2018 Yamaha Star Venture: Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000 Attempt

I planned a two-up Saturday ride from Los Angeles to Ojai with my wife as pillion to share her observations as passenger, and then a 1000-mile Iron Butt ride to really test the “Transcontinental” capabilities of this 3rd Generation Venture—the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture.

I had taken the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder bagger for a 500-mile ride round trip to Death Valley the previous weekend, so I was familiar with the controls and buttons, dials and switches as they share the same basic platform.

Riding the 2018 Star Venture two-up is very comfortable and easier than on my personalized Gen 2 Venture—the 2007 Royal Star Venture. The low center of gravity keeps the 2018 Venture very stable at low speeds, turns, slowing, and stopping.

Iron Butt Comparison: 2018 Yamaha Star Venture vs Personalized 2007 Royal Star Venture
2007 Royal Star Venture (left) and 2018 Yamaha Star Venture

I am always on edge on my 2007 when coming to a stop two-up, as my Gen 2 is top heavy and tippy. The Gen 3 always has a very comfortable approach and stop, and I stopped worrying about dropping it at a light pretty early in the ride.

The 2018 Venture frame doesn’t show any of the wallow that can start on a Gen 2 in bumpy sweeping turns. The 2018’s linked ABS brakes are sensational. The engine power is quick on delivery, fast on acceleration, and very smooth in cruise. The roll-on for passing at highway speeds is quick and sure.

Although I didn’t start squirming due to the discomfort from the seat of the Eluder until I hit about 200 miles, my rear started hurting at just 60 miles on the new Venture.

My wife also had several complaints about her seat. The pillion is not as comfortable as my Gen 2 pillion. The backrest does not wrap around, so she couldn’t rest her elbows. The handholds are angled and not round, so I couldn’t mount a standard cup holder to either side. Lastly her calves were uncomfortably flat against the front of the side bags. Also, the 2007 has quite a bit more leg room.

She said the wind at all speeds with the windshield up and down was about the same as my Royal Star Venture. Putting it all together, my wife’s overall impression is that my customized 2007 Royal Star Venture is more comfortable than the stock 2018 Venture.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture Side Bag
2018 Yamaha Star Venture Side Bag
2007 Yamaha Royal Star Venture Side Bag
2007 Yamaha Royal Star Venture Side Bag

There is more room in the side bags on the 2018 Yamaha Star Venture and the trunk is cavernous with room for two helmets and room to spare. The black bag in the photo is the right side bag on my bike completely full to the brim with all the “stuff” I carry in it. The red bag is the right side bag of the new Gen 3 with the exact same “stuff”. Notice that there is additional room for two liters of gas and a rolled up shirt.

We have done the twisty route from Los Angeles to Ojai via California Highway 150 many times. I never scrape the floorboards on my Gen 2 on this route, but I scraped three times on the Gen 3, so it seems there is less lean angle available on the new bike. You will notice immediately that the kickstand on the 2018 is quite a bit shorter than on the Gen 2.

The low center of gravity and slow speed handling of the Gen 3 is really evident when lane splitting—legal and safe in California. Riding between cars on the 2018—which is one-inch wider by my measurement than my 2007—was way easier and more comfortable than on my top heavy, tippy Gen 2.

I started Sunday at 7 a.m., documenting my time and mileage for an Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000 attempt. I have previously accomplished two of them on my 2007—one with a buddy in 21 hours, and solo in 18 hours. Both runs I was physically comfortable, no body pains of any kind for the entire trip. My 2007 has a super-comfortable modified seat by Rick Butler in Wiley, Texas, perfectly located highway pegs to lean against, and an 11-inch shorty windshield.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture luggage capacity
2018 Yamaha Star Venture can swallow two helmets

After feeling butt pain after only 60 miles on Saturday on the two-up ride with my wife, I knew I needed to pull out my trusty Crazy Creek Canoe air pillow pad for the 18-hour Sunday ride. With just a few puffs of air to levitate my rear just above the uncomfortable Yamaha Transcontinental seat, the only pain I didn’t have on Sunday was my butt.

I am 5’ 10”. I took a few point of view shots to show the difference between the adjustable windshield full up and full down. If you use the tank-mounted shield adjustment switches, you have to push either button once to start the movement and another time to stop. Also, the clearance between the bars and the tank-mounted buttons is limited.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture cockpit view
2018 Yamaha Star Venture

I had no head buffeting at any speed. However, crosswinds really grabbed the 2018 and leaned me over and jostled me sideways. I have ridden the same route on my 2007 and have never been jostled around by a crosswind as I was on the 2018.

The desert crosswind was so uncomfortable that I slowed down 10 mph for about 10 miles to try to get a larger tire contact patch on the ground. Crosswinds on my 2007 affect my nose more than the whole bike. There is so much more surface area with the fixed fairing and large bags and trunk on the 2018, so it is no wonder I got blown around in the wind.

I was attempting to only make one gas stop to reach the turn around point at 512 miles. Before the ride, I pondered that with 6.6 gallons and at 43 mpg at 65mph, whether or not it would be possible to go Transcontinental in 10 gas stops.

