Raider Takes No Prisoners

BY RANDY TWELLS WITH PHOTO ASSIST FROM YAMAHA’S KIM KNUPP TECHNICAL CONSULTATION BY ALL PRO CYCLE & OFFROAD, GLOBE, AZ
Bike detail photos at Yamaha of Cucamonga, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Cypress, CA — Well there I was at the Yamaha Press Event November 15th at Yamaha’s USA headquarters. Yamaha introduced their new 2008 race team doing high flying stunts, a pit stop competition, and new model snowmobiles. But this day we also got to go hands-on with the Star gem of 2008, the all-new highly anticipated Raider.

Oh the rake—and the slammed look—this is a bad ass bike. W-i-d-e 210 mm radial rear tire gives it great low speed stable handling, and the dual discs on the front (120/70-21 bias tire there) will just about stand you on your head if you really insist. I got to take one out for a while along with the mobile fleet manager riding another Raider. It truthfully took me a few stops and starts to get re-acquainted with dual disc front brakes, having started out on duals with my first big twin, and only riding occasional tests on various manufacturers’ dual equipped bikes in the last 65,000 miles or so. It was a happy reunion— I have to say that, given a choice of what bike to buy next, I would make sure that it had dual disc front brakes. Hmm….

As we rode the surface streets and highways around the Yamaha Cypress headquarters, I punched it through the 5 gears, and got really quick acceleration— electronic fuel injection does just what its name suggests, no waitin’ around for heavy breathing – strong yet smooth power from 113 inches (stated in inches vs. metric equivalent I notice), only having to move 692 pounds off the line – killer! Big bike cubic inches & mid-size weight. The fairly wide gear ratios seem pretty elastic in practical use – I am the lazy type and don’t really like to shift a lot so I like this setup. The Raider scored well on the gears but some might want a clutch assist for the lever effort.

We stopped at a couple of lights and it was then I felt the noticeable heat coming off the rear head, at right on my inner thigh, when my leg was closer from putting both feet down to stop. Theoretically, you should have your right foot up on the brake and only put your left foot down at a stop, so maybe this is my chance to re-train myself. With my right leg up and my knee out just a bit, no more heat effect. At speed, you don’t really get the effect and of course, I plan to be moving if I am on a motorcycle….

However, there have been those times on a cold night when I couldn’t get my legs close enough to the heads to try and keep warm too. We’ve all been there.…

Speaking of temperature, the Raider is air cooled as are several other Star models using the same basic engine as the Raider (to those of us air-cooling purists, it matters).

I go back to the tires being wide rear and skinny front—we know the wide rear adds stability—get a wide enough rear tire and it almost doesn’t need a kickstand—- but it can make life exciting navigating tight turns. The narrow 21” tire up front should help that by making the front end pretty maneuverable; however a reeeely raked front end can take back any of that benefit, since the rake makes the bike want to stay straight. I think they got a good give-and-take combining the wheel/tire sizes with 34 degree rake plus 4 degrees on the yoke angle, making total 40 degrees rake and 102mm trail. (See “Rake Me, Trail Me” in an upcoming issue if you want to know more about this fascinating subject).

Comparisons: rear tires on two other brands’ road-course-friendly comparable ’06 & ’07 models I rode were 200-240mm; Raider is a conservative median width at 210mm, still well within twisties tolerances. You can usually add a little beef width-wise when replacing rear rubber too, without contacting any structural components, so a 220mm rear view probably isn’t out of the question. If you want the look. Still easy riding.

Stock instruments include an analog (thank you) gas gauge & speedo, 2 digital tripometers (for all those Sturgis side-trips), and turn signal indicators. The turn signal controls are all on one side. I like a tach which is an add-on, therefore not foisted upon me to pay for it if I don’t really want it. I do like to look at the rpm’s along with my speed so I can keep track of what the engine is doing. (This means that I sometimes forget what gear I am in which can be embarrassing let alone detrimental!) Other stock features include a 3-amp wire-in accessory hookup, and a helmet security cable, both under the lockdown seat that, by the way, has a wonderful rear lip to keep you IN the seat instead of sliding off the back when you twist the throttle.

As for looks, the 2-1-2 exhaust is shaped and curved along the side of the bike, which gives the Raider line an elegant flow if somewhat big-barreled; but combined

with the rake and the wide rear tire, the look is still hot right out of the

crate. You get stock 5-spoke cast wheels with spokes that look like cool curved blades. The stock handlebars are thankfully lacking the feared farm-equipment aura —a good no-nonsense mid-width low profile handlebar and the bonus is, inside switchgear wiring. I don’t see any automatic take-offs here, even if they did show a custom exhaust on the display Raider at the dealer show last fall.

Now, how much dinero have you (yes, YOU) poured (dumped!) into your “oh well it has potential” bike project, cutting and raking the front end, changing to chrome this or that such as art-form wheels, bobbing the rear fender, or a wide tire kit ($2500 from one company) just in the name of … vanity? Moi?? No, YOU kiddo. And you’re perfectly normal! It’s ok!! You can do that if you want, but now you can have that and not break the bank or have to live in your garage remanufacturing your bike for the foreseeable future.

There are many companies out there who make what they now call ‘production choppers’, and Yamaha figured it out. No dummies around here! The Raider addresses the American V-Twin wanna-ride-a-chopper customer with its take-no-prisoners wicked looks and the muscle to back it up. You can get a Raider with a ‘normal’ amount of chrome, or the Raider S which I just mentally assigned as “Shiny” since it denotes “extra chrome.”

And last but not least, seat height to me is very important. I have ridden some bikes that I thought I needed a leg up to mount, and I am about 5’8”. The Raider seat height is a liveable-for-many 27.3” stock. To most guys this is not an issue but— if you are a really petite female, it could be a thing. This is where the suspension aftermarket stuff comes in, the custom thin gel seat, etc. But, you can most likely make this bike fit you. And I do see tiny gals out and about on their bikes in boots with soles and heels that inspire awe, and stand them up eye to eye with me flat footed in my flip flops (‘she said to some catchy music…’). No I was not riding in flip flops…

I’m not much of a techie as I often admit, but I do believe in my gut impression. This is a great bike, for pretty much any rider. I think it’s quick, will stop you as quickly as you ever want to, brings with it the Yamaha/Star reputation for bulletproof dependability, and Yamaha through its Star division has a ton of accessorizing options to match any other manufacturer’s offerings whether American or Metric. We mentioned aftermarket accessories & parts – companies such as Baron Custom Accessories (a local So Cal company) have worked hand in hand with Yamaha for years and are right there with all kinds of Raider (and all Star models) goodies.

Well, I started out thinking I would write just a few words about this bike. That ought to tell you something in itself…. You can check out the Raider at participating Quick Throttle Star dealers or visit www.starmotorcycles.com which shows all the Star models and tons of spec/feature and other info.

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About Randy Twells