Yamaha Bolt

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Bill Petro
July 1 2013

Based on the “less is more” theory, Yamaha took their 950 V-Star engine and loaded it into a compact frame to challenge tradition with their take on a modern bobber.

Yamaha BoltThroughout history, it’s a natural progression for trends to go out of favour while others – worth keeping – may fade slightly, but eventually make a comeback. Blue jeans, vinyl records and classic muscle cars are some examples that come to mind. Another is the bobber motorcycle, originally made famous by American veterans returning from the Second World War.

Money was tight, parts were rationed and hard to find, and with years of living dangerously, they were looking for excitement. They would cut and strip off any excess bulk from their overweight motorcycles in a quest to make them lighter and faster.

Born was the bobber, and while the style has its pros and cons, it has never really disappeared in its seventyish years of existence.

Design firm GKEI, Yamaha’s Los Angeles-based design company, have taken note of the larger-than-life minimalist bobber style and created their own version called the Bolt, an early-release 2014 motorcycle that is now in dealerships. The Bolt R-Spec will be available around the end of July or early August.

Yamaha Bolt EngineBased on the back-to-basics, uncluttered design requirements that make up a bobber’s ethos, the Bolt and Bolt R-Spec fit the category to a tee. The first thing that hits you is the Bolt’s simplistic styling – a large V-twin against the relatively small, single-backbone, double downtube frame, small fuel tank, mid-mount foot pegs and low-rise handlebar which all add up to what looks to be a compact but fun motorcycle.

Seat height is low at only 690 mm (27.2 in.), and the taper at the front of the seat should make it easy for even the most vertically challenged to place both feet flat on the ground when stopped. This low seat height not only adds to the Bolt’s appearance, but also inspires the rider’s confidence, as does the ease of lifting the bike off its side stand.

The other two rider contact points, the foot pegs and the drag-style handlebar, are positioned at ideal locations, making for a comfortable seating position. The mid-mount foot pegs take the stress from your lower back and, if need be, allow you to lift the weight off of your rear-end when crossing railroad tracks or other severe irregularities in otherwise smooth tarmac. The Bolt’s foot pegs are 248 mm (9.76 in.) farther back and a touch lower than that of the Yamaha V-Star 950, for example.

View from the saddle includes a 12-litre, teardrop fuel tank with chrome filler cap, minimal switchgear and a single, black-faced, round gauge. With ignition turned on, an LCD takes up the top portion of the gauge, with warning lights below. While I am fine with the absence of a tach, I did find the digital readout annoying. Unless the sun is behind you and shining on the gauge, the screen’s background is brownish-grey and the numbers are black, making it hard to read. If you’re wearing shades in the wrong light, forget it. In addition to the speed, the LCD also displays the odometer, dual trip meters and a clock. There isn’t a fuel gauge, but rather, a low fuel light.

One thing you won’t see from the saddle is the ignition switch. It is tucked away in front of the gas tank, making you stand up and peer over the tank to find the keyhole. You might get used to it with practice, but it’s a little bothersome at first. The steering lock uses the same key and is just ahead of the ignition lock on the steering neck.
I mentioned earlier that the switchgear is minimal, although it does have two additional buttons on the right-hand side – select and reset buttons – so changing screen functions can be done without taking your hand off the grip. Also a nice touch, but rare on a bike of this ilk, are self-cancelling turn signals.

Yamaha Bolt Test RideIn addition to the user-friendly ergonomics, the 942 cc, rigidly mounted V-twin engine is simple to operate, whether you are taking it easy on a side road or bolting from a stoplight to get ahead of other road users. The Bolt uses the same engine as the V-Star 950 and the V-Star 950 Tourer (albeit with slightly more torque), but keep in mind that those two bikes are 31 kg and 51 kg heavier, respectively, making a considerable difference in the power to weight ratio. I did feel a slight vibration in the seat at certain rpm but it was in no way troubling; the handlebar and mirrors, which are easy to see behind, were vibration free.

The clutch pull is light and the friction point, which occurs about halfway in the lever’s travel, is predictable and comfortable. Clicking down into first gear from neutral results in a light snick, and all future gear changes are just as light and positive. Taking off aggressively in first and then clicking into second requires a firm grip, as acceleration is brisk, with a maximum torque of 59.3 ft-lb occurring at just 3000 rpm.

Fuel is supplied to the four valve cylinders via a pair of 35 mm throttle bodies, each with their own injector. Injection programming was spot-on, the throttle was easy to modulate and never abrupt. Even stuck in rush-hour traffic on a hot, sunny day, the fuel injection didn’t skip a beat and the air-cooled engine stayed quiet and composed. The Bolt is equipped with auto-adjusting cam chain tensioners that will keep the timing chain taut and quiet, and heat-dissipating ceramic composite-plated cylinders, all adding to longer engine life.

