So I've now had a chance to put a few hundred miles on my new to me 2018 Yamaha Eluder, and have been threatening to write up what I think about it, so here we go! Warning, I'm long-winded, and this is long, but it might be interesting for those who have wanted to get a bagger but didn't want to spend $25k+ getting an Indian or Harley, and who doesn't like the feel or style of a Goldwing. What does a metric guy do when he wants a v-twin bagger?
After 4 years on my Rocket III Roadster getting it up to 50k+ miles and already being on my second gearbox, I knew a new bike was going to be in order soon. In non-pandemic years I typically ride around 15k - 20k miles, for both commuting to work and for pleasure on the weekends. My Rocket is my daily driver and my fun machine, so it gets hit pretty hard. This year I worked from home, so that helped, but my goal was to get something reliable that could eat a lot of miles for a long time.
I had no intentions of getting rid of the Rocket, so performance was less of a factor than it might have otherwise been trying to decide what sort of bike I wanted, but I'm still me so it was definitely still on the list! Also since I was keeping the Rocket, however, a lot of what I wanted this bike to do were the things the Rocket didn't do so well!
I decided early on I wanted a full dresser. The Rocket makes a great around town, go-fast bike, but now I wanted something that could crush miles. I'm a big guy, I like big bikes, and I wanted something comfortable, that got good gas mileage, had lots of storage, and quality of life enhancements like cruise control and wireless key fob. I knew these were pricey requirements, so getting a good deal was definitely a factor in my decision-making.
The two biggest contenders were the Indian Challenger and the Yamaha Star Eluder/Venture. Ultimately, though I found the Challenger to be a great bike, the lack of any used stock and the fact that even the base model, totally stripped down would be around $8k more than a fully loaded, but used Eluder made the choice an easy one.
I ended up getting a 2018 Star Eluder GT. You'll notice if you look, that Yamaha still sells the Eluders brand new, but badged as a 2018. This is actually an interesting move on Yammi's part. To avoid clogging the market with two similar, niche models. They only made the Eluder for one year, but keep selling them. For 2020 and 2021 they do make a brand new Star Venture, which is the same bike as the Eluder, but with a built-in tour pack, reverse, and an electrically adjustable windscreen.
This may seem odd, but the strategy has worked, as the 2018 Eluders are still worth almost exactly what they were in 2018. I scored a GT model with 8k miles but a TON of extras on it for a fairly decent price though, and for my sacrifice on miles I got a Corbin Dual Touring seat with their Fire/Ice package, the lower fog lights, an upgrade to the Infotainment system that includes built-in nav, a taller windscreen, a quick release passenger backrest and luggage rack, TAB slip-on exhaust, an external amp and upgraded speakers in the stereo, and basically every beauty part Arlen Ness makes for the bike. Considering that I've put almost 300 miles on the bike in two weeks, 8000 miles doesn't seem like that much of a cost for all that!
It may seem unfair to compare this significantly upgraded Eluder to
purchasing a brand new Challenger, but I view the ability to get a bike used and let someone else take the "new vehicle" value hit as well as get all their upgrades for free to be a big advantage to a bike that is mostly only available new. For nearly $10k less than the new Challengers I was eyeballing, I got all this.
A Different looking bagger: Indian Chieftain Left, Yamaha Eluder right
As far as the Eluder as a bike? I love this thing. It checks all the boxes. I'll start with the things that I really was surprised by. There were a few things that really impressed me after buying the bike, that I totally wasn't expecting to be surprised by, and this is a good thing. First is the fairing. The Eluder certainly has a unique look, right? Though it looks positively massive from the outside, it really doesn't feel that way when you're sitting on it. Most of the fairing, unlike other bikes in its class, is BELOW the rider's sightlines. I can actually fully see the road in front of this bike, which is unique for a frame-mounted fairing. When I've ridden Indian Challengers and Harley Road Glides, the fairing dominates my vision. It's huge, up in front of you, and the road in front of the bike is utterly invisible. It is obviously something you get used to, but it takes a bit.
Ultimately, because the Harley fairing designs are so iconic, every company has to decide what sort of spin they'll do on it. What's interesting is that Yamaha went a completely different way. You can absolutely tell that a company with a rich history in sportbikes and sport-tourers made this thing. If you've ever ridden an FJR1300, there's a lot here that will be familiar to you. They absolutely put this bike in a wind tunnel the way they do the sportbikes and it's immediately obvious that there's a lot of sport/sport touring sensibilities here. Normally, this would be an off-putting thing to hear in the description of a bike built for cruising in comfort, but it's really a good thing. The fairing is low, and out of the way, the infotainment screen sits below your vision of the road. The Yamaha-made medium windscreen is tall enough to get air over my head but is leaned back and recurved. I can see totally over it.
