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We ride: Yamaha XVS950 Bolt

2014-05-26 08:27

YAMAHA'S TAKE ON THE ICONIC HARLEY: The Bolt, although badged in SA as a Yamaha, is drawn from the brand's US-based cruiser division. Elsewhere in the world it carries the Star badge. Image: DRIES VAN DER WALT


DRIES VAN DER WALT kicks off 2014 with the Yamaha MT-09.


Yamaha, during 2013’s Amid bike show, launched two bikes for the South African market – the three-cylinder MT09 and the Triple Tuning Fork's take on the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the XVS950 Bolt cruiser.

The Bolt, although locally badged as a Yamaha, is actually drawn from their US-based cruiser division and elsewhere in the world carries the Star badge.

Considering this background it is hardly surprising that the Bolt is almost a copy of the Sportster, albeit one with a fair amount of classic Yamaha cast into its looks.


In typical 'bobber' tradition, the Bolt is a back-to-basics machine, complete with exposed mechanicals, a single round headlight, round LED rear light, a 12-litre teardrop fuel tank, cut-oof steel mudguards and a decent smattering of chrome.

A single dial (see image gallery) on top of the handlebar rounds off the old-school custom look. The body is low-slung between the two 12-spoked cast wheels – 100/90-19" front and 150/80-16" rear. Yamaha says the wheels combine “with the sporty suspension and floating rotor 298mm wave discs, these wheel and tyre sizes offer the optimum balance of performance, grip and feeling from the road’s surface”.


On the right side of the engine is what the Triple Tuning Fork folk refer to as “a compact air-cleaner”, against which I constantly bumped a knee, distracting somewhat from its otherwise pleasant ergonomics. Suspension travel is greater than the bike's looks would suggest and the rear didn’t bottom out as often as I have experienced on other cruisers.

The seat position is typically cruiser-style, laid-back for the rider but the pillion gets little more than than a vinyl-covered floam slab, perhaps indicating that this bike is intended for solo riders.

The 942cc air-cooled V-twin produces 80Nm of torque at at a very low 3000rpm, making it ideal for urban use but also for some spirited riding into the boondocks. In practice this makes the bike extremely responsive in commuter traffic (where a considerable chunk of my test riding took place), which in turn makes the Bolt a remarkably competent and stylish commuter.

And fuel consumption is surprisingly economical for its engine size (4.7 litres/100 km) because the tank capacity is a great deal less than I am used to on a bike this size.

As it stands the tank range is a mere 255km, rather conservative when you tackle the open road.

Like the ride, the Bolt’s handling also comes as a bit of a surprise: although the ground clearance is not in conventional-bike territory one can lean the bike a lot more than you might expect before you you grind bits off the footrests (on that subject – the footrests are conventional pegs and not the floorboard type sported by less minimalist cruisers).

Combined  with the ample torque and general nippiness of the engne, the leanability helps to give the Bolt a remarkably sporty feel.

In summary, the Bolt oozes character and street cred but still manages to deliver responsiveness, comfort and decent handling. Its economy and reasonable price will probably contribute to a fair number of Bolts being used primarily as commuters, especially among those for whom the lure of its Harley-like styling is as important as the ease with which it disposes of traffic snarls.

PRICE: R114 950.

Read more on:    yamaha  |  dries van der walt  |  pretoria

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