Pros: Feature rich for the price. Nimble, easy to customize. Inexpensive to own.
Cons: If you're expecting a large displacement cruiser you'll be disappointed.
My experience in motorcycling started while sitting on a friends new HD Road King on a cold February day in '06. As soon as I fired it up, I was hooked. Luckily enough I had just surprised my wife with a diamond upgrade for our 5 year wedding anniversary. She surprised me with the purchase of a 2006 V Star 650 Custom.
Keeping in mind that I have only sat on a motorcycle twice in my life, yet alone ridden one. This came as a complete surprise. The history here is of importance, because not having motorcycle experience meant that I didn't really know the difference between CC, CI, EFI, chain drive, belt drive, shaft drive, etc.
I was involved in the buying process and like anyone just getting into cruisers and to motorcycles I immediately thought I needed a Harley. I sat on every make and model of Sportster the dealer had. 883, 1200, Low, Custom, and everything in between. They were great bikes, but again, I didn't know what the heck I was looking for other than a bike that was comfortable and I felt safe on.
My wife mentioned the V Star 650 and off I went to a dealer to take a look. My first impression of this bike was "perfect". It looked great and I was impressed with the quality for a $6k bike. I'm 5'10" and 145 lbs so the low seat height and light weight immediately appealed to me. When I initially sat on the bike it just fit right. One of the things I was looking for were foot controls that were a little more forward than right underneath me. The V star has a great seating position with your feet out in front, but not stretching too far.
The ergonomics of the bike are right on.The handle bars and controls are well placed and the low seat height makes the bike easy to maneuver when it's not running.
FIT & FINISH
Fit and finish of the V star 650 is it's strongest point. I think this is the best looking bike on the market for the money. I have the Silver and Blue paint scheme and when you look at the bike you can see the flake from the paint. The paint on these bikes exceeds the standards of many more expensive motorcycles. Very impressive paint quality. There are nice features and extras not typically associated with a bike at this price. The V Star has a 4.2 gallon gas tank which is the largest of any of the bikes of this engine size and class. Not only does the larger tank make the bike look bigger, but it means less time filling up and more time riding. It also runs on 87 octane not like some other bikes that require premium fuel. The speedometer is on the gas tank and not on the bars. This is something you might see on larger bikes or more expensive models like the HD Road King. Doesn't sound like much, but it adds to the look quite a bit. The Star uses a soft tail design with a single shock hidden under the seat. No ugly springs to look at next to your saddle and fender. This shock is adjustable to 7 settings for a softer or harder ride depending on the rider. There are many chrome or chrome plated pieces that make this bike shine. Most all of the nasty ugly parts of a motorcycle are covered up nicely. One of the biggest points of distinction is the shaft drive system. There aren't many bikes at this price that offer the benefit of a low maintenance shaft drive system.
MECHANICAL & SPECS
The V Star 650 is 40-cubic-inch (649cc) air-cooled, SOHC, 70? V-twin. It is a carburated engine using 28mm Mikuni carbs. It has a 5 speed transmission, shaft final drive and a wet clutch. It has a very low 27.4 inch seat height and without any fluids, the Custom weighs 474lbs. the front tire is a narrow 100/90 19 inch wheel while the rear tire is a stout 170/80 15 inch. The Star uses a single disk front brake and rear drum brake as its stopping power. From the factory it produces 32 hp to the rear wheel and 37 ft. lb of torque. Road tests show that an unmodified bike will run 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and tackle the 1/4 mile in 15.48 seconds @ 84mph. Not bad from the factory, but this bike has a lot more potential with a few minor mechanical upgrades. What does all this mean? The V Star 650 Custom is a blast to ride!
RIDE & OPINIONS
As mentioned above, this bike is really fun to ride. Having no preconceived notions as to what a motorcycle should ride like helps, but after a year on the bike and riding many other motorcycles (both cruiser and sport) I still like my V Star every time I get on it. The bike is very toque oriented so pulling away in traffic is easy. When you open the throttle the first few times you ride, it's surprising how quick the bike is. In and around town this bike stands out. It is light, nimble and a joy to ride. The narrow front tire will pick up on road surface imperfections, but that quickly disappears the more you ride and get used to how the bike handles. Backroads are where the 650 really shines. Around 45-55mph this bike is fantastic. Nice and smooth with power available. In fourth gear at 50mph the rpms are just under 4000. Considering the 650 hits its rev limiter at 7200, you're right in the power band at 4000. Interstate and highway riding is good. This bike is a high revving, 650cc v-twin. At speed on the highway or interstate the Star is above 4500 rpm. In fact at 75mph you're sitting on about 5300 rpm. Don't get me wrong, the 650 will run at that speed all day long and still get close to 50mpg. It's a high revving engine and many people are uncomfortable with that. It is stable at speeds over 80mph, however it does rev high. The top speed of the bike is about 105mph (which is more than I need). This is not a complex motorcycle. It is a basic carburetor v-twin. Maintenance is easy to perform yourself and upgrades are readily available and easy to do yourself with very little mechanical know how. If you do purchase a V Star 650 do yourself a favor and go to this website
The knowledge and experience on this site will help you learn about your bike and perform countless upgrades in performance and appearance. I wanted that deep cruiser sound so I upgraded my exhaust system. I installed a hypercharger and re-jetted the carbs for better performance all with the help from this site. Let me tell you, with the performance upgrades I mentioned you can really open up this bike. My Star is running great and is pulling about 20% more horsepower and torque than stock. I've added convenience items like a windshield, new seat, saddle bags, LED lights, tachometer and highway bars... etc. There is a lot you can do for a small amount of money with the 650.
The 650 Custom is my first bike. It is great for around town, backroads and the occasional highway trip. It's not a high performance sport bike or a 96 cubic inch v-twin with 90hp. It's a small, high revving easy to ride and customize metric cruiser ready and willing. Dollar for dollar I think this is one of the best looking, best bang for your buck motorcycles available.