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2014 Star Bolt First Ride

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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2014 Star Bolt - First Ride Video
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We rumble around San Diego, from Balboa Park to Point Loma, on Star Motorcycle's latest cruiser, the 2014 Bolt. Come along for the ride and hear our impressions in our 2014 Star Bolt First Ride Video.
Star Motorcycle’s decision to unleash a randy band of motojournalists on the unsuspecting streets of San Diego was a deliberate decision. Its new 942cc-powered ripper, the 2014 Star Bolt, is primed for urban assault. With a lithe chassis, slim frame, potent powerplant and modern design, its ideal for making mad dashes around densely populated hubs of Southern California. We familiarized ourselves with Star’s latest bob-job with jaunts between Balboa Park and the USS Midway, rolling through Presidio Park and blasting out to Point Loma before heading back to the Gaslamp Quarter just before sunset.

It’s encouraging to see that Star has been paying attention to current movements within the motorcycling scene. Styling on the Bolt draws upon bobber heritage, bikes with high tanks and short wheelbases, and its XS650 has been a popular platform for customization lately. We’ve encountered several stellar examples recently, from Sgt. Tom Green’s 1981 Yamaha XS650 chopper at The ONE Motorcycle Show to Mike McFadden’s 1980 SX650 Special Star displayed at the 2012 Long Beach IMS. With its fenders cropped short, slotted heat shields and belt guard, small tank, solo seat and uncluttered bars, the no-frills appeal of the 2014 Bolt fits the current less-is-more aesthetic.

The Bolt also draws upon on of Star’s key assets, the performance-based motorcycles built by its parent company Yamaha, evident in the bike’s wave rotors, carbon fiber belt drive, and signature ceramic composite cylinder sleeves. Maybe even more important is the fact that Star has kept the price point at a very attractive $7990 for the base model while the Bolt R-Spec costs only $300 more, making it affordable for the masses.

With a light pull on the feathery clutch and a crack of the throttle, we were off and running around the land of the Padres. The 942cc, air-cooled V-Twin features an even powerband that allows riders to wind out gears nicely between shifts. The engine comes from the V Star 950 and is good for a claimed 58.2 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm, but the powerband has been dialed in to provide more low- and mid-range torque. This was accomplished via changes to the airbox, exhaust, and fuel-injection with ignition timing maps set to deliver the low- and mid-range punch Star was aiming for.

Motorcycle spent a day rippin around San Diego on Stars newest cruiser  from Presidio and the Junipero Serra Mission to Point Loma.
A short wheelbase and a front end set at a 29-degree rake angle team with a light handling chassis and makes the Bolt a bike that transitions well and leans into turns willingly.
We got a history lesson on our ride around San Diego on the 2014 Star Bolt as we visited sites like the USS Midway and the Unconditional Surrender statue.
We got a history lesson on our ride around San Diego on the 2014 Star Bolt as we visited sites like the USS Midway and the 'Unconditional Surrender' statue.
First gear doesn’t red line until around 43mph with consistent power delivered top to bottom. The 60-degree V-Twin, with its single-pin crankshaft and forged connecting rods, has plenty of character but operates with nominal vibes, even at idle. The fact that the powerplant is rigid mounted to the frame and serves as a stressed member makes this feat even more impressive. Despite being air-cooled, the engine never ran hot enough to draw attention, albeit it was a cool, windy day in San Diego. But its tried-and-true ceramic composite cylinder liners are made to dissipate heat so the forged aluminum pistons can drum along unhindered within the confines of the 85mm bore and shelter riders from thigh-blistering temperatures.

The Bolt lives up to its name as a quick bike with spot-on fuel-injection. Its Mikuni closed-loop electronic fuel-injection with throttle position sensors delivers immediate throttle repsonse. The system operates with four valves, two 31.5mm intake and two 28mm exhaust, in a pent roof combustion chamber, combined with 35mm side draft dual bore throttle bodies. The result is an instantaneous twist-and-go relationship between a rider’s right wrist and the motorcycle. The output benefits from a carbon-fiber belt that doesn’t lash and, at 21mm-wide, is the narrowest belt on any Star.

When it comes time to shift up, the five-speed transmission does so smoothly, the straight-cut gear dogs easing into place. It does this with quiet efficiency. Combine the smooth shifting transmission with the light action required at the clutch lever and you’ve got a rider-friendly motorcycle that’s easy to modulate and doesn’t miss shifts.

The Bolt’s light handling chassis is point-and-shoot. With a compact 61.8-inch wheelbase and a claimed curb weight of 540-pounds, the Bolt feels nimble for a cruiser and riders are the beneficiary. The steel double-cradle frame sports a new design and most of the weight is carried low in the chassis. The motorcycle transitions quickly and dives into turns with little effort at the bars with the dirt track-style bend. The bike would almost carve if the pegs allowed just a bit more lean angle, but its handling is definitely one of its strong points. The rear Bridgestone bias-type 150/80-16 rear wheel provides solid traction for the most part but did slip around at times under heavy throttle.

