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Yamaha XVZ 1200 TD Venture Royal
Hang on to your sequin-covered handgrips, touring riders; 1983 has been a wild ride for the full-dress set, and '84 promises more of the same. This past year brought with it a fleet of dressers the likes of which the world had never seen. Honda stood fast with the Interstate and Aspencade 1100s, while Yamaha and Kawasaki came after the luxo-cruiser market full force with new machinery.
Yamaha hit first with the XVZ12 Venture, a machine that set a new standard in two-wheeled touring comfort. It was the clear winner in Motorcyclist's touring comparison (July '83), pulling ahead of the legendary Interstate, as well as Suzuki's GS1100GK. The 1200cc Yamaha held the winning hand in virtually every aspect of performance; it was superior in handling, ride, comfort, and overall engine performance. You can't ask for much more in a supertourer.
Following Honda's lead, the new Yamaha is offered in two versions, plain and pretty. The regular Venture sells for $5999, and the top-of-the-line Venture Royale goes for $7599. Such niceties as an on-board compressor for the air suspension and a full sound system are included for the extra $ 1500. Such conveniences are very popular with the horizon-to-horizon crowd, and anyone wha's been to the Aspencade rally can tell you that chrome and lights are popular too.
Yamaha picked up on the American tourer's love of bright lights and glitter and is offering custom-made styling accessories for both Venture models through Yamaha Parts Distributors Incorporated (YPDI). The products are made by Drag Specialties, the undisputed leader in the field, and marketed through Yamaha dealers. The idea is to make it
easy for a person to build his ultimate highway calling card without looking further than his local Yamaha dealer. The Venture Royale we tested is decked out in enough glitter to set you back close to $2000, leaving the bike just a chrome-plated bar-buddy away from the ten grand barrier. This king-of-the-road touring business is not for the weak of wallet.
With all the glitter and flash added, the Royale fits in the same league as Kawasaki's new Voyager. Introduced this fall, the Voyager is definitely aimed at the high end of the market and comes with more lights, chrome and pizzazz' than any stock machine currently available. Although it is perhaps the finest platform for all-day, straight-line touring ever devised, the Voyager's half-ton heft limits it in other areas.
With its full complement of YPDI chrome, the Royale version of our July tour-comparison winner was returned for a refresher ride. But this time we were testing it agfeinst the background not only of the Honda and Suzuki, but also of the elaborate Kawasaki full dresser.
It's hard to believe that an 810-pound motorcycle could be considered underweight, but that is the case with the Royale. Some touring riders view weight as money in the bank. It does improve straight-line stability and offers a more favorable sprung to unsprung weight ratio, resulting in a better ride, but that is the full extent of the plus side. Bikes in the 700-pound range, like the Honda Interstate and the Venture, have already passed the point of diminishing return. The payoff in increased stability and improved ride additional weight brings is overshadowed by detrimental effects on overall performance and handling.
Yamaha, calling on its most advanced technology, has been able to strike the finest balance so far between heavyweight stability and lightweight responsiveness. Comparing base models, we found the Venture is both more stable and more responsive than the Honda Interstate of equal weight. The basic engineering of the XVZ leaves the competition—at least the '83 competiton looking dated. The 1198cc Yamaha V-four engine has four valves per cylinder, a feature unique in the class. Naturally, the engine is liquid-cooled and features shaft final drive. The five-speed transmission places the cruising rpm slightly higher than Honda's, but lower than Kawasaki's.
The Venture employs Monoshock rear suspension. The shock has adjustable air pressure and rebound damping. Like the Honda, the Yamaha carries its fuel under the seat area. An electric fuel pump carries gas to the four downdraft CV carburetors. The front fork incorporates almost every feature imaginable. You can adjust the air pressure, the rebound damping, and the anti-dive. The right front disc brake is operated by the handlebar-mounted master cylinder; the foot pedal controls the left front disc and the rear disc.
