Yamaha resurrects an old name but on a brand-new machine for those who like to spend hours on the road in luxury.
Story by Costa Mouzouris
Photos by: Ben Quinn
The Venture name goes back a long way with Yamaha, first given to a big touring bike when touring bikes were a fairly new thing. The first-generation Venture, a big, cumbersome, angular luxury tourer, was introduced in 1983, and it was equipped with a liquid-cooled V4. It was the first time Yamaha used this engine configuration, predating the similarly powered VMax by two years. The Venture enjoyed a 10-year run before being discontinued, but it appeared again in 1999, all new, but still powered by a V4 engine. That time, however, although still decked out in full touring regalia, it featured very cruiser-ish styling cues. It, too, lasted for a decade before Yamaha put it to bed once again.
Well, this year, the Venture name has been resurrected yet again, and we were invited to Nashville, Tennessee, to ride the 2018 Star Venture TC, Yamaha’s newest highway hauler. We got a chance to ride it in its most natural setting: along stretches of American interstate, secondary highways, and winding back roads that snaked through rolling hills. The “TC” in its name stands for transcontinental, after all.
Aside from sharing its name with Yamaha’s earlier luxury-touring bikes, this third-generation Venture is an entirely different machine. For one thing, its styling is a complete departure from Ventures past. It still has cruiser-based styling; however, its design combines angles and curves that give it a unique, futuristic silhouette featuring an aggressive-looking face with familiar slanted headlight openings reminiscent of the R1.
A New Powerplant
More importantly, though, its engine is no longer a liquid-cooled V4, but is instead a big, air-cooled V-twin. The 1,854 cc, 48-degree V-twin is based on the Raider engine, but is all new and big on low-end torque, peaking at an impressive 126 ft-lb at just 2,500 rpm. Although a pushrod V-twin might seem archaic by today’s standards, the pushrod-actuated valve train with the cams inside the crankcase reduces weight in the cylinder heads, which contributes to lowering the bike’s centre of gravity.
The changes in the engine compared to the Raider engine are numerous. The Venture’s mill has new cams with revised valve timing; it has revised intake ports; the crankshaft has a cam-actuated damper – not found on the Raider – to smooth engine pulses; it has a revised balancer; it has two alternators (one on either side of the crankshaft) for increased electrical output; and it has six speeds as opposed to the Raider’s five speeds. It also has a new crankcase to contain all the new components. The exhaust system has dual catalytic converters and was tuned for sound in conjunction with Yamaha Music.
There’s another new feature integrated into the Venture TC’s engine, and Yamaha took a tip from the Honda Gold Wing’s touring manual: It has a crawling gear that operates in forward and in reverse. Called the Sure-Park system, it incorporates a lever located on the left side of the bike by the rider’s knee that engages the gear, which is operated by a dedicated electric motor. When it’s engaged, you use a pair of buttons on the left handlebar switch assembly to move the bike forward or in reverse at walking speed. Operating the system is easy and is really handy when getting into tight parking spaces. Traction control, cruise control, D-mode ride modes, a tire-pressure monitor and an alarm system are also standard.
Holding everything together is a new double-cradle steel frame that has a detachable aluminum sub-frame. The suspension is fairly basic, utilizing a non-adjustable telescopic fork and a single, linkage-type shock adjustable for spring preload. The preload adjuster is remotely located under the right side cover, and it requires that you insert a tool like a screwdriver into the adjuster to turn it – a rather simple operation.
Comfort over the Long Haul
Despite its size, seat height is just 695 mm, so it’s an easy reach to the ground. The riding position is very relaxed; the ergonomics are comfortable, also with an easy reach to a wide, pullback handlebar, and large floorboards that allow you to move your legs around. The rider’s seat bolster is adjustable fore and aft over a 30 mm range, and the passenger floorboards are height adjustable over a 25 mm range. Seat and grip heat are standard, and the passenger benefits from a heated backrest. The heat, which is adjustable to several levels, came in handy for our unusually chilly early-morning departure. Also handy is the electrically adjustable windscreen, which can be raised 90 mm.
Since the Venture TC is designed for covering long distances in comfort, it’s loaded with features. The first thing I noticed when seated was the elaborate instrument panel. There’s a prominent seven-inch colour touchscreen flanked by analogue gauges, with the speedometer on the left and the tachometer on the right. The screen is used to control the infotainment system, which includes AM/FM radio, Sirius XM satellite radio (with a three-month subscription included), a CB radio and an imbedded GPS navigation system. Bluetooth connectivity enables you to…