Star Stratoliner Deluxe: Tested in the Peach State

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2012 Star Stratoliner Deluxe Fully Accessorized Test

When faced with the task of testing the new Star Stratoliner Deluxe, fully equipped with the cream of the Star Custom Accessories catalog, the selection of the Appalachians of northern Georgia is a natural choice.

Yamaha, the parent company of the Star brand, has a strong bond with the Peach State thanks to its facility in Newnan, where ATVs, Rhinos, WaveRunners, and golf carts are manufactured.

Mix this with the seemingly endless supply of pleasantly twisting roads, small towns offering ever-present Southern hospitality, plus the scenic Chattahoochee National Forest, and you have a world-class riding destination.

To go with this spectacular locale, a suitable home base is required, and Chateau Elan fits the bill perfectly. Located in Braselton, about an hour north of Atlanta on Interstate 85, Chateau Elan is an exceptional resort, with a winery, two 18-hole championship golf courses, spa services (including Spa Suites), and fine dining.

After an enjoyable day riding, imagine a gourmet meal at the Culinary Studio where Executive Chef Marc Suennemann and his international team of chefs prepare superb meals in front of your eyes in the 1600-square-foot teaching kitchen. You can watch from your table via closed circuit television, or view the preparations first hand.

I enjoyed a five-course meal that included a port poach pear salad with Belgium endive, stilton and arugula, followed by an unbelievably tasty risotto with braised leg of lamb, roasted grapes and feta. Prosciutto-wrapped halibut, with polenta fig cake, heirloom carrots and truffle jus finished the meal before an exotic passion fruit dessert. After a feast like that, you’re ready to melt into a luxurious bed and tackle the roads on the Stratoliner Deluxe first thing in the morning.

The weather can change on a dime in this part of the country, so it helps to be prepared. Two items made a huge difference on my rides, which included the sunniest of skies and the darkest of thunderstorms.

Outfitted with Bell Helmet’s optional Transitions SOLFX ClickRelease Shield, my RS-1 was ready for anything. The visor was transparent when the rain was pouring down on me, and appropriately dark when skies were clear. The Pokerun 3-in-1 Mesh jacket gave me flexibility; it allowed the airflow I needed in the warm weather, and includes a greatly appreciated removable waterproof lining that kept me dry when all was drenched around me.

Certainly, the Star Stratoliner Deluxe had already established its reputation as a stunning motorcycle that has styling second to none. Updated for 2012, the standard Stratoliner Deluxe now includes the motorcycle-oriented Garmin Zumo 665 GPS (with optional Sirius/XM satellite radio), a handy closeable compartment for small items, and a few additional styling flourishes.

As appealing as the standard Stratoliner Deluxe is, there is no reason in the world to resist the temptation of the Star Custom Accessories catalog. Dave Pooler of Star Accessory Marketing took on the task of turning a Deluxe motorcycle into a highly functional custom machine with plenty of adornment from the Hot Rod Collection.

It’s time to flip up the Garmin screen, which hides the ignition switch, and hit the Georgian backroads.

Riding alone, I quickly became a fan of the Comfort Cruise Solo Seat as soon as I was aboard. The contour of the leather seat is ideal, with a great mixture of support and comfort. The shape makes it easy to plant your feet so you can use your legs as leverage to right the 794-pound beast (claimed wet weight) off its kickstand. Back-to-back 4.5-gallon tank-emptying non-stop rides confirmed the seat’s riding appeal – consider this a must-have upgrade.

Like any metric cruiser, the 113 cubic inch Star motor fires up smoothly. It is almost automotive-like in its civilized starting behavior. Once running, however, Star has shown that it has not forgotten the importance of the rumble of the motor. The pushrod (yet four valves per cylinder), air-cooled 48-degree V-twin has a nicely chunky feel, without any sharp edges to fatigue the rider. Putting in 400 miles a day on this motorcycle is a piece of pecan pie.

Gliding my way north through the hill county, the Stratoliner Deluxe does nothing to get in the way of enjoying the ride. I opted for the Deluxe Tall Windshield (with matching Stratoliner Deluxe Windshield Bag), another must for long-distance riders. I’m 5′ 10″, and the tall screen is still short enough that I can see over it, yet it takes away the vast majority of the wind onslaught, even at Interstate speeds. If you plan on riding back roads primarily, the standard lower screen is more than adequate and a bit more stylish.

On the open road, the Stratoliner Deluxe prefers that its speed be kept at or below 80 mph. Maximum torque kicks in at 2500 rpm, and at 80 the motor is turning 3500 rpm. From there, the vibration produced through the bars, seat, and floorboards is enough to stop you from venturing higher. The Stratoliner Deluxe will do 100 without challenging its stability, but this is not an ultra-high-speed touring cruiser; the accent is still on cruise.

Handling is absolutely effortless through the many corners on the way to Dahlonega, one of the destinations on the ride. Thanks to Lake Sidney Lanier sitting between Chateau Elan and Dahlonega, there are no straight lines on any route you care to take. Just pay attention to the Garmin’s compass and make your way north to the convergence of US Route 19, and State Highways 9, 52, and 60 – truly a northern Georgia crossroads at the base of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Home to North Georgia College and State University, Dahlonega has a wide appeal. In the center of town at 1 Public Square sits the Dahlonega Gold Museum inside the 175-year-old former Lumpkin County Courthouse. An early 19th century gold rush established the area’s mining credentials, and a United States Branch Mint coined $6 million in gold during the 23 years it was in operation.