In the transformation from standard Venture to Venture Royale, a number of changes were made. A springless air shock and different fork stanchion tubes were fitted. The different suspension components are designed to work with C.L.A.S.S., Yamaha's Computer Leveling Air Suspension System. A small electric air compressor tucked away under the seat pumps air into the front and rear suspension units via solenoid-operated valves. A control panel, mounted on the right side of the fairing, is activated when the ignition key is switched to the accessory position. A large liquid crystal display panel shows the pressure in either end of the bike at the touch of a button. Then you can adjust to taste if you're a perfectionist or simply let the automatic mode of C.L.A.S.S. take over. In the auto mode, you press the "front" button, then push one of three buttons to select a factory-set low, medium, or high. C.L.A.S.S. handles it from there. Just repeat the procedure for the rear suspension and you're ready to ride. It's a sophisticated system, complete with an air-drying canister and self-diagnosis circuitry to help a mechanic locate any problem. Special care was taken in designing a system that wouldn't bleed down excessively when front/rear selector buttons are alternately pushed. The system fitted to the Aspencade loses several pounds of pressure under these conditions, whereas the Yamaha system loses less than a pound for each cycle of the selector buttons.
The C.L.A.S.S. constitutes the only change to the Yamaha's basic chassis and running gear. The other touches are pure style: two-tone pin-striped paint and a brown seat. The only other addition to the Royale is a large audio panel that mounts in the left side of the fairing within easy reach of the rider.
Stereos are almost required equipment on big tourers, but the Venture Royale's sound system sets a new standard. Built by Mitsubishi for Yamaha, the AM-FM stereo cassette deck offers 12 watts per channel, fed through a pair of weatherproof speakers mounted high in the fairing. All the features you'd expect in a first-rate system are present in the Yamaha. There are five pre-select buttons, as well as a scan function. The large LED frequency display has an automatic dimmer feature for night riding. The cassette has metal-tape capability and an auto-reverse feature, so you can flip the tape at the touch of a button. Like the Honda, the Venture has some sound system controls on the left handlebar. There's a mute switch, which cuts the volume level by k0db, and a tuning button that sends the idio up the frequency range. Like all other open-air stereo systems, the quality of sound reaching the rider deteriorates with increased speed. The sound is best around town below 40 mph. Above that speed the wind noise gets too loud to keep an audiophile happy.
By far the finest feature of the Venture Royale's sound system is its ambient-noise-compensating ability. A- small weather-proof microphone on the radio panel picks up the increase in noise level as the bike accelerates from a stop or cruises alongside a loud truck, then the stereo automatically boosts volume level to compensate within about a second. An adjustment ring on the volume knob lets you set both the upper and lower limits for the noise-compensation feature.
The stereo is secured in the fairing by two small latches and a lock that accepts the ignition key. The whole unit can be removed in a few seconds and reinstalled in less than a minute. The C.L.A.S.S. control is built into the right-side panel but it's less likely to capture the attention of thieves. All of the Royale's elec-trickery occupies the fairing's storage space, so you can't tuck things inside any locking compartments as you can on the standard Venture. As much electronic hardware as the Royale has, even more is to come. A CB radio should be available in '84, as well as an intercom system that will work with the existing radio.
In all detail respects, the Royale is excellently finished. The instrumentation includes an LCD warning panel, an LCD clock, and a remote headlight adjuster on the large dashboard. On the left bar are a thumb-operated choke lever and the master cylinder for the hydraulically actuated clutch. The handlebars adjust for position, as do both rider and passenger footpegs.
The detachable luggage is top quality. You can carry a total of 60 pounds when touring on the Yamaha, 20 pounds per container. The ignition key works in the luggage locks, all of which operate smoothly and reliably. Overstuffers will appreciate the Yamaha's sturdy latches and rigid cases that hold their shape even when packed to the bursting point.
The extra chrome lavished on our particular test bike is currently available through YPDI. Footboards are expected at a later date; they are about the only extra this Royale lacks, the Royale Maxi-moso has a chrome'front fender guard with running lights, complete front disc brake covers with running lights, a radiator shroud, and chrome grille—and the chrome just keeps on coming. The stern is particularly impressive, with its expansive wraparound bag guard and chrome mud flap with a gold Venture logo. Pipe extensions (chrome, of course) are fitted to keep the saddlebags and the passenger clean. Driving lights bolt to the standard engine guards to complete the look. Of all the added YPDI glitter, the soft-foam handgrips are the most noticeable to the rider when gliding down the highway since they further reduce engine vibration that reaches the rider. Predictably, the handgrips have brighrtly chromed end caps.
