– Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

  • April 14, 2013
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Brian J. Nelson and Tom Riles

2014 Star Bolt: MD First Ride

Every motorcycle begins with a goal in a designer’s mind. The goal of Star with the 2014 Bolt was to create a product that would appeal to a new generation of cruiser riders. According to Star, these younger buyers are less affluent than their Baby-boom forbears, but they’re also looking for a simpler, more stripped-down aesthetic. Hipsters, for instance (and I’m not saying Bolt buyers will be hipsters, but I’m Just Sayin’) “fetishize authenticity,” according to Time Out New York writer Christian Lorentzen (I like Cracked’s definition of Hipsters – ed.). That means younger buyers want a more authentic experience — or to at least look like they’re riding the real deal … like something they found and rebuilt themselves (while wearing Ray Ban Wayfarers – ed.).

These new buyers are anti-establishment and want to ride something that’s simple, stripped-down—but unique. “They don’t want to follow fad or fashion—they want to be their own person,” said Yamaha Product Planner Derek Brooks. Showing us slides charting Star motorcycle’s branding strategies, there were lots of XS650 photos and references, a low-slung, torquey, vibey and imperfect motorcycle that has lots of fans and has been subjected to every kind of modification you can imagine, from bobber to flat-tracker to cafe-racer and every possible interpretation in between.

A retro, big-bore, air-cooled parallel Twin was never in the cards (I asked Bolt Project Leader Ooki Miyakozawa about that, and he just looked at me blankly). Instead, the design team started with the Star 950 V-Star’s four-valve, dohc, 942cc (58 cubic inch) air-cooled 60-degree V-Twin. The bore and stroke numbers are slightly oversquare at 85mm X 83mm, and it has other performance touches, like forged aluminum pistons and ceramic cylinder liners. “We do what we can to improve performance,” according to Yamaha testing division guru Mike Ulrich. That said, there’s but one throttle body, although it does offer up two 35mm injectors, working with a Mikuni system offering 3-D ignition mapping. The catalyzed exhaust system’s headers are forward-routed, which means the big bazooka of a muffler doesn’t stick too far to the rear.

Usability is the word for the motor. The gearbox uses five straight-cut gears, and it’s worked with a “light-pull” clutch to make it attractive to new riders. A 21mm reinforced belt looks nice and sends power quietly and efficiently to the rear wheel. The valves adjust with screws on the tappets, good news for budding do-it-yourself mechanics—and they’ll get plenty of practice, with 4000-mile valve-check intervals.

The frame is all-new, but familiar-looking nonetheless. It’s a rigid tube-steel item that solid-mounts the motor. Suspension is similarly simple, but Ulrich tells us the spring and damping rates have been carefully selected to get both a “high-quality feel and get a low look”—the preload-adjustable rear shocks offer just 2.8 inches of travel. The R-Spec’s reservoir-equipped gold-anodized units don’t just look better, they have different internal damping, though the springs are the same. The non-adjustable 41mm KYB fork locates a 19-inch aluminum wheel slowed by a 298mm wave-style disc/two-piston sliding-pin caliper. The 16-inch aluminum rear wheel gets the same diameter disc and a one-pot caliper. Tires are Bridgestone Excedras, a 100/90-19 and 150/80-16.

The rest of the bike is a mix of minimalistic nostalgia and high-tech touches. The fenders are steel, the solo saddle is low and thin (just 27.2 inches off the ground to deliver “showroom confidence,” Brooks says) and there are no passenger pegs (although they’re available)(Hipsters ride alone – ed.). But there’s an LCD speedometer, LED taillight and a multi-function switch on the left switchpod to toggle through the odometers and clock.

Okay, I’ll come right out and say it, since everybody’s thinking it—the Bolt’s styling is a clear shot across Harley-Davidson’s bow, with styling clearly derivative of the 883 Iron. From the exposed frame backbone, to the engine’s hulking look and the clever plastic covers over the cylinder heads to make them look like MoCo items, Star really nailed the look…until you get to that tank, or more specifically, the huge seams around the pressed-steel tank.

Ooki-san looked sad when I pointed the seams out, but what can you do? Harley just has a different way of doing things. To create the necessary spaces between bodywork and various components and get the tank the right width to achieve that narrow, purposeful look, you’re going to have a wider seam, especially if you want to keep the price point down below $8,000. I was surprised an accessory tank isn’t available. At least it carries a useful 3.2 gallons of gas, and if you ignore the seams the bike has a very appealing, well-proportioned and balanced design that certainly grabs your attention — that’s why you’re reading this, no?

The Bolt promises an authentic riding experience (Hipsters fetishize authenticity, remember?) — and it delivers. There’s just enough lub-a-dub vibration, but the motor isn’t too buzzy until you’re breaking the law. The exhaust note is loud enough to hear at freeway speeds, and it’s got just the right roar. The rigid frame, 19-inch front wheel and short-ish 61.8-inch wheelbase offer up a mix of nimble steering and stability not unlike a nicely set-up vintage ride.

It’s engaging in a way other metric cruisers can’t manage, but it’s still easy and comfortable to ride. It’s no beginner-friendly lightweight at 540 pounds, but that’s 40 pounds lighter than an 883 and 73 pounds less than the V Star 950 from whence the motor came. And the weight is low in the frame, so you mix that with the good steering lock, narrow bars and low seat and around-town confidence is great. The brakes, simple as the specs are, work very well, and the front fork offers similar utility. The rear shocks bottom out easily, but the damping soothes the experience enough to make it less miserable than it could be, and the R-Spec dampers make it noticeably better still. The buttery-soft clutch works well with the slick-shifting gearbox—a gearbox engineered with just enough throw and resistance to feel like a vintage machine.

