Best Of The Best 2006: Yamaha Star Roadliner
The Yamaha Star Roadliner’s designers say that they based the bike’s Art Deco styling—which includes such details as beehive rear turn signals, a heart-shaped dual-element headlight, and a seamless teardrop fuel tank ornamented by horizontal strakes—on that of the streamliner locomotive of the 1930s. These retro design elements notwithstanding, the Roadliner takes full advantage of modern technology. Digital fuel injection feeds the four-valve, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin, and dual counterbalancers quell the engine’s vibrations. You would expect a hearty torque delivery from an engine with 113 cu in (1,854 cc) at its disposal, but Yamaha has intensified this power by adding an exhaust back-pressure valve—called EXUP—like the one on high-revving Yamaha sportbikes.
The Roadliner is a big machine, but its frame and rear swing arm are made from aluminum, which helps to keep the bike’s weight at just over 700 pounds. That still is substantial, but on the street the Roadliner seems to shrug off much of this mass, steering with precision and banking willingly at the rider’s directive. Throttle response is smooth and immediate, and it produces an emphatic bark from the bazooka-sized muffler without any competing valve-train or drivetrain racket.
The Roadliner has a long and wide rider’s seat and longer-than-usual footboards. Owners of widely varying stature can find a comfortable perch on this bike, and its low seat height, low center of gravity, and long handlebars enhance maneuverability at all speeds. The Roadliner is sold in three forms: a base model starting at about $13,600, a mostly black model with minimal ornamentation called Midnight, and the S model, which sports chrome and polished metal wherever Yamaha could find space for it.
Yamaha also offers a full range of accessories for the Roadliner, but for those who cannot be bothered with making decisions about which extras to buy, or who do not want the burden of installing them, Yamaha offers fully dressed versions of the same machine. They are called Stratoliners, and their prices start at about $15,200.