In some ways, riding the Venture Glitter Royale is more enjoyable than logging time on the standard Venture. In straight-line cruising, the Yamaha carries you in lush comfort. The Captain's seat on the bridge is deeply padded and the riding position is spacious. Full wind protection is afforded by the fairing although tall riders will detect some moderate helmet rattling from the wind spilling over the top of the windscreen. On the other hand, they'll appreciate being able to see over the top of it in the rain or at night. Controllable cool air vents are positioned immediately in front of the rider's shins, and help make summer cruising bearable. The big V-four seems to be loafing when riding at legal speeds and never feels buzzy or busy, even when the speedo needle is cranked over two-thirds of the way to its 140-mph maximum.
Passenger appointments don't seem quite as well thought out as those for the rider, however. The backrest is a bit overstuffed, and limited space between the saddlebags and the rider's bucket in the seat can cut off circulation in the passenger's legs. Also, a good deal of vibration comes through the passenger pegs, noticeably more than on the Honda or the Kawasaki, but less than on the Suzuki.
In terms of suspension compliance, the Venture Royale is at the top of the light heavyweight class, but a notch below the Kawasaki Kabin Kruiser. Simply put, the Yamaha is one of the smoothest riding motorcycles of all time. Using the preset suspension pressures that C.L.A.S.S. offers, suspension tuning is about as easy as tuning the radio. We used the soft presets for solo riding and found the ride to be very cushy, yet experienced no excessive bottoming. For two-up riding with h a full load of luggage, the high, setings were used. Even with both ends cranked up, the suspension's responsiveness to small bumps deteriorates very little. You can leave the pressures up wften riding solo and still be completely satisfied with the ride quality. If you aim the Royale down a curvy road, a quick twist of the shock rebound-damping adjustment knob (located on the left side, near the swingarm pivot) will tighten up the handling. The Venture is the best-handling of any of the supertourers, with its light steering and good chassis stability. It has more Ground Clearance than the Honda and Kawasaki, as well as predictable tires that let you have a little fun in the corners. Maybe even enough to make you turn off the tape player for a-.minute and just enjoy riding.
By and large, the Venture Royale works as one harmonious package, but of course there are a few flaws. All of our /^sters complained about the integrated ^Sjraking system. It's a handicap to riders who have mastered the independent use of front and rear brakes, but an aid to riders who haven't. Additionally, the brakes themselves are a touch on the weak side. The Royale and the basic Venture we tested a while back are the only bikes in recent memory to suffer a dramatic loss of braking power during our routine drag-strip stopping. Repeated stops from high speeds quickly reduced the front brake's effectiveness by about 80 percent, and the linked front and rear brakes lost around 30 percent of their stopping power. Certainly, the chrome covers over the front discs and calipers do little to help the brakes dissipate heat.
Another weak point that surfaced in the older Venture too is the steering head bearings. They loosen quickly, resulting in a clunking sensation through the handlebars when riding over sharp-edged bumps. Consistently high water temperature readings also appeared, just as on our last Venture. But once again, the bike never hinted at boiling over, even in 100-degree stop-and-go traffic. Also,'Our test bike would occasionally backfire when given full throttle below 2000 rpm.
That intermittent hiccup is the only genuine complaint our testers were able to level at the Venture's engine. It has the most pleasant power characteristics of any of the big tourers. The power delivery is perfectly predictable and very smooth. The Yamaha will outrun the Honda and Kawasaki in a sprint or a roll-on, but is a little slower than the lighter, buzzier Suzuki GS1100GK. For touring and general street riding, the Yamaha has the finest engine in the class. Fuel mileage averaged 34.5 mpg, down almost five mpg from the basic Venture due to a higher percentage of around-town riding during our testing.
For most riders, the Venture makes the most sense of the current (1983) big tourers. The Royale packs the same good points, plus a big helping of the luxury items that many touring riders demand. This bike has upset the order in the touring world, and has given Honda something to shoot "for in 1984. Overall, the Yamaha XVZ12TDK Venture Royale is a better motorcycle than anything currently offered in the class, including the titanic Kawasaki. It's a case where bigger isn't better, better is better. M