On the open road, the Bolt’s capabilities are limited—but it’s still pleasant to ride. The seating position is pure Sportster, with the high flat-track bar and mid-mounted pegs that put the rider into a weird, hunched-over crouch. I started to feel (and probably look) like Quasimodo after a while, but a couple hours in the saddle won’t ruin your day. The buzzing and windblast over 80 mph might, so keeping it in that sweet spot around 75 is heartily recommended, even if the bike will break into triple digits just smoothly rolling on the throttle in fifth gear.

Some other niggles I noticed: even on a 70-degree day in breezy San Diego, the shielded header was still uncomfortably hot on my right calf, and I felt some fuel injection stumbles at low RPM. Some of the plastic bits and exposed wiring look schlocky (like I built it in my garage? – ed.), and the big Electrolux of an exhaust can won’t be hanging in the Museum of Industrial Art any time soon. The digital speedometer, while almost invisible in direct sunlight thanks to its cool tinted glass cover, at least seemed pretty accurate. But that’s a short list for a bike in this price range.

Who’s going to buy the Bolt? Nobody who wants a Sportster, probably. But at $7,990 ($9 less than the aforementioned 883 Iron), or $8,290 for the R-Spec (which includes blacked-out mirrors and color-matched stitching on the saddle, in addition to the upgraded shocks), the Bolt is a great platform for customizing (the accessories we saw were pretty unique for a Japanese factory, including some stylish apehanger bars and brass—yes, brass!—headlight bezels) or riders who want something that while not exactly authentically cool, is arguably a cool-looking and unarguably a fun-to-ride motorcycle that gets pretty close to the bare, minimalist ethos the targeted buyers want.



  1. soi cowboy says:

    The 4000 mile valve adustment seems to be a misprint:

    ‘So my next question was why not call Yamaha Motors, and check with them, he said no I wont do that, and that the manual says that the valves don’t need to be checked until 15k miles even though my complaints of all the loud racket.’

    starbike forums

  2. andy1300 says:

    Yea nice, needs a set of Bub pipes on it…

  3. Neil says:

    I like it. Yeah the tank has a seam. But this is what they build in garages all over Japan and ride a lot too. Great motor. Nice frame. Simple components. Why buy it over a Harley? Better suspension. Better brakes. More front fork travel. Overhead cams for more power. Better tires. Less money.

  4. billy says:

    Hmmm. Where is the engine in the 911?

  5. richard says:

    with reference to the Porsche Boxter…. being a mid engine car it handles better than the 911…ill take that any day…status or take the Harley too ..way cooler !

  6. richard says:

    Its a Knock off…plain and simple..way too familiar to an Iron 883.Hate the seam around the tank…looks cheap..otherwise a nice looking bike. For $9 less than a Harley i think the younger generation will choose the Iron 883 not to mention a 2 year warranty as opposed to one and a much higher retail value down the road..if they can get one..local dealers in Canada are already running out of stock…..the Bolt will flood the market like most Japanese bikes.

  7. paul246 says:

    Back a few decades, the Sportster was a Harley, real men were not so insecure as to say otherwise… it was a sporty Harley when lined up against Electra Glides and such.

    To paraphrase Michael Parks of “Then Came Bronson” fame… “the horse that gets you there is the sweetest ride”. Parks also liked Triumphs, Hondas, etc.

    I think we could learn something from him and get out from under this obsession with brands and perceived image. Its just stupid.

    • jake says:

      Maybe it was different a few decades ago, but today is there anything else to Harleys aside from “obsession with brand and perceived image”.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “get out from under this obsession with brands and perceived image. Its just stupid.”

      contrary to popular belief, human beings lean toward stupid.

  8. Kagato says:

    I really like the green Bolt, I think you have to get the “R” spec bolt to get the green tank. Looks like it would be fun to ride, just like my (prior bike) Vstar 1100 custom.
    More choices is not a bad thing, I personally wish Yammy would give us a new RD 400

  9. Norm G. says:

    back on the topic of “seamage”. made a local dealer visit and happen to DELIBERATELY look for tanks with this and lo and behold there’s an abundance. in fact, you can’t throw a rock in a showroom without hittin one…!!! LOL (internet disclaimer, don’t actually throw rocks in anybody’s showroom, it will not end well for you).

    even higher end yamahas (read fancy) had tanks with seams and even many hondas. of particular note the new CB1100F that we all raved about has a seamed tank, but i think this also makes it period correct since it’s intent is to be retro.

    something i also noticed is yamaha may not so much be targeting HD with this bike…? as they are playing “keep up” with honda. last model year 2012, big red ALREADY introduced 2 models of the venerable shadow that looks EXACTLY LIKE THIS (targeting entry-level HD) with the matte grey paint, sporster-esque flat seat, tank seams, and everything, in fact i thought it WAS a yam-bolt…? not so much, they are the shadow phantom and the shadow RS.

