Sometimes, when a manufacturer tries to go for a certain look, they miss the mark by quite a margin. Luckily for me, I found when jumping aboard the new Yamaha Bolt XVS950 that the nail was well and truly hit on the head when it came to the factory bobber.
For those not in the know, a bobber is a motorcycle with a 'bobbed' rear fender, extra-low slung seat and minimalistic styling. The Bolt R-Spec, as tested, nails that description.
The minimalistic nature of the Bolt R-Spec means that when you look down between the firm but comfortable saddle and the 12L fuel tank you see the backbone of the bike and the huge DOHC cylinder head of the 942cc engine.
Riding the bike I wasn't quite sure where to position my knees. With a seat height of only 690mm and comparatively high bars the result is a menacing, slightly hunched riding position which made me feel like I was riding straight out of "Sons of Anarchy".
The footpegs are typical of Japanese bikes and are centre set so that you have the choice of riding either with your knees pointing outwards, or resting them against that rear cylinder and the airbox. After finding cornering more difficult, I chose the latter.
Much to my surprise though, the Bolt R-Spec handles corners much better than I had anticipated. The ultra low Bolt R-Spec makes no qualms about scraping the foot pegs along the tarmac when you carry too much lean angle - a common occurrence as you adjust to riding the Bolt. which at first you seem to do quite frequently as you adjust riding styles to the Bolt.
The classic shaped fuel tank holds a total of 12-litres.
While scraping the pegs was hilariously fun at times, it was actually incredibly easy to carry a quick pace through tight corners without touching down. I simply followed the same mantra as Porsche drivers - that is 'Slow in, fast out' - by slowing down and then giving the 942cc V-Twin a fistful of throttle on exit.
Weighing in at only 247kg and, thanks to its low design, having a low center of gravity really makes the Bolt R-Spec feel nimble for a cruiser. Additionally, with the frame being so bare bones and narrow it is the first cruiser I've ridden that I felt comfortable splitting lanes on. Take that, Auckland traffic!
The engine itself is a beautiful V-Twin, that, despite being manufactured in Japan, wouldn't seem out of place in a factory the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The engine itself is a beautifully characterful V-Twin that wouldn't seem out of place on something made on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean to the Japanese built Yamaha. At low rpm it shakes and pulses in a pleasing and slightly menacing way.
At high rpm it can get a little bit vibey but it never gets to the point where it becomes uncomfortable like other V-Twins can. It does, however, affect the performance of the mirrors which at most engine speeds blur out the detail of what you're looking at.Although, considering that the point of mirrors is to check for obstacles and traffic behind you, you can still see more than enough to make safe lane changes.
The pegs on the Bolt R-Spec have a tendency to touch down if you approach corners with too much lean angle.
Strangely enough, the Bolt comes with a 5-speed gearbox, breaking from the movement towards the universal use of a 6-speed. While the gear ratios are fine for the purpose I did try finding a sixth gear a few times while cruising on the motorway and the engine wasn't particularly happy with my efforts to plod along at 50kph in top. Flicking through the gears is a rewarding experience as you ride the torque curve of the engine and punch your way forward.
My only real gripe with the entire bike was the minimalist dash. Whilst in keeping with the bike's unadulterated design and displaying only the essentials - such as speed and the typical warning lights for fuel, hi-beams and oil - I found that, when it rained, the digital speed readout became tricky to read. I suspect this is because it wasn't dark enough to activate the gauge's backlight which, in darker riding conditions, lit up the speedo nicely. Personally, I like to have a tachometer too just for the added safety of being able to see what the engine is doing.
The R-Spec has the same beautiful finish I've come to expect from Yamaha's bikes. The seat was a gorgeous almost suede item that felt so good I thought it was a crime for me to be riding the bike in the rain. Thankfully Yamaha build quality is such that it's never an issue and the bike.
The rear lighting on the Bolt R-Spec complements the lines of the bike nicely.
As usual Yamaha offer a full range of accessories for the Bolt R-Spec including screens, luggage and even a ready-to-ride bagger version available straight from the showroom floor.