And again, I really just can't talk enough about the aero package. I expected a lot of the other features I appreciate about this bike going in because I'd read about them, but no review prepared me for how much I'd love this fairing setup. I'm a cruiser guy. I went from a Magna to a VTX1800, to my Rocket. All of my bikes have barrelled through the air with no consideration for how they did so! The Rocket III might get to 120mph with breathtaking speed, but it really doesn't like to stay there. You get all sorts of buffetting and vibrations. The Eluder is the opposite. Because of it's mean and highly automotive-looking front end that's pointed and the lower fairings, this bike gets more stable the faster it goes. 90 feels like 45 on most bikes. Those lower fairings really put in work, and because it's all mounted to the frame, things like passing semis or odd wind gusts have barely any effect on the bike at speed. And not only do those lowers help lock the bike down at high speeds, but they also can be closed with foot levers to block out rain. It's little touches like these that make me love the folks at Yamaha. Engineers have been over every inch of this thing, and it shows.
Really, this thing is covered in neat toys. Yamaha clearly instructed the designers to spare no feature expense, and they did NOT. For a bike that I was able to pick up for the cost of a totally stock Softtail Slim or Heritage with analog gauges and no bags, I have got touch-screen Infotainment system with built-in GPS, that in addition to being a stereo, is just chock full of cool info. The real stand-out being.... BUILT-IN TIRE PRESSURE GAUGES. Guys. My radio literally displays the actual PSI in my tires. For a fat dude with a bad back, this is life-changing. It's also got a fuel range gauge with real-time mpg tracking, voltage meter, thermometer, and of course BT, Pandora, XM, USB, and aux in support.
The previous owner upgraded the speaker and amp, and the stereo is KILLER. this is another feature I was surprised at loving. I love my Cardo and have listened to music in my helmet for so long, it didn't even occur to me I'd ever use the stereo, but there's something about blasting music going down the highway that's really fun! Plus, just throwing a memory stick full of music in there and not even having to worry about pairing anything is pretty great. It doesn't have Carplay or Android Auto but it will display your texts on screen and initiate phone calls that will play in your cardo. The GPS is pretty basic and I prefer Google Maps on my phone mounted to the handlebars, BUT the GPS has a REALLY neat feature I didn't anticipate, which is that even when the maps aren't open, the Infotainment screen shows the name of the road you're on, and the speed limit, next to a little digital readout of your speed. Again, just a really cool quality of life improvement from some clever engineers.
In addition to all these bells and whistles, it features fly-by-wire electronic throttle, electronic cruise control that works super well, Touring and Sport ride modes that can change with a button press, and overall really great and intuitive controls. The entire Infotainment system no only works with a touch screen(which works with gloves!) but also with the controls at your left thumb, which once you're used to it, becomes second nature.
The storage is great. The bags are huge and lock electronically with the bike's wireless keyfob. I can click a button on the fob or the gas tank and unlock/lock the bags.
The ergonomics of the bike are amazing, which is to be expected from it's class, but it's really great. The bike is nice and low, even my stubby legs can bend at the knee. The floorboards are slightly forward, tilted a bit up, and HUGE. There's so much room to move! Coming from a Rocket with mid pegs, this is just so nice. Passenger floorboards come stock as well. The bars are swept back in a great position. The bike feels easy to control, and your shoulders are relaxed. The Eluder is just a really easy place to be, which is a great thing for a bike made for crushing miles.
It's got a big and strong monoshock with an electric preload, which not only adjusts at a button press but even at medium setting carries my 300lbs easily, with plenty of room to move but firm handling. This bike sails over bumps the would knock my fillings out on the Rocket like they aren't even there, but also makes full use of the scrape pads on the bottom of the floorboards.
The motor is a riff on the Raider's 1900c V-Twin. Set up for less horsepower and more torque, real-world dynos of stock motors are somewhere in the 85hp/110tq range, which is more than respectable for a bike like this. In practice I find the motor to be responsive and more than adequate, and the 6th gear is amazing. I'm on my third tank of gas since buying it, and have gotten over 215 miles out of the last two tanks, averaging ~38mpg, even when riding in the city on sport mode.
The fact that the motor is air-cooled and old school pushrod rather than a water-cooled and dual overhead cam motor like the Challenger is something of a demerit, but I cannot deny that I didn't miss having a big v-twin, and there's something about the sound of those pushrods and the smell of that hot oil that is irreplaceable. Yamaha went hard at copying the feel of a Harley and they actually nailed it in a way that Harley has had difficulty doing in recent years. This bike's motor has a lot of that charm, and the high compression makes it sound amazing on decel. Again, the engineering abilities of team Yamaha come through here, because this big V-Twin doesn't shake one bit. The way it's mounted combined with a counter-balanced crank means that this thing could be a parallel twin for all you'd notice. It's honestly a smoother riding motor than my Rocket's inline 3, which is a really high bar.
Belly of the Beast: Eluder's 1900cc V-Twin motor