    • Jake says:

      re: “(targeting entry-level HD)”

      They both (Hon & Yam) had better be careful or H-D may have to dig-up Reagan and Tariff their a$$… 😮

  10. jake says:

    I can’t believe no one has yet mentioned the obvious elephant in the room. The reason why the Bolt has generated so many comments is because this is the first bike where a Japanese manufacturer has crossed the lined and actually bothered to style a cruiser in a non-generic and a non-boring way. The lines of the Bolt are hip, cool, and modern, much more so than any other Japanese cruiser offering in its price range, or possibly even any Japanese cruiser regardless of price. In many ways, its looks are more appealing than the Sportster itself and this has got all the Harley riders and fans upset with their panties in a wad.

    Harley riders understand deep down inside that the only thing their brand has going for itself is its style and image. That’s it. In a functional sense or as a practical matter, the All American Hog has no viable reason to exist, let alone any deserving of the triple or quadrupal levels of profit over what other manufacturers can squeeze out of their bikes. Should the Japanese ever decide to cross the line and bother to style their cruiser bikes with less indifference and more passion, then any rational Harley fan knows that their brand’s days are numbered. I mean, come on, who really can’t put a bunch of chrome on bike, create a tank with no seams, put on higher quality paint and some nuts and bolts, or make a motorcycle engine sound louder than it needs to be, all while charging an arm and leg for the trouble? I know Harley riders really like to believe their bikes are special and one of kind, the kind of bike only a “True American with True American Muscles and Guts and Glory” could manufacture, but come on? Does anyone in their right minds actually believe deep down, including Harley riders, that if the Japanese so desired, they could not easily produce cruisers which were superior to Harleys in every imaginable way – both stylewise and functionally – and at a lower price?

    This deep seated insecurity of the Harley nation and their need to lash out at anything which might threat their fragile illusions of uniqueness is what is generating so many comments. Obviously, Yamaha has touched a nerve with this bike among members of this group, as they probably intended to.

    Can’t we all agree, if this same bike was branded a Harley instead of a Yamaha and the tank seams were removed (we all know Harleys don’t come with seams), then all of the negative comments from these same posters would suddenly turn into “Oohs and Ahhs”. Many would consider it a break through bike, a modernization of the Sportster which was long overdue, one which could potentially attract many new much needed riders into the aging, “I’m a gonna die pretty soon” Harley demographics.

    • VLJ says:

      Just off the top of my head, I’d have to say that both the Honda Valkyrie and Rune very clearly crossed the line and were attempts at non-generic/non-boring styling. So no, this is hardly the first time a Japanese manufacturer went their own way with cruiser styling. In fact, those two bikes were far more original-looking than this thing could ever be, since it’s merely a cheap copy of the Harley 883.

      • jake says:

        Disagree that the Rune and Valkyrie were attempts by the Japanese to cross that line and actually go head to head with Harley.

        The Rune was an example of Honda flexing its muscles to let the world know in no uncertain terms that it could do what no other bike manufacture could: build any type of bike it wanted to, any time it wanted to, no matter its difficulty, sophistication, or stylistic take.

        While both the Rune and Valkyrie have their appeal, they were clearly not styled to appeal to the American Cruiser market. Both the Rune and Valkyrie, while still cool, have a sort of cartoonish, overly rounded style to them. Lean, mean, daring, minimalistic, angry, testerone filled styling, with a slightly unfinished look, that seems to be what appeals most to the American cruiser market. Any dope knows this.

        The Japanese aren’t this stylistically challenged. They are aware their cruiser bikes are not styled in a way to have much appeal in the American market. Evidently, the biggest fans of Harley Davidson are not all these posters who are so butthurt about Yamaha daring to ape the Sportser too closely. It’s actually the Japanese bike manufacturers themselves. Clearly, for whatever reason, they like it when Harley does well. They want Harley to succeed, hence their deliberate refusal to go head to head in a winner take all slug match with Harely. Of course, we all know who would win in short order such a slugfest.

        If anything Harley fans ought to be grateful to Yamaha. They could have aped a Sportster genre bike even more successfully and probably even at a lower price. They simply held back their hand. They obviously do not want to threaten Harley to the point where it might fail.

        • VLJ says:

          You didn’t say that the Bolt was unique in its attempt to go head to head with Harley. You said that it was the first Japanese cruiser that attempted to cross the line with non-generic/non-boring styling. Clearly that is not the case as both the Rune and Valkyrie (among many others) were in no way generically styled, while the Bolt is in fact the very definition of generically styled, being that it’s a straight-up copy of an existing Harley model.

  11. stratkat says:

    whats with the totally random placement of the tank decals???!

  12. DucDoug says:

    “But that’s a short list for a bike in this price range.” A short list, huh? Let’s see:By your own admission the bike’s capabilities are “limited”, You felt like Quasimodo after an afternoon’s ride, the wind blast sucks, its buzzy at 80 and above, crappy looking seams around the tank, it puts off heat that’s uncomfortable for the rider, the fuel injection stumbles at low rpm, some of the plastic bits look (and undoubtedly are) cheap, the rear shocks bottom out easily and you can’t read the speedo in direct sunlight. I’m sure there’s more but I got tired of reading all the faults. Then you go on to say but gee they’ve got cool ape hangers for an accessory.

