V-Star 1300 Long-Term Review: 12,000 Miles of Worry-Free Riding

Three years ago, I rode my dad’s 2009 V-Star 1300 Tourer and got off the saddle impressed with the “budget Road King” experience. At that time, I was riding a 800cc 2005 Suzuki M50 so anything with more motor and weight felt nice. Little did I know that almost two years later I would be purchasing a V-Star of my own.

Fall 2019 hit me hard with the urge to upgrade. While Selene (my M50) was a great beginner cruiser, 10,000 miles of various types of riding had put a spotlight on her shortcomings. What I needed was more comfort, highway passing power, and more upgrade options. However, I also needed to keep it cheap since I was still putting money away to buy a home. So I decided that whatever I sold Selene for, I would only put an extra $1,500 down to purchase the next bike.

Suzuki M50
Selene could double as a pickup truck no problem.

After some casual searching, I found a 2012 V-Star 1300 Tourer with 9k on the clock. I was obviously very familiar with these and the seller’s pictures were pretty good so I made a bold decision. He was asking $3,000, which was fair, but it needed a little love so I messaged him saying,

“As long as nothing unexpected pops up when I come down, I’ll bring $2,000 and ride it away.”

Three days later, I was riding home on my very own 1300 V-Star. A couple weekends of re-conditioning/general maintenance and Betsy was (almost) looking new. That was 15 months and 12,000 miles ago, so what I think about her after all these saddle-hours? The simple answer is quite happy.

I knew from riding my dad’s 1300 that the bars needed to get replaced for my comfort. The stock bars (pictured here) were just too low and made my wrists feel pinched after 30 minutes. Also, the stock seat needed to go because it’s simply awful in every way. With those issues addressed, here is my review on the 1300 V-Star Tourer.

VStar 1300 Tourer
One of the first pictures with Betsy

As a light-tourer, the 1300 V-Star is a great bike. Since it “only” weighs about 650lbs, the 1300 feels pretty nimble around town. With the new bars, I can flick this bike around at low-speeds and really can’t feel the weight. The biggest gripe while around town is down to Yamaha’s lean OEM tuning which result in low-RPM jerkiness. I solved this in a cheap manner by purchasing an 02 sensor bypass. Up at speed, the 1300 is incredibly smoot! Let’s compare the 1300 to a Road King to understand how that’s possible.

The 1300 is down a gear (5-speed vs 6-speed), 30 cubic inches, and roughly 30 ft-lbs of glorious torque. However, it is close to 100lbs lighter which makes a huge difference. 30-60mph is effortless and the weight balance makes curvy roads a lot of fun. I can’t say that I would win many races against a Road King, but it is close at speed due to that weight savings. Where you notice the 1300’s true downsides are up at highway speed. While it will sit happily at 70mph, anything faster is a struggle for an extended time. Also, the stock plow of a windshield coupled with the “light” weight means you do end up wrestling this motorcycle down the highway if any sort of wind hits you. Now a different windshield/fairing helps this, but I’ll get to the mods later.

As for convenience, the V-Star is 12-year-old design at this point so you do miss out on some modern comforts like ABS, better suspension, or cruise control. Yamaha has fitted the newer model with a GPS but it basically feels like a Garmin from 10 years ago so keep that in mind. There is one convenience feature that these V-Star’s nail compared to so many other bikes: THE GODDAMN SADDLEBAGS. They are in all-caps for a reason, and that reason is they are awesome. They are a leather wrapped hard plastic bag that has a ton of storage space.

VStar 1300 Tourer
This bag is as long as the rear tire and about a foot wide, shweet.

Check out the pictures above to really get an idea. Now they do have a sloped shape so you might not get the same items (aka a case of beer) in there, but a medium sized dog can sit in there pretty well! Also, they are locking and open away from the frame which is very practical when packing down for trips. To be honest, the only manufacturers that make saddlebag designs this good are H-D and Indian. I didn’t count the ADV bikes simply because they are a different style, but you get my point. I did have to replace the original set due to the previous owner keeping her outside and clearly never conditioning the leather, but luckily I found an OEM set on Ebay for cheap(ish).

Now for the extremely short and subjective part of the review when I discuss the design. I think these bikes are extremely good looking from most angles and adding a batwing fairing, like my dad has, only makes it better.

I occasionally take my windscreen off and she looks awesome stripped down too, the only gripe here is the massive brackets for the saddlebags are an eyesore if you ride without them.

Up until this point, I would rate the V-Star 1300 Tourer an 8.5/10 Happy Helmets, especially when you consider the cost and reliability. However, there is a massive BUT that has to be mentioned: Upgrades/Parts.

