Road Test Review
With the cruiser market on fire and buyers gobbling up bikes almost as fast as they can be made, Yamaha has been scrambling for new models to add to its lineup. For 2005 the tuning-fork folks are rolling out the Royal Star Tour Deluxe, which can be converted from touring to cruiser duty. It’s based upon the familiar Royal Star Venture, but the large front fairing and trunk are gone, replaced with a quickly detachable windscreen and removable passenger backrest. Pop them off to go cruising in town or slap them back on for a road trip. Among the other changes are a new retro-style instrument panel; chrome headlamp nacelle; clear turn-signal lenses; slightly smaller 5.3-gallon fuel tank (down from 6 gallons); and four-into-two exhaust system with changeable muffler tips. The audio system found on the Venture has been swapped for an electronic cruise control on the Tour Deluxe.
The Tour Deluxe’s drivetrain is virtually unchanged from the Royal Star Midnight Venture-a liquid-cooled, 70-degree V-4 displacing 1,294cc with dual-overhead camshafts, four carburetors and four valves per cylinder. It’s backed up with a hydraulically actuated wet clutch and five-speed gearbox. The V-4 engine layout combines the side-view appearance and much of the sound and character of a V-twin, with the smoother running and higher horsepower per cubic inch of a four-cylinder design. When we tested a Venture in Rider’s August 2004 issue, this same engine type produced 78 rear-wheel horsepower and 77 lb-ft of torque.
Both ends of the bike get air-adjustable suspension, which allows the rider to compensate for changes in loading. Out back a revised swingarm stretches the wheelbase a tad, to a lanky 67.5 inches. Alternator output has also been increased from 315 to 406 peak watts, which is handy for things like electrically heated riding gear and add-on driving lamps.
Yamaha chose the beautiful area around Charlottesville, in scenic northwestern Virginia, to introduce this bike to the moto-press. This is Thomas Jefferson’s hometown, where Monticello is located, and the mansions of other famous Americans such as James Madison are nearby. Dotted with reminders of America’s past, our route took us northward to beautiful Shenandoah National Park and the serpentine Skyline Drive with sweeping panoramas of the lush green countryside. This historic area is ideally suited to motorcycle touring and you owe it to yourself to visit and ride here.
Out on the open road is where this bike shines. Both fourth and fifth gears are overdrive for relaxed highway riding, and thanks to the broad torque curve you hardly have to worry about what gear it’s in-just roll on the throttle and motor away. Its torquey engine lopes along with a pleasing rumble flowing from the twin exhausts. While it may not be extremely fast, the Tour Deluxe has ample power for passing and can cruise all day at any reasonable highway speed. A single counterbalancer helps keep vibration to a minimum and the cruise control works smoothly and easily, saving hand cramps and holding speed right where you set it.
Clutch action is flawless and shifting is smooth and quick for a cruiser. The low-maintenance shaft drive is quiet, but there is a considerable amount of slack in the driveline when rolling on and off the throttle. We also noticed that some of the bikes popped and backfired in the exhaust on strong deceleration as fuel is drawn from the carburetors’ idle jets during initial coastdown.
By eliminating the large trunk, front fairing and radio, Yamaha was able to shave about 50 pounds from the Venture to create the Tour Deluxe. While still heavy, the weight loss lowers the center of gravity noticeably, which makes the bike easier to handle, especially when coming up off the sidestand and maneuvering at low speeds.
Braking from the dual front rotors and single rear unit is strong and consistent, but front lever effort is higher than would be expected from such a setup. Steering feels light for such a large, stout machine, and at sane, moderate velocities it turns in and corners nicely. Ride quality is comfortably plush and at speed the bike is very stable. When you start to push the bike harder through the corners, though, the running boards scrape quite readily and the Bridgestone Exedra tires feel vague and not particularly confidence-inspiring.
The windscreen can be easily removed with a simple latch mechanism and lifted off the bike; replacement is also simple. It affords great wind protection and little buffeting. The windscreen is tall, however, so most riders have to look through it near the top edge, which is distracting.
Both rider and passenger seating is quite comfortable, although the raised lip on the back of the seat forces taller riders to sit farther forward than would otherwise be natural. The removable pillion backrest is sure to be popular-it detaches in seconds without tools and reinstalls the same way. Mirrors are well-positioned for good visibility and free of shaking. Footboard positioning is also just about right.
Luggage capacity in the spacious hard bags is 9.3 gallons of volume per side. Although the locking mechanisms take up quite a bit of space, inside they still hold a lot of gear and use the same key as the ignition, which is very convenient. Speaking of locks, you have a choice of using either a key or padlock for securing the steering.
The Tour Deluxe will come in Charcoal Silver/Raven or Raspberry Metallic/Raven and retail for $13,999. That’s $2,900 less than the 2004 Royal Star Midnight Venture tested in the August issue. More than 100 accessories have been developed for the Tour Deluxe, which will let owners further customize their bikes to suit their individual tastes.
The Tour Deluxe is a solid, proven design that is pleasant to ride and feels like it could run forever. It successfully combines many of the features of a cruiser and a touring bike into a single machine. And any time you can get two bikes for the price of one, that’s a good thing!