    Nice. This is just a typical example of another motorcycle reviewer trying to be kind to a manufacturer over a bike that is basically a bad knock-off of another antiquated design. I’m tired of reviewers desparately trying to find nice things to say about a new model just so the manufacturers will continue to invite them back to review future bikes and thus justify their existence. As of now, I refuse to visit your site or information again. Have a nice day…

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Someone is having a bad day, no? I agree that all of those factors sum up to a motorcycle that sucks. All those factors also make it competitive in its class. I think as reviewers, they try to call it from the perspective of the target market for the bike they are reviewing.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “As of now, I refuse to visit your site or information again. Have a nice day”

      really…? is it that deep…? hang around a bit, i think you’ll find the boys of MD run a fine site.

      in fact, i was just muttering to myself how much better my life is now that they’ve done away with the cryptic captcha verification. you had to be indiana jones and a dean of yale archealogy before you could post…!!! LOL 🙂

      • mickey says:

        Maybe sometimes that isnt a bad thing……

        I miss the Captchas..they were kind of like brain teasers

  13. Chris says:

    I’m sorry, but I will never buy a “STAR” motorcycle. They are YAMAHAS. Bob Starr needs to get over his ego and realize this. Yes The car companies did it. Toyota with Lexus, Honda with Acura, Mazda with Infinity. Now Imagine if these companies named them things like Lightning, Universe, or Popcorn. Sam idea Bob.

    • MGNorge says:

      So you’re saying that if you’re a Yamaha, be a Yamaha? If you’re a Suzuki, be a Suzuki? Notice too that it is just the Japanese who embarked on these brands within brands (correct me if I leave someone else out). Guess why? It’s us, the consumer! We get all caught up in names, image and identity that I’m sure more than one metric cruiser owner, or potential owner, felt second rate to the “Real McCoy”. To help with that we have these brands within brands. It’s all because of us.

      Your example with cars is a good one as these luxury brands were created primarily for the US market. By the way, Infinity is the luxury brand of Nissan, not Mazda. Mazda considered doing same back when the 929 was introduced but ultimately felt it was a bit too much to bite off.

      Get over our insecurities and Yamahas, at least in the cruiser world where image reigns supreme, will proudly be Yamahas again!

      • TC says:

        Don’t forget Cadillac (GM) Buick (GM) and Lincoln (Ford)

        • 80-watt Hamster says:

          Buick and Cadillac existed before there was a GM. I believe all their divisions did, save GMC and Saturn.

          • TC says:

            Very true, but for the last 40 years or so they have been dressed up and rebadged variants of the same platform ala Lexus or Acura.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Mazda considered doing same back when the 929 was introduced but ultimately felt it was a bit too much to bite off.”

        trivia quiz, anybody here remember what their name was going to be…?

        A: Amati.

  14. Azi says:

    Cruisers aren’t my kind of bike but Yamaha’s air cooled range is much less naff than the other Eastern offerings with their cheesy fake cooling fins and misplaced chrome covering bits. Even Triumph is guilty of fake air cleaners and carburettors on their middleweight cruisers. Yamaha’s efforts appear very functional (for a cruiser) and, judging from the photos, I agree with Dirck’s impression of ‘authenticity’ of engineering to function over form. Every single part appears to have a purpose. This would follow the original ‘chopper’ philosophy where riders stripped their bikes to bare essentials for performance.

    I agree with what others are saying about the price though – although the Bolt is a good piece of engineering the components look basic (cast or pressed steel parts). HD can get away with this in the Sportster by banking on brand equity.

    Come on Yamaha, do the same thing by drawing on your heritage and put your 2007 Sakura concept into production, just like Kawasaki and Honda’s recent efforts!

  15. Tom says:

    Better to buy this Yamaha Bolt than a Harley Sporster, if you want to have any respect around town. Here’s why. Buying a Sportster is like buying a Porsche Boxster. It screams out to everyone, “Hey, I wish I had a Porsche. But since I’m not rich/man enough to buy a Porsche 911, I bought this limp Boxter instead.” More respectable to buy an Audi TT or GTI than a Boxster. Same with the Sporster. “Hey, I want to be a real Harley guy! But I can only afford this ancient Sporster, sorry guys, I’m a HOG wannabe.”

    • MGNorge says:

      See reply above.

    • Dave says:

      The Sportster is Harley’s highest selling model by far. By that logic, IT is the real Harley and the rest are juiced up pretenders. There are thousands upon thousands of Sportster owners who would tell you that the Sportster is the ONLY Harley that they’d own. Ditto the Boxter.

      I have never met someone who used the term “wannabe” that wasn’t a great example of that themselves.

  16. Ricardo says:

    Another Sportster wannabe but without the resale value that Sportsers have…why would I buy this bike when I can purchase a much cooler Sportster and minimal service required?

    • Tom says:

      Worse yet, a Sportster is a Harley wannabe. Or the wife’s Harley.

    • Norm G. says:

      Q: “why would I buy this bike when I can purchase a much cooler Sportster and minimal service required?”

      A: brand loyalty. this bike isn’t an “interceptor” (no, not THAT interceptor), it believe it’s intent is to keep those who already worship at the alter of yamaha in the fold. as someone mentioned, this is the bike bought for the wife, son, or daughter of the man who’s ALREADY eating his meals with a “tuning fork”.

      picture this… hey honey, time to drop the bikes off for service, it’s a good job we bought the same brand, get your gear on and we’ll ride their together, gonna have the boy follow us in the car.

      see, there are yama-philes, just like there are honda-philes, just like there are bimmer-philes, just like there are ducatisti. now if it DOES happen to attract someone to the STAR brand who was cross shopping an HD…? i’m sure cypress won’t complain.

  17. DaveA says:

    First off, I think it’s pretty telling that this review has generated so many comments here…probably means that Yamaha is onto something with this bike.

