Rarely Unnoticed

Story by Marcus Martellacci// Photos by Rick Hainschwang
November 1 2015

There’s little about this bagger that blends into the background

Within the sea of gleaming chrome and pearlescent paint, a trickle of passersby pause, one after the other, to observe an outlier. The familiarity of its contours is unmistakable, but the Vivid Red paint, factory decals and a variety of finishes – all of them shaded black – could be the source of the puzzled expressions on the faces of its admirers.

 V-Star 1300 Deluxe SEIt’s of course no accident the Yamaha V-Star 1300 Deluxe SE looks very much like the American-made baggers it competes against for sales. The standard V-Star 1300 Deluxe comes in black with chrome accents, and though it’s a handsome bike, it becomes unremarkable in a sea of similar cruisers. The SE variant of the Deluxe, on the other hand, jumps out of the crowd and smacks you in the face, demanding to be noticed. The attention isn’t for everyone, nor are the muscle car-esque graphics proclaiming an 80 cubic-inch motor resides within, or the brashly coloured paint and flat-black finishes where there would normally be chrome – but it stopped people in their tracks everywhere I went.

Generally, we prefer to road-test bikes by using them for their intended purpose, and in the case of this touring motorcycle, a trip from southern Ontario to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, in New Brunswick, would serve as a torture test of sorts for the Yamaha – and, unfortunately, its rider, too.

Painfully Obvious

Every bike I’ve ever ridden had a shortcoming of some kind, and the Yamaha V-Star Deluxe SE is no different, but – and it’s a big BUT – this one may take the prize for most obvious and easily repaired oversight: despite having a large front fairing, the Deluxe SE has been bestowed with the least effective windshield known to man. It takes the oncoming windblast and transforms it into a whirling dervish that shook my head like a bartender prepping tequila poppers at an all-inclusive Cancun resort. Never mind wind-tunnel testing, they could have pointed a leaf blower at this thing and figured out the problem. Rant aside, I’d recommend the windshield on the standard V-Star 1300 Deluxe, which works like an absolute charm. Failing that, the aftermarket has some nice options as well.

First Impressions

review of V-Star 1300 Deluxe As I was saying, a leisurely two-day ride to New Brunswick, some touring on the east coast and a marathon day-and-a-half ride on the way back was plenty enough time to evaluate this bike, so let’s start with the first impressions.

A low, dished seat, just 690 mm off the ground, puts the rider in a relaxed position. You can’t move around very much because of the shape, but there’s really not much need to thanks to the firm yet supportive foam. The footboards and handlebar are an easy reach, making the entire cockpit feel compact, an advantage for anyone of smaller stature, while taller riders may find they have a fair bend in the knees. The standard GPS/information/media display is a Garmin Zumo 665 with an interface that will be familiar to most anyone who has used a GPS. Icons are large and easy to read, with few options to worry about and easily navigable menu screens. In addition to the GPS function, you can program it to monitor fuel levels based on range – handy, since there’s no fuel gauge on the bike – as well as to monitor current speed, average speed, distance travelled and a host of other information. A USB input for a media device is located in the left saddlebag, but it only works with Apple products. Audio quality from the two fairing-mounted speakers is good, and the bar-mounted controls are straightforward and can be operated easily with gloves, though they would have looked less of an afterthought if they had been integrated into the other controls. The Zumo also allows for satellite radio reception for subscribers, with the antenna pre-installed in the fairing from the factory.

Living Dangerously

The only other instrumentation on the bike is a speedometer with odometer, two trip meters and a clock. There are a couple of warning lights – one of which, the low-fuel light, was used regularly; in a couple of remote areas, I feared it was in danger of burning out because of overuse. Depending on your right hand, the Deluxe will manage almost 300 kilometres before the light comes on. The overuse mentioned above resulted in a further 45 km after the light came on and, thankfully, the discovery of a gas station as what must have been the very last vapours of fuel were inhaled by the engine – also known as living dangerously!

