Normally new bike launches don’t come as a big surprise. Leaks, spy-shots or rumours tend to precede them. Or worse, intentional teaser campaigns drip-feeding info until we’re all thoroughly bored before even seeing the whole bike.
But Yamaha has managed to keep quiet about its new Star Venture and reminded us of the warm thrill of seeing an unexpected new bike launched.
At the moment, it’s an America-only model. The bike its engine is based on, the XV1900 cruiser, disappeared from the UK market a couple of years ago and wasn’t Euro4 compatible. However, the motor has had a serious going-over before being bolted to the new Star Venture. It’s gained a new intake system, ride-by-wire with traction control, cruise control and multiple riding modes, plus a new six-speed gearbox with an overdrive top to allow 75mph cruising with just 2750rpm on the tach. Whether or not the new version of the engine would pass Euro4 emissions tests remains to be seen. Jeff Turner of Yamaha UK tells us there’s no plan to bring the bike here.
That heavily revamped engine is an 1854cc (113cu in) pushrod, eight-valve V-twin with an under-square bore and stroke of 100mm x 118mm. That helps it knock out a whopping 126lbft of torque, although no power figure has been revealed.
The motor is bolted to a steel frame with an aluminium subframe to help centralise the non-inconsiderable mass of the bike. All in, ready-to-ride, it’s not far short of half a tonne – 434kg to be precise, or 437kg if fitted with the bells-and-whistles ‘Transcontinental Options Kit’.
That weight is the reason for another of the bike’s new features – Yamaha’s ‘Sure-Park’ system. This is an electric motor that can wheel the bike forwards or backwards at manoeuvring speed to help park it or shuffle it in or out of a garage without breaking a sweat. No fewer than two alternators are fitted to the engine, providing 750W of power, to drive the system and to power the bike’s enormous array of electronic goodies.
These trinkets range from heated everything – bars, seats and backrests for both rider and pillion – to an electric screen and one of the most comprehensive infotainment systems yet seen on two wheels. The 7-inch touch screen controls not only the stereo but also the Bluetooth communications, and the trip computer, which even gives tyre pressure readouts. Add the Transcontinental kit for an additional $2000 and the gadget count rises to include GPS sat-nav that can be connected to your home computer for route-planning, plus satellite radio and even a CB radio. It also introduces a unique ‘Dual-Zone’ audio system allowing rider and passenger to listen to different sources or make separate phone calls through the same infotainment unit.
The bike’s styling is said to be inspired by American muscle cars, and it’s something of a triumph. Neither classically retro like its rivals, Harley’s Ultra Limited or Indian’s Roadmaster, nor is it fully modern design like the Honda Goldwing or BMW K1600GTL. Instead it’s carving its own niche, and looking pretty good while it does it.
The fairing’s shark-like nose, with hooded headlights and the option of extra LED driving lamps low down, carries enough chrome to suit the American cruiser fan but also has hints of Yamaha’s sportsbikes in its shapes. The screen is, of course, electric, while the Perspex side deflectors are also manually adjustable to tweak the airflow around the rider.
There’s a truly astonishing amount of luggage space – some 141 litres – if you combine the centrally-locked topbox, panniers and the various cubby holes. All of them lock and unlock electronically from the remote Smart Key, which only needs to be in your pocket to allow access to the luggage and to start the bike. The rider’s backrest is adjustable, as are the pillion’s footboards, while a low 696mm seat means that while it’s a big bike, it doesn’t need a big rider.
Mike Doughty, General Manager of Yamaha’s Motorcycle Group in America said: “The all-new Star Venture is one of the most highly anticipated and important new motorcycles to come from Yamaha in years, and everyone here is extremely excited to introduce this impactful new model to the world of touring enthusiasts. As the ‘Journey Further’ tagline indicates, the Star Venture will make you want to travel farther and experience more while enjoying the comfort, performance, and technology features you expect from Yamaha.”
While we might never get to see the bike in the UK or the rest of Europe, it’s surely yet another kick in the backside for Honda which has been developing a replacement for the Goldwing for several years now. The new Wing is believed to be finally nearing completion and is rumoured to be the most technically advanced production bike ever made, with a host of never-before-seen features. This Yamaha, hitting the key American market that’s so important for the Goldwing, will be a prompt for Honda to get into action and bring the new model to production as soon as it can.
Another anticipated rival is expected to be the touring variant of BMW’s K1600B bagger. Already seen in patent drawings the upcoming version is set to add a taller screen and a top box to the K1600B, and in doing so will become an obvious competitor for the Star Venture.