Slyck255

120 months ago

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Review: 2014 Yamaha Bolt R-Spec ‟Elemental, my dear Watson”

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

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‟Elemental, my dear Watson”

I was speculating, a couple years ago, that among offerings from the main manufacturers there seemed to me no middle ground for road bikes. It was either fully-faired, terrifyingly powerful sport bikes or lumbering, fat-bagged cruisers. Even the trend toward naked bikes were, originally, little more than unfaired sportbikes, with slightly higher handlebars for more upright posture.

I was feeling stodgy myself. I wanted something more - well, LESS I guess. Slimmer, more muscular, less complicated in an overly-electronic world. Back to basics. No windshield - get back out there in the wind. No bags - just bungee a gym bag to the back seat. No passenger backrest - let them wrap their arms around and hang on. No long forks, no huge curvy handlebars - get hunched forward, lean and mean, ready for everything and not giving a damn about anything. Take me as I come - or not at all.

Others are obviously feeling the same way. The trend towards simplicity is noticeable in the resurgence of cafe racers - stripped down, no-nonsense performance.

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People at Yamaha were noticing the niche in the market too, channeled the combined thoughts of thousands of potential customers and voila! The Bolt. Basic Motorcycle. With attitude. "Less of what you don't need, more of what you do".

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How The Yamaha Bolt Looks

Perversely, it makes the Bolt difficult to categorize. From its looks, one has to lean towards "cruiser". But it is something more than - I mean "less" - than that. The essence is in the understated rebellious attitude. It defies categorization.

I have a difficult timewith products that emulate other products. The Bolt is designed - somewhat -along the lines of, and to appeal to riders considering the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883, a long established brand and style. But the Sportster represents the "old school". The Bolt is a whole new education system appealing to the next generation of students. I applaud that.

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The Bolt gets positive comments for the styling - at the pumps, in the parking lot, in the neighbourhood. Strangers come up and say ‟nice bike”. If you ride this bike, I hope you like attention.

Yamaha decided to go retro with the frame - double downtube engine cradle with solid central spine, part of which is visible between the seat and the gas tank.

There are lots of Yamaha accessories are listed in the brochure- most of which I find pricey. I'm waiting to see what the weekend wrenchers do with it.

I was on the Bolt R-Spec which has upgraded reservoir rear shocks and stitched leather seat. It was accessorized with brass headlight and turn signal bezels, passenger backrest and luggage rack, black mirrors, engine guards and quick-release windshield.

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I think the windshield detracts a little from the stripped-down look of the Bolt. I would prefer the "performance look" bullet cowl or nothing. And the available retro fork gaiters.

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The speedo looks very cool but is very difficult to read in some light conditions. The backlight that comes on automatically in the dark is great and if could be on constantly there wouldn't be an issue. There are two trip-odometers, and - I know this sounds petty, but it really is handy - a clock. The displays are cycled and reset via buttons on the right grip. There is only one "double arrowed" light when signaling, so remember which way you are turning and I hope your signal-cancelling habits are up to par.

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How The Yamaha Bolt Fits

The medium-wide handlebar with at first a seemingly long reach which makes your body lean forward slightly. I grew accustomed to it quickly and it feels right. Foot-pegs are located centrally - no feet-forward gynecological exam-style posture. It maintains the slightly aggressive attitude and rebellious nature of the Bolt.

The bar will make you stretch, though, when doing lock-to-lock maneuvering in parking lots etc.

The upgraded stitched leather seat looks thin but is surprisingly comfortable . Only my girlfriend could have cupped my cheeks better. I remained comfortable even on 2-hour plus rides across Toronto's atrociously miserably jammed so-called highway system

I tend to grip with my knees, so a lot of the time one was up against the air box and the other rested against the rear cylinder head. At first I was constantly aware of the engine. Loosen up, let the knees point out a bit and the comfort increases.

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How The Yamaha Bolt Rides

The ignition key is retro under the gas tank near the headstock, out of sight from the riding position. It results in a "clean" dashboard/upper triple clamp region, but can be fiddly trying to find it again when stopping for fill-ups. Either you like it or you don't. I chose to live with it and not complain.

The fuel-injected, no hassle 942cc 60-degree V-twin comes to life on the first press of the starter and settles into an assertive rumble immediately. Not obnoxious - it lets people know you're there like the bad guy walking into a western saloon.

Revving the engine just increases the rumble and there is some vibration that blurs the mirrors a little. It's not unpleasant and it's consistent with the Bolt's rebellious essence.

The windshield provides protection - especially from evening insects - but I found it buffeted my helmet at highway speeds.

Whether on the highway or low-speed maneuvering in the city, the Bolt handles very well. It feels very planted and firm. It's a low bike and it doesn't take much to scrape the footpegs. The wide-ish bar, on-the-slim-side tires plus a very low centre of gravity allows the Bolt to respond quickly to twisties. Not sport-bike geometry -responsive of course, but definitely better and more fun than a bagger. Rider response is a big grin. It is confidence-building.

I got about 200kms from a tank. Not having a support team in a chase van with a spare gas can, I was reluctant to push the limits of the reserve. However, I have always maintained after two or so hours in the saddle, it's a prudent time for a break and a stretch.

Gas caps. Cars started wiring up the darn things so you couldn't leave them behind at the pump 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, bikes had hinged gas caps - now they are completely removable and destined to be abandoned at forlorn gas stations along dusty, remote highways. However. the air filter cover has a nice divot which makes a good gas cap resting place during fill ups.

Suspension... this is the one thing that can blemish the experience. There is very little travel on the Bolt's suspension. Most of the time it's not an issue and in fact gives a very good feel of the road - perhaps too good. But on other occasions, the Bolt seemed to be jarred and almost bottomed out over road imperfections that I would expect it to handle better. At times, I wanted to rename it ‟The Jolt”.

For such a great looking and handling motorcycle, it's irritating that while enjoying a great ride, a "Zen" moment gets jerked back to harsh reality by a seemingly minor hump in the road. The problem is, in Ontario anyway, the best motorcycling roads are often secondary and as such they receive secondary priority and funding for upkeep and repair at best. If at all.

After nearly 1000kms, though, I was adjusting to it, accepting it and enjoying the Bolt for what it is. I hope other riders can do the same and don't give up on it too quickly.

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The Wrap-up - Does the Yamaha Bolt Work?

Bikes should be judged not only on mechanical performance merits, ride comfort and the like, but also on how well it fulfills the intent of the design.

What were the Yamaha designers shooting for? Did the Bolt achieve what it set out to do?

The Bolt is not a retro-styled motorcycle with new technology. It is a new motorcycle responding to the "less is more" market segment, but done with an attitude. The attitude makes it stand out. The Bolt combines elements of mechanical quality and that "certain something" that elicits an emotional attraction.

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In the Bolt, the "less" is certainly "more". I consider it a success.

Elementary.


Thanks to Matt Fletcher and Yamaha Canada for the support!

Yamaha Canada neither reviewed nor approved this article.

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Teramuto

120 months ago

You know - I really want to like this bike but I just don't understand it.  Tho the name appears accurate.  It looks like Yamaha just "bolted" a bunch of parts from other bikes together to make this one.