Yamaha Stryker (2011)

Our first ride of the 2011 Stryker finds another darn good cruiser from Yamaha’s Star family and an unexpected urge to raise a little hell.

What are you rebelling against Johnny?” Mary Murphy asks Marlon Brando as his Black Rebels Motorcycle Club is busy raising hell (or perhaps only minor heck by the standards of today) in Stanley Kubrick’s The Wild One. It’s the classic question in an essential biker flick but Brando’s reply as the archetypal anti-hero Johnny Strabler is always worth resurrecting if only for the sake of its sheer irony. “What do you got?”
Just like the bobber Triumph Brando rode in that 1953 film, Yamaha’s 2011 Stryker is also dripping with attitude and “bad boy” imagery. The Stryker has a generous 34 degree steering head rake with an extra six degrees of offset at the triple clamps, giving the bike a custom chopper appearance without sacrificing light steering and acceptable cornering.
The free-revving 1304cc, 60-degree, eight-valve V-Twin is the same engine as the rest of the V-Star 1300 models. The liquid-cooled mill pumps out almost 80 ft/lbs. torque at a useable 3,500 rpm with very little vibration when accelerating through the gears or after reaching cruising velocity. No tachometer is fitted but at freeway speeds, the Stryker rumbled along nicely, not feeling strained or laboured.
The wheelbase is 68.9 inches (1,750mm) or roughly the distance from here to first base. This makes the Stryker VIA-rail stable in a straight line but a bit unwieldy in really tight spots at slow speeds. U-turns require full lock, foot dabbing and lots of real estate.
Once above a walking pace, the 120/70-21 inch front wheel steers lightly and effortlessly, with little tendency for the front to flop in slower corners. The meaty 210/40-18 rear tire is wide enough to draw oohs and aahs at the local doughnut emporium, but isn’t wide enough to totally screw up the handling.
Checking in wet at 644.6 lbs. (293 kg) the Stryker is a full 22 lbs. lighter than Yamaha’s V Star 1300—it’s a significant amount for a machine that will appeal to new or re-entry riders. The capable suspension features 135mm of travel from the 41mm front forks, but the vertically-mounted rear shock has only 100 mm of travel and is somewhat harsh over larger heaves.
Shifts are light and positive with a short, crisp throw at the lever. Final drive is via clean, efficient belt drive.
The single 310mm front disc reduces unsprung weight and rotational mass which enhances the easy steering and front fork performance. Braking power is adequate, although feel and feedback was a bit wooden. Optimum stopping requires a firm grasp on the lever and a healthy dose of rear pedal. The brake lever is not adjustable and I found the reach on the long side—riders with stubby fingers might have an issue.
The Stryker’s fashionably low seat is a mere 26.4 inches (670mm) off the ground. The junction between the 15-litre fuel tank and the front of the seat is also very narrow, making it even easier to firmly touch the ground with both feet.
With the bars about shoulder height, your armpits will get a good airing out but the riding position isn’t as extreme as it appears. The hard seat locks your bottom in one place and the pegs are forward mounted but not excessively so. I’m over six feet tall and didn’t find the cockpit cramped during my short jaunts on the Stryker.
The fit and finish are above average and the view from the control tower is fairly uncluttered, although some wiring, hoses and cables can be seen. The front end seems quite stretched and the overall feel is of a motorcycle larger than a “mid-size” cruiser.
The Stryker has some nice standard features—an LED tail light, self canceling turn signals and stylishly curved staggered pipes. At $12,399 for black and $12,599 for blue or red (with flame accents), it’s aggressively priced as well.
Yamaha says its new Stryker is a motorcycle that inspires “youthful rebellion.” I’m not youthful, nor do I resemble Brando but once aboard the 2011 Stryker, I had the sudden urge to terrorize a small town.

– Steve Bond