I can easily rant about this for 1,000 words but I’ll keep down to a couple short paragraphs. Let’s break this down by category:

  1. Performance: Forget any internal upgrades, you are stuck with swapping air cleaners, exhaust (basically five options if you have the Tourer trim), and a couple tuners. In order to get the best performance bump, there is only one setup with two intake options. You buy the Cobra PowerFlo intake ($350, Cobra 2-1 Slip-on ($300), and the Ivan’s ECU flash ($350). With these upgrades you can expect the gains listed below. While this performance gain is great, the idea of building the exact bike you want is out of the window.
  2. Exterior Luggage: This is specific to the Tourer model with OEM saddlebags but I feel like Yamaha made this model deliberately difficult to mount luggage and luggage accessories on. Let’s start with the luggage rack, just look at it. I cannot understand what this upward-turning design achieves? You can’t mount a trunk or Rik-Rack type system to it and you can’t just buy and aftermarket rack because Yamaha built a specific mount just for the Touring model brackets that a Cobra style luggage rack won’t mount to. The one alternative I’ve found is the Wompus Rack, which is made to work with the OEM brackets but it’s just a flat steel metal design which doesn’t work with all types of luggage. Just throwing it out it there Yamaha, this design is terrible.
  3. OEM Parts: I could talk about the lack of aftermarket parts that plague many metric cruisers, but the real annoyance is just how damn expensive OEM parts are. While it’s easy to joke about the Harley Davidson tax, Yamaha has managed to stand right next to Harley while gouging you for dollars. Let’s talk about those awesome saddlebags. Here is a set of similar style Harley Davison branded locking bags that you can buy for $850. Here is a similar set of leather-wrapped Viking bags for $600. While the Yamaha OEM saddlebag is currently unavailable, my past research showed that I would have had to pay roughly $600-700 per bag for the OEM part. That is crazytown, and while I love the bags, they are just leather-wrapped plastic with a basic lock. These are not custom painted or loaded with speakers or any electronics for that matter. All of Yamaha’s OEM parts have this premium.

While I have other tiny complaints, these are things you can bring up about many other motorcycles. It’s the previously mentioned issues that really hamper what is otherwise an excellent light touring bike, and bring my score down to a 7.5/10 helmets. That being said, the 1300 Tourer can be the perfect bike for someone who doesn’t care about modifying their bike and has no need for an ultra long-distance tourer. That person is my dad actually and really has no complaints about this model, especially since he has installed the batwing fairing. He has told me that the only reason he’d replace this 1300 is when he decides to get the Street Glide he has always wanted, and that’s mainly just because he has always wanted an HD.

For me, the 1300 is exactly the bike I was trying to buy after the Suzuki M50. I can throw 300 miles down in a day without blinking an eye and also bumble around town with no effort. Highway speeds are easy to maintain while backroad pulls remain satisfying. Also, my investment into this ride is very low! I purchased Betsy for $2,000, upgraded to and Ultimate seat with a backrest for $500, slip-on Cobra exhaust for $275 plus the new handlebars and grips for $300. The smaller parts add up to about $400 which include the phone mount, charging port, SAE port, and cruise lock. All added up, I have $3,500 into a bike that I can easily sell for around $3,500 in current condition. I call that a financial win.

And that’s the best way to sum up my experience with Betsy so far: A financial win. I wish I could really customize this bike to make her feel special, but that’s not what this ride is for me. I can throw miles down on this motorcycle and never had to worry about it. Betsy is as reliable as a hammer and since there isn’t too much value for these models, I have zero guilt about throwing down the miles. That last fact is oddly enough what makes her the perfect bike if you can only have one cruiser in your stable, and for that, I love her.

Check Sean’s review from Srkcycles to see another opinion!

Temptation Is A B@#$%!

I am a faithful man, the idea of cheating on Selene is not something I really think about, but something has recently been creeping up on me. Before you ask, the Street Glide pictured above is by no means in my financial spectrum, but damn it’s perfect.

My 2005 Suzuki M50 is perfect to me. I found her with 15,000 miles and currently she has a little over 18,000. Three thousand amazing miles and my first bike still makes me grin like an idiot every time I climb on to her…take that statement as you want. While I have long thought about getting a second bike to compliment Selene’s downsides, I really haven’t thought about replacing her.

While she is only 800cc, Selene only weighs about 500lbs and can be shifted around with ease. No, she is not superbike fast but almost no cruiser is so I could care less. She is quick enough and the Cobra Drag Pipes make every mph scream forward. She is not a high maintenance gal. With fuel-injection, shaft drive, and proven Suzuki reliability, there is no hint this bike is 18-years-old. Plus, under “normal” riding, she even gets 45 miles-per-gallon. Under my “spirited” riding, I still have no issue returning around 40. Add all of this to a sleek design and a Mustang seat which was worth every penny, I don’t want to believe there is a logical reason to part ways.

