Thursday, September 10, 2015

Test riding the Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec test ride
The Bolt is a nice looking bike, there's no denying that. While the Bolt is not exactly my dream bike, I have been wanting to test ride one for a good while now. As a former Sportster owner I was dying to find out what Yamaha has come up with. I've read several test reports comparing the Sportster and the Bolt and apparently at least the suspension is better along with the brakes. Both of which are not hard to beat on a Harley Sportster.... All in all, most of the reviews seem to come to the conlcusion that technically the Bolt is the superior bike.

The Bolt has been around for a couple of summers now and while I don't know the sales figures, it is interesting that the recently announced 2016 Sportster models now have improved suspension on both ends...

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec factory cowl at the front (2014)

Ok, let's ride (This particular bike is a used one ridden only about 5000 kms.)

First thing I noticed was the sound. It has a nice deep thumping very Harley like sound without being too loud. This particular bike has an Acrapovic factory accessory exhaust and while I like all my bikes quiet, this wasn't too bad. I would not feel embarrassed to ride this around town. One thing I absolutely hated on my Sportster was the loud Vance & Hines pipes. TOO loud.

Comfort & ergos
The seat is shaped nicely, but much harder than I expected. Some of the video reviews claim that the seat is very plush, I don't think so and I ride an enduro for god sakes. The airbox cover on the right side is annoying as hell, I don't think I could live with that in the long run. It feels that even if the bike had highway pegs I could not get my legs comfortably extended because of the airbox. (may not be a problem in reality). I'm 5,8, but one would have to be very short legged not to have the right leg hit the airbox. On the other hand, it may be that if you have longer legs the airbox is actually less of a problem.

The left side is not nearly as bad even though the engine protrudes out a bit from that side. Whether I could extend my legs comfortably from this side either is a bit of a mystery. It may bee that the protruding engine would produce a problem.

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt leg ergos

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt airbox

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt engine heat guard 

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt engine & airbox
The bars feel a bit thick but otherwise very nice. The only problem is that they are a bit too far away resulting in too much forward lean for my taste. The BIG problem is that neither Star/Yamaha or anybody else for that seems to sell extended cables for the ABS models so changing bars will be problematic. While the ergos are quite ok for short rides, I was not 100% happy with them and especially the apparent limitations to getting them fit me is a bit of disappointment.

I've read that the engine is solidly mounted unlike the on the modern Sportster that have rubber mounted engines. One would expect a lot of vibrations, but there were absolutely none that I felt unpleasant. The V-twin is supposed to have some. The bike felt alive, but cruising speed at 100km/h was an absolute pleasure. The was enough power for everything one would ever like to do with a cruiser.

Star/Yamaha Bolt with Acrapovic exhaust
Suspension & handling
The Bolt has a good, slightly firm suspension for this type of bike. To me it was plenty comfortable and performed as expected. Handling is cruiserlike with good slow speed manners. At 100 km/h the bike feels planted and engine unstressed. Clutch, brakes and gears all work without drama. Predictable and a bit cruiserish as they should. Changing direction is very sluggish compared to the 690, but then again high speed stability is much much better in return. Scraping the pegs was not really an issue unlike on my old Low Sporty.

Overall the bike feels very solid and well made. Nothing feels cheap or "out of parts bin". I've read a lot about the speedo being hard to read in the sunlight, but I ques the day wasn't bright enough to highlight the problem. If the ergos were right for me, I would not hesitate to buy this bike as far as performance, handling and build quality.

Ergos part II 

The Bolt ergos bothered me so much that I made a stop to another bike shop that had a Sportster on the floor. I had a Sporty in 2009, but I didn't remember a having that much discomfort on it than I had on the Bolt. After sitting on the Sporty ( 2009 883 R) it was immediately clear that the leg ergos are much better (for ME) on the Sporty. The airbox is still on the way but much less so and the left side is clear of anything that might bother me.

Sportster airbox

Sportster leg / knee room

1 comment:

  1. Very good post. Yamaha XV950 has got decent looks with neat finish and great pick up.

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