Comfort, pleasure, excitement, and style – all characteristics of a good heavyweight V-Twin touring motorcycle. But what about an excellent one? Yamaha knows its got the recipe with its exquisitely crafted and high-tech Star Venture.
Editor’s Note: We covered some of the features and technical aspects in the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture Preview article, so for this review we’re focusing on what this motorcycle is made for: interstate touring. We’ll also be discussing some of the advanced features of the Star Venture in Part 2 of this story later this week…
Why is it Air-Cooled?
The powertrain is one of the most talked about aspects of a touring rig and the Star Venture doesn’t disappoint. Although on paper, the 113-cubic-inch engine’s specs are identical to the Star Raider, the Venture’s powerplant shares few things aside from the connecting rods and bolts/fasteners. From the engine cases (that were modified to accept the additional alternator and counter balancers), to the four-valve cylinder heads, it’s all-new, purpose-built, and air-cooled.
A broad torque curve, pleasing power pulse feel, and of course, exhaust note were key design goals, and ones that an air-cooled configuration certainly delivers.
Aesthetics were equally as important. The engine has a clean, uncluttered look. We enjoy the way the engine’s pushrods are displayed and how the oil-cooler and all plumbing lines are tucked neatly away from the eye. Visually, the engine is an aftermarket air cleaner away from perfection.
But what about reliability? We all know that liquid-cooled engines generally dissipate heat more effectively resulting in added performance and reliability. We asked senior engine engineer, Takeshi Taya how long the engine can run between major overhaul/disassembly. His answer? Over 600,000 miles!
Editor’s Note : Actual claimed durability is 62,000 miles before the engine requires inspection per Yamaha Motor Corp, USA.
No wonder Yamaha can afford to offer a standard five-year warranty on the Venture. On a side note, the engine carries 6.65 quarts of oil in a semi-dry-sump configuration, so there is plenty of cooling/lubrication capacity.
Thumb the starter and the engine sets into its smooth idle, barely feeling the power pulses of the coffee can sized forged aluminum pistons. Fuel-injection and advanced ride-by-wire engine management electronics ensure perfect fueling in any climate or elevation. Nudge the shift lever into first gear and lets hear this aluminum-finned Twin sing.
A short first gear helps you get rolling from a stop, and transfers power to the fat 200-series Bridgestone Exedra rubber via belt final drive on the right side of the motorcycle, instead of the left. It’s complemented by electronics that automatically feed the throttle bodies as the clutch releases to assist during launches. Turbo diesel truck-like torque welcomes you from just above idle. There’s so much rolling power available that the Venture can be launched in second or third gear.
The hydraulic-assist clutch lever is weighed properly, but not overly stiff for those who aren’t endowed with vice-grip like hand strength. Inside the clutch benefits from a modern ramp-style design which squeezes the clutch plates together under acceleration and away while coasting. This also helps mitigate engine back torque effect during the kind of braking you’d typically experience during fast, hard stops. Five-position clutch lever adjustability is another plus. We preferred setting ‘four’ for our medium-sized hands.
The exhaust note and engine harmonics offer the best of both worlds: Inside the cockpit the harmonics are meaty enough to put a grin on your face. However, they aren’t deafening, even when riding without ear plugs. The sound as a passerby is equally as pleasing with an authoritative tone that commands attention, but not so much as to raise eyebrows from the fuzz.
Yamaha says it tapped its music subsidiary when tuning the engine and exhaust chorus and it shows in how well-metered it sounds straight off the assembly line. Some will still consider aftermarket exhaust options, however if it was ours, we’d happily leave it stock.
Each of the six-gears are spaced evenly, and gear exchanges offer the sort of precision you’d get with an exquisite time piece. Oddly enough, there’s no standard heel shifter, however Yamaha offers a billet piece as a $103.99 accessory. In fact, Yamaha has a growing line of Transcontinental Touring Accessories, 24 in total, to truly make the Star Venture yours. In addition to the heel shifter, the Touring Tall Heated Rider Backrest is a must-have, but more on that later…
This equates to easy freeway passing power two-up, loaded down and in top gear. In fact there’s so much power on top, at virtually any rpm, that gear changes are few and far between. The engine is perfectly happy lugging just above idle or spinning near redline (4750 rpm).
An early pioneer in ride-by-wire technology with its ’06 YZF-R6 sportbike, over the last decade, its YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Control Throttle) has been honed to a pointed lead tip and now graces the Star Venture via its ‘Mode’ switch on the right-hand side of the handlebar. Two D-Mode throttle map settings are offered: ’S’ for sport, and ’T’ for touring. Both settings give full access to the 48-degree Twin’s muscle, however in a different way. We preferred the sharper response of the sport setting with its more aggressive throttle ratio. On/off adjustable traction control is also standard which helps keep the rear tire in line with the front over slippery surfaces.
Regardless of setting, throttle response is perfect, feeling as natural as a crisply-jetted set of carburetors, with smooth, yet immediate engine response when the right grip is twisted.
The engine drinks fuel from a 6.6-gallon fuel tank. During the course of our 700-mile journey the computer displayed nearly a 40 mpg average, during a more conservative, at least for speed demons, 70-80 mph cruising pace, netting a range of well over 200 miles.
Handling, Ergonomics and Ride Quality
No doubt the 957 pound Star Venture (in standard trim) is a heavy motorcycle. However with a seat height, that’s over an inch lower than the competition, and chassis that’s far more maneuverable than a half-ton motorcycle should be, you’d be hard pressed to feel the weight, at anything but a standstill with the kickstand up. Thankfully, Yamaha even thought of that with its ingenious Sure-Park system, but we’ll touch on that in the following segment.
