2012 Star Stratoliner Deluxe First Ride

The double yellow line in the strip of grey asphalt before me snakes through a valley of green and disappears around the bend. The stretch outside of Dahlonega, Georgia, has a bit of everything, from elevation changes to fast sweepers to tight switchbacks, the varied roadway providing perfect testing ground for the handling characteristics of the 2012 Star Stratoliner Deluxe. The fork-mounted fairing of Star’s big bagger has received a few additions this year, but the polycarbonate design is still light and well-balanced and doesn’t inhibit steering. The bike overall is heavy but its weight becomes a non-issue when rolling because the chassis is very stable and turning is predictable. Star set the bars wide which work to the rider’s advantage when leveraging into turns and it smoothly banks over, but you’ll notice the 67.5 inch stretch between its wheels and 811-pound curb weight when transitioning.

But gear it down and you’ll be impressed by the “oomph” the big pushrod-operated V-Twin provides. The torque-laden mill more than compensates for the bike’s girth. And though the Stratoliner Deluxe hasn’t changed dynamically in the last three years, there’s not much you could do to improve the 1854cc heartbeat of the bike. The powerplant uses technology developed in Yamaha’s sportbikes, like ceramic-composite plated cylinders and forged oil-cooled pistons, so it’s as efficient as it is powerful. The big V-Twin with the undersquare bore has plenty of character and doled out over 111 lb-ft of torque at 2300 rpm on our dyno last year. A bass-filled burble emanating from its 2-into-1 exhaust adds to that character. There is a bit of engine noise at idle, but vibrations are nominal thanks to efficient dual counterbalancers. Throttle response is snappy as the twin-bore downdraft fuel injection keeps the beast fed, squirting out just the right

amount of fuel depending on the position of the throttle sensor. With the bulk of the bike’s power available at just over 2000 rpm, you can romp through the gears and be up to 80 mph deceptively fast as last year the Strato Deluxe punched out the 0-60 mph test in 4.60 seconds.

To facilitate running through the gears is the reliable transmission of 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe. Shifting is a cinch with the five-speed tranny because it engages with no fuss and slides into gear much quieter than its clunkier American competitors. In the cruiser segment overall, the Star transmission shines as one of the smoothest gear boxes out there. The gearing is wide, which is good because there are only five of them. And while fifth gear can provide solid roll-on power or settle into a comfortable midrange cadence, one more cog on the tranny for an overdrive sixth would drop revs into its healthy low end and potentially could add even more longevity to the drivetrain.

(L) Star Motorcycles’ bagger with the fork-mounted fairing has earned a reputation in the segment for its powerful 1854cc V-Twin and smooth-shifting tranny. (M) The 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe is a competitive package in the bagger segment with its readily available power, smooth delivery and comfortable ride. (R) New horsepower meets old along a country road in Georgia.

The roads outside of Dahlonega are in fairly good shape but even when they’re not, the beefy 46mm front fork seldom blows through its 5.1 inches of travel. Ditto for the rear, because even though it’s a solo rear shock with adjustable spring preload, the unit is capable of keeping the 811 pound bike afloat, which is a good analogy for its ride quality. The suspension will compress due to the sheer weight of the motorcycle and the effect is more of a roll than a hit when it hits bumps or potholes. The one demerit is the rear shock is tucked out of sight and adjustment isn’t easily accessible behind the saddlebag in case you’re riding two-up, loaded down.

Star continues to source big discs front and back for the Stratoliner Deluxe’s hydraulic braking system. You don’t need to grab a big handful on the front because the monoblock calipers on the dual 298mm discs have excellent power and feel, stopping in 141.5 feet from 60 – 0 mph in our test last year. On the back is a single massive 320mm disc that has a strong bite to it as well, so much so that the rear brake will lock up easy with too eager of a stab of the pedal, so modulation is the key. And while most of its bagger competitors offer ABS, the Stratoliner Deluxe

It’s when the going gets slow that the long 67.5 inch wheelbase and 811-lb curb weight of the Stratoliner Deluxe becomes noticeable.

continues to operate without them. The current arrangement on the Strato Deluxe is powerful enough that ABS isn’t really needed but could help prevent the rear from locking up as easily as it does.

Since Star Motorcycles’ bagger with the fork-mounted fairing has earned a reputation in the segment for its powerful 1854cc V-Twin and smooth-shifting tranny, changes for the 2012 model year primarily address aesthetics and functionality.

On the aesthetics side, Star updated the former ‘art deco’ styling by dropping the front fender stay and by replacing the ribbing formerly decorating the tank with a new Star emblem. It tidied up the look of the inner fairing by adding a closeable lid for the small storage pocket where riders connect an iPod. To toggle through songs or to turn up the volume there are buttons in the left control housing above the grip which can be operated with the thumb. A little chrome trim around the twin speakers mounted inside the front fairing makes them stand out more, too, and the sound quality is better than past tests where we could barely hear the speakers at 75 mph. That’s not the case anymore.

A tank-mounted console with classic clock-style instrumentation complements the Stratoliner Deluxe’s lines. Instrumentation is fairly basic – analog speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge, along with twin digital tripmeters and odometer. The dial of the speedo is large and easy-to-read but a bit below the natural line of sight. But you can circumvent looking down at it all together because Star added a Garmin Zumo 665 GPS as standard equipment this year which has a speed indicator. The Zumo 665 flips down so riders now have nav, Bluetooth, real-time weather and traffic updates to go along with Sirius/XM satellite capability. The system is also integrated into the Strato’s audio system for further convenience.

When hitting the open road, the 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe’s bags are big enough to store a computer bag and the push-button system is easy to use, even with gloved hands. The hard bags provide a claimed 13.7 gallons of storage space. As far as ergonomics go, the upright riding position is achieved by forward-mounted floorboards and bars set wide and a tad below shoulder height for a six-foot-tall rider. The padded seat is comfortable enough for every day riding but a few pressure points and the accompanying bun-numbness in the mid-glutes were revealed in longer stints. We averaged over 44 mpg in our test of the Stratoliner Deluxe last year, so despite all that arm-wrenching torque it functions efficiently. The tank only holds 4.5 gallons so you can stretch out the range to almost 200 miles. There’s still no cruise control for 2012 though, a factor which cost the Stratoliner Deluxe in our 2011 Bagger Cruiser Shootout last

With 1854cc of power, this is what the majority are going to see of the 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe on the road.

year seeing how it’s a feature that’s pretty much standard on comparable models. On the freeway, the wide fairing does a good job of deflecting wind around a rider’s hands but the stock windscreen isn’t quite tall enough to divert the air over my head and head buffeting becomes an issue at speeds over 70 mph.

Though its updates for 2012 are subtle, the Stratoliner Deluxe looks sharp in its new Liquid Silver colorway. Thanks to the addition of the small door on the cubby hole, the chrome speaker trim, and the Garmin Zumo, its cockpit is looking much better now and provides improved resources for riders. Fortunately, the bike still possesses the traits we’ve admired since its debut as the 2012 Stratoliner Deluxe is a classy looking bagger with big power, a smooth tranny, and well-sorted suspension. Throw in decent storage and comfortable ergos and with bikes like this in its stable it’s no wonder Star Motorcycles claims to be the #1 selling metric brand in over 900cc cruisers. Add in the fact that is has a competitive price point of $17,990 in comparison to the Victory Cross Country ($18,999) or Harley Road Glide Custom ($19,499) and it’s easy to see why the 2012 Star Stratoliner Deluxe is a tough competitor in the bagger segment.