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