In addition to a foot-friendly shopping area, there are a number of enticing eateries. However, my eye and palate were drawn to The Smith House, just a short block from the Public Square.
Established in 1895, The Smith House sits on a vein of gold that was never mined due to its proximity to the center of town. Instead, it found gold as a small hotel and restaurant. Indeed, The Smith House is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of Historic Hotels of America. A nice contrast to the ultra-luxurious Chateau Elan, The Smith House presents its bountiful amenities in an historical setting.

When it comes to food, it’s time to experience the local Georgian cuisine. Served family style downstairs next to a miniature mining-museum in the original gold shaft, you will not go hungry.

The meat choices include fried chicken (Smith House style), baked ham, and roast beef. Vegetarians need not worry, as fried okra, candied yams and a wide variety of steamed vegetables are not in short supply, all of which can be washed down with lemonade or iced tea. And, you absolutely will not want to pass up the corn muffins, which are not overly sweet. Health conscious riders will want to know that low-cholesterol oil is used in the preparation of the food, so your heart will be as happy as your taste buds. Southern home cooking in a family atmosphere – you really can’t beat that.

Take a nap in your room and later head on over to the Public Square and The Crimson Moon Cafe for wine or beer with some local music. Original blues, Americana, bluegrass, and folk can all be found on the cozy stage.

After spending the night at The Smith House, the Stratoliner Deluxe beckons. The bike is easily capable of carrying whatever you need for your stay away from the Chateau Elan. The Star Custom Accessories rear fender rack adds carrying capacity, and accessory liners for the hard, lockable saddlebags make moving cargo between the Stratoliner and room a snap.

Highway 60 takes you into the Chattahoochee National Forest, and some of the greatest mountain roads you will ever ride. The Stratoliner Deluxe handles both the fast and slow corners in stride. Fast sweepers are wallow-free, with perfectly tuned suspension at both ends. In the tight stuff, there is no drama thanks to plenty of cornering clearance.

The Stratoliner’s seating position is comfortable for the long haul and spirited riding, with the generous floorboards offering a great platform for your feet. The Star Custom Accessories Touring handlebars are wide and swept back for comfort and leverage. There is no getting around the weight of the Stratoliner Deluxe, though the ergonomics minimize any heft issues.

Should you find yourself approaching a corner more quickly than you would like, twin 298mm discs are there to bail you out. Softly biting initially, the brakes haul the Deluxe down quickly if you’re willing to squeeze hard. The plump 130mm front Dunlop aids in deceleration, and the 190 rear also puts down a nice footprint for both cornering and braking.

Earlier in the ride I was drenched in a sudden thunderstorm on Interstate 85. Without the stability of the Stratoliner Deluxe and traction of the Dunlops, it could have gotten ugly rapidly. For myself, the Star Custom Accessories Lower Cowl with Box did double duty, holding easily accessible cargo and helping to keep my jeans dryish. Up top, the Pokerun jacket kept my skin completely dry.

In Georgia, the semis don’t seem to be the least bit concerned about the speed limit or weather conditions. I was doing the best I could to hang on at 70 mph when I would get sprayed and blown by a fast-passing 18-wheeler on my left. Those guys are fearless and I am nothing but a potential hood ornament to them. I stayed in the right lane, kept the accessory Passing Lamps lit, and rode it out until the storm passed, which it did as quickly as it appeared.

At slower speeds on winding roads in somewhat lighter rain, the Stratoliner Deluxe continued to impress. Again, the Dunlops do nothing untoward and the power delivery makes electronic traction control unnecessary. Truly a touring vehicle, the big Star seems unconcerned with local conditions—it will take you anywhere the front wheel is pointed.

Returning home to California, the Star Custom Accessories Stratoliner Deluxe shows that it is not just a regional favorite. Fast roads are the norm here, and the Stratoliner Deluxe takes care of business, as long as you respect the bike’s self-imposed 80 mph speed limit.
At times I found myself wishing for a six-speed transmission rather than the Star’s five-speed in California. However, I would happily settle for fifth being a bit more of an overdrive for a slightly more sedate engine speed during high-speed cruising.

Still, I’m reminded when I ride the Stratoliner Deluxe that they journey is not about high-speeds. It is about the experience of the road. Ride slower. Check out the scenery. Stop more often. Eat the local grub. Enjoy the company of people who find you interesting solely because of the custom motorcycle you have ridden into town. Or not.

If you have miles to accumulate and time is running short, the 1854cc motor, plus fatigue-free ergonomics and chassis, mean you can make things happen on your schedule. As large as it is, the Stratoliner Deluxe is an accommodating motorcycle that is an absolute pleasure to ride in a variety of ways and locales.

Pick your road, or let your destination reveal itself to you as you ride. The 2012 Star Stratoliner Deluxe, buttressed with an ample supply of Star Custom Accessories accoutrements, allows you to see the country on your terms. It has both personality and performance to spare, delivering that pride in your mount that only the best motorcycles can fully deliver.

Photography by Riles & Nelson

Story from a previous issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine. To read the latest issue (free) in digital format, click here.