2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe | Test

Motorcycle Review

Our high-speed, modern world often leads us to romantic thoughts of stepping back to a less hectic time. Perhaps extracting ourselves from this frenzied existence can be achieved. Throw a leg over Star’s new Stratoliner Deluxe and you get a silver shadow transport to a state-of-mind where traveling back in attitude is more important than traveling back in time.

Touring through the smudge-pot lined orange groves of California’s Pauma Valley, the pace of life genuinely feels slower. The organic growl from the Star’s 113 cubic inch, 48-degree V-twin is well placed in its surroundings. Twin counterbalancers leave just enough vibration to massage mind and body. Nothing is rushed. The time of day is not important; the color on the ripening oranges is the only clock that must be followed. The machine becomes a part of the cycle of rebirth, where one’s essence is cleansed and preserved for future battles.

The aesthetic is pure and detailed, giving a pleasing composition whether viewing the motorcycle from on board or off. Machined cooling fins set against black cylinders add depth to the visually stimulating power plant. Chrome is in ample supply, tastefully balancing the sculpted obsidian silhouette.

Three chrome streaks wrap the sides of the steel 3.7-gallon primary gasoline tank. A sub-tank is tucked behind the engine, bringing the total fuel capacity to 4.5 gallons and lowering the center of gravity. Steel fenders and side covers add a touch of quality to the Stratoliner Deluxe, yet do not take away from the handling characteristics delivered by the lightweight aluminum chassis.

The Stratoliner Deluxe was born of Star’s determination to expand the Strat line. While the standard Stratoliner and S use a traditional windshield and leather-covered bags, the Deluxe protects the rider and carries its load in bolder style-a fork-mounted fairing and short windscreen, constructed of polycarbonate and ABS plastic, with matching bags.

Sweeping back from the stylish inverted-teardrop headlight to direct air away from the rider’s torso, the fairing is certainly deluxe.

Buffeting around the legs and on the passenger is present, but not to the extent that it is overly fatiguing. An Apple iPod-compatible cable and mounting strap are housed in a dashboard compartment above a pair of fairing mounted speakers, and when coming to a stop, a speed-sensitive amplifier lowers the volume. Controls for the iPod are attached to the left mirror stalk and allow easy access to essential controls. Positioned close to the triple clamps, the speakers’ weight is brought near the centerline, which minimizes their impact on steering effort.

The center console has an antique clock look with a large analog speedometer above the smaller analog tachometer and fuel gauge. The tachometer is small but that is not a detriment to a bike in this class; in fact, the abundant low-rpm torque, and a rarely reached 5700 rpm rev limit, make a tachometer superfluous. The four-function LCD adds a bit of functional modernity, and can be switched between two tripmeters, fuel tripmeter, and odometer by pulling a trigger switch in front of the left grip switch cluster.

With 1854cc of undersquare displacement, the air-cooled pushrod motor breathes through dual 43mm Mikuni downdraft throttle bodies. Modern engineering such as twin spark plug heads, EXUP exhaust valve, and direct intake ports provide clean and efficient combustion for a claimed 91 horsepower at the rear wheel and ample 117 ft/lbs of torque. The ceramic-composite plated cylinders and forged pistons are cooled by an oil jet that sprays oil under the exhaust valve side of the piston allowing for the higher compression ratio in addition to extending the life of the engine.

Crisp and positive, the five-speed transmission works flawlessly. Though some might consider the lack of a sixth cog an oversight, the Stratoliner motor purrs smoothly at 70 mph in 5th-spinning at just above 3000 rpm. Ratios are selected through a two-piece heel-and-toe shifter, a design that allows independent adjustment of each lever’s height. A half-spoon shaped plate on the heel lever is easy to find, yet unobtrusive, avoiding accidental up-shifts when moving your left foot on the long floorboards. Replaceable wear blocks keep the boards pristine if dragging occurs in the twisties, which the low-profile Dunlop tires and the Stratoliner’s fine handling certainly allow.

Perfect suspension for the solo rider is provided by the matte black 46mm forks with over five inches of well-damped travel, and an adjustable shock supporting the controlled-fill, die-cast aluminum swingarm regulating over four inches of rear wheel travel. The reduction of unsprung weight through the use of superbly engineered aluminum components makes the ride compliant and able to absorb road imperfections, but not so soft that the bike wallows while cornering. Carrying a passenger requires a little more preload adjusted into the shock to retain the Stratoliner’s original ride characteristics.

The 130mm 18-inch front and 190mm 17-inch back tire combination reduces rotating mass, making handling light and responsive. Dual front discs squeezed by four-piston monoblock calipers reduce the speed of the Stratoliner Deluxe with aplomb, and add confidence for a higher level of aggressive riding. The levers are pulled back to impressive, 1.25-inch diameter handlebars, giving the rider something substantial to grasp.

With the hard saddlebags fully loaded and Jane sitting on back, I always felt in control of the Star. Even while having to wrestle with the inevitable heavy crosswind that blows through the valley between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, the Stratoliner Deluxe remains composed and acts predictably. In these harsh conditions, the optional quick-release passenger back rest kept Jane secure. In less challenging riding situations, the backrest is simply a welcome comfort aid.

With clean lines brought to fruition by the artist’s touch, the Star Stratoliner Deluxe is a gentleman’s conveyance-well bred and disciplined. It is a motorcycle appropriate for a stay at a five-star resort, yet possessing the prowess to sweep along a winding country road with an aggressive hand on the throttle. Large-displacement horsepower and long-stroke torque enveloped in a skillfully crafted lightweight aluminum frame bring together the disparate worlds of stylish cruiser and touring canyon carver.

Motorcycle Specifications | 2010 Star Stratoliner Deluxe

Engine Type…113-cubic-inch (1854cc) air-cooled 48°V-twin; pushrod OHV, 4 valves/cylinder
Bore x Stroke…100.0 x 118.0mm
Compression Ratio…9.48:1
Fuel Delivery…Twin-Bore electronic fuel injection
with throttle position sensor
Ignition…TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission…5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive…Belt
Suspension/Front…46mm telescopic fork; adjustable preload, 5.1-in travel
Suspension/Rear…Single shock; 4.3-in travel
Brakes/Front…Dual hydraulic disc, 298mm
Brake/Rear…Hydraulic disc, 320mm
Seat Height…27″
Fuel Capacity…4.5 gal.

MSRP: $17,490