A KYB 41mm fork and twin KYB shocks handle suspension duties adequately, but with a 220-pound rider on board, the twin rear shocks did hit the end of their 2.8-inches of travel abruptly on some of the larger potholes around San Diego. The standard units are designed to be soft in the initial compression stroke which translates to a slight floating sensation under normal road conditions, though we’ll admit that they are preload adjustable and we didn’t attempt to dial in the settings. We didn’t recall blowing through the stroke aboard the up-spec R-version of the Bolt, which delivers a more plush ride with its piggyback reservoir units. Considering the R-Spec only costs $300 more than the standard Bolt, we’d recommend going with the R-Spec solely for the performance upgrade provided by the anodized remote reservoir shocks.

The wave rotors on the 2014 Star Bolt not only look cool, they scrub off speed well. It’s equipped with 298mm discs front and back, the front unit floating-mounted. A twin-pot system handles the braking workload up front while a single-piston caliper does duties out back. Power on the front unit is progressive and even while the rear is more grabby and will lock up with a hard stab. Used in tandem, the pair has no problems hauling the Bolt down from speed.

The 2014 Star Bolt comes in a black version sans graphics for  7990 and a version with different color options and up-spec suspension called the 2014 Bolt R-Spec for  8290.A small  round LED taillight and bullet-shaped turn signals keep the back of the Star Bolt tidy.We were honored to visit the aircraft carrier USS Midway during our first ride on the 2014 Star Bolt. The motorcycle was pretty impressive  too.
(L) The 2014 Star Bolt comes in a black version sans graphics for $7990 and a version with different color options and up-spec suspension called the 2014 Bolt R-Spec for $8290. (M) A small, round LED taillight and bullet-shaped turn signals keep the back of the Star Bolt tidy. (R) We were honored to visit the aircraft carrier USS Midway during our first ride on the 2014 Star Bolt. The motorcycle was pretty impressive, too.

The narrow frame allows riders to easily snug up to the bike. The bars are at a natural reach while mid-controls tuck a rider’s feet back, knees high. The saddle, set at 27.2 inches, is narrow and low so sure-footing at a standstill is a cinch. Best of all, the seat remained comfortable after a day’s worth of blasting around San Diego. The 2-into-1 pipe is routed forward which allowed Star to get the length it wanted and the performance it was seeking without the pipe extending past the rear of the bike. The compact muffler has a closed loop O2 sensor and a single element 3-way catalyst but still delivers a pleasing rumble and a strong note that adds to the bike’s character.

In the keeping-it-simple theme, the Star Bolt sports a single digital gauge that serves as a speedometer/odometer with dual trip meters. It is well-placed and the digital numbers are large enough to read at speed. The uncluttered look between the bars extends to the rear as well with small bullet-shaped turn signals paired to a compact, round LED taillight. Black 12-spoke cast wheels match the bike’s rowdy disposition well. The only grievance we had with the Bolt’s aesthetics is the unsightly gap between the seat and tank.

Flying high on the 2014 Star Bolt! Though it doesnt quite match up to the mach speeds of the SR-71 Blackbird  it is a quick motorcycle nonetheless.
Flying high on the 2014 Star Bolt! Though it doesn't quite match up to the mach speeds of the SR-71 Blackbird, it is a quick motorcycle nonetheless.
One thing we do see for this bike is a ton of potential for customization. MotoUSA videographer, Joey Agustin, mentioned he’d like to see it with clip-ons, and the café treatment could easily be achieved with the Bolt. Star also recognizes this potential as it already has 50 all-new Bolt accessories lined up, from high-rise bars to a sporty bullet cowl fairing to a sissy bar and 40-spoke wheels. A lowering kit drops ride height approximately one-inch, while a reduced-reach solo seat will position smaller-statured riders one-inch forward. Long rides on the Bolt are enhanced with the addition of leather saddlebags, quick-release windshield, and passenger seat/backrest combo. We saw one Bolt decked out with mesh air cleaner covers, brass accents like a gauge shroud and headlight trim and fork gaiters which looked exceptionally sharp. Or you can opt for the R-Spec that is stripped of just about all chrome, comes with the remote reservoir shocks we really like, a suede-style seat vinyl with colored stitching, black mirrors, and different paint options (either camo green or matte grey with a racing stripe and Bolt graphic on the tank). Not bad for only $300 more.

