In motorcycling, cruisers are donned to be the go-to-bike-style for the easygoing, laid back, long-haulers, or the “retirees” of the sport/naked bike ranks. But in this modern age, with the spurt of new and younger riders; with all that much energy to spend and all the hype given since the return of the café racers; can cruiser bike-types compete in this present market?
A cruiser is a motorcycle style that started in the US from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The relaxed ride style shows feet forward, raised arms and seated seemingly on a couch at ease. Ask any guy born from the given timeline and they might have owned one or two cruisers back in the day. Some might also have one sitting on the dark side of the garage, or hiding under a dusty blanket inside the house. Cruisers are usual barn finds, but if maintained properly, these are the old-but-gold.
Cruisers are highly synonymous to American brands like Milwaukee based Harley Davidson, and Spirit Lake, Iowa mainstay, Indian Motorcycles. These bikes thrived for quite a long time making and developing cruisers up to the present day. The middle of the 20th century was the beginning of the modern cruiser revolution.
With the increase of the breed’s popularity, the Japanese manufacturers started to draw up cruiser plans of their own in the 1970’s to 1980’s. The birth of Japanese cruisers provided an alternative to the demands of the growing market, of a style that offer laid back, cool comfort, street cred.
Fast forward to 2019, along with all manufacturers worldwide, Yamaha has established itself in the market, pioneered in technological breakthrough. The brand, with an extensive model range, finally revealed their latest modern day, high tech cruiser, the Yamaha Bolt R-Spec.
Also known as the XV950R, the Bolt R-Spec boasts performance fusing old-school soul and modern form with a powerful V-twin engine. The ‘XV’ represents Yamaha’s history of the company’s first V-twin engine, the 1980 XV920RH.
Today’s Yamaha Bolt R-Spec pays tribute to the history of Yamaha cruisers since 1980. The bike salutes the 1980 XV920RH, gives a nod to the 1999 Yamaha XV535 Virago, and a refreshed 2017 Yamaha XV950R. Brands have tried keeping the demand alive for cruiser bikes since the 1980’s and Yamaha gets nowhere from being good to just getting better.
Yamaha’s design for the Bolt R-Spec targets the casual-freedom type of riders. They solved the need for urban commute, and looking really cool and stylish at the same time. It appeals to ageless customers who tend to customize their own bikes, with a sense of vigor and freedom to express. It belongs to Yamaha’s Sport Heritage category, similar to the XSR and SR models; they have similar unique queues in finish, shape and materials, but with varying features relevant for each model.
At first glance, the Bolt R-Spec appears compact, with the air cleaner centered. The look is a concentrated mass that makes better air intake. The engine is an air-cooled 4-stroke, 60-degree V-twin, 4-valve, 942cc that pumps power 54 bhp at 5,500 rpm and max torque of 59 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. As a cruiser, the seat height is a glorious 690mm, both feet flat. The bike is quite lengthy at 2290mm, weighs 253kg, and can carry 13 L of premium unleaded. The front suspensions are telescopic forks, with dual rear shock absorber fine-tuned spring rate to a soft initial compression.
The final drive is a carbon fiber slim 21mm belt which makes a quiet ride, and a signature XV950CU clean and classy look. The teardrop tank with flowing lines looks traditional, but slight trimming makes it slim and compact.
We took our sweet time and took the cruiser up to Kaybiang Tunnel Cavite for a full day of riding. Riding the Bolt R-Spec feels more of a sporty-cruiser. It falls center on city, sport, but a bit more on touring and everyday casual bike. The handlebars are set standard, and the foot pegs are not far forward, which means an option for a more aggressive/sporty action.
What I liked about it, the handlebars have rubber dampers between the clamps. They seem to minimize the vibration, and eases out arm fatigue, which means longer fun rides. They also minimize mirror vibrations whenever you rev the throttle. The frame is handling focused, add the handlebar and foot peg positioning, perfected with an agile wheelbase. Turning is good, cornering is excellent, thanks to its short, 61.8-inch wheelbase. Precision handling rakes up a lot of points for the Yamaha Bolt R-Spec and appears to be one of the top performance cruisers in the market today.
Dubbed, ‘Best for Urban Riding Fun’, the Bolt R-Spec has amazing torque and power output, relevant as a Yamaha characteristic. The 58-cubic-inch (942cc), 85 x 83 bore x stroke gives a compact thrust output. The 2-into-1 short muffler growls a beefy low tone sound that puts a smile to your face and a quick look from people nearby. It makes your presence and authority. The engine also has the Idling Speed Control or the ISC which prevents engine stall during idle. It effectively stops whenever you need to, thanks to the ABS equipped front hydraulic dual disc mount, and another one at the back.
I definitely had one of the best cruising experiences with the Yamaha Bolt R-Spec. I have to commend how much Yamaha has improved each and every aspect on this cruiser segment, to provide a pleasurable, versatile, fun daily cruiser. The rear shock absorbers are excellent, going through unexpected bumps and make it easy for anyone’s limbs. They have this solid damping force within a 51mm cushion, which may also help the bike’s low profile.
The engine is totally smooth, a well-received Yamaha technology with undeniable torque and power output. The front tire runs on 100/90-19 tubeless Bridgestone Exedra tires on 12 spoke cast wheels that make better handling, and a beefy 150/80-16 rear, for extra personality. Everything else is supported by the double cradle frame that makes it a performer.
The exterior finish is great, especially the buckskin-look seat, which is an international standard. The muffler ends with a satin finish end cap and protects your legs from heat. The key socket found on the right side of the fork, acts as an Anti Theft Immobilizer, makes it real, old school.
The Yamaha Bolt R-Spec retails at PhP569,000 as of writing. It directly competes with other Japanese and the more popular American cruisers in the market. But this bike offering is just so good, we may call it a bang-for-the-buck bike that offers the same street cred, with jam-packed features and all the Yamaha benefits.
Maintenance wouldn’t cost as much, and you get outright peace of mind every time you ride out the long roads. I just don’t like how they made the digital gauge that may be hard to read at times, and it doesn’t show any fuel indicators. A low fuel warning just lights up when you need to re-fuel. Aftermarket options may solve the problem and the fact, the Bolt R-Spec is made to customize in your own image and likeness.
If you aren’t brand conscious, and have about half-a-mil to spare for a cruiser that is way ahead of its time, then the Yamaha Bolt R-Spec is for you. The bike’s versatility makes it a great choice for non-purists, and make good use of all the stubborn-less improvements Yamaha granted this bike. If you’re the one who embraces tech-benefits, time to run to the nearest Yamaha dealer near you. The Yamaha Bolt R-Spec is a cruiser that bolted-tight both the past and the future.
Engine: Air-cooled V-twin cylinder, SOHC, 4 valves, 4 stroke
Max Power: 54 bhp @ 5500 rpm
Max Torque: 59 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Seat Height: 690.88 mm
Fuel Capacity: 13 Liters
Tire, Front: 100/90 19
Tire, Rear: 150/80 16
Brakes, Front/ Rear: Disc/Disc ABS
Curb Weight: 246 kg.
Top Speed: 170.59 Km/h (Estimate)
Price: PhP 569,000
+: Superb build quality, predictable handling, good suspension damping
-: No fuel gauge, hard-to-read digital gauge in direct sunlight
C! Rating 9.5 / 10