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Review: Yamaha's new Star Eluder could compete with baggers from Harley-Davidson and Indian

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

It helps solve what Yamaha motorcycle line product manager Derek Brooks called the cruiser customer's "paradox" of loving the big old fashioned V-twin motors in the Harleys and Indians while also desiring some of the modern technological attributes of Honda's non-V-twin Gold Wing.

"We thought, 'Why not provide the best of both worlds?'" Brooks said. "We now have a truly unique position -- to offer all the function you need but also all the emotional character you want."

The Eluder, playful enough to nip down to the local saloon, is also outfitted for a longer ride. The integrated saddle bags provide 18 gallons of storage space -- though not enough room to store a full-face helmet. The bike comes standard with cruise control, which is meaningless on the short haul but very helpful for high-mileage rides.

Yamaha has also given the Eluder a state-of-the-art infotainment system, which through a 7-inch touch-screen dash monitor and multibutton switching mechanism on the handlebars is capable of delivering a staggering amount of data.

On the top of the line GT model I rode, the navigation system was top notch, and the entertainment included Sirius XM.

The switches and touch screen allow the rider to toggle between the navigation choices, audio entertainment options and motorcycle functions.

Riders with some experience on the Eluder's sibling Venture told me that the system becomes intuitive after a while. But with eight hours on the motorcycle I was still concerned by how much time my eyes needed to be off the road to turn off the seat heater, check the air temperature or change radio stations.

There have also been complaints from some riders that the windscreen is too low and not adjustable. (The taller windscreen that comes standard on the Venture can be had as an accessory on the Eluder. Other accessories include heated grips, a luggage rack, tire pressure monitoring system and auxiliary lights.) Some riders had connectivity issues pairing their helmet communication systems with the motorcycle.

And some of the bike's attributes have a downside. The low seat height means low ground clearance. (I scraped the floorboards a few times on tighter turns.) The narrow seat means more exposure to engine heat. (Air vents set low in the front fairing help keep the air cool.)

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The Star Eluder will be fighting for attention with a lot of higher-profile baggers. While its engine may be superior in many ways, the bikes with which it will compete have more model loyalty and a competitive level of technology.

And the Eluder isn't priced as a loss leader. The entry-level bike costs $22,499. The GT model is $23,999.

At those prices, the Eluder is in line with Harley's Street Glide and Road Glide, which start at $20,999 and $21,299, respectively; Indian's Chieftain, which retails from $21,499; Honda's Gold Wing, which begins at $23,500; and BMW's K1600B, priced from $23,545.

Where the Eluder distinguishes itself, apart from the enigmatic name, is in ease of operation. Riding this bagger requires considerably less agility, balance or brute strength than the market-leading Harley-Davidson or its competitor Indian.

There's no such thing as a 113-cubic-inch starter bike. But if any big V-twin on the market could be described as a starter bagger, this is it.

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