Love Struck, Baby – Star’s New Midsized Custom Cruiser Strikes The Right Chord
Despite initial press reports criticizing the late bloom for the raked-out, chopperesque Star Raider, its radical design has been extremely well-received by consumers. But even before its release in 2009, Star’s research and development team was working on a midsized, affordable, custom cruiser. There was a clear void in the Star lineup for a cruiser with cutting-edge looks and a torquey, strong, V-twin pulse, with lightweight handling for riders who aren’t of mammoth proportions. Fitting the bill for someone just like me, I flew out to the live music capital of the world, Austin, Texas, for the official press intro of the new Stryker.
Comparing the profiles of the Stryker to the Raider, you’ll notice that the backbone of the Stryker is actually arched, while the 1900cc Raider sports a straight line with a farther reach from the seat to the bars and pegs. The Stryker’s tank is sculpted in a slight arch, with a new instrument dash located in the center of the handlebar. The bike works the custom styling with chopped metal fenders that fit as tightly as possible to low-profile tires, and showcases a riding position that has the rider sitting “in” the bike, with feet forward and arms out in front, at one with the motorcycle. Styling details focus on muscular, machined, and sharp features, which give the bike a modern look and feel.
The introduction of the Stryker brings on some new, tough competition to Honda’s 1300cc line of cruisers. Star used the V Star 1300’s liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin engine for the Stryker, and added a new 3-liter air box and ECU. Twin 40mm throttle bodies, 12-hole fuel injector nozzles, and a closed-loop system with a new O2 sensor in the 2-into-2 exhaust delivers smooth, torquey power to the rear wheel via a belt drive. A single-pin overhead crankshaft and forged connecting rods provide that traditional V-twin pulse while two single-axis, dual crankshaft balancers work to eliminate vibration from the rigid-mounted, stressed-member engine.
The thin radiator is minimal and, like the Honda’s, hidden well between the downtubes of the new double-cradle steel frame. The raked-out look is achieved with 41mm fork tubes and newly designed raked triple clamps and 6-degree yoke. This combination achieves a total rake of 40 degrees, and with 5.3″ of front wheel travel, providing the rider with steering control and comfort. Up front, a 120/70-21″ Bridgestone Exedra radials on a 21″ five-spoke, cast-aluminum front wheel adds to that easy steering feel, but the tire is just fat enough to stay planted even when pushed hard and fast. Slow-speed maneuvers are surprisingly easy, and I was particularly impressed with the extreme degree of the fork’s turning radius, which definitely made tight U-turns quick and simple. The beefy 210/40-18″ rear wheel has a cool, fat width and low-profile appearance and is tucked neatly under the steel fender. The 210-spec is a real-world tire size for nimble handling while maintaining a custom look. A preload adjustable shock is completely hidden and offers 3.9″ of travel, rounding out a comfortable ride.
Overall braking response is impressive. Stopping occurs up front, via a single 320mm front disc with a two-piston caliper. The single was used in keeping with the custom look that showcases the wheels. But the extra large diameter disc does the job quickly and effectively. A single caliper on the rear 310mm rotor also does its share of brake duty. ABS is not an option on the Stryker.
Star wanted the Stryker to have a sit-in riding position, as opposed to the classic motorcycle position of sitting on top of the bike. The Stryker’s tall, open-neck steering head, along with the super-low seat (26.4″), places the average rider’s hands just a bit lower than shoulder-level. This position is quite comfortable and allows for a slight bend in the elbows. The reach to the forward footpegs was fine for my 5′ 7″ frame and will accommodate shorter riders comfortably, but it looked cramped for the really tall guys. None of them complained, however, and I noticed that some of them rode with their heels on the pegs and toes flared out to the sides, in a cool, cruiser-guy attitude.
