Touring Motorcycle Reviews
When it comes to crossing the country two-up on a fully dressed touring bike-traversing the Rockies along the way-few can argue against the value of expansive engine displacement.
No strain, no pain. However, many motorcyclists have less arduous requirements, and the traits obtainable from a smaller motor are better suited to weekend excursions or daylong journeys.
With the introduction of the new Honda Interstate and Star’s new iteration of the established V Star 1300 Tourer, two Japanese manufacturers are making the very credible argument that 1300cc is the sweet spot for casual touring.
Honda, certainly, has had great success with the VTX1300 line;the Interstate is the touring component of a four-bike expansion into the 1300 cruiser market, taking an existing motor and placing it into an all-new chassis.
Star improved its 1300 Tourer for 2010 by updating the machine’s functionality and presentation.
Although the two bikes are aimed at riders with the same intentions, these are not cookie-cutter machines. It is quite interesting how differently the engineers at Honda and Star tackled the challenges of creating a successful mid-size touring bike.
To discover the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, we took the natural course- a long one.
by Jess McKinley
"Is this really a Honda?" my consciousness questioned as synapses fired and viscerally processed the smooth aggressive aesthetics that are a unique blend of elements drawn from custom baggers, raked-out choppers, and low-slung pro street bikes.
The stretched out frame is uncluttered and airy in the steering head area, while the long teardrop fuel tank suggests forward momentum, even at a standstill.
But the centerpiece of styling can only be fully appreciated once saddled on the Interstate; the pulled-back wide chrome handlebar mated to massive triple clamps provides a bold and industrial cockpit view and an inspiring foreground to the beautiful scenery we experienced on our ride.
The seat swoops between the rear fender and the tank, adding to the relaxing current while providing a manageable 27-inch seat height.
And, with complementary leather-covered hard bags with discreet latches to prevent compromising of the bike’s hygienic styling, the Interstate has the storage necessary for extended forays into flyover country.
Once on the open road, the corporeal experience becomes difficult to explain, but is likely akin to liquid machismo seeping its way up through the pores on the nape of my neck.
I love the wide, relaxed riding position, with floorboards positioned ideally for comfort, control, and the fittingly laid-back visual presentation of the rider.
Combined with the torquey pull of the 1312cc 52-degree V-twin engine-featuring unique three-valve/twin-plug heads-the Interstate provides a swanky ride.
The motor also delivers unassailable instinctual credentials, not the least of which is the thumping power-pulse delivery from a single-pin crankshaft that supplies the applicable sensory stimulus and auditory soundtrack to the ride.
With 33 degrees of rake, the Interstate is rock steady on the open road and it requires a near gale force crosswind before any sizable amount of adjustment through the high-leverage handlebar is necessary.
This stability-additionally established by a 70-inch wheelbase and fat 140mm front Bridgestone Exedra-is alchemized into ear-grinning excitement in wide sweeper turns where the Interstate holds its line and lean angle effortlessly.
And when the sweepers tighten up into switchbacks, you get the inevitable scraping. Yet, the question "Is this a Honda?" is answered in the affirmative, as it handles surprisingly well for its dimensions.
Totally immersed and in a state of flow, I decided to turn it up a notch with some spirited riding on the 700-pound machine, and quickly noticed the extra strength required to get large amounts of stopping power out of the single 336mm front disc-strangely, ABS is not an option.
The engine feels unhurried at any legal velocity, in spite of the flawless transmission having only five ratios.
Twisting the throttle to speeds well above the posted suggestion, I experienced a small amount of vibration along with wind buffeting that becomes bothersome over time.
Like any cruiser, the Interstate needs to be ridden with the purpose of enjoyment in mind-rumbling through the canyons, cruising across the open road-taking time out to soak up the two-wheeled experience that we all agree is a fundamental human right.
So, despite the temptation of the Interstate’s irrefutable performance capabilities-seemingly an inheritance that comes with the Honda badging-I slowed everything back down and the braking was once again more than adequate, and the resonance at speed, a non-issue. Taking my time, 350-mile days are virtually effortless.
Staking out new territory in the custom world, compared to the relatively staid VTX1300 Tourer, with a healthy dose of styling from Honda’s Fury chopper, the Interstate establishes itself as a post-modern touring cruiser with distinctively contemporary elegance.
V Star 1300 Tourer by Yamaha
by Shawn M. Pickett
Gleaming black with silver pin-striping and chrome accents, stylized classic in form and purely modern in function, 2010 is a good vintage for the V Star Tourer 1300.
Gliding through the Sierra Madre Mountains, the elements of mundane life fall away, jumble together, and coalesce to form a greater image of self; the self-image of the touring motorcyclist.
The verdant canyons of Santa Barbara’s wine country display the rewards of a wet winter; fields of grape vines blur in my peripheral vision while dodging gleeful wine tasters in convertibles.
Corner handling on the V Star Tourer is better than you would expect on a straight-line highway machine. Weight distribution is nearly even, making the bike responsive to input through the wide chrome handlebars; this year’s new bend brings the controls closer to the rider.
Sixteen-inch tires on seven-spoke aluminum wheels provide the desired cruiser image, while the 130mm front tire is a nice balance of stability and agility.
The V Star engine is velvety in its application of power-1304cc of air and fuel mixed, compressed, and burned flawlessly in conjunction with a dual-bore throttle body.
Injectors feed the twin intake valves in each cylinder head, precisely ensuring smooth throttle response and usable power throughout the rev range. No dips or spikes in the output interfere with the inviolability of the riding experience.