    Apart from that though, while I like this bike ok (I’m not a cruiser guy), as I read the article I kept waiting to get to the part that made me realize why someone would want this instead of a Sportster, and I never did find it. Maybe it’s aimed at folks who would want Sportsters, but who would never venture into a, H-D dealer?

    Let’s face it…people who buy bikes of this ilk are not concerned with performance; they just like the bike, want a bike, so they buy the bike. At that point, all you’re left with is price and appeal. the price is the same as a Sportster, and I think most would agree that a Sportster is ‘cooler’ than a Yamaha Sportster…er…tribute.

    Still though, it’s a nice looking, relatively inexpensive bike, and I hope it does well.

  18. John Cameron says:

    I am afraid that this motorcycle exemplifies what will be an ongoing trend: cheap technically obsolete motors attached to motorcycles with cheap, seriously compromised handling, all for the sake of old school, Harley like “pose-ability. This is sentimentalism at its worse. This trend happened in the UK in the post war era and is happening here now.

    It brings to mind the old adage that “The last gasp of empire is nostalgia.”

    On the other hand, this is just the right motorcycle for monetarily challenged hipsters to ride over to their local pubs where they will be more than willing to spend their ever declining paychecks on $12 cocktails.

  19. Neal says:

    4000k service interval? If you are using your motorcycle as a vehicle, this is 2-3 valve checks a season. Authentic toy.

    • Norm G. says:

      ’round these parts that’s a valve check every 2 years. more than 4k a season…? what is this an ironbutt…? 🙂

  20. itchface says:

    Why such a mellowly powered engine needs valves checked more often than a race bike is beyond me. In comparison, the Sportster needs to have its valves checked, well, never.

    Valve checks or no, the other 2 retro bikes recently reviewed by this fine internet rag, the V7 and the Bonnie, are superior machines to either the Yamaha or H-D. They actually handle well, can be used for light touring, and have enough suspension travel to not liquefact your kidneys. All while looking swell.

    • George says:

      Valve adjustments are due to the valves being screw adjusters that generally need to be checked more often than shim type adjustments used in sportbikes. Screw adjustable valve train is also a lot heavier than shim adjusted valve train.

  21. Michael_H says:

    Tanks seams? Really not a big deal. They are part of the ‘industrial design’ look of the bike. I doubt that they will be a detraction to the urban types who are likely the primary market. Think of the Bolt as more of a factory ‘rat bike’ compared with the high level of paint and bling on comparable motorcycles.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Tanks seams? Really not a big deal. They are part of the ‘industrial design’ look of the bike”

      that’s what i’m thinkin’. if nobody hadn’t pointed it out, honestly i would not have noticed. same as anything else, i’m sure there are some who LIKE the “seamage”. hell, there are poeple who LIKE the notch in the tank of the guzzi, the 999’s stacked lights (ugggh), and even the DN-01, so go figure…?

  22. Tom R says:

    Never noticed tank seams until reading these posts. Now I can’t stop looking at them. OMG, they’re everywhere! My eyes are ruined forever!

  23. Alon Walker says:

    God I hope this was designed in Japan. If their American studio did this, purge everyone!

  24. Jose says:

    Bwaaaaaa! Please, just stop crying…

  25. Azi says:

    An upright-style naked, designed in the shadow of the XV920, would have been cooler but I’m guessing Yamaha’s market research people didn’t find a market (especially after the lukewarm reception given to the MT-01).

    • Martin B says:

      Yes!! I had a TR1 many many moons ago, and I loved it! Very slim and comfortable, seat height just right at around 31″, beautiful smooth torquey engine with all the power that was good for me, and an all round good ride. I was hoping Yamaha would develop a “standard”, but sadly the Bolt is the new US “standard”, so you get what you get.

      Still, it’s not really THAT bad a bike as long as you don’t actually look at it too long. I think the plastic bits and ugly gewgaws are efforts to improve function, lighten, and lower cost. Hopefully it will be reliable and durable. And yes, it’s STILL a Virago!!

  26. “Yamaha Product Planner Derek Brooks. Showing us slides charting Star motorcycle’s branding strategies, there were lots of XS650 photos and references, a low-slung, torquey, vibey and imperfect motorcycle that has lots of fans and has been subjected to every kind of modification you can imagine, from bobber to flat-tracker to cafe-racer and every possible interpretation in between.” So when you where looking at the photo montage did my XS650 “Salt Shaker” come up on the screen? I would like to get a hold of a couple of the Bolts and put some of my design on to them.

  27. Gary says:

    Well, I never thought I would say this, but after seeing this bike, I would definatley buy a Harley instead. This is a cheap looking, but overpriced, stupid looking and cheap looking exhaust with cheap styling too. Cheap everything but price. Yamaha- a complete design failure in my book. Dam, never thought I would choose Harley over something else. Sad state of affairs.

  28. turnergande says:

    A bit of refining here and there and it could be a nicer bike. Honda would have at least put a round name plate on the sides of that ‘plain jane’ gas tank. Yes, those obvious tank seams do detract from perceived quality or at least aesthetics. I like the overall retro styling effort instead of the modern plastic wrapped robotic crotch rocket look.

  29. Patrick K says:

    Who in their right mind would buy one of these things when they can buy an 883 Sportster for $9 more. I’m not really saying the Yamaha is a bad bike but I do not see how it can get traction in the market priced at Harley level. And as for Yamaha’s supposed genius, consider the failure of the TX-750 not to mention the TDM-850.

