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Yamaha V Star 1100 Cruiser

The Yamaha V Star 1100 has a huge fan base both with those looking for a used reliable cruiser and among the shed builders looking for a donor bike they can customise and make their own.

Let’s take a look at things in a bit more depth.

Yamaha V Star 1100 Review

Yamaha V Star 1100 engine close up
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The Yamaha V Star range is a series of motorcycles that have cemented themselves securely into the cruiser segment.

The V Stars have a huge following, appealing to riders who want a cruiser without the Harley Davidson badge and price tag. This was exactly what Yamaha set out to achieve, to directly compete with the big American giants of HD and Indian.

It was in 1994 when Yamaha formed Star Motorcycles which would be a stand alone brand run by Yamaha to just cover their ventures into the cruiser market. It was a sign to the dominating brands that they were serious about competing in the segment and they were gunning for the American market.

Star Motorcycles were operated out of California, where the design, production and distribution all happened. The base in the US have them a solid footprint and brownie points with the American public who appreciate ‘American Made’.

Eventually Star would be brought back into the Yamaha fold and absorbed to become one brand again.

In 1998 the company decided to overhaul their famous Virago line initially starting by replacing the Virago 535 with the V Star 650 (Dragstar in some markets like the UK).

Shortly after in 1999 they set out to replace the bigger Virago with the V Star 1100 which would go on to have a run of around 10 years in most markets and to this day it has retained a faithful following thanks to its reliable build, cruising power, and classic styling.

While today the 1,063cc engine would be considered more a middleweight, the good amount of power, style, speed and smooth ride meant it was a pretty big hitter on its release, until the V Star 1300 was released a while later.

All of those key factors means they are still competent, great bikes and fun to ride today.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Japanese manufacturers were competing amongst themselves to produce cruisers that could meet the US markets expectations; let’s face it good old American V-twins aren’t easy to knock off the top pedestal.

Out of this internal Japanese competition and then external race to capture the American market and knock a few spots of Harley Davidson we were given such bikes as the Suzuki Savage, Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 and Honda Shadow, all worthy competitors.

For a while the company stuck with the Virago but then changed things from the ground up with the V Stars.

Just like the V Star 650, the Virago engine was used as the basis of what would form the new engine for the bigger bike.

The engine was simply reworked which resulted in more torque for the new cruiser. It was no longer a stressed member of the frame as it was for the Virago as new suspension and a new frame were built.

So while the engines foundations were from the 80’s, the chassis was all new moving into the future, this was going to be a new motorcycle all together.

The low end torque makes the bike a breeze off the line, the name Dragstar in the UK suits the bike perfectly, as that power can just be tapped into immediately and will carry the rider with the wind. It is also this point that lends the bike to be suitable for a variety of riding situations.

It can work around town if needs be leaning into the low end, allowing you to filter through traffic in any gear, but it will also happily chug along in the mid-range, cruising all day at 70mph without skipping a beat.

So for a motorcycle hitting the highway, it is also perfectly suited, there is enough power for the overtake when needed, just drop a gear if needs be for a boost and get gone.

The vast amounts of torque and horsepower makes for some riding in the twisties too, the power is there to get you out of the bends with a twist of the throttle.

Of course, none of this would mean much if the chassis didn’t back the engine up to make it a complete package. Fortunately the newly designed steel cradle frame backed up the big V Star to make it a solid all rounder.

The chassis length is long and low, the seat sitting at just 27″ nearly every rider will have complete control when stationary or in slow speeds. As it has a long length the rider has plenty of room to stretch out to the pegs or floorboards and the drag bars are wide enough even for long arms to stay comfortable.

The seat is surprisingly comfortable for a stock seat allowing you to the lay down the miles before needing to stretch, your passenger might be less comfortable as their pegs/floorboards keep their knees bent at quite a tight angle.

A 17L gas tank means you can fuel up and go the distance between stops which is a huge bonus, my pet peeve is a small gas tank on a cruiser.

Rear suspension is pretty hard and some riders complained that it not only looked like a hardtail but rode like one too, so switching out the monoshock might be an idea for some. In terms of brakes they were solid and did the job although they will certainly feel a little lack lustre compared to brakes on new bikes today.

