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Friday, 10 July 2015

Yamaha Bolt Test Ride

If any of you have read any of my blog posts from the last twelve months, you'll know that I have had a off and on love affair with the Yamaha Bolt, and/or the HD 883 Iron. Actually in the perfect world, the one where my wife doesn't interfere with my purchases of motorcycles, I'd have one.

However my lovely wife, who holds all the cards in this family, because she is the woman, and has control over what most men want, therefore controls everything else and has final say in all matters. I believe we call this arrangement marriage. Unlike some lucky buggers who are allowed multiple bikes in the garage, I am allowed only one. However there was a brief time when I had two, but that was short lived.

So the search for the perfect do-it-all bike continues. The Strom is pretty damn close, but it's bulky, heavy, and not very good off road. The Bolt......it's small, light, flickable, lots of power, and character, but sucks even on a gravel road. Hence the reason there isn't one in the garage.

Now, when my friend and owner of Moto Sport Plus in Saint John offered to let me take the Bolt out for a good rip, I jumped at the chance. Tim Hovey took over the Yamaha/Suzuki dealer almost a year ago, and now has demo bikes available. A 650 VStrom ABS, a Bolt, and an FZ-07. Yes, there will be reviews on those as well.

Well enough of the babble, on to the ride.

I picked the bike up from the shop, on what could be described as one of the nicest days we've had in the Port City for riding. The sun was out, it was 20C and there was practically no wind. A rare day in this part of the world.

After getting off the Vstrom, swinging a leg over the Bolt was more like stepping over it, the low seat (27.2 in) height makes it easy for anyone to climb aboard. My feet naturally went to the mid-pegs, and the reach to the bars was good. The bars, however had a slight bend upwards that I found awkward, and the levers were shifted too far down for my liking. It was like everything needed to be rotated back ever so slightly.

Switchgear was standard, left bar had turn signals high/low beam, and horn. Right bar, stop/run, starter, and menu selector. and reset. (for toggling thru, trip/ODO/km's since fuel light illuminated, and clock). Handgrips were nice and big, I like a large diameter handgrip, and the clutch and front brake levers were beefy as well.

The digital speedo was easy to read, even in direct sunlight, however I think Yamaha should have used an analogue to keep the retro theme a little more honest. Not a fan of digital. Seems like they fixed the complaints of the 2014 models hard to read display in the sun. I did find the warning lights (oil, neutral, turn signal, and low fuel) very hard to see, they are small and dimly lit. However it is not something that would sway me from buying it.

Thumbing the starter brings the 950cc air cooled V-twin to life, and with the Vance and Hines exhaust it has a throaty rumble. It's loader than stock, but not obnoxious. Actually pretty quiet at idle and low RPM. Open the throttle and you go right to hooligan mode.

I blasted off out of the MotoSport parking lot and headed for a good run which included highway and rural roads to get a good feel for the machine. First impressions.........easy to ride, clutch pull was fairly light and gear shifts were smooth, although I did hit a couple of false neutrals throughout the day. The bike definitely makes more than enough power for the average rider, and kept me entertained all day. Low to mid-range was where it was best.

I headed east on the McKay Highway towards Rothesay, accelerating down the on ramp and the Bolt hit 110kph in no time and was quite comfortable cruising at this speed. I also was quite comfortable at this speed, smooth airflow, and no buffeting. My Bell Bullitt helmet may have helped with that.

The Bolt definitely felt better at highway speeds than the 883 Iron, a lot smoother too. My first stint on the highway was brief and I exited onto Rothesay Road, and kept to the back roads for awhile. 

The bike handles very nice for a cruiser, easy to throw around, and corners well, considering the limited lean angle. I did scrap the pegs quite a few times. 

Suspension.......well it's adequate. (4.7in of travel in the telescopic forks and 2.8in the dual shocks under my arse) Freeway expansion joints will give you a jolt, as well as potholes, and manhole covers. If I was on the smooth roads of our brothers south of the border, it would be awesome. However New Brunswick backroads closely resemble the Road of Bones in Siberia, or some dirt road snaking through the Himalayas in India. Hence the reason dual-sport and adventure bikes are so popular here.

The bike never got out bent out of shape on the rough roads, it was just jarring to the rider. The seat, was comfortable, however for long stints I may have to go with a Airhawk or some sheepskin to increase my arse comfort level. 

I have never been a fan of forward controls, road a Street Glide (hated it) and a Triumph America (not much better). The idea of having my feet way out in front of me is odd. However I think the Bolt needs some highway pegs for long runs, since the seat to peg height is much lower than a standard bike. It is nice to stretch out every now and then. To note, I am six feet tall, with a 32" inseam, and 190lbs.

So..... it accelerates well, so much so, I would giggle every time I'd give it a handful of throttle, although the awesome bark from Mr. Vance and Sir Hines could be a major contributor. When it came time to slow down, the single 298mm disc upfront and one in the back did a commendable job of bringing the  540lbs of bike plus 190lbs of rider to a halt. 

I rode out to the Town of Hampton and with each passing kilometre I enjoyed the bike more and more. I jumped on the highway to head west back to Saint John, and mighty Bolt hit 120kph with ease, and still had a lot of ooumph left for passing. For a small, flickable bike it was rock stable at highway speeds. Quite impressive really. It's sweet spot is 100kph, or I should say, my sweet spot was 100kph. I could ride all day at that speed. The wind blast at 120 was a bit too much, a small screen to take the blast off my chest would help eliminate that though. However speed and long distance highway cruising is not what this bike was intended for. I do think it is certainly capable and comfortable enough for a multi-day adventure if you're not into eating a lot of miles.

So the question remains........if I had bought one would I have been happy with it. Absolutely, so much so that my brain went into overdrive again. Ooh! I want it. But it is not a one-bike in the garage kind of machine for me. I still like to get dirty from time to time, and it would suck on a railway trail.

I think Yamaha did an outstanding job with the bike, it has character, a great motor, great build quality and it looks really cool. I know the Harley naysayers call it a clone, a wannabe Sportster, but like so many other reviewers said. "It's the Sportster Harley should have built" Plus it's over $2K cheaper!!!

If you are in the southern New Brunswick area and have just half an interest in a Bolt or Sporty, go see Tim or Scott at Motorsport Plus and take it for a rip. You'll come back and say "Harley what?, the Bolt rocks"

1 comment:

  1. My favourite Japanese cruiser I've ridden.