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Detailed review 250 Virago/V-Star

This is a discussion on Detailed review 250 Virago/V-Star within the Yamaha forums, part of the Manufacturers category; I know this is long, but I think it is worth it if you are considering the 250 Virago/V-Star. Background: ...


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Old 06-04-2012   #1
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Default Detailed review 250 Virago/V-Star

I know this is long, but I think it is worth it if you are considering the 250 Virago/V-Star.

Background:

I am a rider of three years experience. I have completed BRC, ERC, ARC, 3-ARTD’s (Advanced Rider Track Days), am scheduled for Rider Coach course, and AMOS (Advanced Motorcycle Operator’s School). I have about 45k miles under my belt in every riding condition from sleet/snow to hail and rain. I have tried dozens of bikes out (save for sportbikes which my wife refuses to let me on). I have a reputation for putting my Harley through corners like it is a crotch rocket on the track and being overly safe on the road. So I think I am somewhat qualified for this simple review.
I started with an old but highly modified 77 Yamaha XS650 and then moved to a 2005 Sportster 1200R. I beat on both of them as commuting bikes which was ruining the Harley as I had little time to polish it after a storm or a week of my 65 mile per day commute. After putting 18k on it in under a year, it looked pretty sad. It averaged about 50mpg, which was great, but with synthetic oil every 3k, tires every 7k, and using premium only, it was still a bit costly to operate.

My wife also decided she wanted to learn to ride- with some encouragement from me- and my daughter as well. Then my fellow Marines all wanted to learn as well. There was no way I was teaching them on my Sporty.

So I started looking for a training/commuting bike. One my wife would like for her first bike, is light enough for a 13yr old to ride around the yard, and was cheaper to operate than the Sporty. I needed highway capable, good mileage, and easy maintenance for my part. I looked at several 250’s and then saw a Virago sitting at a local shop. After some research I decided that was it. For the area it was decently priced as I picked it up for $2000 with 1400 miles on it.

I have now been riding it for 3 weeks and my wife has gotten to the point of getting on the road routinely with it as well. I have had new riders on the bike and all were ready for a back road (little or no traffic) in about two hours. That is all the teaching that the bike can make easier. The rest is on the rider. My daughter and a couple Marines (no permits yet) have ridden it around my yard enough to be proficient as well. They plan to use the bike for their BRC courses.

Now, for the actual review you are reading to know. For the record I am 67” and 165#.

Comfort:

I knew this bike would not be a cross country touring bike. The seat is decently padded, but a 100miles on the saddle at a time left me a bit saddle sore. At highway speeds there is a vibration, almost a buzzing type, through both the pegs and handlebars. The foot pegs have weak bushing to help with this, but they simply feel a bit mushy like your feet might slide off them or break them off. They hold up though and probably do stop allot of the buzzing from tickling your feet to death. The shape of the bars took a little getting used to, but was fine once I got used to them. The controls are easy to get to, except that the hand levers are a bit far out for small hands like mine. The side mounted key can be forgotten easily. One nicety is the bar mounted choke which is nice and convenient especially for a new rider. Mine came with a small windshield that I adjusted as high as it would go and works great if you shrink under it a bit. I also found that putting my feet back on the passenger pegs was comfortable to break up having your feet forward all the time- both my prior bikes had mid controls. My knees sit right at the midline of the tank when riding normally and that suits me perfectly for a good fit. At the same time even sitting at its highest my daughter can stop flat footed thanks to the seat height.

Gearing:

If I could change one thing about this bike, it would be the gears. I know many might say it was built with slow riding in mind, but it is still too low for that to me. First gear is so low it is jerky at times and disconcerting for new and experienced riders alike. I cruise in a parking lot in second and find that is where first belongs. Third gear is for about 15-20mph, and you are in fourth by 30mph. Fifth gear is gotten to at about 35mph and 45 seems to be its “sweet spot” for cruising. For highway use it will sound like you are killing it getting to 65-70 and the fastest I have dared is 75mph one time. I plan to swap the sprockets to a 17/40 from the stock 16/45 and that should fix it all by moving all the gears up about one level: 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd, and so on and add 5th as a 6th. Doing my own work it will be about a $50 modification to fix the only sore spot I have with the bike as a whole.