    • GuyLR says:

      Really? You’re bringing up the TX750 from 40 years ago? OK it wasn’t a success but yes, please do not mention the TDM850 which was hardly a failure as it has become a cult bike because of it’s scarcity here. It was never discontinued in other markets and continues as the very refined TDM900. The Bolt on the other hand may be priced nearly the same as the H-D loss leader but something tells me the riding will be a lot better than the 883 bone shaker. I think it will do well in the market.

      • soi cowboy says:

        Check yamaha’s UK site. There are many interesting 4 cyl bikes in the 80s style plus adventure bikes and TWO mt style bikes. They have to make a hd clone because that is the only thing that sells in America.

    • 80-watt Hamster says:

      Judging by what I’ve read so far, someone who values a more competent suspension and set of brakes. They need to do something about that exhaust, though. Everything else looks alright.

  30. jb says:

    well…..once one shows up in the dealer I will be checking out to see how easy it would be to…..

    1. raise the rear 1″ with Works Perf. shocks and Racetech gold valve the forks
    2. bolt on clubmans
    3. fab rearset controls (machine shop with 5 axis mill helps me do these things)
    4. change the exhaust

    Then, it might be fun.

    • Montana says:

      That pretty well covers it for me.
      Good job Yamaha.
      By the way, I thought air-cooled twins were obsolete, at least, that’s what I was told at a BMW shop in 1995.

  31. Michael H says:

    Never ceases to amaze me how many motorcycle marketing experts there are who have not found employment in the motorcycle industry.

    Yamaha is not known for making mistakes. It does what it does for good reason.

    • Provologna says:

      In the late 70s early 80s Yamaha’s goal was to dethrone Honda as #1 mc manufacturer. They ramped production up several fold. Around that time the world wide recession arrived.

      Yamaha had product stacked to the rafters and no buyers. In a word, they bankrupted themselves. I’m reminded of that scene in Hunt For Red October where the Russian sub Captain fires a fully armed torpedo that eventually kills his sub. Immediately before annihilation his subordinate tells him, “You killed us.”

      Yamaha bowed low to Soichiro Honda, begging for forgiveness for their stupid arrogance. If not for Soichiro’s benevolence (interest free loan) there would be no Yamaha today.

      This would not be Yamaha first ever marketing error. Japanese exports once had USA cost advantage. I agree with other members that few and far between would choose this over the (perceived) American iron. Performance matters little to none for buyers of either model and they won’t be too much disappointed. But c’mon…a Yamaha badge vs. H-D? You’re kidding, right?

    • bikerrandy says:

      I agree with you up to your last sentence. Yes, Honda bailed out Yamaha for them not seeing the coming recession. But since Honda didn’t want to be the only big Japanese MC brand competing in other countries, they saved Yamaha. Now H & Y are MotoGP competitors. Better more than less competitors there.

      Any rider that is more interested in their image than what their ride costs and is capable of should buy a Harley.

    • soi cowboy says:

      There were a couple other reasons for the 80s glut. One is that the Japanese fully expected HD to go out of business (as triumph had done). They were preparing to take over HD’s share of the market. As we now know, HD recovered. The second issue was the conversion to vacuum diaphragm carbs, which were ok when new but were useless when they went off (lean emissions jetting made the situation even worse)The bikes would not start and generally ran like sht after a couple years.
      As far as armchair experts go: the mc industry in North America does not make a cent. It is all run off the corporate credit card. The only reason they sell bikes here is to build the corporate image. If you want a job at Honda or Yamaha etc, beauty comes before brains.

  32. Motogrin says:

    One word: pathetic. Yamaha is displaying an utter lack of imagination with this thing. They could have started with the 950 motor, gone cheap on the components, but then put it in a UNIQUE design package. Why bother trying to slice off a little bit of the 883 market? 883 buyers already have such weak imaginations that they won’t stray from getting a Hardly anyway. It could have been a unique, blacked out, cafe-ish standard. A minimalist re-envisioning of the XS650 that could create its own following (with the requisite catalog of factory add-on bits). But no, the fearful approach was taken: Stamp out a lame copy of a lame bike and hope a few lame “hipsters” buy it. Honestly, what possibly be less original than a copy of a Harley?

  33. Jack the Machinist says:

    Nice bike, interesting. But for the same money as a Sportster, why not just buy a Sportster? No seams in the gas tank (not a big deal in my view), no plastic covers, much better resale value, vast aftermarket, absolutely comparable build quality. Wish they could have put it out for 6k or so.

    I agree with others, too. I’d sure like to see a remake of the XS650! (XS850 maybe?)

    Jack the Machinist

  34. mk says:

    Nice Kicks

  35. Dino says:

    73 pounds lighter than the Star 950 they based it off of… That is a good deal. It helps to explain some of the plastic bits on the bike.

    Gas tank seams don’t really bother me, but these do appear to stick out quite a bit. You would think they could wrap the seam further from the outside of the tank, or hammer it over after it is seamed, or something to minimize the appearance. I understand the seam tank is probably a lot cheaper to make, but there should be ways to make it better??

  36. Martin B says:

    It’s a Virago! Let’s start there. And yes, 1990 seems to be the starting date. This would have been a great product for then. But… it kind of still is. Has a better bike been developed than the Virago? The modern equivalents are sloppy cruisers, dripping with giant fenders and chrome. Fussy fettlers could wrangle a Harley tank onto it if they were overly concerned about an ugly, tiny tank. This bike will not be a cross country tourer, well, not unless you put longer shocks, bags and a fairing onto it. Maybe an XV1100 would be a better buy (for comfort and longer distance, but not for handling), but as a round town bomber this still has appeal. Try it and see, you might love it.

