1996 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic
With the introduction of its new Royal Star line, Yamaha has thrown its hat into the fray of the “American born” retro-style, heavy-duty thunder-cruiser class, joining the likes of the Honda Ace, Suzuki 1400 Intruder, and redesigned-for-’96 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500.
Yamaha claims the Royal Star’s long, low and wide styling was conceived and developed by full-sized American riders(?). We’re not sure what they’re implying with that statement, but it’ll be these “full-sized” riders (along with their full-sized beer bellies?) who will most appreciate the ‘Star’s roomy accommodations. With the wheelbase of a stretch limo (66.7 inches) the Royal Star has the extra leg space many taller riders pine for.
Style and comfort were the Number One priorities when Yamaha engineers designed the ‘Star. Style is oh-so-important in the ultra-cruiser class – that “American Classic” H-D look that all the manufacturers are trying so desperately to imitate. For good reason too, style sells bikes. The Royal Star has plenty of that “classic” style too. Large floorboards, heel-toe shifter, fat tires, deeply drawn steel fenders, a large plush saddle and oversized fuel tank accentuate the look, while staggered exhaust pipes exude style as well as a deep rumble. Yamaha even added bolt-on finned castings to give that air-cooled look to the water-cooled V-4; in the open cruiser class, you gotta have it.
The Tour Classic edition of the Royal Star family adds a slightly different twist by blending both cruising and touring via factory installed upgrade options. These include retro-style saddlebags with a hidden, stiff inner liner that retains their shape when the bags are empty, large touring windshield with lower wind deflectors (which are adjustable for height and angle), custom seat and passenger backrest, chrome plated engine guards, and an enhanced chrome package. Ahh, the chrome — it’s triple-plated and it’s everywhere, including the engine cases, fender tips, handlebar ends, and even the side stand. Gotta have it.
With the Royal Star, Yamaha applied a new idea they call their “Elemental Design” concept, “giving each component its individual strength and freedom” according to a factory press release. Yamaha states this concept opens the door for customizing/personalizing — an important aspect of the cruiser class. Yamaha is ready, with a full catalog of ‘Star Accessories. Yamaha is offering an unprecedented 5-year Unlimited Mileage Warranty with the Royal Star as well.
On the road the ‘Star typifies the cruising experience. Its long, low style gives a kicked-back, relaxed and stable feel. The adjustable windscreen is very effective at lower speeds and the roomy, soft ergonomics of the ‘Star make you feel as if you’re riding a Lazy Boy recliner down the road. The large 1294cc V-4 engine, straight out of Yamaha’s Venture touring model, is tuned for boulevard cruising low rpm torque, coupled with the wide-ratio five-speed gearbox it turns a sedate 2500 rpm in top gear at highway speeds. The four chromed exhaust pipes give off a deep rumble, and sound is an important factor in the thunder cruiser class. A lack of roll-on punch from the big V-4 was a bit disappointing, making it difficult to pass traffic on two-lane country roads with fully loaded saddlebags and passenger.
The suspension is also tuned for the boulevards, giving a soft, supple ride around town. The Royal Star Tour Classic is a bit of a brute, weighing in at a burly 725 pounds. With extremely limited ground clearance and soft springing and damping rates, it demands to be ridden at a slow, relaxed pace. If you don’t, you’ll quickly have the ‘Star grinding hard parts while you and your passenger are bouncing off the shock’s bump stop. You simply cannot travel briskly on this beast. Nor will you want to. Brakes are standard Yamaha four-piston units, with dual discs up front, and a large, very effective 320 mm disc in back.
Long-range touring is not in the cards on the Royal Star Tour Classic either. The fat-bob style fuel tank may look huge, but it only holds 4.8 gallons, and it’s ready for a refill after only 120 miles. We found, too, that comfort diminishes in direct proportion to speed. Above 65 to 70 MPH, wind spilling around the large windscreen buffets the riders head. Similarly, engine rumble/vibration at highway speeds had our feet shaking off the floorboards, forcing us to make a conscious effort to hold them on, leading to fatigue and frequent stops.
The Tour Classic’s specialty will be in tranquil short-range tours or day rides, where looking good is just as important as getting there. Civilians liked the Royal Star’s retro styling and clean, simple looks. The ‘Star delivers a smooth, comfortable, relaxed ride – as long as speeds are kept low. We enjoyed the Royal Star Tour Classic; it could be a real winner in the ultra-cruiser class – but we’re holding out to see how it stacks up against the competition.
Manufacturer: Yamaha Model: Royal Star Tour Classic Price: $15,399.00 Engine: DOHC, water-cooled V4 Bore x Stroke: N/A Displacement: 1294cc Carburetion: Four 28mm downdraft carburetors Transmission: 5-speed, shaft drive Wheelbase: 66.7 in. Seat height: 28.5 in. Fuel capacity: 4.8 gallons Claimed dry weight: 725 lbs.