You will be surprised at how you can throw the bike into corners and stand it back up straight again, the pegs will scrape to warn you that you are pushing its limits. It is equally surprising on the straights with power delivery being silky smooth throughout the gears. Vibrations only seem to kick in above legal speeds so shouldn’t be an issue in the day to day riding experience.

Performance

When the Star line was released and it was clear that the designers wanted to steer clear of the Virago styling, it was a relief all round for press and public. While the Virago has its fans it was deemed a bit ugly.

The new bikes were far more on trend, traditionally styled, beefier and offered options to the riders to hit them with their own style.

The hard tail look, twin exhaust pipes, chunky tank and fenders, wide pulled back bars and lashings of chrome resulted in a classic silhouette that was timeless and I think this is partly why the line is still popular today.

At the time of the 1100’s release the 650 Custom and Classic were Yamaha’s best selling cruisers and had taken the whole cruiser market by storm. So, it came as no surprise when Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine gave the 1100 the title of ‘Cruiser Of The Year’ when it was released a year later.

They wrote in their 1999 edition “Yamaha’s attempt to over Shadow the competition is well-executed. All of the models in the Star cruiser series feature a striking visual balance and keen exhaust note…Like the other bikes in the V-Star lineup, the 1100’s overall performance package is more than worth the asking price. Even if nothing else seems to set it apart from its competition, the price point surely does.”

It was the attractive price point that really stormed the bike ahead of the other Japanese competition and the American.

The winning factor was that the performance figures of the V Star beat bikes like the Honda Shadow and the price was attractive to those who wanted more power than a 650 but didn’t want to enter into the price of Harley’s bigger than a Sportster.

It was a success and the bike had won its place as a great cruiser motorcycle. It remains a successful bike today, with riders still choosing one to be their go to middleweight that can take them wherever they choose to go.

Specs list

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine – Four-stroke, 75 degree, V-twin cylinder, SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
  • Capacity – 1,063cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 95 x75mm
  • Compression Ratio – 8.3:1
  • Cooling System – Air-cooled
  • Induction – Carburettors
  • Starting – Electric
  • Transmission – 5 Speed
  • Final Drive – Shaft drive
  • Max Power – 62 horsepower at 5,750rpm
  • Max Torque – 85Nm at 2,500rpm
  • Top Speed – 110mph

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – Steel cradle
  • Front Suspension – Telescopic forks
  • Rear Suspension – Swingarm monoshock
  • Front Brakes – 2 x 298mm disc, 2 piston calliper
  • Rear Brakes – Single 282mm disc, 1 piston calliper
  • Dry Weight – 259kg
  • Length -2,405mm
  • Height – 1,095mm
  • Width – 895mm
  • Wheelbase – 1,640mm
  • Ground Clearance – 145mm
  • Seat Height – 690mm
  • Fuel Capacity – 17 Litres

Yamaha V Star 1100 Variants

While the basis of the V Star models were the same when you looked at the bare bones, including the engine, low seat height, shaft drive, power, suspension and the fact they were built to be smooth, reliable and affordable there were some subtle differences between the two key variants that Yamaha produced.

Just as with the V Star 650 Yamaha released a Classic and a Custom version with each tailored to a different audience to meet different needs.

V Star 1100 Classic

The Classic was the base model for a rider who would potentially dress the bike up for touring, with fundamental features to get them started.

It came with a plush seat and passenger seat, big sweeping fenders with rounded edges, very reminiscent of early traditional 50’s cruisers, floorboards and a huge headlight. The handlebars were wide and pulled back for a comfortable ride.

There were an abundance of aftermarket accessories the rider could add to make the bike their own.

V Star 1100 Custom

Again just like the smaller 650 model the Custom was more focused on a stripped back, bobber style approach, leaning towards the solo rider.

It had a ‘Bobbed’ rear fender, narrower front tire, a smaller headlight, pegs instead of floorboards and no fork covers along with aluminium wheels and spokes.

V Star 1100 Silverado

The Silverado edition was a touring focused model built for longer cruising and some highway rides.