    • Jake says:

      Martin B says: “It’s a Virago!”
      Not quite… From the story: “the design team started with the Star 950 V-Star’s four-valve, dohc, 942cc (58 cubic inch) air-cooled 60-degree V-Twin. The bore and stroke numbers are slightly oversquare at 85mm X 83mm”
      The 920 Virago was a 75° V-twin with a bore and stroke of 92 х 69.2 — so, (a 30 + year-old design) is considerably more oversquare and could, arguably, be considered more modern.

  37. Don Fraser says:

    Just buy the Sporty and get it over with, please don’t encourage Yamaha to build more of this c***.

  38. jake says:

    Yamaha marketing probably determined there are alot of people out there who want to ride a Harley-esque vehicle but without the stigma of being a part of the Harley-esque culture. I think we’ve just reached the point in our overly image conscious culture where for some it has become non-conformist to ride a Harley that is not actually a Harley – ironic, huh????

    For alot of the younger crowd, they would not be caught dead seen riding a Harley around town. It’s too uncool for them. Too many over the hill, overweight, deliberately hairy geezers riding on Harleys with their silly John Wayne era, “I look really stupid but I don’t know it” tough guys outfits. The younger hi-tech savvy crowd does not want in anyway to be associated with such seemingly primitive beings – the uncool, equivalent oldsmobile culture of their parents – who they know ridiculously over paid by an arm and a leg for the privilege of that stupid image. But, evidently, Yamaha thinks this cooler and hipper crowd is still enough like their clueless, unhip parents to still want, deep down inside, to ride a Harley, just one that is not actually a Harley. This is America after all. Hence, the Bolt, a Harley without the badge and the stigma of being an actual Harley. Probably rides better than a Harley too.

    It should sell well here in the states, where Harley zombie culture and image overkill has turned off a significant section of youngsters, but who still ironically want to ride Harleys. Nice job of marketing there, Harley, and nice job of marketing research, Yamaha.

  39. ergopower says:

    How did you manage to dent the tank? (pic in front of aircraft carrier)

    • MGNorge says:

      I saw that too but I think it may be just shadows created by the mirror and controls?

  40. George says:

    I can only assume that Yamaha expects the muffler, taillight, rear fender and bland paint will be modified ASAP as they are all unattractive, cheap, stick on place holders…

    I can understand going after the 883 market but at the same price point, do they think they are going to actually get anyone that was going to buy a 883?

    Missed the mark in my book.

  41. Kent Harle says:

    Thank you for mentioning the Tank Seams…..Gross and the very first thing I noticed before I even saw it was an article about a new bike.

    • Bud says:

      Yeah, I’d like a better explanation about the size of the seams. They are exceptionally large and detract from an otherwise clean styling job.

      • Gabe says:

        The Project Leader I spoke to didn’t speak a lot of English and the Japanese-speaking liason had trouble with the technical language. From what I gatered, the seams had to be big to keep the tank narrow (the narrow tank is importatn for the bobber look) while still housing the fuel pump and maintaining a gap for the wiring.

    • TomS says:

      I agree. Hell, if the tank seams are going to be so prominent, they may as well decorate them with some brushed stainless trim or something. Tanks seams like that just look cheap.

      Otherwise it’s a good-looking bike (though cruisers aren’t my cup o’ tea).

      • jake says:

        The point of the bike is to appeal to people who want to ride a Harley but not one that is actually a Harley. For some groups, esp. among the younger set, there are negative stigmas with being associated with the Harley image, brand, and crowd.

        For these people, the seams probably won’t be a big deal. Hell, it helps to differentiate it from a real Harley. The big seams lets others know that they are not driving a real Harley or even one which is trying too hard to be a Harley. Also, their willingness to buy a bike with large seams suggests they are financially responsible, that they are not not so image conscious as to pay so much more for a seamless tank. Such considerations are appealling to the youngsters of today.

        I don’t buy that Yamaha could not make a seamless tank in a economical way. They made the seams prominent on purpose probably to appeal to this sort of counter culture crowd.

        • raivkka says:

          Dude, you’re clown with your reasoning. I cannot imagine where you live where Harley riders have such a negative image but here in the northeast washing dc and San Diego area that is not the case. btw, most people riding harley are the wannabe tough guy image from the 70’s but are really lawyers, accountants and tech guys not.

          The material Harley uses to produce their low tech bike will last 50 year (at least i am sure mine will), not the crappy aluminum and plastic this Yamaha has used.

          It’s ok to have a different opinion but it is NOT ok to be delusional.

          This Yamaha bike blows, and this it.

  42. Keith Hoffman says:

    “even on a 70-degree day in breezy San Diego, the shielded header was still uncomfortably hot on my left calf,”
    ? Was he riding it backwards? I see no exhaust on the left side.

  43. powermad says:

    They want to be their own person while they copy Harley?
    I kind of wish they would update and bring back the old XS650. That was a heck of a fun bike to ride (at least in 1976). The engine was beautifully detailed and even if it wasn’t, it felt fast because it put out some torque and sounded great doing it.

  44. Buzz says:

    The giant tank seam is bad enough but PLASTIC cylinder head covers?

    This bike must be for the Hipster curious.