Engineered for longevity, Star designed this liquid cooled 60-degree V-twin with proven components. Roller rockers activate four-valves per cylinder, driven from surprisingly aggressive single overhead cams.
Forged pistons and connecting rods reciprocate in ceramic composite cylinder sleeves; they connect to a single crankpin for the appropriate pulse and sound.
The low-maintenance final belt has a lag-free connection between throttle and road. Vibration is at a minimum alleviating the distraction of numb extremities. Though water-cooled, the radiator plumbing is well hidden.
Less traveled than nearby Highway 101, the side roads are a crazy quilt of asphalt patches in shades of gray-a superb proving ground for the suspension on the V Star Tourer. With over five inches of fork travel and more than four inches in the single-shock rear, the compliant suspension insulates the rider while helping maintain control over the haphazardly maintained surface.
The square-edged swingarm, painted in a high-quality, gloss-black finish to match the double-cradle frame, continues the air of authority presented in the overall theme.
Passing one winery after another, dual 298mm discs in front-unusual for this class of machine-facilitate short stopping to avoid wine tour drivers making quick turns into the next tempting vineyard.
Making good on the Tourer moniker, Star includes the vital elements for extended saddle time. Fuel capacity is a distance-consuming five gallons, split between the traditional tank and a sub-tank under the seat.
Protecting rider and passenger is an expansive windscreen mounted to the forks with sturdy chrome hardware, that quickly proves its worth as evidenced in the abundant entomological carnage deposited on its leading surface.
Leather-wrapped lockable hard saddlebags provide ample storage for a romantic weekend ride with a passenger or a solo burn from one corner of the state to the other. A new seat and standard passenger backrest this year ensure two are as comfortable as one, even on 500+ mile days.
Cruising isolated roads or touring the open highway, Star has engineered a graceful companion that eases the journey toward discovery.
With its unobtrusive riding character, mechanical detail, and nostalgic styling, the new V Star 1300 Tourer is more than the sum of its parts; it represents the external manifestation of one’s search for identity.
Honda and Star have done superb jobs of positioning each 1300, and although their objectives are similar, their paths to success are as singular as the final results.
Certainly, the V Star is the choice of the cruising rider interested in a dab of sporty riding on his excursions-making it something of a western bike, where mountains and intricate coastlines abound.
It may be heavier (by 35 pounds) than the Interstate, but the V Star’s sporting credentials are established by its peppy oversquare motor-the bore is the same as on the 1854cc Stratoliner-and the impressive twin disc front braking.
It is also duly noted that the Star has four valves per cylinder, rather than the Honda’s three, and dual injectors, compared to the Interstate’s single throttle body.
Further enhancing canyon performance, longer suspension lifts the V Star up, giving it impressive clearance in corners, and the 16-inch front wheel is narrower and carves better than the Honda’s 17-incher.
The Interstate is long and low-a natural for the straight lines prevalent in the Midwest and much of the east. The Honda’s stylish seat sits an inch-and-a-half closer to the pavement than the V Star, and it has three-and-a-half additional inches between its axles.
Enhancing its straight-line performance, the Interstate assertively kicks out the front end and pushes a fatter front tire. Roll-on power is enhanced by a stroke slightly longer than that enjoyed by Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700.
A windscreen that causes the front end to oscillate at speeds over 80 mph-though optically friendly and problem-free at slower speeds-limits highway performance.
Those who ride two-up will be instantly drawn to the V Star’s standard backrest, though there are two accessory backrests offered by Honda Genuine Products for the Interstate.
Regardless, the V Star’s passenger seat is certainly more inviting, and the operator will undoubtedly appreciate the V Star’s additional braking capabilities.
Styling is a deeply personal issue, and the two bikes offer up distinctly different interpretations of the cruiser ethos. The Interstate is a contemporary cruiser, with sleek lines that flow elegantly along the length of the bike and supply a taste of east coast urban cool.
The sophistication of the Interstate is uncommon in the class, and the wide, pull-back bars present the rider as someone who is in no hurry-very clearly a member of Honda’s 1300 Custom trio (not to mention a close cousin to the Fury chopper).
Unapologetically retro, the V Star has a modular look, and the muscular engine is a featured component. The Star has a more traditional touring presentation up front, with the wheel held close to the frame, a substantial headlight, and beefier bracing on the taller, more-vertical windshield. Without question, the V Star projects a purposeful demeanor.
Detail differences abound. The Star has steel fenders, rather than the plastic embraced by the lighter Honda. Although neither are chain drive, the Star’s belt drive has a vintage appearance compared to the Honda’s invisible shaft.
The Interstate’s bags use friction to close, while the V Star’s bags are lockable-both are leather over hard-shell with good capacity, usable storage.
We feel fortunate when presented with two motorcycles that follow unique paths to the same destination. Certainly, a buyer may initially find himself choosing between the V Star 1300 Tourer and the Honda Interstate, but the bikes have staked out clearly defined territory, making the final decision purely dependent upon your criteria for satisfaction.
Motorcycle Riding Apparel: Honda Interstate
Helmet: Akuma Phantom II MFR
Jacket: Shift Trifecta SS Mesh/WP
Gloves: Shift Bullet
Pants: Shift Havoc
Boots: Tour Master Nomad
Motorcycle Riding Apparel: V Star
Helmet: Icon Airframe
Eyewear: Star Riding Glasses
Jacket: Star Tour-Tek
Gloves: Star All-Weather
Pants: Cortech Decker Leather
Boots: Wesco Boss
Photography by Don Williams