Built around the Classic base, the model was equipped the following extra features:

  • Passenger floorboards
  • Windscreen
  • Saddlebags
  • Sissy Bar

The idea was that it was a motorcycle capable of heading across country if the rider desired and would keep them as comfortable as possible for the ride.

Buying an original V Star 1100

If you are looking to buy a V Star 1100 then you will be pleased to know that they are still being sold for an affordable price and sit between $4,000-$7,000 on average in the US depending on age and condition etc.

Some models are fully kitted out for touring with aftermarket accessories and others remain pretty original. Bikes can be found both for private sale and at a motorcycle dealer. This 2007 model in Ohio has been set up with a windshield, premium rider and passenger seat with backrests, saddlebags among other features; it has an asking price of $4,995.

It is worth noting that there is always a premium you pay when buying from a dealer as opposed to a private sale, this can sometimes be offset by the benefits of a service package or warranty offer, so it is worth considering both options. In the UK prices are pretty firm around the £3,500-£4,000 mark regardless of model variant.

When you are doing a search for new vehicles it is important to look at the downsides so you know what you are getting into.

Here are some common problems riders have with a V Star:

  • Air intake boot is known to leak or vibrate completely off
  • High voltage regulator can fail
  • Carb jets are can get clogged up
  • Valve clearances need to be checked/done every 4,000 miles
  • In order to change the oil filter you need to completely remove the exhaust
  • Headlights are pretty poor, not good for riding at night

The good news is that none of these things are huge issues that are going to cost a fortune to deal with and regular maintenance will ensure that none of them become a more disastrous issue. The fact is if you are looking for a solid reliable bike then the V star is up there, you will find plenty on the road in great condition with high miles.

Yamaha V Star 1100 Custom Bobber Builds

The V Star 1100 is a popular donor bike for custom shops and shed builder alike
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The V Star 1100 is a popular donor bike for custom shops and shed builder alike

V Stars make excellent bases for custom builds, this goes for any of the bikes in any capacity, but the V Star 1100 is a popular choice for bobber style builds.

It offers up plenty of punch, while still being a manageable weight and it is cheap to start with. They also have a low seat, slammed stance, they are just low slung which naturally leads them into the shed builder scene.

Check out this build based around the a 2007 Classic, it features a one off paint job, high ape bars and a bobbed rear fender.

Blue Collar Bobbers use the V Star 1100 Custom and Classic as the base for their build packages, they are stocked on parts for you to build your own bobber.

Restoring a Yamaha V Star 1100

If you are looking to restore a V Star, there are parts readily available, they are cheap to buy and you can quite easily get your V Star back to its former original glory.

eBay is a great start for original parts as this is quite often where bikes that are being broken down for parts will be sold off. Yamaha Parts House is another good start point along with CMS NL.

If you need something specific then talking to your local Yamaha dealer is worth a shot too.

Is the V Star 1100 a good investment?

In terms of looking at restoring a V Star to then go on to sell for profit down the line, they aren’t fetching huge amounts of money as there are still plenty of really good bikes on the road. They just aren’t that old yet.

The same applies to buying one as an investment. While some V Stars are fetching higher than average prices, there are not many that do. They seem to be sitting on the used market as bikes to ride and enjoy. They don’t seem to be depreciating in value very much and equally they aren’t going up in value either.

The bikes do have a big following and there is a possibility that they might be considered a classic in a few years but for right now, it just doesn’t look that way, so forget it as investment and get out and ride, that is what they are for after all.

Verdict

Overall the Yamaha V Star 1100 offers a lot of value for money, its a capable highway bike, it makes a sweet noise, the engine is a tried and tested unit with longevity and reliability behind it. The styling is timeless, regardless of whether you go for the Classic or Custom edition and with both there is room to stamp your own mark on it.

Seriously, what more could you want out of a cruiser?

51 Shares

Kevin

Friday 23rd of September 2022

I wonder why not yamaha v-star classis 1,200cc ,it will be nice to have 1,200 classic I have been looking for 1,200cc not 1,300cc or road star 1,200 too