At 1304 cc, the liquid-cooled V-twin in the Yamaha is “now considered a midsize powerplant in the cruiser/touring market, and the power delivery matches that classification; plenty of torque can be found from just off idle, and once up to speed, the engine happily sits at 110 km/h, turning just 3400 rpm in top gear. Vibration and sound were exactly what I prefer from a twin, with power pulses that are noticeable without being obtrusive and a rumble that lets everyone know you’re there without punishing the eardrums of your riding buddies.

The gearing in the stock five-speed transmission is a fine match to the engine, and it’s a primary factor in the bike’s efficient cruising abilities. The firm and positive shifting action is an added bonus. This really is a well-suited package for long-range touring, and its combination of power, gearing and aerodynamics makes it capable of returning fuel mileage very close to the manufacturer-suggested 5.6 L/100 km from the 18.5 L fuel tank.

The very first time I let the clutch out on the V-Star 1300 Deluxe SE was to begin a tight turn in a crowded parking lot. By the end of that first manoeuvre, there was no doubting the surprising agility and handling of the Yamaha – if the Ontario Provincial Police’s Golden Helmets are looking to replace their Harley-Davidsons, this bike would make a great choice for performing those incredibly intricate displays. Much of the bike’s low-speed handling ability comes from the light clutch that engages just off the bar with fantastic feel for the friction point, much like other Yamaha’s we’ve tested recently.

Once up to speed, long, sweeping corners are a pleasure, and putting the replaceable floorboard feeler on the ground happens instinctively rather than alarmingly.

Rough Road Ahead

Both the front and rear suspension deliver a plush ride, even on the incredibly rough roads overlooking the Saint John River west of Fredericton, where every inch of travel was used to negotiate the exceptionally scenic ribbon of tarmac known as the 105. The 41 mm front fork is non-adjustable, while the rear, vertically mounted single shock allows for nine positions of spring preload adjustment.

The opportunities to test the Yamaha’s stoppers were abundant during my trip, thanks to the Canada Day traffic encountered on the first day of the ride east. The dual 298 mm front discs and twin-piston calipers were adequate with the bike fully loaded, but the help of the rear, single 298 mm disc and single-piston caliper make all the difference when a quick stop is called for.

Arriving on the east coast, along with thousands of other motorcyclists, for the Atlanticade Rally in downtown Moncton saw the V-Star Deluxe SE parked amidst the sea of chrome and sparkling paint I spoke of earlier. Unpacking the 28.5-litre hard-shell bags was just as straightforward as filling them in the first place, and after many, many hours of rain along the way, thankfully there were no soggy contents to contend with. It was while unloading the bike that I realized people had begun to stop and stare at the Deluxe. Sure, there were looks and approving nods along the way, but here we were, surrounded by the cream of the crop in terms of touring bikes, and this Vivid Red (Yamaha’s official name for the colour) bagger without an ounce of chrome was getting the lion’s share of the attention. This continued over the entire weekend, regardless of where the bike was parked or what was next to it. In fact, just moments before writing this paragraph, I was returning home from a short tour around the neighbourhood, and while waiting to make a left-hand turn, a boy of no more than 10 came up on his bicycle and proclaimed, “Nice ride, man!” then nodded, gave me the thumbs-up and rolled away while looking over his shoulder one last time.

Highest Praise

It would appear Yamaha knows what it’s doing with the styling of its bikes of late, because I’m getting questions and comments about its products from people of all ages and gender, from long-time riders and never-been riders, and even from the toughest critic I know: my wife! She’s seen more bikes roll into our driveway than she could count (not because she can’t count; rather she just couldn’t care less), but even she, the jaded one, took the time to look it over, ask a couple of questions and then ask for a ride. In my world, that’s the highest praise offered. In terms of the rest of the motorcycling world, the V-Star 1300 Deluxe SE stands out as a quality mount, capable of taking you just about anywhere. And when you get there, you will be noticed. 


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