First ride on Yamaha’s Road Star Warrior

Published: 04 November 2001

Yamaha's new Road Star Warrior is no ordinary cruiser.

With a mere 2000rpm displayed on the LCD tachometer (an arc of blocks which sweep around an analogue-style scale) the bike punches forward with a solid force that builds relentlessly as the revs rise.

The exhaust note is deep, meaty and quite unlike the anodyne waffle of most other V-twins, more redolent of a well-tuned Harley despite the huge silencer keeping the aural output within legal requirements.

The throttle response is deliciously fluid and crisp, and crucially, the torque builds up rapidly rather than falling away as it does on most cruiser engines. At 3000rpm the acceleration climbs again, so much so that a double-take is needed on the small speedometer at the top of the fuel tank - 80mph is passing rapidly before the power starts to fall away, and even then it's still respectably quick.

If I'd had the room the Road Star Warrior would have kept going to around 120mph, but there are too many twists and turns for that, and anyway, the California Highway Patrol would already be turning pink with apoplexy if they'd spotted me - speeding, like smoking, is one stop shy of a capital offence in the land of the free.

This engine, frankly, is one of the most pleasurable power units of any description I've had the privilege of riding. At tickover the bike shudders and shakes with metronomic regularity, but the vibration right across the range is always thumping and evocative, never buzzy or unpleasant. It only revs up to 5000rpm, but that's part of the endearing character of the machine, its lazy yet enormously muscular power delivery. At 80mph the engine is thudding away beneath you just 3000 times per minute and you can trickle it right down to 1000rpm or so and it still surges forward with delicious force.

The sensations from the motor are enhanced by the inverted tooth belt final drive which operates with such smoothness.

Inevitably, the Road Star Warrior must bear comparison with Harley-Davidson's astonishing new V-Rod, and in several respects the Yamaha unit comes out on top. Top end horsepower is well shy of the American bike - the Harley is definitely quicker than the Yamaha when the revs rise (I just wanted to say that because it's such an unlikely statement). But at lower speeds and therefore revs the lighter Yamaha is probably the more rapid.

It handles, too. And that’s becoming a bit of a cliché with cruisers these days… at last. Huge amounts of weight have been shed compared with the standard Road Star cruiser (on which the Warrior's engine is loosely based) in all areas of the chassis, most crucially in its unsprung weight.

And the pedigree of the components is as fine as you'll get, with items such as the forks and brakes from an R1. Even the wheels are made the same way as the R1's, and on the Road Star Warrior they wear some serious rubber, low profile Dunlop D207s including a massive 200 section on the rear.

So come the first corner and I leave the braking late, feel the front tyre digging out an unseemly amount of grip for a cruiser then heel the bike over into the turn. The extra weight means it won't slow with the ferocity of an R1 but it's still impressive and there's plenty of feedback to help you gauge the lever pressure. The bike changes direction slowly, although it's sharper than the V-Rod, but stability is excellent.

Even cruiser riders who'd have no intention of exploring the Warrior's performance envelope will still appreciate how much better it feels at ordinary, everyday speeds, in terms of stability and general togetherness compared with the sloppy, sometimes nausea-inducing handling they're used to.

Ground clearance has been suitably increased too, although this is still the limiting factor when you're trying harder.

The riding position is recognisably cruiser, with the footrests set well forward and the seat extremely low behind wide-swept handlebars, which is comfortable enough.

Passengers will be less appreciative of all this - the rear accommodation is minimalist, the small pad atop the flared rear mudguard combining with footrests so high even a dwarf would find it cramped, but hell, he who rides fastest rides alone...

But for the rider, comfort is good enough to think about some serious touring. The windblast will get to you at 80mph upwards, although Yamaha is marketing a nose fairing among many other accessories.

I'd never before have considered owning a cruiser, but I had more sheer fun on this Yamaha than I can remember for a long time and I'm convinced I could get on just fine with this.

Yamaha UK is now asking for the bike to be homologated for Europe, but even if they win their way it will be 2003 at the earliest before you can buy an officially imported one in a UK dealership.

In the States the bike is priced just below the Honda VTX1800, so for the UK expect it to cost around £11,000.