The Yamaha Bolt XVS950 in Depth

The concept of the Yamaha Bolt is a little like that of the Yamaha MT line; value that's hard to ignore. The stripped-back cruiser has a decent engine to impart a degree of displacement credibility, and it also has a few more positive features than the obvious competition, that being the Harley Davidson 883 and the Kawasaki Vulcan 900.

Yamaha describes the Bolt as an 'urban performance cruiser', a mix of old school and new technology, though if we're honest we don't see a whole heap of the latter. For there's no ABS, no selectable engine maps and nothing much in the way of electronics. There are wavy discs which lower unsprung weight a bit, but mainly look more cool.

Even the Yamaha engine us not exactly new; it is borrowed from the V-Star 950, a custom cruiser, though in this new application it gets a revised intake and exhaust, and different engine tune for enhanced torque production at low revs. It's a little hard to know exactly how enhanced it is, given there's no tachometer but Yamaha quotes 51 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 80Nm of torque at 3,000rpm. You can short-shift through the five gears for effortless 100km/h cruising, and you can also ease about the burbs in fourth gear, though fifth is marginally too tall. By comparison, the Harley-Davidson 883 delivers 50 horsepower and 70Nm, and weighs around 30 kilograms more.
The Yamaha Bolt is unmistakably US oriented with its bobber styling. Moreover, the air-cooled engine is the centerpiece. Traditionally such bikes also have peanut-sized and shaped fuel tanks, and in this case you ger 12 liters worth. Other bobber styling features include drag handlebars, matte paint for added badness, and just the lone instrument, a digital speedo. The figure can be hard to fathom in full sunlight. Info stretches to odometer, and trip meters.

While the engine might not be new, pretty much everything else about the Yamaha Bolt is, right down to the steel double cradle frame, which incorporates the engine as a stressed member. With a short wheelbase for the genre at 1570mm, the forks aren't too raked out and the rear wheel isn't overly fat at 150mm, all of which contribute to easy direction transitions and effortless turn in. Not that the chassis promotes dramatic lean angles, far from it; the footpegs touch down evenin some town corners. Get a bit more speed on and even parts of the chassis underside start to hang up. The problem here is that the mild geometry, for a cruiser, promotes lean and you find your self touching down even when you don't necessarily expect it.

Slow down and cruise, we say. And on that, it brakes well. Most people see a single disc and immediately get the idea that the motorcycle will be underbraked. But they fail to see the bigger picture; a single disc reduces unsprung weight, and secondly weight distribution is nothing like the 50/50 scenario of a sportsbike. For the Yamaha Bolt the weight split is likely more 45/55/ like what you see in a mid-engined car. Anyway, it means the rear brake, which has the same sized 298mm disc as the front, contributes much more to retardation than it would on a sportsbike. Hit the fron pick and there's moderate stopping power, but combine the effect of the rear brake and this hauls up quick smart. You just need to readjust your braking habits, generally hitting both brakes simultaneously. Being a pared back bike, there's no hand span adjustability at the brake lever. However, for those small of stature, a seat height of 690mm will prove a real boon. Those with the opposite body shape shouldn't feel cramped either, with an easy-going bars-seat-pegs triangle.

We found the Yamaha Bolt pretty adept at both town and out-of-town riding. The short bar-mount mirrors give a reasonable view in town, though hard to fathom, given how vibe-free the handlebars are at cruising speeds.

Entry-level cruisers tend not to be quick, and the Yamaha Bolt isn't what you'd describe as a racehorse but nor is it a the tail of the field. IT won't quite manage 100 in second gear, so its best sprint time of 5.7 seconds os quite respectable, and an overtake can be completed in around 4.6 seconds in third gear alone. We haven't performance tested an Harley-Davidson 883 but most US tests show it won't crack six seconds for the 0 to 60mph run. The point of this is that you'd not be unduly concerned about a lack of performance here; its low speed torque means it blasts cars into state of shock at traffic-lights. And out of town there's enough brawn to get the cruising job done, no worries. More than that, it gets it done easily, comfortably, except for short sharp shocks; the rear suspension doesn't cope so well with these.
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