There is a gradual climate change afoot in the world of Big V-Twins. In ever increasing numbers, cruiser connoisseurs are dismounting their classically styled leviathans in favor of leaner, custom-inspired beasts that emphasize outlaw sneer and adrenal performance over bulky heirloom styling. This environmental shift points to a global cooling trend throughout showrooms in 2008—and we’re not referring to sales figures. The latest example of this bad-attitude adjustment arrives in the form of the angular, raked 2008 Raider from Star Motorcycles.
The move into factory-custom chopper territory is a natural one for Star. Throughout its brief history, the Yamaha-parented marque has focused on crafting stylish machines that lend themselves to personalization. Best known for the Roadliner and Stratoliner—ornate Chrysler Building-on-wheels cruisers—Star has taken the magnificent 113 cu in V-Twin engine that powers those hulking classics and wrapped it in jagged, custom lines to create the Raider, a motorcycle that is as visually and sonically arresting as it is exhilarating to ride. (Click image to enlarge)
The Raider rolls in two persuasions: The base model is primarily attired in blacked-out accents, while the Raider S gleams with chrome engine trim, headlight, risers, fork sliders, triple clamps, air box cover, and subdued flamework as an option. Fit and finish on both models inspires a good deal of crouched appreciation.
Star describes the Raider’s barbed, angular styling as "Black Art." No, we’re not talking Harlem Renaissance or Basquiat here, but rather a medieval gothic, swords and scimitars aesthetic. Pointy details are evident throughout the bike’s rapacious profile, from headlight bracket to fender struts. Even the footpegs received an edgy makeover. Gently rounded curves need not apply for citizenship in Raider Nation. The bike’s goth-custom stance works hand in gauntlet with its rebel ergonomics. The Raider’s silhouette was designed to resemble a jet lifting off the runway, suggesting a sense of speed and independence, while creating a low-slung 27.3-inch seat and elevating the 4.1-gallon tank into the rider’s landscape. The internally wired pullback bars are nearly shoulder-high and cast the rider into a lock-up-your-daughters, fists-forward slouch. It just so happens that the one-percenter stance is extremely comfortable over daylong rides, particularly in the lumbar-friendly Raider saddle.
A lunging 40-degree fork angle was achieved by setting the rake at 34 degrees and kicking the yoke out six additional clicks. This equation allowed Star designers to keep the fork closer to the steering axis while squeezing the most out of the bike’s handling characteristics. The forward span also contributes to the bike’s rangy 71-inch wheelbase. Traditional custom design is quoted in touches such as the finned oil tank and the sizeable amount of daylight between the steering head and engine.
The engine in question is certainly deserving of the fastidious attention paid to its surroundings. Brawny and responsive in the low end, the motor reaches maximum torque at a scant 2500 rpm and achieves its power potential at 4500 rpm. Twin counterbalancers subdue the rowdy mill into delivering a smooth pulse through the seat and grips. The down-swept pipes spit a burly rumble onto the pavement.
The Raider’s mill is rigid-mounted into a light, newly designed aluminum frame. A horizontal, hidden rear shock isolates the rider from the angular swingarm’s movement, while the forks boast over five inches of travel.
Riding on a 21-inch, 120mm Metzeler up front, balanced by a sensible 18-inch, 210mm wide rear tire, the Raider maintains its custom attitude without ceding handling concerns. In order to make the bike feel as light and balanced as possible, every effort was made to lower the center of gravity, including placement of the fuel reserve under the seat. These accommodations collude with the front-end architecture to produce a nimble, confident ride.
At slow speeds, the brawny Raider is exceptionally navigable. The engine’s bustling low-end finesses the bike through traffic with deceptive ease. Blasting down the highway, the Raider is unflinchingly solid. The responsive engine and rowdy exhaust note tend to encourage uncivil behavior from the right wrist. Thankfully, the smooth cruising Raider’s mirrors retain constable-identifying clarity at ungentlemanly speeds. The crouched seating position shelters much of the rider’s midsection, diminishing windblast.
Cornering requires some initial effort to get the 700-pounder leaned over, but the Raider is stable enough through turns that pavement frequently shaves the stylish fold-up pegs. The engine rarely demands gear change through the bends, but when called upon, the 5-speed gearbox is fluid, with light lever pull. Neutral is easily located from either direction and acknowledged by a prominent green indicator. Dual discs cut a moderate profile while asserting authoritative stopping power over the front wheel. Lever effort and feedback are reassuringly moderate.
Star aptly defines the Raider as a Modern Performance Custom. The fact that "custom" is the root of "customer" has not escaped Star’s accessory division. They have devised an array of accents that echo the Raider’s marauding lines. From cuspidate crash bars to flaming billet racks, discriminating owners can thoroughly personalize their Raiders at the dealership before roaring off to pillage neighboring hamlets in style.