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Star breaks in a new custom with its rakish Raider

OUTLAWS used to be so American -- until now. With Star Motorcycles’ new high-end custom, the 2008 Raider, the Japanese are stealing this gunslinging, Wild West style.

Even the name of this metric cruiser is more menacing than anything the Yamaha Motor Corp. cruiser brand has ever produced. Add a little rake, some state-of-the-art engineering and a couple of dozen new accessories, and you’ve got what Star’s billing as a new breed of bike: the modern performance custom.

What that means in practical terms is that you get a more manageable and reliable ride than you would with a hand-built bike, and for less than half the price. You also get 5% as much attention, but you can’t have everything, right?

The Raider comes in two versions: the standard Raider with a blacked-out engine and body parts, and the highly chromed S type I was riding. Both brazenly cop outlaw style, with a long 70.8-inch wheelbase, 21-inch front wheel, 210 mm rear tire and 6-degree rake in the tree -- all of which are new and extreme for a Star bike.

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They’re just not nearly as extreme as they would be on a one-off custom, which means the Raider’s less impressive to look at but a lot more ridable. I found it pleasantly maneuverable, even for quick swerves and lane-splitting, because it’s a surprisingly slim 3 feet from grip to grip. At 27.4 inches, the saddle is also one of Star’s lowest, a feat achieved, in part, with a Harley-esque pushrod V-twin, which makes the engine shorter than one with an overhead cam.

Air-cooled, fuel-injected and busting the bucket at a monstrous 113 cubic inches, the 48-degree V-twin is even more American. It’s when you get to the back end that it’s clear the Raider hails from the East. There are twin catalytic converters tucked inside the dual down-swept 2-1-2 exhaust, which goes from understated at idle to a house-cat purr when revved up.

Considering the bike’s heft -- it’s 692 pounds dry -- the Raider gets a decent 40-ish miles per gallon. And when you run low on gas, the instrument panel arms you with information so you’re not traveling to the next station on a prayer. It tells you how far you’ve ridden on reserve, with a mileage counter. That’s a lot more information than you get on many customs, which tell you only how fast you’re going and when you’re running on fumes.

My bike was outfitted with some of the 36 new accessories for the Raider -- a backrest, passenger seat, engine guards, billet engine covers, magnetic tank bag, windscreen and rear luggage rack, which, to my taste, were overkill. While I appreciated the engineering of the rear rack and windshield, both of which can be added or removed with a key instead of a wrench, I thought the styling was self-conscious. I didn’t care for the pitchfork pointiness of the rear rack. Nor did I like the backrest on the saddle and passenger seat because I felt like a hurdler when throwing a leg over.

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But that’s the beauty of the custom -- you can add or remove parts as you please. And because those parts are Japanese, they’re a lot less expensive.

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susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

2008 Star Motorcycles Raider S

Price: $13,980

Powertrain: Air-cooled, fuel- injected, four-stroke, 48-degree V-twin, pushrod/overhead valves, four valves per cylinder, five speeds

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Displacement: 113 cubic inches or 1,854 cc

Bore and stroke: 100 mm by 118 mm

Rake: 39.2 degrees fork

Seat height: 27.4 inches

Dry weight: 692 pounds

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Next week: Loving cars and being green don’t have to be at odds. Susan Carpenter visits Jay Leno’s garage in a story and video.


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