Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Whereverstan, you probably already know that the Tuning Fork Company has a new bagger set to hit the domestic market: the Star Eluder. Based on the tour-tastic Venture, the Eluder takes the family deep into custom-bagger territory with blackout treatment, a cut-down windshield and a clean rear end that comes sans top case. Meant to look low and mean, the Eluder brings Yamahainto the ever-expanding bagger battle that has seen many of the top manufacturers vying for a piece of the action.
Baggers are an entirely American invention that started out with riders pulling the Tour-Pak off their full-dress Harley-Davidsontourbikes and generally trimming off some of the excess fat to create the look we associate with the genre. Everything else is, to be perfectly blunt, an imitation. For that reason, and in spite of the updated bagger models from The Motor Company this year, I’m not going to include Harley in this look, but will instead cede the floor to Indian Motorcycle and its Chieftain Dark Horse, the BMW K 1600 B and the Moto Guzzi MGX-21. Let’s give some of the new blood a look, shall we?
Continue reading for my take on the Yamaha Star Eluder.
Yamaha jumps right into the genre with both feet here, and why not? The Venture provides the perfect platform upon which to start building, or stripping away as the case may be. A shark-grin fairing leads the way with no less than four headlights set like teeth in a maw below the chopped down windshield. Like Yamaha, the Beemer entry runs a fixed fairing and short shield as well, if only in a more sportbike-like configuration.
Indian and Moto Guzzi favor the fork-mount fairings that move with the steering, but while the Dark Horse sports a batwing fairing similar to the original baggers, ’Guzzi’s fairing is a lot more batmanwith a highly stylized fairing and sculpted wind deflector that looks really cool and does a magnificent job protecting the instrumentation, but little else.
Most carry quite a bit of that beefy front-end look due to the full fairings, and that gets reinforced by the clean upper lines of the rear ends that have no visual weight to offset the mass of the front. Beemer alone has a reasonably-narrow entry due to its sporty roots, and even it carries some heft. Moving aft from the genre-defining front end, we find that all of the above meet the requisite hard-bag criteria to finish the look. Yamaha knows that you want to share the riding experience, and tosses on a saddle complete with a pillion seat and generous oh-shit handles. So does the competition, with the exception of the Dark Horse that Indian seems to think should be a solo ride.
Yamaha gives the Eluder some blackout touches to further the custom flavor and add to somewhat-menacing look. Because no cruise is complete until you’ve shared your musical tastes with everyone in earshot, all but BMW offers an infotainment suite as part of the standard package. Yamaha goes straight to the top-shelf with a 7-inch touchscreen interface similar to Indian’s “Ride Command” system. No matter where you fall on the looks, you’ve got to appreciate that Yamaha is taking the tunes seriously.
Tourbike Sans Topcase
|2018 BMW K 1600 B||2018 Yamaha Star Eluder|
Though baggers are stripped down to achieve a certain look, they’re still tourbikes at their roots. Toward that end, Yamaha floats its steel frame and aluminum subframe on beefy, 46 mm forks up front and gas shock out back. Both ends come with adjustable preload and damping, much like the MGX-21, and while it tops the Dark Horse which only has the minimal air-adjustable rear end, the K 1600 B beats the Hell out of all of the above with Beemer’s fandangled Electronic Suspension Adjustment that provides automatic/dynamic suspension tweaks.
All these rides come with some sort of ABS as standard equipment, but Yamaha sweetens the deal with a linked-brake feature that provides an extra layer of safety by automatically balancing braking efforts between the front and rear calipers. The brake hardware itself is sufficient across the board with nothing gained by any particular party.
Though the Eluder lacks the polish of the Beemer’s fancy suspension, it does come with what you need to dial in your ride, and though H-D isn’t included here, it’s worth pointing out that Yamaha’s suspension is superior to that of the reigning bagger king. In other words, you can still use the Eluder as a tourbike, albeit one with less than the maximum storage capacity.
Battle Of The Mills
|2018 Indian Motorcycles Chieftain Dark Horse||2018 Yamaha Star Eluder|
Two truths I’ve found to be accurate: if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band; and if you wanna sell baggers to Americans you’d better stick a big V-twin in there. Yamaha did just that with its 1,854 cc (113 cubic-inch) powerplant.