However, it’s a funny thing once you realize you are properly obsessed with motorcycles. What you do not understand until it happens first-hand is just how connected you become to your motorcycle. It is because of that I almost hurt thinking about upgrading Selene to something that covers my needs a little better. A larger engine will give me needed torque to make highways less uncomfortable. A little more weight and a better suspension setup will provide a more comfortable ride. As of now, Selene rides tight and can cause some pains after a prolonged ride. Also, the M50 in general does not have the aftermarket supply as many other motorcycles so customizing is very difficult. For all these reasons, Selene and I may part ways towards the end of this year. My brain knows it, my wallet knows it, but my heart is finding every reason to fight it.

I remember the first moment I realized I loved Selene. I decided to ride to Atlantic City for no reason and it was a hot day. I will admit to not wearing my jacket but to be honest I didn’t care. It was a perfect day to ride to the beach. While once I got down to the shore, all clouds left the sky and a great breeze hit the island. Everything was perfect, it was honestly like a date. I was just bobbing around with me visor open, having the salty air brush my face, Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in my Sena, and the roar of Selene in the background. Since it was during the week, there was no traffic and I was able to zip around as I please. I even did some minor off-roading near the Golden Nugget casino when I made a wrong turn and jumped a few curbs. I pulled over on a beach-block and just looked at Selene, realizing that she was perfect for the trip, no other bike would have given me the same experience.

Even moments that I thought would be scary turned out being enjoyable. I rode to work thinking I had clear weather for the whole day. Turns out my app made a mistake and it was torrentially down-pouring  by 12PM. As I geared up to leave work, it became clear that the rain was no letting up and I was going to have to ride home. To some experienced riders this might not sound that challenging, but at the time I had only rode through light sprinkles before. While my journey home is only 15 minutes, I was pretty nervous. What happened as I started riding still confuses me, I started laughing. The entire ride home I was laughing and making all my best Jeremy Clarkson noises. I HAD FUN. When I got home I specifically remember patting her on the tank and saying good girl. If I have not made it clear, Selene and I have a bond.

As I type that, all the memories I have with her are coming back and I am kicking myself for thinking of getting rid of her. Maybe once I have a larger budget, I can get a bigger cruiser that fits my needs without needing to get rid of Selene. Throw a batwing and some hard-bags on her to make the perfect light-tourer. Who knows, but what I do know is I’ll be wrestling with this every time I decide hop on the old Craigslist and browse my heart away.

What do you think?

2009 Yamaha V-Star 1300 First Ride Review

I didn’t take this, and that is not my uncle. 

Truth be told, this is not a new bike, and maybe not the most exciting bike, but for my uncle this is his awesome new bike. Until last week, old man Rubinson rode a black/olive-green 2005 V-Star 1100 which was his first bike since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, aka the 80’s.

The “olive” was a nice bike for him. Being that he is 5’9″ and roughly 200lbs, the V-Star physically fit him well and was an overall good bike to get him back into riding. It wasn’t crazy powerful, had a extremely comfortable riding position, and a host of accessories for him to choose from. However, as any rider knows, there is always something nicer out there so he recently decided that he wanted to upgrade to something that fit his needs a little better.

What he was essentially looking for was a bike that could mimic a Harley Davidson Street Glide without costing anywhere near $20,000. Sure, he could have bought one used, but the year-range of H-D he could afford isn’t exactly known for their reliability he didn’t feel like having a tinker-toy.  This essentially left him going back to metric cruisers. Through talking with myself and doing his own research, he even found a great range of bikes that fit that requirement right around the size of the Street Glide, but then I found what would become the perfect bike.

The black & blue/purple 2009 V-Star 1300 wasn’t a model he was initially considering mainly due to the 1300cc motor. Even I was trying to find something in the 1600-2000cc range to best mimic the Street Glide, but I pulled up this V-Star for him to look at for a couple key reasons.

  1. Old man wanted hard-saddlebags. After having a nice pair of soft-bags on the 1100, he realized that in order to maximize storage, durability, and security, hard-bags were the way to go. This model came with them out of the factory and look great on the bike, not all accessory saddles can say the same.
  2. Old man doesn’t want to tinker. The 1100 V-Star ran like a Civic, and by that I mean nothing ever went wrong. While metric cruisers in general are very reliable,           V-Stars are always at the top of those click-bait articles about reliability. With the 1300 having fuel-injection, liquid cooling, and belt-drive, these bike is meant to run for years without inconveniencing the owner. Granted, the 1100 was shaft-driven and even more reliable, we realized that belts were more common on the larger “CC” motors.
  3. Old man isn’t exactly a big man. Probably the most important reason I sent this to him to check out was actually the size. The 1300 has the same seat height, floor board spacing, and almost the same weight of the older 1100. This means that het is getting just about every upgrade he wants without riding a monster. This consideration doesn’t mean much for someone who is six feet tall and can easily flat-foot a bagger, but that gets sketchier and sketchier as your height drops. During the ride home, he even said how it feels great since it just feels like the super version of the old V-Star, which he really enjoyed riding.