    • Doug says:

      I agree with your inference about the PLASTIC covers on the cylinders. There does seem to be a lot to like in the stripped down appeal of the bike. I also applaud Yamaha for metal on the fenders, but why cheap-out on the engine? Why be like Honda, who slathers everything in plastic. Also it’s interesting that metric cruisers manufacturers really seem stumped as to how to bring a flange-free gas tank to market without busting the bank.

      • Todd says:

        There are many types of plastics that are more expensive than cast aluminum, especially the types that can be used on an engine. Be very glad that there are motorcycle companies out there who use cutting edge materials to make a lighter bike.

        What, should they have been cast iron instead?


        • Doug says:

          Plastics weaken and breakdown through thermal degradation of polymers with repeated heating cycles. It’s just a fact.

  45. Norm G. says:

    re: “younger buyers want a more authentic experience — or to at least look like they’re riding the real deal … like something they found and rebuilt themselves”

    re: “These new buyers are anti-establishment and want to ride something that’s simple, stripped-down—but unique. They don’t want to follow fad or fashion—they want to be their own person”

    for not having money, “they” sure do want a lot?

    • blackcayman says:

      Yes they do Norm…these are the Millenials who got trophys for playing soccer (not winning). They think the world owes them EVERYTHING…

  46. pistoldave says:

    Many people seem to make a big deal about tank seams, which I suppose is a major difference between HD and Japanese bikes. I cant seem to generate any love for seamless tanks or enmity for seamed tanks, its something I just really do not pay much attention to on a motorcycle. I wonder for how many people this feature is a make or break deal? Does this line of thinking go through some peoples head? “Well, I love this bike, the price is amazing, it looks great, rides like a dream, but it has a seamed tank, so I believe I will pass.” Just wondering….The biggest thing that would give me pause on the Bolt, is the 2.8″ rear suspension travel. The city streets where I live would have you peeing blood in about 2 days.

  47. VLJ says:

    Meh. What a cynical bike. C’mon, Yamaha, you’re better than this.

  48. HotDog says:

    Now if we could back up this tired old horse 30 years, I’d be right there for the Bolt. It looks nice and is a great bike for young folks to rip around on. Many will have their “Negatrometor” pegged, for one pittly little thing or another, but all in all, nice job Star.

  49. MGNorge says:

    “A retro, big-bore, air-cooled parallel Twin was never in the cards (I asked Bolt Project Leader Ooki Miyakozawa about that, and he just looked at me blankly).”

    Interesting reaction, I would have liked to hear the rationale. My guess is, considering the announcement not long ago of Yamaha tightening its belt, that developing a new engine platform would not get the go-ahead.

    I don’t like what I see when it seems that product is just thrown at the market rather than being honed and aimed. Like Honda has been doing as of late, they are building on their strengths (CBR250R, CB1100F, etc.) and that has proven to shake things up some and get the juices flowing. Didn’t some automotive company use the tag, “We build excitement!”? That’s what needs to be done. If rider/buyers today have less money then you have to build product that excites.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Didn’t some automotive company use the tag, “We build excitement!”? That’s what needs to be done.”

      well, if we’re going to tell the story…? we gotta tell the WHOLE story. that was the pontiac divion of GM and they’re out of business. so no, that business model doesn’t necessarily work and should stand as a testament of what NOT to do.

      re: “If rider/buyers today have less money then you have to build product that excites.”

      well that, or those consumers can take a walk. ’cause that’s the advice the salesman at ferrari will have for ya should one be delusional enough to enter their dealership with empty pockets. ferrari “builds excitement”, but they also CHARGE for excitement. see how that works…?

      • MGNorge says:

        I don’t think “Excitement” was the long and short of Pontiac’s business model, it’s a marketing gig. That Pontiac ended up out of business does not mean excitement can’t or shouldn’t be be built in. When is the last time any of us bought a bike because we just simply needed something to ride? No, we bought because a particular bike caught our fancy and we couldn’t shake it. That’s what needs to be done today, build bikes that stick in people’s brains and won’t go away. Then when it comes to shaking some lettuce lose the bike will play heavily on them. That’s what Harley does for the Harley crowd and even to non-riders!! Now, what appeals to you and I may be worlds apart from what today’s youth see in a motorcycle (tank seams and all!).

  50. ABQ says:

    “At least it carries a useful 3.2 gallons of gas”
    5 gallons is useful, 3.5 is just styling

  51. PN says:

    I like it more than any Sportster. Good for Yamaha. An updated XS650 would have been a hit too.

  52. Al T says:

    Good job Yamaha. Now let’s clean up that nightmare taillight issue, and go ride.

  53. Mike Simmons says:

    …and yet another Harley wannabee …

    • ApriliaRST says:

      I agree with you and I’m NOT a fan of Harleys. The thing about this bike that pokes me right in the eye is the pinched seam around the tank edge. Not saying that if that pinched seam were to be removed that I’d be a potential customer; I don’t like what I see in the bike’s riding position either….

  54. Keith says:

    Those boots are killing me. Wow.

  55. mo8ius says:

    How does this compare to the V7 and Bonnie?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I wouldn’t have guessed that someone considering a V7 or Bonnie would also consider this bike in the same breath. Not being snarky, I just find it interesting.

    • powermad says:

      Well, its a hell of a lot uglier for one.

    • mo8ius says:

      Well, they’re the same price, similar displacement, targeting the same demographic, with a similar look, just more cruiser-like, but the mid-controls place it squarely in the ‘urban’ category.

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