2012 Star Raider SCL First Ride

Star Motorcycles held the cards and money for the Make a Wish Foundation was on the line. By luck of the draw, I was on board the 2012 Star Raider SCL as the road through Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest began to bend and wind through the mountains. There’s gold in these here parts, rich veins in stubborn rock. There’s also gold leaf veins in the lustrous paint of the Raider SCL, as is plenty of metal flaked ‘Blazing Orange’ paint that glistens in full sunlight,

Star elects its power cruiser, the Raider, to be the first motorcycle in its Star Motorcycle Line. The in-house customizing treatment includes new paint, wheels with matching pulley, seat, a chrome belt guard and upgraded cables. Check it out in our 2012 Star Raider SCL First Ride Video.

an effect achieved by virtue of a six-layer paint process.

Cedars and oaks spread their massive branches along Highway 60 outside of Dahlonega as broad leaves carpet the countryside green. The road continues to climb at a generous rate of ascent and we seldom creep out of second gear on this strip of Georgia asphalt. This poses no problems for the torque-filled 113 cubic-inch V-Twin of the Raider SCL. The massive 3.94 inch pistons of the Raider punched out 107 lb-ft of torque at only 2200 rpm on our dyno last year on the same mill the SCL is running, so there’s a ton of low end power to propel me up the mountain. I accelerate in quick bursts, the twin-bore electronic fuel injection working impeccably with each twist of the wrist. Throttle response is crisp thanks to the gas sensors on the bike’s accelerator being spot-on. For a motorcycle with a stretched 70.9 in. wheelbase and a rake angle of 39 degrees, the Raider SCL is cutting the turns surprisingly well. It does want to stand up at times if you don’t keep constant pressure on the outside bar, but otherwise it’s stable banked over. Its only limitations are imposed by the peg feelers which we consistently ground down on the curves of Highway 60.

Reaching Dahlonega, we stop for some down home grub at The Smith House and a chance to draw another card. Star Motorcycles was holding a poker run in conjunction with the press launch of its 2012 cruiser lineup. At each stop,

The 2012 Star Raider SCL has a burly 1854cc V-Twin and handles well for a bike with almost 40 degrees of rake and a 21-inch tall front tire.

journalists swapped bikes and drew a card, with the high hand earning the most money for the charity of their choice. Riding the hottest looking bike of the bunch in the form of Star’s factory custom effort, the Raider SCL, left me feeling lucky. I unfortunately draw another low card, but at least I’ve got a run of hearts going and the possibility of a flush gives me hope. And now that the grey clouds that were hanging around this morning are gone, the full depth of the orange metal flake of the SCL really begins to pop in the afternoon sun.

SCL stands for Star Custom Line and Star Motorcycles selected its flagship power cruiser as the first motorcycle to receive the in-house custom treatment. Other manufacturers have had success with comparable programs, as Harley-Davidson has its premier CVO line and Victory uses the skills of the Ness family to customize bikes in-house for them. Star has worked closely with custom bike builder Jeff Palhegyi in the past and the styling of their motorcycles is designed in the US by a company called GKDI, so producing a factory custom in-house is a natural progression for Yamaha’s cruiser division.

So what sets the SCL apart from the standard Raider? It starts with the slick paint we’ve already mentioned, an eye-catching orange with metal flake along with the gold flake treatment in the trim of the tank. New script for the Star logo and clean pinstripes accentuate the transformation. A special aluminum tank badge stamped with the number of the bike sits in an opening on the tank console. Exclusivity is one of the selling points Star emphasized during presentation of the Raider SCL because only 500 are being made. Star updated the cables and lines on the front end, replacing the stock units with braided stainless steel throttle cables, clutch and brake lines. They also teamed up with Performance Machine to design new custom 5-spoke wheels which come with a matching chrome pulley. The belt guard gets upgraded with the chrome treatment, too. The SCL version gets a really sharp looking brown leather seat that complements the color scheme perfectly and an SCL logo has been embossed on the pillion. Shaped similarly to the stock seat, it didn’t change the bike’s ergonomics at all as it’s still a good stretch to the forward-mounted pegs and the seat height still situates riders down in the bike at 27.4 inches, making it almost a straight reach for the pullback bars. A small pillion pad and an extra set of pegs means you can bring a passenger along for the ride and the bike’s got more than enough power to accommodate the extra weight.

(L) Custom paint. Check. Custom wheels. Check. New seat. Check. Custom pulley, chrome belt guard, and a hologram in the tank badge. Meet the 2012 Raider SCL. (M) The power of the SCL is undeniable as the 1854cc mill put out 107 lb-ft of torque on our dyno last year at only 2200 rpm. (R) Its 113 cubic-inch, 48-degree pushrod V-Twin is one of the Raider SCL’s best features.

Slung long and low, we became fans of Star Motorcycles’ muscle bike, the Raider, when it debuted in 2008. Part of this amorous relationship was due in part to its 1854cc V-Twin which put out 84.03 hp @ 4500 rpm and over 107 lb-ft of torque at only 2200 rpm on our dyno last year. The Raider also ran a 13.32 second ¼ mile at 103.72 mph in our 2011 Performance Cruiser Smackdown. Star elected to use a shorter pushrod V-Twin instead of taller overhead cams to keep the bike’s center of gravity down and to allow them to tuck the seat in tight. Its single pin crankshaft allows a healthy pulse to reach the rider. But it is equipped with twin counterbalancers at both ends of the crankshaft so it has the requisite V-Twin character without the teeth rattling idle. During the course of our ride, the weather was moderate and the engine remained relatively cool, the machined cooling fins not only adding to the high quality fit and finish of the Raider SCL but doing an adequate job of dissipating heat from the air-cooled V-Twin as well.

