Road Test Review
Got your eye on a custom dresser, a “bagger,” eh? Can’t say I blame you. Stripped and slammed cruisers are so five years ago. They may have a wicked minimalist look, but actually riding one is another story—us baby boomers are gettin’ too old for narrow seats and suspension with one lousy inch of travel. Crikey, my back! And if you’re going to go anywhere, you need someplace to put a jacket liner, warmer gloves, maybe some overnight gear and a doggie bag from senior discount night at Denny’s. So a bagger it is—except, perhaps, that the prices of these really cool big-twins with nice wind-blocking fairings, sound systems, cushy seats and hard saddlebags can be breathtaking. Crikey, my wallet!
What if you could get into one for $13,690? Star’s new V Star 1300 Deluxe has an MSRP about $3,400-$6,000 lower than baggers like the Kawasaki Vaquero, Star Stratoliner Deluxe and Harley-Davidson Street Glide. What’s the catch? A smaller engine. Its displacement is 80 cubes, or 1,304cc, vs. 103ci or 1,690cc on up for the competition.
But let’s think about that for a second. It wasn’t long ago (1999-2006) that Harley’s biggest big twin, the one used in all its large cruisers and touring bikes, was 88ci, or 1,450cc. It was air-cooled, had fuel injection and OHV two-valve cylinder heads, and stock was good for about 65 horsepower and 75 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel. The fuel-injected V Star 1300 Deluxe’s engine is liquid-cooled with overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, and makes about 70 horsepower and nearly 76 lb-ft of torque, again at the rear wheel. So it’s got a little more power than an entire generation of Harley big twins, baggers included. Sure, few of those TC88 engines were ever left stock, but you get my point—the V Star 1300 Deluxe may have a smaller engine, but it’s no slug.
Power delivery is really good, too. Dual counterbalancers help quell the vibes from the 60-degree single-crankpin V-twin, so all the rider feels is a nice pulsing in the grips and floorboards, and the mirrors stay clear until things get a bit buzzy up near the 6,000 rpm redline. Power flows with a solid, direct feeling through the 5-speed transmission to the rear wheel via quiet, low-maintenance belt final drive. More than 70 lb-ft of torque is always on tap in the sweet spot from 3,000-5,000 rpm, too, so the 1300 Deluxe is quick and accelerates strongly at most speeds, especially ridden solo with a light load. Shifting is smooth, with nice heel-and-toe pedals and a good linear feel at the clutch lever. Long-distance two-up riders carrying a load may wish for a bit more urge at times, but only if you’re in a hurry.
The V Star 1300 Deluxe leaves the factory as a pretty, deep-blue V Star 1300, then gets its color-matched, fork-mounted fairing and hard bags installed by the dealer. The parts are, in fact, retrofittable to any 2007 and later V Star 1300. The 1300 Deluxe’s bags hold a useful total of 15.2 gallons, about five more than the V Star 1300 Tourer’s leather-covered ones. Up front, the fairing and tall windscreen provide ample wind protection for the upper body, arms and hands, though you have to look through the screen unless you straighten way up and peer over. This can be troublesome in the rain and in corners for some riders; if it bothers you the screen is easily shortened, or replaced with a shorter accessory one.
I like the tall windscreen because it helps create a nice still pocket of air behind it, the better to stay warm in our cool testing conditions, as well as hear the sound from the speakers in the fairing. The 1300 Deluxe comes with a Garmin 665LM GPS mounted front-and-center, which delivers all of the navigational magic for which they are known and can be set up to play voice directions and music from a memory card through the speakers (or Bluetooth headsets). Volume for the speakers is controlled with a four-button hand controller mounted near the left handlebar grip; you switch tracks and such using the GPS touch screen. Flip open the stylish cover and the GPS is easily removed from its mount in the fairing so it can be locked in one of the bags at stops.
The 1300 Deluxe is also iPod ready, with a 32-pin cable and mesh pocket for carrying the iPod in the left bag. Although there’s no display for the iPod on the instrument panel, you just put your playlist on shuffle and then control the track, volume, etc. from the hand controller. It also allows you to switch back and forth between the iPod and GPS, so potentially you could listen to voice directions, MP3 music and (with a subscription) traffic/weather info and SiriusXM satellite radio from the GPS with the speakers or a headset, then switch to the iPod and listen to a playlist on the speakers. The audio volume can be set to increase and decrease with road speed, and the speakers pump out clean, clear sound that is easy to hear at highway speeds, even over the bike’s lovely rumbling exhaust note.
All of this audio decadence is enjoyed from a wide, comfortable dished rider’s seat, with floorboards and grips on the wide handlebar that are in natural positions for my 5-foot, 10-inch height. Passenger seating is sparer, with a flat pad, footpegs and no grabrails. There’s a fix for just about any issue you might have among the hundreds of accessories for the V Stars, however, including a Comfort Cruise passenger seat and backrest, as well as tons of chrome and billet bolt-ons.
Solid-mounting the V Star 1300’s engine as a stressed member in the tubular-steel double cradle frame stiffens it and helps give the 1300 Deluxe light and precise handling, as well as a decent load capacity of 415 pounds. Cornering clearance is adequate, and it rolls left and right easily on seven-spoke 16-inch cast wheels with bias-ply Bridgestone tubeless tires that should last a long while. I did notice a slight amount of handlebar waggle at highway speeds in windy conditions, but it was nothing unusual for a bike with a fork-mounted fairing. The fork and rear shock have a fair amount of suspension travel and provide a compliant, controlled ride in most situations, though really large bumps can still put a kink in your spine if you don’t slow down first. Triple disc brakes also do a great job and have good feel at the lever and pedal.
There’s a quality feel to most things on this motorcycle, like the nice paint and steel fenders, and nothing whimsical or unnecessary. Those capacious saddlebags are sturdy, bolt-on top loaders with stylish hinges on the outside, so they open outward for ease in filling them and can be left unlocked and the key removed. If not overfilled, they slam closed solidly, like a car trunk. Our test bike’s smelled of fiberglass resin inside, which may eventually go away. Pack light and a solo rider should find the 15.2 gallons of space more than enough; two-up riders will probably need to add a luggage rack and perhaps a magnetic tankbag on the wide steel tank top. It holds 4.9 gallons, which gave our bike a range of more than 200 miles on regular unleaded. An LCD panel in the center of the elegant speedometer keeps track with a clock and dual tripmeters that can be scrolled and reset from the handlebar. My only gripe with the bike is that it can be hard to put the key in the ignition (particularly at night), because the switch is partially concealed by the fairing. That’s about as short as my gripe list ever gets.
At the moment, the V Star 1300 Deluxe is the only factory bagger with a fairing in this engine size and price range. Competitors are sure to follow, but it will remain special for the real value it offers for the money, and because it works so well and is so nicely finished, equipped and carefully thought-out. Whether you want to travel in comfort or just commute in style, it’s ready.