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A Bolt Statement : Yamaha Star Bolt

For decades the Harley Davidson Sportster range has ruled the self-created bobber segment, mainly because it has had no competition since its introduction in 1957. But its reign maybe now coming to an end. Let me introduce you to the all-new Yamaha Star Bolt. Of course, it’s still not available in Nepal yet, but could be the perfect competitor to HD bikes like the Sportster Iron 883 when Harley official sets shop in Nepal pretty soon.

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STYLING

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The Yamaha Star Bolt first caught my attention during one of my casual stroll around the large independent motorcycle dealership I work at in the US. The designers at Star Motorcycles, which is a division of Yamaha Motor Corporation – USA used to brand Yamaha’s cruiser motorcycles, have left a brutally raw look to the Bolt; precisely what was planned, and exactly what it delivers. A high-set 12.1 litre gas tank attempts to shade the bulky blacked-out air cooled V-twin motor with polished fins. These sit cradled between a well-constructed double down tube frame that ties in both ends of the bike with a mere 1570 wheelbase. The solo seat exposes a bit of the frame backbone as it leaves some room between the gas tank and the seat mount to give that custom bobber look. The speedometer gauge appears to be a bit large for the bike, but somehow manages to blend in as it’s mounted on low-risen pull-back handlebars. This leaves room for a classic stripped down bobber look with a clean appearance that only exposes the top of the headlight overlooking the road. The 19 inch front and 16 inch rear twelve-spoke semi-gloss cast wheels come wrapped in a set of Bridgestone’s from the factory and help further define the raw bobber look to its overall appearance. The well illuminating headlight in the front is complimented by the round LED cluster tail-light and turn signals at the rear.

 

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Needless to say, the designers have spent a lot of time studying the legendary Harley Sportster range and have somehow managed to transfer it over to the Bolt with a much more aggressively-civilized look. Stripped back and stylish, the Bolt also provides a perfect entry into the world of customization with a host of aftermarket options available.

 

PERFORMANCE

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The V-twin 942cc motor rumbles to life with a quick push of the switch. As the idle settles down it reveals how amazingly smooth the motor really is and lets out a throaty tone out of its 2 into 1 exhaust pipes. The power output from this relatively tame motor has been rated at about 62 bhp of power and 72 nm of torque. All of that acceleration is transferred via a 5-speed gearbox to the rear wheel with the help of a cushy belt drive.

 

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Swing your leg over and the average size rider such as myself (5’ 9”) will find themselves tucked into a cozy position with mid-set foot pegs and handlebars well within an arm’s reach. While the left leg sits over the rear cylinder head, the right leg comes away inches from the brushed aluminum exhaust shield. All switches and controls are fairly basic and are easy to operate even for a newbie. A “Select” button on the right side handlebars switch-housing allows the rider to browse through the speedometer, dual trip meter and a clock without letting go off the handlebars. However, the lack of a fuel gauge can be quite a concern. In addition, the LCD gauge can prove to be quite impossible to read on a bright sunny day but pleasantly comes to life in the dead of the night with a warm blue glow.

 

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Having been designed for the urban U.S cities, I figured I would get to know the bike well in some dense rush hour traffic conditions. Flip back the kickstand, effortlessly pull in the buttery smooth clutch, stomp it into gear and off you go. Open up the throttle and the fuel injected TCI (Transistor Controlled Ignition) responds with a grunt. The low to mid end torque is remarkable with the flawless transmission sending predictable power to the rear wheel at a moment’s notice. Shifting up and down frequently really brings out the true colors of this beast as dodging in and out of traffic is quite effortless with the low center of gravity and a casually aggressive stance. Your inner legs however does begin to get warm after riding in traffic for a few minutes due to its proximity to the cylinder head and exhaust shield, but no significant discomfort is felt.

 

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While the front end KYB component forks successfully soften pot-hole blows, the rear shocks is a bit on the stiffer side. Casual cruises over bumpy asphalt however is somewhat tolerable, but aftermarket suspensions and a gel seat upgrade are a must for most rider’s preference. After 350km of mixed riding in the crammed city streets and open highways, I decided to truly push the Bolts limits. Southern Ohio offers riverside cruises through hilly-winding roads, tight corners and the occasional gravel spewing potholes that require agile dodging skills quite like in the highways of Nepal. Pushed to its limits (and mine), the bike was able to handle just about anything I threw at it. The Bolt easily climbs to 100 kmph+ cruising speeds on American highways and there is enough top end power left over to twist the throttle and achieve a 160kmph top speed without major vibrations rattling the body. Crank it up a notch around tight corners and you will have sparks flying under you as the foot pegs scrape the asphalt while the Bridgestone’s effortlessly manages to keep the bike well planted to the road. The occasional obstacle or stopped traffic though required some hard braking to come to a halt at a predictable distance.

 

VERDICT

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The Bolt is offered in two models – the base starting at USD 7,900 and the R-Spec starting at USD 8,300. Both models share the same motor and measurements, however the R-Spec comes with an upgraded rear suspension with a remote reservoir, a suede vinyl seat, better paint schemes and blacked out mirrors. Yamaha also offers add-ons such as a passenger seat, quick release windshield and saddlebags for a little extra cash, but this barely compares to Harleys unlimited aftermarket options for the Sportster.

So the answer to the big question – “I’ve got enough cash to buy a Harley Sportster or a Yamaha Bolt. What do I pick?” I wish the answer was as easy as the Bolts handling. Harley offers years of thumping American made iron-horse heritage in the Sportster package, whereas Yamaha brings a history of Japanese reliability and innovation all packed into the Bolt. Both are immensely fun to ride and cost pretty much the same. Well, the decision to pick between the two is just as complicated as Nepalese politics. But if you were to listen to me, here’s a helpful tip. Pick the Bolt!

 

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SPECIFICATIONS

Engine Type: Air Cooled 4-Stroke V-Twin

Displacement: 942 cc

Maximum Power: 62 bhp @ 5480 rpm

Maximum Torque: 72 nm @ 3020 rpm

Transmission: 5-Speed

Final Drive: Belt

Frame Type: Double Cradle

Wheelbase: 1570mm

Seat Height: 690 mm

Ground Clearance: 130mm

Front Suspension: Telescopic Forks

Rear Suspension: Swingarm Link Type

Front Tire: 100/90 – 19

Rear Tire: 150/80 – 16

Front Brake: 298mm Hydraulic Disc

Rear Brake: 298mm Hydraulic Disc

Dry Weight: 237 kgs

Fuel Tank: 12.1 litres

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