Running through gears is a treat on the Raider SCL because its five speed gearbox is another of the motorcycle’s strong points. Engagement is crisp without the mechanical clatter and gear noise that seems to accompany trannys in this segment of motorcycles. With each gear, the rider is treated to that wave of immediately available torque followed by solid mid. The midrange is bolstered by the use of an Exhaust Ultimate Power valve in the dual pipes which are developed to help boost torque between 2500 – 3500 rpm. The motorcycle continues to deliver on the top end as well on gearing that’s relatively tall before tapping out between 4600 – 5000 rpm. The Raider SCL did fare well in a roll-on test with the VMax, albeit a gear lower at higher rpm. Regardless, its surge of power low in the rev range kept it in the running with the higher revving VMax at the initial drop of the hammer.

The Raider SCL’s ‘Blazing Orange’ paint with metal flake makes sure it sticks out in a crowd.

The Raider SCL in all its glory. It is the first full blown factory custom to roll off the Star Motorcycles’ assembly line.

And while the engine is full of character, it doesn’t portend to a healthy rumble from the 2-1-2 pipes streaking down the right side. The exhaust pipes have twin three-way catalyzers and an O2 sensor which mutes the rumble to a more EPA-friendly growl. The pipes also run a bit long and the tip of the lower pipe scraped a couple times when titled over hard in right hand turns. It is one area we would have liked to seen an upgrade in, especially since it’s supposed to be a factory custom bike. What’s one of the first things most people swap out on their bike? The pipes. And since no engine modifications were made, the simple addition of a new pipe could have given the SCL more attitude and perhaps a few more ponies without digging into the engine.

Hitting open road we roll on more throttle. The bike is well balanced and its straight-line stability is applaudable and despite having a 39 degree rake angle, the Raider SCL handles deceptively well when the road begins to bend. It helps that Star offset the yoke angle six degrees, leaving the fork centered closely to the steering axis. The Raider doesn’t fall into corners and is stable leaned over but you’ll be grinding the peg feelers down to nothing in no time because lean angle is limited. It helps that riders sit low on the bike in its 27.4 inch seat height and its center of gravity is situated down too, because the bike does sport a healthy claimed 730-lb curb weight.

Fortunately, even without ABS, the braking arrangement on the Raider SCL has no problems scrubbing off the speed of this burly, high powered cruiser. It only takes a modest squeeze on the right brake lever to get the four-piston monoblock calipers to put the bite on big dual 298mm rotors. The units provide both great feel at the lever combined with strong stopping power. In last year’s 2011 Performance Cruiser test we’ve already mentioned, the stock Raider using the same arrangement went from 60-0 mph in 131.07 feet. The rear disc is even bigger than the front at 310mm with its single-pin slide caliper which is a little grabbier than the front. The 210 mm-wide Metzeler ME880 Marathon on the back is more than eager to grab asphalt with a healthy push of the pedal and the front/back tandem works cohesively so that the lack of ABS isn’t an issue.

Suspension duties are divvied out between the standard telescopic front fork and a tucked-out-of-sight single rear shock. The 46mm fork on the front has 5.1 inches of travel which will compress a bit under heavy braking, but otherwise it does an adequate job of keeping the tall 21 inch front tire firmly planted. The Kayaba rear shock is positioned horizontally under the engine which provides a firm ride and will let you know when you hit a pothole directly because travel is limited. But the majority of the time it is working with the CF Die Cast controlled-fill swingarm to provide a comfortable riding experience.

As far as fit and finish, Star’s attention to detail rivals the best on the cruiser market. The welds on its cast aluminum frame are clean. They didn’t skimp on materials, realizing metal fenders are important to cruiser riders. The front chopped fender is especially sweet, as the gap between the rear fender and the back tire could be closed down a bit for our taste. The new wheels look sharp, appearing to roll backwards until you hit a certain speed and the action magically transitions back to rolling forward. An industrial strength riser houses sturdy bars whose switchgear wiring has been routed internally. The bars have been kept clean, too, by the use of a tank-mounted console. It’s mounted just below a rider’s line of sight so you do have to lower your line of sight to peak at the analog speedo while in motion. Instrumentation is fairly nominal, comprised of a fuel gauge, twin digital tripmeters, an odometer and a handful of self-diagnostic readouts. Its engine is dressed up with machined cylinders and chrome covers, with chrome lines running between the oil cooler and engine as well. We’ve already talked about the lustrous paint, and the brown leather seat is only going to take on more character as it gets distressed through use.

With its Star Custom Line, Yamaha’s cruiser division aimed “to provide a limited group of discerning riders the opportunity to own a custom cruiser with authentic high end components ready to roll off the showroom looking like its spent months in the custom shop.” After seeing it first hand and riding the Raider SCL, we commend them on their effort. The bike has the strong lines of an instant classic. At almost $20K, its exclusivity comes at a $5310 price tag compared to the stock Raider. This puts it above Victory’s Zach Ness Vegas at $16,999 but below Harley’s lowest priced CVO, the Softail Convertible, with an MSRP of $29,699. But try to get your bike custom painted, throw in a set of billet wheels with a matching pulley, swap out the seat and a bunch of trim independently and suddenly that price tag doesn’t look so bad. And you’ve got the convenience of having a custom-quality ride right off the showroom floor. Why not let Star do the work for you? The 2012 Raider SCL is a stellar looking ride with plenty of go to back up its show.