2018 Yamaha Star Eluder with GT Option Package—Touring and Urban Review
The long-awaiting Yamaha entry into the big-inch bagger market is here, and the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder is an impressive ride.We took it out in the rain, shine, canyons, and city to find out how this all-new motorcycle—based on the also-new Yamaha Star Venture full dresser—works as a premium bagger. Settle in—this is a Fast Facts story, but there’s a lot to tell.
1. The 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder is a luxury bagger, with a focus on the contemporary rather than retro. With forward-looking styling, Yamaha was able to design the Star Eluder for function over form. While the looks may be polarizing, it has styling derived from modern muscle cars, giving it a distinctive look in the bagger genre.2. Although Yamaha promotes the Star Eluder with #EludeConformity, it is powered by a traditional air-cooled, pushrod V-twin. Yamaha let focus groups help decide on the engine architecture, and then let the engineers create a masterpiece. With a muscular 126 ft/lbs of torque at just 2500 rpm, the motor makes riding the 877-pound machine incredibly easy. From idle up to the modest 4750 rpm redline, more than enough power is on tap to ride with absolute confidence.3. Thanks to a flat torque curve, shifting is optional. Even though there’s a slick six-speed transmission, you won’t be spending much time changing gears. The spread of power is amazing, making each gear usable over a wide range. Plus, the V-twin pulls smoothly at any engine speed, with the ability to pull from very low rpm without stuttering. The two-tone tuned dual exhausts have a nice sound when you rev them motor up, which you don’t really need to do.4. The 1854cc motor has two power modes, and both are useful. Most of the time I stuck with the Touring mode—I’m on a bagger and touring, and not in a huge hurry. Even with the LCD showing T, the Star Eluder has plenty of acceleration. However, when I was doing battle with aggressive big rigs and inattentive housewives in SUVs on the freeways, I happily clicked into Sport mode. That results in the sharper throttle response you need in traffic, and the Eluder was able to stay out of trouble easily. Switching between modes couldn’t be easier—shut off the throttle and push a dedicated button once.5. Yamaha came up with a first-class vibration-damping engine mounting array. Sophisticated composite engine mounts help keep the big twin’s dual-counterbalanced vibes at bay without compromising handling. It definitely has a better overall feel than rubber mounting. The robust frame is steel, with a die-cast aluminum rear subframe.6. Cruise control is a must on a touring bagger, and the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder has an intuitive and effective system. The Eluder is fully ride-by-wire—there isn’t even a throttle cable—so the electronic cruise control is flawless. It’s easy to actuate, set a speed, and adjust your speed as desired. The best features are those that can be called on easily, without distraction or effort.7. There is ample room to stretch out on the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder. The secret to its success in this department is the long floorboards. Due to the prodigious fairing, mounting highway pegs on the Eluder will be a challenge—Yamaha doesn’t offer any in its accessory catalog. However, I was able to stretch my 32-inch inseam legs out almost completely straight and still keep my boots on the boards. When I wanted my feet closer to the seat, there was still plenty of platform on which to rest my feet. The downside to this is that you don’t get heel-toe shifting. Fortunately, that is an option from Yamaha.8. Overall, the ergonomics work. The reach to the bars isn’t awkward, and there’s plenty of room for you to adjust yourself until you’re comfortable. If you want to put miles on the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder, the ergos won’t stop you, and neither will the 6.6-gallon fuel tank.9. Baggers rarely have a fairing this protective, and that was a big help in a driving rainstorm. I rarely get an opportunity to do rain testing, so I was glad to put the Eluder through its paces in the wet stuff. In addition to its confidence inspiring handling and effective traction control, the Eluder made me a happy rider by keeping most of the downpour off of me over a fairly long distance. Eventually I got that undesirable crotch puddle, though it took a long time to happen. Along with the heated seat, the Eluder (and my gear) kept me comfortable when temps dropped to 42 degrees in the rain. Heated grips are optional.10. While the fairing is large, the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder has an abbreviated windscreen. Some test riders complained about helmet buffeting, but I didn’t have any issues except in crosswinds. The screen is unobtrusive, but if you find it to lack the level of protection you want, Yamaha does offer a taller option for $170—it’s not adjustable, though.11. The seat is comfortable, and good for hundreds of miles a day. I was able to ride a couple of hours without even thinking about the seat. That makes it a winner. Yamaha did narrow the front of the seat to make it easier for riders to touch down at stops—the seat height of 27.4 inches is already welcoming. A backrest for the passenger is a $600 option, and I would spring for that if I rode two-up frequently.12. Yamaha engineers worked to make the 2018 Star Eluder a bit lighter than the competition, and they also kept the weight low to the ground. It’s a cliché to say that the weight disappears once underway, but that’s how it is. You would never know you’re shepherding around 875 pounds, even at relatively slow speeds. The Eluder is easily managed, and doesn’t require much muscle—it’s happily receptive to smart body input.13. With a wheelbase over 67 inches long, rake stretching out 31 degrees, and a 200 rear tire, the Yamaha Star Eluder is absolutely steady. Pretty much nothing will knock the Eluder off its path, except the