However, after a couple of hours in the stock saddle, my lower back started to ache. I tried to get a forward lean position by bending my elbows more, but it wasn’t comfortable to sustain this position. Luckily, Star brought along a couple of Strykers tricked out with some Star custom accessories, so I jumped at the chance to try the cool, blacked-out version with the Comfort Cruiser solo seat. For $310, this seat offers a more comfortable, deeper saddle position, which supported my lower back better than the stocker. But anyone wanting to adjust the reach is going to have to do it with a new seat unless Star comes out with some accessory handlebar options. The 1″ bar is a clean-looking, one-piece deal that attaches right to the upper triple clamp, but the instrument display is attached to a welded handlebar mount. You’ll have to do some creative customizing to relocate the dash if you want to switch to an aftermarket handlebar.
Speaking of the sharp-looking instrument cluster, it includes everything you need, except for those who desire a tach. Star gets two thumbs up for including a “select” switch on the right handgrip control. The switch toggles the LCD readout between an odometer, two tripometers, clock, and fuel gauge, so you don’t have to take your hands off the grips. The fuel gauge is nice to have, and is more than the bikes in Honda’s 1300 custom line offers, but its crude readout and vague measurements leave room for improvement. The traditional speedometer surrounds the display, with the Stryker logo underneath, and warning lights under that, but it’s laid out so that at cruising speeds, the needle runs right over the display making it tough to read. But I still prefer the bar-mounted position over the Raider’s tank mount, because it’s easy to scan quickly without taking your eyes off the road for too long.
The 4-gallon fuel tank includes a subtank under the seat. Star claims an average 40.9 mpg. Combined with the savings of using regular (86 octane or higher) gas, it won’t cost an arm and a leg to reach the estimated 160 miles of overall range. The range spec sounds a bit low to me, but the reality is that I’m not going to ride longer than that before stopping to stretch anyway.
A keyed seat release on the left-side panel is all you need to remove the one-piece seat. Under it, you’ll find a storage compartment only big enough to hold the included toolkit. The owner’s manual sits on top of it. But if you want to add more storage, Star’s Stryker and Raider designs include external fender struts which can be used to mount saddlebag supports, unlike the Honda competition. Bungee mount locations that don’t rub painted parts are going to be tough to find, though, so adding a fender rack may be the only alternative to saddlebags or backpacks.
But the Stryker’s strong suit is surely the bike’s ability to deliver an easy, relaxed ride. Most of our press ride was spent rolling through Texas’ desolate ranch country on long, slow, sweepers. The Stryker was right at home here, and cruising to the mesmerizing V-twin pulse reminded me why cruisers are still the most popular motorcycles out there. But when some quick switchbacks came into play, the bike merely scraped its way through. While plenty powerful, the custom’s not meant for serious lean angles. You’ll have to modify your cornering lines to keep from dragging pegs (or boot heels) in hard corners.
We also had the benefit of testing the bike in real-word, high-traffic highway situations. The strong, maneuverable bike easily wound its way through any hairy traffic and road surface hazards that we came across. The five gear ratios are well-positioned, with a torquey bottom end and a true fifth-gear overdrive. The suspension and chassis offered a comfortable, non-compromising ride, which I found to be leagues above the Honda’s hard suspension and vague chassis.
The modern styling of the Stryker may or may not be your cup of tea, but with a plethora of customizing options, it’s an open palette to personalize. Star Accessories used the same outsourced design team that helped in the design and development of the Stryker to come up with more than 60 accessories already available. This means that not only do you get a variety of parts to choose from right at the point of purchase, but the styling is consistent with the bike’s theme, and they bolt on without fabrication. It also means that mounting points for accessories were designed right into the bike. The Stryker and the Raider also share identical wheel sizes, which makes for even more choices for personalization. And steel fenders mean that you can cut, chop, and bolt right to the stockers, if that’s your thing.
Kudos to Star designers and engineers for really paying attention to what custom builders have been doing to high-end custom cruisers for years. For a fraction of the price, Star’s gone further than most one-off customs you see parked at the local watering hole. The new Stryker is a real-world, factory-custom motorcycle for real riders. RB
By Tricia Szulewski, Photos By Riles And Nelson
Originally published in RoadBike magazine, Jan/Feb 2011.
For more images of the Stryker, check out our Stryker Bonus Extras.