1999 Yamaha Royal Star Venture
- See it here first! -
By Bill Wolf
Photos by David Dewhurst & MN
First Ride - MN takes to the roads of Maine on Yamaha's new Venture
When we first eyed Yamaha's new Venture during the company's press viewing in Hollywood, we were shocked. We simply didn't expect the company to release a new touring bike, and we certainly wouldn't have guessed it would carry cruiser styling. This was a gutsy move on Yamaha's part, and a difficult task for a Japanese manufacturer to successfully carry out.
But carry it out they did, and the result is a great looking, highly luxurious and functional tourer. Even though the bike is built around the same basic V-four engine as used in previous Ventures, and styled after the Royal Star, the rest of the bike is new. The frame features a solid mounted engine for more precise handling. Suspension, bodywork, instrumentation and luggage are also all new. About the only carry over from the older touring mount is some familiar pulses coming from the the 79 cubic inch power plant.
The first thing people notice when checking out the new Venture is the styling of the instrument panel. With its nostalgic automotive look and LED speedo, it's hard to miss. Other notable styling features include a large yet sleek fairing and floorboards which house two separate air boxes.
If you're like us, you're probably wondering if Yamaha sacrificed comfort and luxury to create a touring bike with cruiser styling. The answer is, absolutely not. Instead, the bike is far more comfortable and possesses more integrated creature comforts than ever. The new bike features an AM/FM stereo cassette (CD ready), auto channel programming, a 40 channel CB radio, a built-in intercom system and an adjustable auto volume control - all controlled by a single master control pod. This new system offers so many features it's like learning to program a VCR without instructions. Once you begin to learn how it works, however, things get a little better. There's also an excellent new cruise control, a passenger audio control, and a dash mounted DC outlet.
The new eye-catching speedo features a LED readout, a clock, 2 trip meters, and a handy count up low fuel trip meter. The LED speedo displays in what appears to be 2 1/2 mph increments, and the system works well enough, but is slightly hard to read at times. This unique design allowed Yamaha to create a very clean, attractive and uncluttered dash. We liked it very much though you have to cycle through the tripmeters and clock functions and the buttons are small.
The large fairing that encloses the dash does a great job of deflecting the elements and it's very quiet to ride behind. The lowers, new for Yamaha, complete the full-coverage bodywork and are something past ventures were seriously lacking. They do a great job of keeping your feet and lower legs warm, but there is a small gap between the fairing and lowers which allows a bit of air to reach your knees.
Two areas really stood out when we first rode the new Venture. First, was the bike's exceptional comfort. The low 29.5 inch seating position is nearly straight up and your legs are positioned out front, just as with many of today's popular cruisers. The low bars are well positioned and comfortable and the seat if firm with a supportive step. The floorboards, complete with a heel shifter, offer excellent comfort. On longer rides you can move your feet around or tap your toes to your favorite Stones tune coming from the four speaker stereo.
While were on this topic, the stereo system on the two bikes we sampled were good though not exceptional. The sound quality produced also degraded when we played tapes. These were hand-built pre-production motorcycles so hopefully this function will be improved for production units. The rear speakers are positioned out of the way in the rear trunk and face forward, not upward towards the rider. This makes the sound system work harder to get the audio to the riders ears. Fortunately, there is a fader control so you can raise the rear volume to even out the sound.
The other area that really impressed us was the bike's excellent handling. The new Venture is nimble enough at parking lot speeds, changes lines as quick as some sport bikes, and is very stable in a straight line - excellent chassis design. Though we only spent a little over a day on the prototype Yamaha's, and in somewhat controlled circumstances, the suspension provided a smooth and controlled ride. We threw all the little bumps we could find at the bike and nothing seemed to upset the suspension or chassis - though only a full test will provide complete details.
The V-four's power curve has been lowered from the previous Venture, so more power is delivered earlier. The intake volume has been increased and a throttle position sensor has been added to the 32mm Mikuni carburetors. Power output, about 98 horses at the crank, is similar to the output of earlier Ventures but signs off a bit sooner. The result of all this is a bike that's easy to ride. With it's cruiser styled exhaust, the new tourer has a sound all it's own.
Luggage space provided by the new bags is generous, and the lids are all permanently attached. Side bags hold 35 liters each while the large rear trunk holds 57 liters or two helmets. We weren't impressed with the locking mechanisms of the bags and wonder how the hinged area on side bags will hold up over time, since a great deal of stress is placed on them when open.
We heard a good deal of drive line noise at a particular RPM. Yamaha says they are aware of this and that it's caused by clearance tolerances. They also said this area would be improved on production units.
When the new Venture is released, for $15,999, Yamaha will have a slew of accessories available including seats by Corbin. Yamaha also focused on making their new touring mount easy to accessorize with products from you favorite aftermarket suppliers, not to mention that many of the custom items for the Royal Star will fit the Venture.
The two bikes we sampled were pre-production units though you couldn't tell by looking at them. The new Venture is extremely comfortable, handles very well and is loaded with excellent features. From what we can tell, Yamaha has done their homework and clearly has a winner on their hands with the new Royal Star Venture.
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