desire of the rider. Most of the time you’ll want to set your line through corners, yet the Eluder will allow you to change your trajectory should you find it necessary. For a big bagger, the Eluder is notably agile in the canyons. On the freeway, this motorcycle is as steady as you would expect, and it is imposingly impervious in crosswinds.14. The suspension on the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder is perfect. Yamaha hit just the right balance, with the action pliable without being too soft. Suspension is generous—over five inches in the front and four in the rear—which is impressive given the low seat height. The rear shock gets linkage assistance, though the only adjustment is (predictably) rear spring-preload. Even on poor condition roads, the Eluder is smooth and simply a joy to ride.15. The 18/16 tire combo works. Despite being a long-distance bagger ready to cross the country, the Eluder never feels cumbersome. Your upper body won’t get a workout, as it is predictably responsive to body English. There’s plenty of cornering clearance with the wheels, though you can touch down when riding more aggressively. Grip is so good with the Bridgestone Exedra pair that I was even able to comfortably scrape in the rain.16. Braking is outstanding, and the linking is flawless. I’m a big fan of linked braking, and the Yamaha Star Eluder’s system works completely transparently. Unless you find yourself in an emergency, there is little need to use anything other than the footbrake. Unlike a traditional pedal, the footbrake is more like a gear shifter in form (a traditional pedal is optional). Leverage is great, and the footbrake slows the Eluder down with authority via dual 298mm front discs with four-piston calipers, and a 320mm disc in the rear. Don’t worry—there’s an adjustable hand lever if you need the ultimate in braking, but that shouldn’t come up much.17. Although the brakes rock, most of the time you can rely on engine compression braking. If you’re like me and you love to ride fast-and-smooth, the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder is ready to accommodate you. The engine spools up fully predictably with plenty of power everywhere, and slows down impressively with little more than a chop of the throttle. Once in a while a downshift will be necessary, and that always happens without drama. This motorcycle makes backroad touring virtually effortless.18. As expected, there is a slipper-and-assist hydraulic clutch that works great. I rode the big V-twin in plenty of urban traffic, and didn’t wear out my left hand. We’re seeing this design frequently, and that is a good thing. Hard downshifts while ripping through the Angeles National Forest didn’t cause any chirping of the rear Bridgestone Exedra tire, so I would call the slipper portion a success.19. The infotainment system has a nice screen and decent interface, but it’s not up to Apple CarPlay standards. By motorcycle standards, the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder has a good infotainment system, yet it still leaves plenty to be desired. The UI isn’t intuitive, though that won’t be a problem if you ride frequently, as you will learn it. At speed, trying to dial a number by calling out the number was an exercise in futility, and it was distracting to attempt. In-helmet sound is good, and a $220 option. Running through songs is nothing like using iTunes. Pandora is integrated, with SiriusXM —my preferred Spotify is not. Inputs are via audio jack or USB in an unlocked fairing compartment.20. The GT Option Package navigation system is nice, but there is room for improvement. You can load routes and share rides with your friends—nothing groundbreaking there, yet still good to have. The navigation system is okay, but sometimes I just couldn’t get it to do what I wanted it to do, such has stop orienting itself to north. I’m sure if I spent some time with the manual I would figure it out, but I want it to be as intuitive as the ancient system in my truck.21. There are three ways to access the system—voice, left thumb button array, and touch screen—and all have their shortcomings. It’s a bit of a reach to the screen, the voice system is unreliable, and the buttons are on the small side and close together—not great when wearing winter gloves. I hate complaining when the Eluder’s GT Option infotainment system better than most—and the seven-inch screen looks good—but I want all motorcycles to do better in this department and will gripe until I get satisfaction.22. The LED lighting doesn’t just look good—it’s effective. There are four headlights, and they were lighting up the road in the rainstorm. At night, they flood the road with light, and keep the Eluder visible to others. The three-segment row of LEDs in the back is very car-like, and will get the attention of anyone in the vicinity. Fog lights and running lights are optional, and you’ll have eight lights when fully loaded. A 750-watt generator system makes sure you always have plenty of juice for accessories such as heated clothing.23. The sidebags are roomy, if a bit fiddly. Available with optional liners, the sidebags will swallow up a decent amount of cargo. They are remotely lockable—the 2018 Star Eluder uses a key fob system—which is nice. I wasn’t fond of the push button release, as well as the difficulty of grasping the lid to open it, especially with gloves on. Given the lid design, an automatic opening system like you find on SUV hatches would be a nice touch. 24. The 2018 Star Eluder is a great motorcycle. There are a plenty of baggers to choose from, and they all are impressive machines. Yamaha did things a bit differently with the Star Eluder in its effort to #EludeConformity, and they achieved that goal without settling for being different just for the sake of a hashtag. Whether or not you like the contemporary styling is your call, but there’s no denying what a stirring ride the Eluder is. It is one of those motorcycles that begs you to ride it when you peek into the garage.Riding Style:
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!