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Yamaha Bolt – Cutting Corners, or a Budget-Friendly Masterpiece?

Could the Yamaha Bolt be bang for the buck, or are some things too cheap to be true?

Yamaha Bolt Head-On

Have you heard of the new Yamaha Bolt? If not, it’s about time. Now, it should come as no surprise by now that we love motorcycles, and I, specifically, have a weak spot for the classic, bare and stripped-down two-wheelers on the market. To me, motorcycles are all about the freedom and simplicity of a joyride, and in my mind, nothing embodies that more perfectly than raw, stripped down bikes.

Luckily for me, there are plenty of bikes on the market to fill that gap. To name a few, you could consider the new Iron 883 from Harley Davidson, the Indian Scout Sixty, or the Bonneville Bobber from Triumph. The thing is, however, that all of these bikes are a lot more expensive than the Yamaha Bolt.

To add to the confusion, the reviews of the Iron 883 are quite mixed, and it looks like you would need to invest more cash in the bike to really make it the way you want it. With these conflicting opinions, we wanted to find out if the Yamaha Bolt would be a better option. It looks good on paper, but can it live up to the specs in real life?

The Engine

Yamaha Bolt Side View

The Yamaha Bolt boasts a 58 cubic inch (942 cc) engine, which is slightly larger than it’s nearest competitor – the Iron 883. The engine is pretty simple: a 4-valved air-cooled V-twin with a 5-speed transmission and belt drive. Nothing too groundbreaking here. It runs smoothly without any hassle – and it’s surprisingly powerful.

Yamaha isn’t a big fan of releasing numbers, so it’s hard to get an estimate of the top speed. It’s also no easy feat to get ahold of the horsepower for this bike. I don’t imagine, however, that this bike will do much more than 100 miles an hour on the freeway (not comfortably anyway) – especially not considering it’s relatively high gearing, and “only” sports a 5-gear transmission.

It is, however, perfectly fine with me. This isn’t a ground-to-ground missile. It’s a small, simple bobber – and it does that surprisingly well. If you ever pull up on a rider on an Iron, rest assured that you’ll be nearly a second faster to 60 mph than him. A second! That’s some pretty tingling acceleration.

Another thing that this bike has going on for it is reliability. It appears sturdy and well-crafted, with plenty of parts for the taking. And given the fact that it’s a Yamaha, the engine will probably survive well-beyond the inevitable heat death of the universe.

The Looks

Now, this is an excellent looking bike – there’s no doubt about it. The peanut-shaped tank with an overall low profile makes for a good looking motorcycle. I especially like the gold details on the rear suspension – although these might not fit into everybody’s taste.

If I must say something negative about the looks on this bike, it would probably have to be the color options. A great thing that Harley Davidson have going for them with the Iron 883 – at least in my book, is that they offer riders some great color options. For one, I would have loved a matte black or dark option for the Yamaha Bolt. It could have made for a lot more exclusive look.

Yamaha Bolt Front 3/4

I know that not everyone will agree with me, but that is also kind of the point. There are very few color schemes available for the Bolt. This makes it feel like a product straight from the assembly line, whereas it’s competitors – albeit a bit more pricey, offer more individuality.

The color options (or lack thereof) aside, this is a cool looking bike. It’s a low, pure road warrior in a classic look that will still look great in 50 years. I should probably mention that there are more colors available if you upgrade to the Yamaha Bolt R-Spec model (which is priced at $8.399).

The Yamaha Bolt in a Nutshell

Yamaha Bolt Fuel Tank

The Yamaha Bolt is all-in-all a pretty decent motorcycle. But you need to take it for what it is. It’s a lot less customizable than, let’s say, the Iron 883, but it’s also a lot more ready to ride, straight from the assembly line.

This bike is a tricky one to review because I do indeed like the way it looks. It’s a classic no-gimmick motorcycle that does what it was supposed to do just fine. Its also more than economically sound, and has a good and reliable engine. It does have its shortcomings – the bike isn’t fast. It has good acceleration and chances are that most of the time, you’ll be the first one to leave the red light. We will say, though, that this is a bike where you need to take a good hard look at how Yamaha markets it.

They sell this bike as an urban bobber – and that’s what it is. It’s a comfortable ride with thrilling acceleration – but you can fall short if you take this on the freeway. The acceleration from 60-90mph  is disappointing and slow, so if you usually ride on the freeway, you may leave home a little earlier than you may think, and you probably won’t get the power and maneuverability you need to feel more confident. All in all, however, the Yamaha Bolt is a great little starting bike that looks awesome, rides well, and should prove to be exceptionally reliable.


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Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…

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