Obviously, old man Rubinwrinkles liked the bike and it is now in our garage as the jealous old V-Star get ready to go up for sale, but what do I think of it? In short, very nice light-tourer that doesn’t quick fit my riding style.

The first thing is that I noticed was that it does pull decently hard. At roughly 630lbs, the glass-smooth V-Twin will pull down the road with ease and you can’t comfortably pop it into 5th gear until over 60 mph. This tells me that you can comfortably sit at 75+mph on the highway all day long. Also, the seating position is very standard with you legs not stretched out at all. Now, I personally like a little stretch but my uncle does not, this position fits him great since his legs aren’t that long so I get it. The same can be said for the stock handlebar. It tucks back towards the rider with the grips angled in as well. Your arms, like your legs, are not extended at all which adds to the everyday comfort of the V-Star.

The styling is nice too. This is not trying to copy an H-D but has very nice lines that don’t force a certain style on you. It is actually a tad on the under-stated side which for people like my uncle, is preferable. Going along with the styling, because this particular bike only had 5,000 miles, it really does look and feel brand new. This is a bike that he can ride until that brand new Street Glide becomes a reality. There are a few smaller upgraders he wants to do but the two major ones will be a lighting system for night riding, and a batwing fairing. Once he gets these upgrades bolted on, this unassuming Yamaha will be perfect for him.

However, there is a downside when it came to bringing this bike home. It’s a big one really. I now have to itch to buy a new bike. Why are the motoring gods so cruel!





The Ducati Conundrum

I need this printed and hung in my house…
It’s funny how certain names illicit a special feeling of perfection inside of you. When a PA,NJ, and DE native hears Wawa, they declare it is the best coffee and on-the-go eating around. When chefs hear the word black truffle, their mouths water and immediately decide which kidney to give up in order to buy a supply of them. For many riders, that special name is Ducati.

While many riders who own ‘real bikes’ will scream that Harley-Davidson belongs here, I politely but firmly disagree. I currently have cruiser, and while I agree that Harley represents the classic appeal of motorcycles, they are by no means perfect and have a poser/dentist feeling about them. Don’t think I hate Harley’s though. I have an odd obsession with the 2017 Fat Boy S, but I don’t dream about it.

Ducati’s, on the other hand, appeal to the range of emotions that Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s hit for me. On one hand you have the idea that what you are riding has state-of-the-art performance technology infused into every bolt and washer, much like a Ferrari. Obviously, you will never ride your Supersport S or Monster 100% on the limit enough to expose all of this. What is funny is that knowing you have electronically adjustable suspension, race-derived TFT display’s, or fantastically nerdy driving modes somehow makes riding for lunch so much better.

I feel like that last point leans a little into something that I call the Lamborghini Factor. If you think about how you will ride your dream Ducati, I will put money down that most of the riding will not be on a track, in a race suit, on the Isle of Man. It’s use will be casual. So logically, spending your money on one of these thoroughbreds is silly. You should ideally end up with something closer to a CBR1000rr since everyday, it is better to use. Much in the same way that if you are lucky enough to afford buying a supercar to use everyday, logically, you’ll end up with a GT-R or an R8. They are well made, look nice, and still have all the performance you think you need. However, once you see the insane bodywork, hear that Lamborghini V-10 or V-12 fire up, and press that military-style ignition button, nothing else matters. You know you need that in your garage. It makes the everyday ride that much more exciting.

As an addicted motovlogger watcher, I love watching SNEWJ and his new Panigale. Congratulations to him buying his dream bike! The main reason I like watching his videos is just because of how his bike looks and sounds…that is until it broke down. Even though I think my next bike will be a Yamaha FZ-09 or Kawasaki Z900, I can’t help but look at the new Ducati Supersport S and think, “yes, this will offer me the same usability and comfort, I just need to save a little more.”

I am tricking myself into thinking it’s a good bike for what I want simply because they look so damn good and I want that Akraprovic exhaust note more then my next meal. That’s why Ducati’s are so special, they truly get under you skin, even if you don’t own one yet.


SJ RIDER Begins Image
Enjoying some Starbucks in Cherry Hill. You can actually see the pollen all over the place!

Hello motorcycling family! This is SJ RIDER and welcome to your new home for motorcycling tips, tricks, and general fun around South Jersey. You will read stories, watch motovlogs, and view photos that take place around my area, and provide a fun look at my journey into the motorcycling world.

A unique aspect for this blog and motovlog series will be the focus on discovering awesome food and drink in The Garden State. My love of eating combined with my obsession will all things motoring related will provide an entertaining backdrop for all my more useful information.

You will get to meet my friends, family, and awesome dog Tucker, and see all my favorite places to waste time at. Stay tuned for upcoming content and hang on for this mouth-watering journey!