Star Turns to the Dark Side With New Raider

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If you ever wondered what kind of motorcycle Batman would ride if he had to buy a showroom bike, Star Motorcycles might have the answer.

For 2008, Star introduces introduces its new cruiser, the Raider. Aimed at the younger cruiser rider, the Raider is an extension of what Star began with the Roadliner. It's a highly styled cruiser that leaps out of the pack with an aesthetic that leans more toward Notre Dame gothic than Route 66 chrome.

The Raider is also another pillar of support for the Star Motorcycles brand, spun off by Yamaha in 2005. The OEM has since worked to establish Star as its own entity and, save for a few hiccups, has succeeded in doing so, according to product manager Derek Brooks.

Brooks says consumer awareness of the Star brand jumped from 23 percent to 40 percent since it was launched, and that the number of cruiser owners considering buying a Star has increased from 8.7 percent to 19.5 percent. Among its cruising peers, Star has outpaced the industry growth average and has become the No. 1 metric brand for cruisers 1300cc and above, he notes.

The only problem is that the Star brand could still use a few nips and tucks to gain its own unique image. This could be where the Raider comes in. The Raven black-on-black color option is all sharp angles and dark charm.

On looks alone the Raider conforms to Brooks' recounting that the cruiser market is shifting away from the classic, heavyweight image to the chopped, custom look. Consumers seem to want a more unique look in their motorcycles, but don't want the unique handling and comfort issues that are part and parcel of many customs.

The Raider is a custom cruiser with styling influenced by choppers and their ilk, but with power and handling that's beyond expectation, Brooks says.

These high-style bikes — Victory's Vegas 8-Ball, Harley's Night Rod Special and the Star Warrior, to name three — are outpacing their "classic" cruiser brethren in the above-1300cc class.

And it appears that slightly younger people are buying these bikes, the customer base having an average age of 46 compared to the classic crowd's 48. These buyers also put more miles on their bikes, which might be why most are replacement riders with more experience than like groups.

Star found that custom riders are looking for a powerful engine (big displacement), solid and responsive handling, a comfortable riding position and a high-quality, detailed finish. The Raider meets these expectations with a 1854cc, 48-degree pushrod V-twin motor that's fuel-injected and features two plugs per cylinder. Gases exit through a 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system.

The bike's appearance and handling play off the 39.2-degree raked trees and horizontally mounted rear shock. Up front is a 21-inch 120 tire with a 18-inch 210 out back.

Star plans to unveil a complete line of parts and accessories that reflects its branding efforts via POP displays and showroom advertising. — Dennis Johnson