May 23, 2018
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Test Ride: Affordable Bolt Makes Rider Feel Bad Ass

1-Bolt left side mediumBy Bud Wilkinson of

Sometimes when a new motorcycle model is released the reaction is to yawn. Seen that. Done that. Other times, there’s an immediate urge to figure out a way to get one to ride. It was a case of the latter when 1-Bud headshot with HondaYamaha’s cruiser brand, Star Motorcycles, released the bobber-style Bolt in the spring. Here was pugnacious-looking middleweight cruiser designed for urban use that wouldn’t shred your bank account.

Damon Libby of Libby’s Motoworld in New Haven brought an R-Spec version of the Bolt to display at Middletown Motorcycle Mania in Middletown, CT back in mid-August, and the urge to ride one intensified upon seeing it. In chatting that evening, Libby offered to loan out a demo model whenever I was available. It took longer than anticipated, until just a few weeks ago, but the wait was worth it.

1-Bolt tank

The low-slung Bolt is a blast, a bike capable of satisfying newbies and experienced riders alike. It’s powered by a more-than-adequate 942cc V-twin engine, the same-sized engine found in the V-Star 950 and V-Star 950 Tourer.

The base version has an MSRP of $7,990, while the R-Spec with upgraded, remote-reservoir shocks and trendier seat, neat graphics and special colors (camouflage green and matte gray) is $8,290.

1-Bolt right side tight with tankIt was a green 2014 R-Spec that Libby’s had as a demo. As someone who is used to riding in an upright position, the more feet-forward riding position frankly felt odd. To be more precise, the pegs aren’t as far forward as those on some traditional cruisers, but they definitely can’t be called mid-pegs, either. Call them mid-forward.

At the outset, I felt a bit cramped – I stand a shrinking 5’10” so the Bolt may immediately be out of the question for tall riders – so it took a few cautious miles of riding west on the 1-Bolt rearBoston Post Road to get accustomed to the bike. With a seat height of only 27.2 inches, it was certainly a pleasure to flat-foot-it at all the stoplights. It wasn’t until I turned off that congested route and located some more countrified roads, though, that the pleasures of the five-speed, belt-driven Bolt became more apparent.

A smooth clutch, wide friction zone, and consistent power as the throttle was rolled enhanced the ride. At 540 pounds and with a 61.8-inch wheelbase, the Bolt feels light and maneuverable. With 46.2 horsepower and a reported top speed of only 101 miles per hour, the Bolt will never be a barn-burner but it does have more than adequate power for either lively city use or back road hustling. At all times, it felt planted, sure-footed and comfortable.

Also pleasing was the rumble of the exhaust. As for the brakes (wave-type rotors front and rear), well, riding defensively due to traffic and unfamiliar roads, I never really had a chance to get on them. In routine use, they seemed solid.

1-Bolt right side with exhaustThe Bolt has a smallish 3.2-gallon gas tank and an mpg rating of 47, which should give it a range of 150 miles. My guess, however, is that Bolt riders will ride a bit more aggressively than they would on any other mid-sized cruiser, meaning that a fill-up at, say, the 100-mile mark will be required.

A couple of items did bug me about the Bolt. Maybe it was the low fall sun, but the tach-less speedometer was virtually impossible to read at1-Bolt speedo times when moving. It was too dark. Also, despite a transmission that shifts crisply through the gears, finding first gear when coming to a stop was a challenge, but that problem might iron itself out once the rider gets more used to the Bolt’s quirks.

Styling-wise, the Bolt’s a winner even if the gap between the back end of the gas tank and the front of the solo seat looks odd. It has a nice finish and a bad ass attitude, a bike that seems to offer much more than the affordable price would suggest.

1-Bolt left side wideIt wasn’t until this week that customization possibilities for the Bolt came into focus when Star showed off a cafe version at the Toyko Motor Show. The mid-forward controls had been replaced by mid-pegs, the solo seat by a bigger bench and the pullback handlebars by clip-ons. Fork gaiters had been added, too, and the cast wheel had given way to spokes. This customized Bolt had even more attitude and a posture that would make for even more aggressive riding.

Bolt Cafe

It terms of value, looks and ride quality, the stock Bolt is a bike that stands out from the crowd. While targeted toward new and young riders, I have to believe there are some gray beards like myself who wouldn’t mind having one in their garage, either. It was definitely worth the wait to ride it.