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2011 Star Stryker Review

Yamaha's answer to Honda's factory custom chopper

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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2011 Yamaha Star Stryker

The Stryker in Impact Blue, leaned over in a turn-- left boot heel about to touch down.

Photo © Brian J. Nelson
Pundits figured that Honda finally lost its marbles when their blinged-out Fury debuted in 2008, but that bike's sales success emboldened Star Motorcycles—Yamaha's custom-style cruiser division—to build a similarly themed bike, sparking a surprising new niche of factory custom choppers from mainstream manufacturers.

Priced at $10,990 in Raven or $11,240 in Reddish Copper or Impact Blue, Star's Stryker undercuts the Honda Fury's price point by up to two grand. How does this raked-out ride stack up against its competition?

>>Click here for a 2011 Star Stryker Photo Gallery

The Goods: Don't call it a raked-out Raider

Though visually similar to Star's big-bore Raider cruiser, the Stryker features an all-new steel frame and is powered by a smaller engine (1,304cc vs 1,854cc) that's water-cooled, rather than air-cooled. A tweaked version of the V-Star 1300 mill, this four valve-per-cylinder engine has identical peak horsepower and torque figures, but incorporates higher lift ratios for crisper performance. Dual crankshaft balancers reduce high frequency vibrations, and a five-speed transmission directs power to the rear wheel via a carbon-reinforced belt drive that Star says offers a more direct throttle feel. With its EPA estimate of 40.9 mpg, Stryker should be capable of squeezing 160 miles out of one four-gallon tank of gas.

The newly designed 41mm front fork offers 5.3 inches of travel, and though Stryker has a more conventional cruiser silhouette compared to Fury, its total fork rake of 40 degrees is two degrees more horizontal than its Honda counterpart. Though Stryker's steering head is canted at 34 degrees, 6 degrees of tree rake brings the grand total to 40; the tilted trees enable a trail figure of 109mm, which adds stability and prevents "flopping" at lower speeds. A rear preload adjustable shock offers 3.9 inches of travel.

Throw a Leg Over: "In," not "on"

2011 Yamaha Star Stryker

The Stryker's exhaust pipes are unique to the bike.

Photo © Star Motorcycles
With a seat height of 26.4 inches—the lowest in the Star lineup—Stryker doesn’t feel intimidating to swing a leg over, a point proven by one comment from a magazine editor who easily climbed aboard from the bike's right side at the press launch: "I've got a 28-inch inseam," he said, "and it sure felt good to do that!" Star reckons that 35 percent of Stryker buyers will be women, and the bike's low center of gravity certainly helps mask its stout wet weight of 646 pounds.

Seated in the contoured and somewhat firm saddle, you're sitting more "in" the bike than "on" it, and Stryker's controls are more cruiser than chopper-like: pegs are forward, but the reach to the handlebars isn't quite so extreme, allowing for a more upright posture.

The black-faced speedometer incorporates basic indicator lights, and a Stryker logo (in an italicized Old English font, of course) sits just above a digital odometer that doubles as a fuel gauge using the "Select" button on the right handgrip controls.

On the Road: Low slung and hunkered-down

Stryker's 60 degree v-twin fires up with an exhaust note that's mellow with a slightly sharp edge, and revs produce mild pulsing sensations that rise through the seat and don't quite qualify as vibrations until you hit the upper end of the powerband.

The light clutch lever works progressively, and though there's a touch of notchiness at the shift lever (which could have been due to our test bike's newness), gear changes are positive with an easy-to-find neutral. There's some snatchiness with roll-on throttle, and though it accelerates aggressively off the line when provoked, Stryker doesn't offer the sort of power that tempts excessive speed (unlike ballsier big-bore power cruisers like the Suzuki M109R or the Harley V-Rod.)

Though its wheelbase is more than two inches shorter than the Fury's, Stryker is still quite a long bike, and those dimensions become most apparent on twisties. Stryker feels hunkered down despite its 40 degree fork rake, but it takes some anticipation and forethought to get this 646 pound bike to turn, thanks primarily to the suspension's lazy geometry. Once pitched over, there's enough ground clearance to get you around the bend without drama at reasonably sane speeds, but if you're feeling saucy and throw it deeper into a lean, your boot heels will likely dig into pavement shortly before the pegs touch down and start to fold upward.

The dual-piston, single disc 320mm front brake does an adequate job of bringing the bike to a stop, but it's often necessary to invoke the 310mm, single-piston rear unit in order to scrub off speed more quickly.

Bottom Line: Two-wheeled apples and oranges

2011 Yamaha Star Stryker

An action shot of the 2011 Yamaha Star Stryker, in Raven.

Photo © Star Motorcycles
There's a natural temptation to pit the Star Stryker against the Honda Fury, but the Stryker is a different beast altogether, veering more towards the cruiser end of the spectrum, as opposed to the Honda's high-handlebar, all-or-nothing chopper approach.

Star's Stryker is a solid performer and a great value, and while its firm-ish saddle might limit its long distance use and the throttle abruptness at low rpms makes its drivetrain a tad more rough around the edges compared to the Honda Fury, its incrementally more accommodating ergonomics make it slightly more practical—- all of which results in a tie, earning it 3.5 out of 5 stars on our About.com ratings system.

Managing to achieve a similarly impressive balance of style, function, and value along with the Fury, the Star Stryker offers a novel twist on the cruiser platform that should steal more than a few riders away from Honda... but at the end of the day, these are both capable, well-built bikes that will attract different types of buyers thanks to their dramatically different styles.

>>Click here for a 2011 Star Stryker Photo Gallery

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