2011 NEW BIKE NEWS: Star/Yamaha

Let the games begin! Honda’s 1300 Custom Line has some serious competition in the form of Star’s Stryker, a mid-size custom-inspired production “chopper” that appears to be essentially a smaller version of the popular 1800cc Raider.

With a gutsy 1304cc V-Twin and raked out front end, the Stryker five-speed transmission feeds power to a belt drive. A low-profile 210-series rear tire and narrow, 21-inch front provide sex appeal, while the low seat height (26.4 inches) puts both feet securely on the ground. For air-cooled looks with liquid-cooled performance, the clever cooling system routes liquid through hidden hoses and internal engine passages. The steel fenders are ideal for customizers who want to cut, chop, or modify their Stryker even further.The six-degree yoke and raked triple clamps provide 40 degrees of fork rake, while the beefy, one-inch handlebar puts the rider’s arms level with the horizon, in what Star terms a “fists-punching-the-wind stance.” That’s kind of funny, but the bike is no joke. Look for the RoadBike test soon.

Sport- and adventure-touring are all the rage — keep your eyes peeled to these pages for an announcement from Triumph soon — so it’s about time Yamaha decided to import its world-renowned Super Ténéré to US shores. It’s currently available only as a 2012 model, which means you need to pre-order the Super Ténéré from your local dealer for delivery next May. The Super Ténéré features an adjustable seat, tunable front and rear suspension, shaft drive, and spoked wheels with tubeless tires.

But more important is the all-new, 1199cc parallel twin engine. This narrow two-cylinder inline is slim, light, and compact. The motor sports a unique 270-degree crank; Yamaha says it’s like having a big-bore thumper without the vibration, because both pistons fire so closely together. A two-axis primary balancer smoothes out the engine. The Super Ténéré’s Drive Mode has two settings: “S-mode” (Sport) for performance, and “T-mode” (Touring) for general riding and a mellower response. Traction control regulates ignition timing and fuel injection based on wheel spin. It also has both ABS and Unified Braking System (UBS). With UBS, squeezing the front brake alone also provides some rear-wheel braking; pressing the rear brake first overrides UBS for traditional separate front and rear braking action — especially helpful while standing on the pegs off-road. Finally, a six-gallon fuel tank, handlebar brush guards, and center stand are standard on the Super Ténéré.

It’s been said before, but in the genre of adventure touring, this could be the bike that finally challenges the BMW GS. Why? Because this bike has something the others, such as Ducati’s Multistrada and Moto Guzzi’s Stelvio, don’t — the backing of Yamaha, a diverse corporate giant. Time, and quality, will tell.

For standards, Yamaha’s sporty new FZ8 inherits proven R1/FZ1 technologies, but this naked beast is its own animal. The FZ8 standard splits the difference between the entry-level 600cc and the powerful 1000cc. The all-new 779cc inline four-cylinder, four-valve engine — call it a sub-liter — delivers a killer power curve and torquey performance. The intake funnels for cylinders two and three are 25mm longer than the two outside cylinders, a tuning trick that helps maximize the power delivery. An impressively high 12.0:1 compression ratio contributes to both torque punch and high-end power. The chassis geometry sports a 51 percent front wheel weight bias, and the cast aluminum frame and swingarm conserve weight and provide balance.

A generous 4.5 gallon fuel tank provides longer range than most bikes this size, and the foot pegs and handlebars are placed for a compact yet comfortable riding position. This mass-forward naked bike styling is accentuated by the headlight design, and the FZ1-style instrument cluster features a white-face tach.

About Jon Langston