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!

What’s the Perfect Second Motorcycle?

The perfect second motorcycle must be a universal questions that any moto-sexual fool ponders late at night.

“Should I get that beater dual-sport on Craigslist and discover my inner explorer”?

“Oooooo maybe splurge on that big-daddy Road Glide and travel the country in recliner-like comfort”?

“Unleash the demon, grab that Dyna Low Rider and yeet myself to shaky Twin Cam heaven”?

These are the questions that run through my head while surfing CycleTrader after consuming at least one whiskey. However, what is the perfect second motorcycle to buy? Everyone’s requirements/needs will be different, but let’s go through my personal conundrum.

My current ride is Betsy, the 2012 V-Star 1300 Tourer that I’ve already logged about 12k on since buying in 2019. I consider Betsy a great medium tourer for the money and have no intention of selling her since the everyday-rideability of this bike is fantastic. Which leads me to the ascension of true motorcycle obsession by adding another bike to the stable.

Since Betsy can handle the everyday stuff well, this left me thinking about what what specific role do I want for the second ride? After much thought, I was left with a few areas that Betsy certain can’t do: long-distance trips, off-road adventures, or silly noises/big torque fun. For the sake of saving time, I then found my favorite bikes in those categories to drool over.

Considering I’m nowhere near buying the following bikes, it’s important to know that I have not test-driven any of these which could alter my choices. Disclaimer out of the way, I narrowed my selection to a Milwaukee Eight powered Harley Davidson Road Glide, Harley Davidson Low Rider/Low Rider S, or a Suzuki DRZ 400. Why these choices? It’s fairly simple actually.

For long-distance trips, the Road Glide has all the comfort (especially with upgraded suspension) and storage I would ever need. I’m still in the middle of if I like the Shark Nose or Batwing fairing better, but I’ve heard enough about the high speed advantages of the Shark Nose to lean in that direction. I did choose the M8 engine over a more affordable Twin Cam due to the smoothness the M8 provides and overall reliability/performance upgrades. That being said, the Twin Cam is precisely why I picked my next option.

Everybody has heard the term DynaBro at this point. The cult following is huge and it’s possible that club-style builds are being a bit too common now. However, this does not change the fact that I drool over a built Twin Cam sitting in a Dyna Low Rider. While I would love the M8 in a touring application, the sound of cammed TC chugging around town is V-Twin perfection and you have a million ways to customize your build. In an oddly perfect situation, I would find a higher-mileage Low Rider S and build that 110 into a fire-breathing demon. We can dream cant we?

Last on my list is the most practical, but potentially the most rewarding option: the mule that is a DRZ 400. Over the past six months I’ve had uncontrollable urges to veer off the pavement and tackle some single-track paths. I’ve heard about the challenge it is to take on off-road riding and also how freeing it can be. Not worrying about potholes, texting riders or the unavoidable Prius of doom sounds amazing. Plus, with a DRZ 400 or even the larger DR 650, I would have enough streetability to get to places outside my area and do some camping trips. As a side-note, a simple design like the DRZ is just so easy to wrench on that if a part fails, it’s no big deal. Not to mention the cost is a fraction of my other two choices.

So here I sit, on a snowy Monday morning, wrestling over a purchase that I am nowhere ready to make. The practical side of my head is all over the DRZ path, but my lusty side is pawing at the DynaBro life. My crumb of comfort is knowing that a vast majority of riders are/have had this same conundrum and hopefully made the right choice. I guess the only correct choice is finding a bag of money and buying all three right?