually with a button on the starboard side of the back seat. For the most part the electronics performed seamlessly, but once or twice certain features would “lock up”, similarly to a crashed smartphone app. A simple restart (powering the motorcycle on/off) was the cure. Undoubtedly, Yamaha will issue software patches and bug fixes as needed, just like smartphone app makers.
Speaking of backing up, the Sure-Park electronics are pure genius taking the guesswork out of delicate parking lot maneuvers. Simply shift the cockpit-mounted handle, with the transmission in ‘neutral’ (the engine can be running, or off) and an electric motor and forward/back button allows you to move the motorcycle forward or backward at a slow crawl. It even works up, and down inclines. Shift the handle back into its original position and you’re free to ride.
For the optimum experience, Yamaha encourages purchase of its accessory J&M audio-wired headset ($219.99) that hard mounts in the helmet. Some might wonder why the Tuning Fork brand chose to go with the wired solution ($89.99 for rider connection cable) opposed to wireless Bluetooth setup, but it says that Bluetooth doesn’t yet employ the bandwidth to support the myriad of features the infotainment system offers.
Still, the system does rely on Bluetooth to pair a smartphone to the motorcycle. As expected, it was a simple, straightforward pairing process using our iPhone 6S. There’s also a USB import in the forward right covered compartment if you prefer to connect that way. We used it as a charging point instead. Another USB power port inside the rear top case and a 12-volt automobile style power plug inside the cabin help ensure sufficient power for gadgets. Good thing the Star Venture’s outfitted with twin alternators boasting 750-watts of power.
For the ultimate experience, it’s best to wear pair of medium to light-duty ear plugs (we wore Howard Leight Laser Lites’). By wearing ear plugs, background noise is reduced and you can ascertain “cleaner” audio. Intercom audio quality between rider and passenger is very high and we didn’t feel the need to crank up the volume beyond two-thirds its setting range, even at freeway speeds.
In fact, audio quality in general is very high and we’d recommend splurging $2000 on the up-spec Transcontinental Touring Package, which includes two weatherproof rear speakers, with dual-zone audio control, SiriusXM radio, and internal GPS navigation so you don’t have to route from your smartphone. Speakers inside the headset complement the motorcycle’s allowing for a true surround sound-like experience.
We also appreciate the ability to tune speaker and audio settings independently. For instance, you can disable the motorcycle speakers, and run just the headset, or vice-versa. Each audio setting, from navigation to music volume, and even CB and Intercom communications, can be tailored independently of one another. So the navigation isn’t screaming at you while listening to your favorite audio track.
Storage is key on a touring bike and the Star Venture doesn’t disappoint. The rear top case is capable of swallowing two full-face helmets with room to spare for smaller items. The side cases are wide and deep enough to be useful and a there are four other decently sized nooks for small stuff like wallets, keys, etc. In fact, there is so much onboard storage, that we literally misplaced our wallet on accident in one of the hidden compartments! All told, Yamaha says there’s 38-gallons of storage capacity.
All three cases can be locked electronically using the bike’s key fob. As opposed to a traditional ignition key, the Star Venture uses a keyless, proximity-style fob, so you have to have that in your pocket or somewhere near the bike for the engine to start. It’s hard to beat the mechanical simplicity of a keyed ignition lock but this electronic setup works fine too.
Other conveniences include super accurate cruise control that does a fine job of maintaining vehicle speed even while loaded two-up riding. Although we didn’t have a chance to ride after dark the Star Venture’s full LED lighting is sure to please. And with the addition of the accessory fog lights, you have up to six bright LED light steams to illuminate the darkest stretch of desolate highway.
After our three-day 700-mile interstate voyage, we have to tip our hat to Yamaha. As soon as we swung a leg over it we recognized that the Star Venture would be a good bike. But after getting to learn the ins and outs of the infotainment system and see how well integrated its many features are, it’s clear Yamaha’s raised the bar for what we motorcyclists demand from a V-Twin touring bike. Factor in its 25 grand MSRP, and five-year warranty, and it’s clear Yamaha’s going to make a lot of touring folks happy.