Sensible riders cut their motorcycle teeth on an easy-to-ride, small-displacement bike, but as skill and confidence grow, so does the hunger for a bigger motorcycle. Many of these little trainer motorcycles that are so accommodating at parking lot speeds lose their composure on the highway, if they can reach highway speeds at all. And many of them look and sound downright wimpy. Eventually, that cute little trainer bike is sold or relegated to the back of the garage. However, once in a while, a trainer bike comes along that’s a keeper, such as Star Motorcycles' V Star 250.
Michelle Baird takes a spin on the V Star 250 in a suburb of Atlanta during Star Motorcycles' 2012 lineup introduction.
While the 2012 V Star 250 is an excellent trainer bike, it can also handle highway speeds and has the fun factor and stylish looks to retain its place at the front of the garage as an occasional joy-ride bike or even as an economical commuter bike.
The air-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine builds power evenly and smoothly, which is what makes it so great for rookies, but experienced riders will love winding the throttle all the way open and aggressively clicking through the widely geared 5-speed transmission.
The 2012 V Star 250 doesn’t flinch when ridden hard, and Michelle says it was most fun while zipping around the twisties in the foothills of this southern Appalachian region.
The V Star 250 is the only V-twin engine in its class of beginner bikes and puts out a nice V-twin rumble from its dual staggered exhaust pipes. The V Star 250 has a big-bike feel and splashes of chrome for stylish good looks. Add in the fun factor and the appeal of a V-twin engine and it makes sense why versions of this bike have been around for so many years.
The V Star 250 descended from the 1981 Yamaha Virago 750, which featured the first air-cooled V-twin engine from a Japanese manufacturer to hit the US market. The 2007 model was the last to bear the Virago name, debuting a year after Star Motorcycles became a separate entity under parent company Yamaha (Yamaha still handles production and distribution, but Star cruisers are designed in the United States). In 2008, the Virago 250 became the V Star 250.
The 1981 Virago 750 was part of Yamaha’s Virago line of cruisers for many years before Yamaha created its cruiser division, Star Motorcycles.
The 2012 V Star 250 is the same as the 2011 version except for the graphics and pin-striping on the black paint and a new and improved handlebar. Thanks to its mature looks and a respectable V-twin growl, the diminutive cruiser won’t feel out of place hanging out with the big bikes at the local biker watering hole.
Chrome adorns the V Star 250 on everything from the engine covers to the staggered exhaust, the headlamp housing and the wire-spoked wheels. Besides the expanded paint options, the one upgrade over the 2011 model is the new rider-friendly handlebars. Thankfully, the designers at Star got rid of the "chopper-esque" ape-hanger bars from previous models. The old handlebars were awkward to steer in tight corners and sometimes touched the knees of tall, long-legged riders in full-steering-locked U-turns. The new drag-style straight handlebar gives the 250 an updated look and puts the rider’s arms at a much more relaxed and ergonomic position. More importantly, the new straight handlebar makes the 250 easier to steer.
The V Star 250 fits Michelle’s 5-foot-5-inch frame well, with her arms comfortably reaching the drag-style handlebars. V Star 250s from previous years, like this one, featured mini-apehanger-style handlebars.
This bike can practically make a U-turn on a manhole cover without tall riders having to worry about bumping a knee on the new handlebars.
What the V Star 250 does best is provide a confidence-inspiring, easy-to-ride platform for new motorcyclists, and the low seat height of 27 inches has a lot to do with that. Ask any new woman rider what her biggest concern is, and most often you’ll hear her say it’s being able to plant both feet solidly on the ground when seated on the bike. Seat height is an issue for most women riders, new or experienced. As a rider gains experience, seat height becomes less of an issue. But when you are 5-foot-5, like me, the ability to put more than one toe on the pavement sure takes the stress out of stopping.
The V Star 250's 27-inch seat height may seem on the high side, but the narrow seat tapers to meet the classically styled teardrop fuel tank. This means that riders with shorter-than-average inseams should be able to flat foot the bike. For reference, Michelle (shown here) is 5-foot-5 and has a 29-inch inseam.
