2005 Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture Retro Review
What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate MotorCycling archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy.
By Mike Salisbury
The wind moves in sync with the California sunrise, and lifts a lazy gray cloud away, uncovering the flat blue Pacific Ocean that sits next to the road. I drift along an empty Pacific Coast Highway, running away from home for the day.
“ … Maybellene, why can’t you be true, oh Maybellene … ”
And Chuck Berry is singing Maybellene just for me. He croons out of the speakers in the Burlwood dashboard of this 2005 Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture—a dash just like the one in the 1950 Mercury that James Dean cruised up to the Hollywood Planetarium in Rebel without a Cause.
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But this Yamaha dash has a digital speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, fuel trip meter, clock, fuel gauge, cruise control indicator, TPS self-diagnosis, speed sensor, and neutral, high beam, turn signal, and low oil-level indicator lights. My cell phone is plugged into one of two outlets.
This Venture is as black—and at a stretchy 104.5 inches in length, looks as long and low as—Dean’s notorious Merc. The Yamaha has a big V motor, too: Not a flathead FoMoCo V-8, but a very modern four-cylinder 1294cc, liquid-cooled powerplant with dual overhead cams that make a V between the 67.1 inches of wheelbase.
Four Mikuni 32mm carburetors each have a heater for consistent fuel/air delivery in any weather. The transmission is a five-speed with fifth-gear overdrive turning a shaft drive. An internal counter-balancer means there is virtually no butt-numbing engine vibration. The bike also comes with a five-year, unlimited-mileage factory warranty and free roadside assistance.
“ … a hundred and ten, half a mile ahead … ”
The mid-century-look speedo suddenly shows three digits. The Venture is a time-warping play toy, and the more time you warp, the sooner you need brakes. The front dual 298mm discs have a bit of travel from initial pull to the pressure of stopping, then they hold their feel all the way to stop. The 320mm rear disc has just enough bite and feel to use trailing into corners.
Handlebars that sweep back fit exactly into my gloves, and make this 807-lb. Yamaha steer like Alice chasing the White Rabbit. On the left handlebar is a remote for the 40-channel CB and AM/FM radio/intercom/cassette player. On top of the 6-gallon fuel tank is the microphone. On the right handlebar is the control for electronic cruise.
With a 29-degree steering angle, the big bike easily snaps over hard starboard. Rolling on the throttle mid-turn, the Royal Star Midnight Venture obediently straightens up under the shade of ferns creeping cautiously over the edge of the corkscrewing blacktop. Out of the sun, in tunnels of oaks at the bottom of a narrow canyon, the Yamaha lights the way with a large halogen headlight that comes with remote-adjustable aiming to help compensate for changes in load.
Braking, turning, accelerating, shifting—there is never any discernable driveshaft effect.
Under the tires, the cold morning slowly melts, but no chilly air gets behind the perfectly distortion-free windscreen, the wind deflectors or the frame-mounted lower cowlings. Almost a mile ahead, the road flattens between twin rows of naked pink rock.
“ … as I was motivatin’ up over the hill … ”
The studded saddle is as cushy as Vegas-era Elvis, and the equally plush passenger seat has a wraparound backrest with its own stereo speakers. Everybody gets footrests. The big black Midnight Venture and I are comfortably on our way to the Nirvana of western motorcycling: the Rock Store.
The store is next to the Rock Café. They both sit atop a skinny mountain that cradles a valley wide enough to hide Manhattan. In front, across the road from Ronald Reagan’s old ranch just outside of normal America, lay more motorcycles: six-figure sportbikes; choppers handmade of unpolished iron crosses; a stretched candy apple three-wheeler with a ’57 Chevy rear end; purple-painted, faux-leopard-skin-covered hooligan bikes; Jay Leno’s jet-powered cycle; and a milk crate hard-wired to the remains of a rotting chrome fender stuck to some kind of charred frame. They all rumble, roar, hiss, whine, and puff two wheels at a time onto the parking strip below the store made of rocks.
Stretching about a football field’s length in both directions is a wall of parked motorcycles. Choppers and hogs are always on the right side, under the shade of the only trees. To the left of the cruisers, a pair of old dead gas pumps rust in the sun’s heat. The pumps are always buried in tricked-out sportbikes and exotic European collectible hardware. It is very hard to be cooler than anyone else at the Rock Store.
With its weight way down low, I can tiptoe the Midnight Venture even with its hard bags, right between them on a narrow splatter of asphalt in this small city of metal and leather. A real steering lock is thankfully integrated into the ignition switch on the front of the fuel tank.
The hard bags are not too wide, but they have 9.3-gallon storage with an interior pouch and very handy one-touch openers. They hold anything two people would need for a cross-country tour. The trickiest part of packing the Royal Star is the top box. The huge, 15-gallon rear trunk also has a one-touch opener, can hold two full-faced helmets, and includes a lined interior storage pouch. I put my helmet in and take out a camera—no bending, no stretching.
Then my heart stops. Walking toward me, past the lines of rear fenders parked under the Rock Store, is a lady biker in a concho vest and chaps with nothing under them but her tan skin. She stops at the big, black 2005 Yamaha Royal Star Midnight Venture.
“Cool,” she says.
“ … oh May-bel-lene … .”
Photography by Kevin Wing