The engine’s connecting rods spin on a single crank-pin journal, offering a staggered firing sequence that adds to the V-twin’s character and dishes out a pleasing exhaust note from the two-into-one exhuast.

For those who wish to perform their own maintenance, the Bolt should not be a challenge, as the oil-drain plug and filter are easily accessible, as is the air filter. The final drive is a next-to-no-maintenance, clean and quiet, 21 mm carbon fibre–reinforced belt, and valve adjustment intervals occur at a distant 25,000 km. And it has a proper dipstick for checking engine oil, instead of an awkward sight glass – one of my pet peeves.

The non-adjustable 41 mm front fork worked well to isolate rough tarmac, and the sharp, 29-degree steering angle aided in quick and nimble handling. Rear suspension gives up only 70 mm (2.8 in.) of travel, but only once over rough road did it feel like the rear end almost bottomed out. The rear suspension is one of the differences between the standard Bolt and the R-Spec version. Both models offer a five-position, spring-preload adjustment, but the R-Spec uses a pair of premium, remote-reservoir rear shocks that offer improved damping. The R-Spec shocks do make a difference over rough roads, and with only 70 mm of travel, every little bit helps. Minimal ground clearance means that it’s fairly easy to scrape the foot peg feelers, but keep in mind that this bike isn’t designed to carve corners at high speeds.

The single 298 mm wave disc and twin-piston caliper up front requires a moderately firm squeeze on the non-adjustable brake lever, and the short wheelbase adds to the effectiveness of the rear brake, which uses the same size wave rotor as the front, but employs a single-piston caliper. Making contact with the pavement is a 100/90-19 on the front and a 150/80-16 pulling up the rear; both run on new 12-spoke tubeless, cast-aluminum wheels. Both front and rear tire sizes fit the look and style of the bike nicely.

Overall, the Bolt and Bolt R-Spec offer an enjoyable riding experience. They’re fun and nimble, and launch hard off the line, with plenty of low- and mid-range torque. Most of my riding time on the Bolt was done in the city, since it is designed as an urban-performance bobber (to use Yamaha lingo). I cannot attest to its long-term seat comfort, but I think it might get a little tiresome over the long haul.

There aren’t many differences between the Bolt and the Bolt R-Spec. The R-Spec seat is covered in a suede-like material, and other than colour changes, it has the above-mentioned premium rear piggyback shocks. The Bolt comes in Bluish White Cocktail or Metallic Black livery, while the R-Spec is available with either High Sparkle Green or Matte Metallic Gray paint. The dollar difference between the pair is only $200, and in my opinion, the rear suspension alone on the R-Spec is worth the extra few bucks.

Yamaha Canada has opted to include the rear seat and rear foot pegs as standard items (these are optional south of the border). For those who think that a minimalist bobber looks better as a solo-rider motorcycle, I am told it’s a quick and easy job to jettison said items, and equally quick to reinstall when your better half wants to go for a ride.

There are plenty of accessories available for both Bolt versions to personalize your bike, including concept ideas on the Yamaha website to get you started.
The Bolt is a prime example of a timeless style that isn’t going away any time soon.

The basics
List Price $8,999 / $9,199 (R-Spec)
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Company URL www.yamaha-motor.ca
the drivetrain  
Engine Type Air-cooled SOHC 8-valve 60-degree V-twin
Displacement 942 cc
Power (claimed) N/A
Torque (claimed) 59.3 ft-lb (80.4 N-m) @ 3000 rpm
Bore and Stroke 85 x 83 mm
Compression Ratio 9:01
Fuel Delivery 35 mm dual-bore throttle-body fuel injection
Transmission Five-speed
Final Drive Type Belt
the essentials  
Front Suspension 41 mm telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Preload-adjustable dual shocks
R-Spec: Preload adjustable dual “piggyback style” premium gas shocks
Wheel Travel Front: 120 mm (4.7 in.)
Rear: 70 mm (2.8 in.)  
Brakes Front: 298 mm disc with dual-piston caliper
Rear: 298 mm disc with single-piston caliper  
Wheelbase 1570 mm (61.8 in.)
Rake and Trail 29 degrees/130 mm
Tires Front: 100/90-19
Rear: 150/80-16  
Weight (wet) 247 kg (545 lb.)
Seat Height 690 mm (27.2 in.)
Fuel Capacity 12 litres
Fuel Economy (claimed) 5 L/100 km (56.5 mpg)
Fuel Range (estimated) 240 km

Copyright ©2002-2024 Motorcycle Mojo | Privacy Policy | Built by Gooder Marketing