Style:

What can you say about the looks? It has a more cruiser like look with the V-twin and forward controls. The exhaust is done for looks (the rear pipe is fake) and adds to it this effect as does the raked front end. There is plenty of chrome for someone to stare at and many will mistake it for a bigger cruiser unless it is parked next to a full sized one. For a 250 it presents a better image then you would expect. Would I have it as my “cool” bike? Not if I had an option. Would I be ashamed to have one in my garage or ride one? Not at all!

The chrome is cheaply done and will need constant watching for pitting if you ride in the rain, but this is a starter bike and meant to sell for a reasonable price. This is also reflected in the wiring and budget controls too, but none of this is a detriment to the bike unless you are picky about a couple wire ties. Overall, the finish is good for the intended purpose.
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Old 06-04-2012   #2
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Default Review Continued

Power:

It’s a 250. What can you say? Acceleration is about what you would expect, but the light weight helps out a little. The engine would be a great fit to a sportbike though to compete with the 250 Ninja or CBR 250. Within its bounds it will surprise with the punch it has and how even the power is supplied throughout its RPM range. It makes the throttle easier to control when you know there won’t be a surge of power, but a linear building of it as you rev the engine higher and higher.

Handling and Brakes:

Ok, I have never been on a sportbike for any length of time. Sorry, but the wife set that one rule to my riding and I obey as she lets me do about anything else. However, I have ridden my Harley to the point I pass half fo the crotch-rockets on the track days and lap some of them later.

The Virago has a decently stiff rear suspension for me while the front could use allot of stiffening. For a cruiser, it works though. The rear brake (drum) is quite precise, the front (single disc) is a bit vague, but stops the bike just fine once you get enough squeeze to it.

Flipping the bike is actually easier than what you would expect even for its light weight. Swerving and dodging cones is actually fun instead of a chore. I took it to a local BRC lot on base and wasted two hours doing every drill. It was a blast.

Getting into the corners you only have to remember that rolling on the throttle will not add the same amount of speed as a more powerful bike. The result is it goes inside a bit. For some corners particularly decreasing radius ones, I found this bike can go through faster than my Sporty. It just takes getting used to how eager it is to turn. Once you get dialed in, be ready to scrape pegs! The bike will stick about any corner you can clear. I have been out of the seat on it to cut its lean angle, and it still held to the point of scraping. Transitioning from side to side is as fast as you can do it. I plan to take it rather than my Harley to the next ARTD where I can really push it in a controlled environment.

Summary:

Overall, I love the bike. It is just plain easy and fun to ride. While it won’t be a long trip, interstate running, full bagger cruiser, it will be a commuting, gas sipping, fun bike. Whipping it around where a bigger bike would need pushed is fun instead of work. The ease of the bike just going where you want effortlessly is addicting. Getting one of these for your wife might lead to you riding it on errands and to work real soon!

So far the bike has averaged 75mpg for me so the lack of power is offset by the cost to ride. I can give it regular gas and the reserve is generous (about gallon) in case I forget to fill up. It takes cheaper tires, cheaper oil, filters, plugs, ect. So I love it for the savings. I can’t wait to see what new sprockets do for it.

Last edited by gdcpony; 06-04-2012 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 08-16-2012   #3
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I have now been riding this bike even longer and put about 3k miles on it. It has been through two track-days and an advanced operator’s course. I have now swapped in the 17 front and 40 rear sprockets, and gotten a good idea of how expensive this bike will be to own. Several Marines have used it in the BRC and came back wanting one.

The sprockets changed the entire attitude of the bike! I love it even more now. It cruises at 60 as easily as it used to at 45. My shift points are much better and the bike is smoother in all gears. I am averaging 93mpg and once managed 158 miles on 1.53 gallons! Even after the track-days I had high 80’s in mileage! It does accelerate slower, but still has enough guts to bury the speedo given enough straight to do it.

On the small track this bike is a dream. The sportbikes were managing 60-65mph on the straight and slowing to 30-35mph for the 75% of the track that is hard cornering. This little bike was only pulling to 50-55mphon the straight revving it to the moon. However, it will fly through the corners flicking left to right at 35-40. The speed of transition is mazing as even a guy on a CBR 600 took it out and came back grinning. Would it do well on a larger track? Not a chance, but I doubt I will ever get on one of those, and wouldn’t bring this bike if I did.

Now, more than ever I recommend this to anyone looking for a bike to commute on. It has become my most commonly driven- or ridden- vehicle. No need to beat up a higher dollar bike, and it does all you need.
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