Unlike the old days, performance is becoming an important metric even for loafers like these, so the 126 pound-feet of torque is right on point. Not only that, but it comes geared to cruise at 75 mph at a leisurely 2,750 rpm. ’Guzzi packs the smallest mill at 1,380 cc, and predictably, it turns in the weakest numbers with only 89 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm. Indian is in the ballpark with its 1,811 cc Thunder Stroke 111 and 119 pounds of twist at three grand, but Beemer takes the cake with a whopping 129 pound-feet. Granted, the K 1600 B is actually running a six-banger, and so it’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison, but you gotta run what you brung, and this is what the Beemer is packing.
Yamaha went to the top shelf for the engine-control components. First off, a ride-by-wire throttle makes the rider-to-machine link, and that input gets washed through a variable power-delivery “D-Mode” feature, traction control, and of course, cruise control.
Beemer and ’Guzzi both match that gadgetry, and all three leave Indian in the dust. Needless to say, Yamaha is matching the top-of-the-line bikes in the engine electronics department, and this is an area where the American manufacturers are definitely lacking. Yeah Indian and H-D, that’s right, I’m lookin’ at you. Not only do folks like their gadgets, but they like being as safe as possible while they ride (while not necessarily riding safely) so Yamaha definitely gets props for the contact-patch protection. Traction control, variable power curves, ABS and a slipper clutch all contribute to a fairly safe ride in spite of the 875-pound curb weight.
How Does Your Wallet Fare?
|2017 Moto Guzzi MGX-21||2018 Yamaha Star Eluder|
Yamaha hits close to what we expect from the homegrown marques with a $22,499 sticker. The Indian Dark Horse and BMW K 1600 B top the Eluder with a $23,999 and $23,545 tag respectively, but the MGX-21 (with its underwhelming engine size/performance) manages to squeak in under the wire with a $21,990 MSRP. Yeah, it’s a lot of money to spend, but U.S buyers are accustomed to being raked over the coals (ahem, H-D/Indian) and won’t bat an eye at breaking the 20-grand mark for a luxury, sort-of touring bike.
“As far as imported baggers go, there ain’t a thing wrong with the Star Eluder. Though I’m not a huge fan of fixed fairings in general, I gotta say I like this one more than the Road Glide, for instance. Does it look cool? Well, not as cool as a Harley, Indian or even Victory, but many will find the tradeoff worth it once they consider the price and some of the shinier features that Yammy saw fit to work in.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Yamaha was hyping this new mystery model, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they would release a bagger after the unveiling of the Venture. It seemed a natural course to take. Now that the Venture delivery date has been pushed back four months because of a production problem in Japan, there’s no reasonable expectation that the Eluder will be in dealerships before the end of the year. So we’ll see what happens.”
|Model:||2018 Yamaha Star Eluder|
|Engine Type:||113-cubic-inch (1854cc) air-cooled OHV V-twin; 8 valves|
|Bore x Stroke:||100.0mm x 118.0mm|
|Fuel Delivery:||Yamaha Fuel Injection with YCC-T and D-Mode|
|Ignition:||TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Transmission:||6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper wet clutch|
|Suspension / Front :||46mm telescopic fork; 5.1-in travel|
|Suspension / Rear:||Single shock with remote preload adjustment; 4.3-in travel|
|Brakes / Front:||Dual hydraulic disc, 298 mm; Unified Brake System and ABS|
|Brakes / Rear:||Hydraulic disc, 320 mm; Unified Brake System and ABS|
|Tires / Front:||130/70R18 Bridgestone® Exedra®|
|Tires / Rear:||200/55R16 Bridgestone® Exedra®|
|L x W x H :||98.0 in x 38.4 in x 55.5 – 50.2 in|
|Seat Height:||27.4 in|
|Rake (Caster Angle):||31.0°|
|Maximum Ground Clearance:||5.5 in|
|Fuel Capacity:||6.6 gal|
|Fuel Economy:||34.0 mpg|
|Wet Weight:||875 lb (GT: 877 lb)|
|Warranty:||1 year limited factory warranty (with up to 5 years total coverage under Yamaha Extended Service)|
|Color:||Impact Blue, Raven, Liquid Silver|
|Price:||$22,499 (GT: $23,999|