My Eluder ride taught me that 75 mph netted about 39 mpg. I got on the freeway and set the cruise control at exactly 75 mph, which I believed would net 39 mpg. At 189 miles, I was at 1/8 tank on the gas gauge and the sign on the freeway said “No gas for 60 miles”. Decision time!

2018 Yamaha Star Venture - Extra Fuel
2018 Yamaha Star Venture – Extra Fuel

I was carrying a half-gallon of gas, but I decided to play it safe. I put in 4.8 gallons in the tank, and could have made it!

At the three-hour mark, my neck locked up and making a right side lane change head check really hurt. About 40 minutes later, I notice a knot in the middle of my back. From my experience riding, these pains are caused by not relying on a backrest. Without highway pegs to put pressure against the backrest, the backrest is just a butt stop.

At 277 miles and four hours in, I hurt too much and called off my 1000-mile attempt. I still had to ride 277 miles back home and another four hours with neck and back pain. Since there is nothing to push against anywhere near the floorboards I decided to push backward into the backrest with my boot friction on the floorboards.

Within one hour my neck was loosening up and the knot in the middle of my back was less noticeable. I was trading pains as doing this unnatural push was giving me a groin pain, but the experiment was worth the effort. For me, the 2018 Star Venture needs highway pegs—unavailable from Yamaha—and a seat modification for me to take the long rides this bike is so capable of executing.

I used the heated grips and heated seat when I started out in the morning. This is my first experience with heated parts and it made the cool morning a much more comfortable experience.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture side
2018 Yamaha Star Venture

I set the outside fairing side air deflectors when I started out and forgot about them until almost home. Note that if you turn the air deflectors directly at you at 80 mph, better hold on—it felt like it could blow you off the bike.

The heat coming off the rear cylinder exhaust on the left side is a real issue in warm weather. It never got above about 73 degrees on this ride, but on my Eluder Death Valley ride it got up to 78. When I was going 35 mph, my left leg was hot enough to be raising my internal body temperature, or at least it felt that way. I am concerned how the heat will affect me when I am riding in stop and go traffic in the California summer.

There are adjustable lower fairing ducts. When closed on a cool morning, the exhaust heat felt good but as the day warmed up the flow-through tunnels did not seem to move the heat that rises from the left side exhaust. I could feel the warmth on my left thigh all day, even in the cool of the morning.

This is going to sound a little weird, and I only had two days with the 2018 Star Venture, but I could swear that the beautifully painted red tank collected dust while riding. I was riding in the desert with lots of dust blowing.

I don’t recall ever feeling like I needed to wipe my 2007 tank with my glove as I was riding along at freeway speeds. After wiping the 2018 tank for the third time, it dawned on me that I had done this twice before in the past eight hours. I only bring it up because I noticed it. I am curious if anyone else has a “me too” moment about dust collection on the tank while riding.

The infotainment screen has a ton of information. It was frustrating to not be allowed to enter a new destination in the GPS while riding, but I recognize that is a distracting action.

The dock glove box on the right side can only fit an iPhone 7 phone plugged in. So those with larger phones will need a place to put them. There is a traditional 12V plug low on the left fairing, plus a USB plug in the trunk, along with the USB in the right glove box.

Speaking of the entertainment portion of the infotainment system, the speakers were loud and clear for me at 80 mph at just 75 percent power, but my wife said all she heard was general noise. I wear a full face modular and she wears a three-quarters with a flip down shield.

2018 Yamaha Star Venture w/ seat cushion
2018 Yamaha Star Venture w/ seat cushion

The Gen 3 is a real mile eater. Cruising along, the miles passed and it is definitely an enjoyable ride. Although I hurt without highway pegs, other riders will find this bike a real Transcontinental.

The large capacity storage, the large capacity gas tank, the powerfully torquey engine, the solid cruise control, the ABS brakes, and the electric reverse/forward parking assist system, the smooth air flow, and the visceral exhaust note all contribute to this new 2018 Yamaha Star Venture being the bike I would buy if my 2007 was abducted by aliens—all I have to do is figure out how to get some highway pegs on it, and get Rick Butler to build me a seat!

Photography by Neil Wyenn

2018 Yamaha Star Venture vs. 2007 Royal Star Venture Comparison: 16 Essential Specs

2018 Yamaha Star Venture 2007 Royal Star Venture
Motor Pushrod V-twin DOHC V-4
Displacement 1854cc 1249cc
Bore x stroke 100 x 118mm 79 x 66mm
Fueling Ride-by-wire EFI Four 32mm Mikuni CV carbs
Cooling Air Liquid
Transmission 6-speed 5-speed
Final drive Belt Shaft
Front tire 130/70 x 18 150/80 x 16
Rear tire 200/55 x 16 150/90 x 15
ABS Standard None
Seat height 27.4 inches 29.5 inches
Wheelbase 67.6 inches 67.1 inches
Rake 31 degrees 29 degrees
Fuel capacity 6.6 gallons 6.0 gallons
Curb weight 963 pounds 869 pounds
Price $26,999 (Transcontinental) $17,099