Surely you remember our project bike from last summer, Star’s 2009 Roadliner Midnight; after all, it was featured in three consecutive RoadBike issues to close out the decade. Editor Steve Lita specifically chose the black beast to be our long-term loaner based on, essentially, two factors: one, its stout 1854cc power plant, and two, its customization potential. See, Steve had a plan. And, boy, did that plan came together. Mostly.
Here’s the nutshell: the stock Roadliner was reviewed in the September 2009 issue of this fine publication. Then in October, Steve explained how he bolted on a whole mess of Genuine Star Accessories Custom Midnight Bomber components: blacked-out covers for the drive pulley, clutch, starter, ignition, cam, master cylinder,
primary drive, and generator. In the same tech article, Steve hooked up a black rear pulley and replaced the stock alloy rims with a set of Star Custom Midnight wheels. He topped off that installment with a couple of Genuine Star accent details, like front fender trim rails and rear axle covers. In that install, the only product that Steve bolted onto the Roadliner that didn’t come straight from the Star catalog was a black Lindby Multibar. The following month, in our November/December issue, Steve quickly and easily hooked up one of Dragonfly Cycle Concepts’ batwing fairings (with stereo). Given another month or so, Steve would have installed a set of matching black hard bags to the Roadliner that would have truly completed the package — that was the plan, anyway. Unfortunately, he ran out of time, for by the end of summer, Star was pestering him daily for the bike’s safe return.
Now, we know why. Turns out, Star had the same plan.
The 2010 Stratoliner Deluxe is a killer machine, with “big fat tires and everything,” like the classic Deep Purple song says, a black bagger with highway-star style and attitude, and the guts to back it up. Star includes sculpted, locking, hard-shell saddlebags, and did Steve one better (sorry, buddy) by foregoing the soon-to-be-obsolete CD player/FM stereo and simply placing a electronic lead wire right into an open nook in the back of the fairing, along with a Velcro strap to keep iPods or other MP3 players secure.
Aside from those factory-installed differences, the Strat Deluxe looks and feels an awful lot like the Roadliner Midnight we put together, minus the Lindby bar. Star’s signature neo-retro streamline design is here; the controls are identical (save the nifty iPod controller at your left thumb), and the bike boasts the same muscular performance, rock-solid chassis, and mass-be-damned responsiveness. Interestingly, despite the vast amount of real estate offered by the fairing, even the instrumentation is pretty much identical; the Deluxe utilizes the same alluring, tank-mounted dash with vintage-faced gauges (and blue running lights) that adorns the standard Strat and Roadliner models.
Now, by the time our Roadliner Midnight left RoadBike’s Connecticut offices, it was a truly menacing heavyweight cruiser; a blacked-out, badass, big-bored highway Star that had stomped sure-footed trails all over the Northeast. For power and attitude, no motorcycle in the RoadBike stable (or, in our frank opinion, American Iron Magazine’s) could touch it. Everyone wanted to ride the black Star for its comfort, power, and ridability, and the miles we racked up proved that. If Star had only let us keep the bike long enough to hook up that set of hard bags, the distinction between our customized Roadliner and this new Deluxe would’ve been pretty darned negligible.
Which, in our humble opinion, authorizes us to say, “We told you so.”
Obviously, the main difference with factory-installed amenities is that you won’t have to spend as much time in the garage (or at the dealership, depending on the size of your toolkit) as Steve did. The further advantage is that factory accessories afford the manufacturer the R&D opportunity to set them up according to the specific bike. Indeed, Star has dialed in the Strat-D’s ergonomics extremely well, bringing the dashboard a touch closer to the rider and placing the windshield at a slightly greater angle than Dragonfly’s was. Star says the Deluxe’s saddle is more comfortable than the stock Strat’s, too, and the hard bags, contoured specifically to this model, are downright commodious, yet still unobtrusive. This is a huge advantage over most aftermarket hard saddlebags, which tend to look like an afterthought even if the owner spends the money to have them paint-matched. Finally, the MP3 controller on the left handgrip made it far easier to tinker with the tunes than did the buttons on our fairing-mounted stereo.
The greatest benefit of all these accessories— and a truly generous shill, in our opinion — is that they’re all available separately from Star, so current owners of Stratoliner or Roadliner models wishing to jump on the faired bagger bandwagon can do so with relative ease. Other items available from Genuine Star Accessories for the Strat-D include a plastic cover for the MP3 nook, and a taller windscreen than the one shown here.
The Stratoliner Deluxe is, in a word, hot. Its sexy appearance, excellent ergonomic construction, and robust motor make for a scintillating ride that, grips to tires, can more than hold its own among the competition. If I have any beef at all with the bike, though, it’s with its steep-ish price point. This is a straightforward, no-nonsense faired bagger, folks — plain, simple, and black. So at $17,490, what exactly are you paying for?
Most contemporary touring motorcycles feature cruise control standard, but that’s not even an option here. Further, those who would use the Deluxe as a multiday mile-eater might like to add ABS as a safeguard against the tedium of the interstate; unfortunately, Star doesn’t offer that on the Strat-D, either. Finally, at this base price — $200 more than Kawasaki’s fully dressed Voyager, mind you — one wouldn’t be out of line to expect a plethora of bells, whistles, and creature comforts (heated grips, anyone?). Yet, as evidenced by the lack of anything other than the open-to-the-elements MP3 nook and a pair of black speaker grates on the back of its fairing, the Deluxe is the epitome of a stripped-down, blacked-out bagger, akin to Harley’s Street Glide — which, in fairness to Star, will run you $1,500 more than the bike shown here.
But then, the Strat-D isn’t really a quote-unquote tourer; rather, it’s more like the Roadliner we put together last summer.
Yes, the Stratoliner Deluxe is a beautiful motorcycle. Yes, its engine is powerful and responsive, and achieves admirable highway mileage. Yes, the ride is comfortable for a long day in the saddle. And, yes, I would absolutely love to own one. That said, if you’re in the market for a bike that’s truly built for the long haul, you could get more for your touring dollar elsewhere. But if you desire a sexy, strong, blacked-out bagger and are willing to pay a little extra for the privilege of riding it straight off the lot, then the 2010 Stratoliner Deluxe is one hot highway Star. RB
— By Jon Langston, Photos By Riles & Nelson