With the wheels turning this Yamaha is surprisingly easy to maneuver, even two-up. It carries its weight well and changes direction with minimal effort. Big bikes shouldn’t handle this well.
Always ready to turn, the Star Venture can be placed easily on the road.
At these, or any velocity for that matter, engine vibration through the controls is virtually nil.
“I know we were riding at pretty high speeds and I didn’t realize we were going that fast because the ride was that smooth,” said passenger and video producer, Shanda Hurst.
She knew our speed because I told her via the optional $219.99 J&M motorcycle intercom system.
A hydraulic preload adjustment knob hidden on the right side of the fairing, just below the rider’s seat allows you to raise or lower the bike’s rear end based on handling preference, or to accommodate the extra weight of cargo and passenger.
At any speed, the suspension glides over pavement, as if you’re riding on a two wheel Granite Gray cloud delivering a truly regal ride. The competition certainly offers some cozy riding motorcycles, but not like this.
Through turns, the Venture offers more cornering clearance than expected from a heavyweight touring bike. By no means is it a sportbike, but it’s nice to know that you can take a modest amount of lean before hard parts touch down. The grippy Bridgestone Exedra rubber rides quietly and was up to cornering tasks when asked.
Similarly to other Japanese touring rigs the chassis is highly responsive, perhaps overly so, with the bike seemingly wanting to change direction with the slightest control input. Those desiring the utmost in steering response will likely appreciate this feature, however for our tastes, it was a tad too sensitive mid-corner.
Considering its sheer size, you’d hope Yamaha didn’t skimp in the braking department. And we’re happy to report they got it right. The triple disc hydraulic brakes are powerful and easy to use. Unified braking ensures that that stopping power is distributed appropriately and shared by all three anchors.
The system works as advertised delivering natural feel regardless if you apply the front, or rear brake individually. The ABS system is well-sorted with minimal lever kick-back when used in an immediate, panic stop. Like the clutch lever, the position of the front brake lever can be adjusted in five increments.
The seating position from the waist up is accommodating for a six-foot tall rider. The bars are wide, but not overly so, and have a pleasing, natural, and swept back position. The handlebar top clamp also allows for adjustment, including the ability to shift the mounting position fore or aft, similar to its YZ-F dirt bikes.
The main fairing and windscreen are an effective combo shielding the rider from the elements. Neat side air deflectors push more air into the cockpit, for cooling effect during warm weather rides. Conversely, they can be closed which creates an exceptionally calm air pocket that’s perfect for riding in cool weather, or for a more quiet cockpit. The windscreen also offers 3.5-inches of push-button adjustment via the handlebar controls or a button on the top side of the fuel tank. If you feel like having some wind in your face use the lowest setting. If you want to keep your visor clean from bugs, then run it high.
Below the waist the ergonomics are more questionable. While adequate, the rider’s floor boards could be longer. It would also be nice to see highway pegs available, at least as an accessory. The rider seat pan is deep, which makes it easier to touch the ground, but also fairly short from front-to-back. True, the seat back offers three positions of adjustment (via a pull tab on the right), but you have to be a shorter than average rider to benefit from it. In standard position, it could feel cramped for larger guys.
You’re also going to want to immediately spring for the Touring Tall Heated Rider Backrest, as the standard integrated setup is too small to be useful, resulting in some minor mid-back discomfort on longer journeys.
Even on a hot 90-plus degree day engine heat isn’t excessive as long as your moving and the engine isn’t loaded by riding up a steep incline. If you do however, you’ll likely feel some heat kicked off your right foot and thighs. We certainly wouldn’t deem it excessive. But if stop-and-go city riding is in your future, consider yourself warned.
Passenger accommodations on the other hand are likely more posh than the rider’s. The back seat is wide and well supported. It has more in common with a La-Z-boy chair than a motorcycle seat.
“I really like the length of the seat. I never felt I had to hang on and I was never nervous,” told Shanda.
“The passenger grab rails fit my hands comfortably. I never felt tired — that was my favorite part of the experience,” she continues to explain. “I also really liked how the wind deflectors were able to push air off us. It got a little bit warmer [in the seat] just from that.”
Both seats and backrests can be heated, as can the rider grips. There’s also optional heated passenger grips as well. More adjustment comes in the form of the passenger floorboards which can be moved up or down with a basic set of hand tools.
Styling and Aesthetics
A motorcycle’s appearance is always a subjective. We generally appreciate the Venture’s muscular stance that blends classic styling attributes of the V-Twin world with the timeless lines of muscle cars of yesteryear.
In fact, Yamaha’s project leader confirmed that a 1971 era Plymouth Barracuda served as design inspiration, sharing front-end design cues like the chiseled grill and quad LED head beams. The fighter jet style ram air ducts not only look cool but are functional as well pushing air through the oil cooler as well as providing additional airflow through the cabin and away from the rider’s thighs. These vents can also be closed for in cooler climates.
Shapely lines extend to the rear of the machine with the LED-lighting equipped rear end offering clean classic lines that stick to the V-Twin touring script. We also like subtle details like the machine gun barrel like muffler tips. Fit and finish is top-notch too— worthy of its $24,999 MSRP.
With the arrival of the Star Venture next month, Yamaha’s Transcontinental Touring steed represents real value in the heavyweight V-Twin touring class. Lofty levels of road performance, well thought out creature comforts for both passenger, and rider, with excellent craftsmanship, it’s clear the Tuning Fork company has a winner on its hands. Those wishing to experience the sights and sounds of American from the perch of a new motorcycle will find a worthy companion in the Star Venture.