December 15, 2017

Yamaha’s ‘His n’ Hers’ Custom Cruisers

A photo taken with an on board DRIFT camera shows the wide grip of a rider behing the bars of a 2011 Yamaha Raider
2011 Yamaha Raider

By Marissa Baecker

After overhearing two riders ‘ooo and awe’ as they stood before the bike I had just pulled in on, convinced it was a 2012 Yamaha Stryker when in fact, it was a 2011 Yamaha Raider, I questioned myself, “Did I just ride a Stryker or a Raider?”

Stand before a 2011 burnt red pinstriped Raider and 2012 Stryker in close to the same colour and the cosmetic differences are subtle. So subtle in fact, and as our ogling motorcyclists proved, a rider could easily be fooled. However similar the appearance of these cruisers, get behind the bars and you will soon know the difference.

2012 Stryker

The 2008 Raider was the first custom cruiser in the Yamaha line up and today is a bike that is packing power and performance with a 113 cubic inch, 1854 cc, air-cooled, fuel injected, v-twin engine.

“Yamaha usually introduces a new series of motorcycles with the most powerful or top of the line bike first,” says Kelowna Yamaha dealer, Terry Poirier. “The following years it delivers the lower engine sizes.”

Three years later, Yamaha birthed a sibling and in 2011, added the 80 cubic inch, 1304 cc, liquid-cooled v-twin machine with the Stryker name. The idea the manufacturer was going for was ‘His n’ Hers’ rides.

“The models that they [Yamaha] come out with in cruisers are generally around for 8-10 or 12 years before they get phased out. The Raider today is virtually identical to 2008 other than placement of chrome parts, paint colour etc. This way they maintain a strong resale value. After market parts companies love it because they can make parts for a bike that is going to be in production for a number of years so there is a broader range of windshields, saddlebags, chrome pieces etc. Even five years later, Raider owners still feel like they have a new bike because it isn’t outdated.”

The Stryker, for me, felt like a more compact ride. The 26.4” seat had me feeling like I was sitting on the bottom of the tank. The back support the seat offers compacts the rider in closer to the tank and the slightly pulled back handlebars have the rider sitting upright. The positioning for me was too cramped and I soon began to experience tailbone discomfort. So much for the ‘Hers’ Stryker for me.

Getting behind the bars of the Raider, my 5’11” frame sat quite comfortably on the 695 mm (27.4”) seat that was set back from the tank and the shorter back support of the seat did not compact me to the tank hence no tail bone discomfort. Placing the seats on both bikes so low, gives the bike’s appearance more of an attitude. However, posing in front of Starbucks is not where you will see this machine as once you lean forward and grip those bars, open up the throttle and stretch those limbs out to the forward controls, there is no looking back as you settle in for a powerful yet relaxed ride.

A photo taken with an on board DRIFT camera (a second one on the helmet) illustrates the wide grip of a rider behind the bars of a 2011 Yamaha Raider

As my wings spread out to allow each wrist to grip the bars, I had visions of multi-coloured spinakers in a regatta. As I debated the necessity to add a windshield I was pleasantly surprised to find that the low seat height and ergonomics of the handlebars sends the wind around the rider lessening the fatigue.

“It looks like a factory chopper. It looks like a bike that was built in a chopper shop somewhere,” adds Poirier.

Bonus features that both models offer are wiring inside the handlebars adding to that custom appearance, self cancelling signal lights for those of us that have gotten used to them and look like a fool riding around town forgetting to push the cancel, and the ease of steering of these machines despite the rake.

“Yamaha has got this really cool off-set steering column. The Steering column is not as raked out as the front forks are. When you go at a low speed corner, the front wheel doesn’t fall over like it would on a regular chopper,” Poirer said.

Yamaha engineers have a steering column separate from the rake of their custom cruisers allowing for more comfortable steering while maintaining a custom chopper look.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I rode cautiously anticipating chopper-like steering because of the rake. My apprehension dissipated after the first few corners and I found it easier to open up the throttle and let the bike steer itself rather than try to manhandle around a corner in low gear and I felt as though I was being pushed into the bend and pulled out the other side.

Poirier laughed when I told him that the ‘His’ Raider would be solely ‘Hers’ in my case and responded, “All Yamahas are built to fit as many different sizes of riders as possible – not just one big person or one small person. For someone that is maybe 6’4”, the Raider would be a better choice because it is a bigger stretch to the handlebars and the footpegs.”

I think the bike is great for someone say, 5’11”, with long legs and bigger bones.

The Raider delivers 123 ft. lbs. of torque at 2,500 rpm compared to the Stryker’s 78.8 at 3,500 rpm.

The effortless shifting through the five-speed transmission paired with a belt drive delivers a smooth and quiet ride for both models. At highway speed, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Despite the size and power of the bike, the Raider has a 15.9 ltr (3.5 gallon) fuel tank – slightly smaller than the average but more frequent fuel stops will give other travellers a chance to admire your ride.

The classically styled guage of the Yamaha Raider is housed in the tank making it visually challenging to read for a rider wearing a full face helmet.

The classic looking fuel tank mounted instrument panel on the Raider is a faux pas in my opinion. As a rider who wears a full face helmet, I couldn’t see the panel when riding. To see any of the gauges while riding, I would have to literally bend my head about 45 degrees to catch a visual from inside my helmet.

Then I looked at the marketing material and in every photograph of a rider on the bike, the rider is wearing a shorty helmet or open face. I understand that the open face helmet goes with the custom cruiser styling much better but in my opinion, for what its worth, choosing to wear a full face helmet shouldn’t impair operation of the bike.

I suppose you could argue that rpm, fuel, the low fuel warning light that kicks in at 3 litres remaining, and the time are all unimportant while riding and you could even argue that the red and blue flashing lights will let you know if you are riding too fast but who would want to miss out on the background illumination? Ok, a little sarcasm there but seriously, why boast about an instrument panel that can be changed from the handlebars with a simple flick of the thumb if you can’t even see it in a full face helmet?

The instrument panel on the Stryker is mounted between the handlebars and easily visible. It’s probably just me and keep in mind that I wear a modular helmet and perhaps not all full face helmets obstruct the view of the gauge so take my rant for what its worth.

All in all, the custom cruiser Yamahas are coming in with a great look and an even better price. MSRP for the Stryker around $13,000 and for the Raider around $20,000.

About Marissa Baecker 443 Articles
Marissa Baecker is a professional photographer (www.shootthebreeze.ca) and writer, contributing to various media publications. Marissa considers herself a solid rider but without any technical or instructing background, she does not consider herself an expert but rather someone who is learning every day and wanting to share her knowledge. Marissa enjoys all aspects of riding including dirt bikes, quads, scooters, street bikes and even a little racing.

I bought my 2008 Raider, slightly used (5700km) this past Easter and it’s been the most awesome ride I’ve ever been on.
I’m not overly tall for a woman, 5’9″ and I find the Raider very comfortable and easy to handle. Even though the big cc’s of this dream machine may appeal more so to the male riding ego, I find the Raider to be very well mannered. You best be hanging on when you crank that throttle though ’cause at that point she thinks you mean business. 😀