Most women just don’t have the same muscle mass or upper-body strength as men, so women have to be clever and think ahead about where to park their motorcycles. Weighing just 326 pounds, the V Star 250 is such a light bike that it’s a breeze to wiggle around whether you're straddle-walking it or guiding it with the handlebars while walking alongside it.
Women will love the independence of being able to “woman-handle” this bike on their own and park it wherever they want.
Lightweight bikes get pushed around on the highway, but a low center of gravity and a longish 58.7-inch wheelbase help keep the V Star 250 fairly stable at fast freeway speeds. I took it for some laps on a country highway, and it didn’t shudder too much in the wind blast of passing semi-trucks, even though it takes the 250 a bit of time to throttle past those trucks. This bike was able to comfortably go with the flow of traffic on the highway without difficulty, and it hit an indicated 85 mph on the speedometer without getting twitchy.
Highway riding does cause some vibration in the footpegs and handlebars, which fed into the mirrors, so everything in the rearview gets blurry when riding this bike fast. The vibrations would be an annoyance only after several hours of highway, but anyone who rides a 250 for hours on the highway is probably tough enough to handle a bit of vibration.
The oval-shaped lollipop mirrors provide a decent view of what’s in back, but vibrations at highway speeds make everything a little blurry. The footpegs are placed slightly forward, cruiser style, positioning the knees at a natural and comfortable bend, like sitting in a chair. Those footpegs have plenty of ground clearance, and Michelle never scraped them in the fast mountain corners, though she says some faster gals could probably get them to touch down.
The upright seating position means fewer aches and pains at the end of the day. The plush seat is comfortable, and the controls are easy to reach. The clutch and brake levers are easy to work and are located well within reach of fingertips, even for Michelle's small hands. The V Star 250 is the only Star cruiser with a chain drive and has a good-sized 130/90-15 rear tire.
The suspension package is simple yet effective. A telescopic front fork with 5.5 inches of travel and twin rear shocks with 3.9 inches of travel (adjustable spring preload) soak up the bumps just fine.
A 282mm hydraulic disc brake on the front and a drum brake on the rear haul the lightweight bike to a progressive and controllable stop, even under the unrefined, grabby brake lever pulls of a newbie rider.
The V Star 250 has a fair price tag of $4,190, the same as its closest rival, the 2012 Honda Rebel. Color choices on the V Star are limited—just black (Raven, to be specific). The bike does save bucks at the pump, getting an estimated 78 mpg, which means its 2.4-gallon tank can go nearly 200 miles between fill-ups. It has a washable foam air filter to save a few dollars more at maintenance time.
I enjoyed my time on the V Star 250. The full lineup of Star Motorcycles was available at the press introduction where I tested the bike, and most of the motorcycle journalists in attendance opted to test ride the big touring cruisers. But at Women Riders Now, we're aware of how important the smaller cruisers are to the legions of ladies thinking about getting into motorcycling. Knowing there are smaller-displacement motorcycles like the V Star 250 that possess oodles of styling and pizzazz makes the sport of motorcycling that much more attractive to those who want to grab life by the handlebars. And what's more, experienced riders can appreciate the appeal of a small, low-maintenance bike that can be used for quick hops or commuter riding.
The Star Motorcycles press ride was structured like a poker run, and Michelle won $1,000 for WRN's charity pick, the Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston, Mont.
Want to test ride a V Star 250? Star has the 250 at select dealers. Visit StarMotorcycles.com
to find one near you.
Specs At A Glance: 2012 Star Motorcycles V Star 250
Seat Height: 27 inches
Weight: 326 pounds
The V Star 250 is an ideal motorcycle for new riders who don’t want to skimp on their choice of beginner motorcycle. It offers way more than your typical beginner bike, with a price reflecting all those updated features. But the V Star 250 will pay its riders back in spades because they will have the experience of riding a motorcycle that acts and sounds like a bigger V-twin bike. And in the end, that’s what all beginners hope for—to be adequately prepared for when they’re ready to trade up to a big-girl motorcycle. Related Articles
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