The base Bolt is a lot of bike for $7990. Even at that price, Star didn’t skimp on fit and finish, from its dirt track-style bars, digital gauge to the steel fenders. We rode it hard around the city and beyond because that’s what it’s made for, to blast around urban environments with power and authority. After our day aboard the 2014 Star Bolt, we’re sold on its snappy power delivery, silky transmission, slick handling and ultra-light clutch action. It ain’t too bad on the eyes, either, and delivers a lot of fun per-dollar spent.
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maltesefalcn   May 13, 2013 12:18 PM
@jtm45, the Bonneville's are as smooth as butter, no vibration. I've read several reviews of the Bolt and no comments as to the vibration, although it is not rubber-mounted like newer Sportsters. My old (non-rubber'd) Sporty could vibrate the teeth out of your skull. :(
MotoManny   April 30, 2013 06:40 AM
@RaptorFA - Yea, noticed the helmet too. That muzzle makes a great visual improvement, huh? : )
MotoManny   April 30, 2013 06:30 AM
Nice review/video, Bryan & Joseph. Compelling bike, for sure. Hits the market well timed and Star nailed their demo on the outreach. Have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of these on the road soon. Looking forward to seeing custom projects come to life.
jtm45   April 17, 2013 08:33 AM
really nice bike,i have a sportster,only prob i see on the bolt is valve adjustments if you do your wrenchin,is not hard just takes time. a used triumph newer bonne should be around 5-6G and has more ponies. i have not rode a new triumph yet do they vibe much? the rubber glide sportster is the cats meow,no vibes like the hard mounts.also have a Virago 1100, fast bike and lighter than the sportster. can be had for under 3G,but i do like the bike and wil;l be looking for a used one in a year or 3,i wonder if the cams are diff. from the 950tour? maybe next year they will have a chrome model or a few more c.c. say 1100 w/4 valve head? that bike would scream!
RaptorFA   April 16, 2013 06:34 PM
BTW, that is the first time I have seen you in the Bell Rogue. I know that is another review for another time, it just caught me off-gaurd! The look takes some getting used to, but I bet it's better than eatin bugs. Rock on!
RaptorFA   April 16, 2013 06:31 PM
Thanks for the response Bryan. Sounds like she left an impression on you, which is interesting because you ride A LOT of motorcycles! Now I am going to have take a peek at one; it's actually starting to grow on me a little. Looking forward to follow-up reports!
harley1   April 16, 2013 03:56 PM
RaptorFA - It's a solid ride. Quick off the line, snappy at the throttle, smooth tranny, handles and transitions well. I weigh 220 pounds, rode it hard and the chassis remained settled. The saddle was comfortable throughout the day, but the longest uninterrupted stint we did was about an hour and a half. Thx DocNick. We do our best, even though first ride seat time is limited. More saddle time to come in the future, though, so stay tuned as we hope to get it on the dyno and do some more thorough testing.
Poncho167   April 16, 2013 03:00 PM
To the untrained eye I would have thought this Yamaha was an 883 Davidson.

chrisie61   April 16, 2013 11:56 AM
I am a loyal Star owner, with my 6th baby being a 113ci Roadliner bagger. I wanted something smaller to kick around NYC with and bought a Harley 883Iron and threw V&H short shots on it. I LOVE THE IRON. Love its look and its sound. The Bolt does diddily squat for me. Looks like it was thrown together and the tank really could have been designed differently. And what's with the ugly so called tail light? Don't get this one at all. Sorry Star, but this is a fail in my book. I'll gladly keep my Iron.
DocNick   April 16, 2013 10:53 AM
I've decided the Bolt is not the bike for me, but I appreciate the well-written riding impression. Much better than the vapid, girly fluff on the Cycle World site.
jokermtb   April 12, 2013 09:53 PM
Interesting the author of the article mentions all the XS 650 rat rods/cafe/customs that drove the creation of this bike. I get it. And, I like it! Sure, I ride a Vstrom, but unconventional looks definitely drew my eye to this bike. If I was looking at a cruiser, this one would be high on the list of bikes I'd consider - well done Yamaha!
RaptorFA   April 12, 2013 01:29 PM
So Bryan, how did it feel in the saddle? Did it have a solid feel to it at least? I didn't want to come off as too harsh on the thing, but from the pics these were just my first impressions. Perhaps I should take a lok at one in person before I judge too harshly on fit and finish. The engine sounded like a strong pont for the machine...
Jaimeb   April 12, 2013 10:02 AM
Yeah, the front forks and triple clamps look like they came from the late '70s parts bin, but overall this bike just looks good!
harley1   April 12, 2013 10:01 AM
woodco100 - Man, I need to travel the world more. Never had a chance to get over to England yet, but one of these days I'd love to get over there and ride with our buddy Frank Melling. As far as the band of motojournalists I frequently ride with, have you seen some of these guys? I'd be afraid to drop the soap around some of them. Joking, of course. Thx for the lesson in British vernacular. And I appreciate everybody's comments. I'm with you VinceXB, the lip at the bottom of the tank does detract from its fit & finish.
VinceXB   April 12, 2013 05:57 AM
@Pglet2010: I hadn't thought of a Triumph. I think the Bonneville is a closer match to the Bolt and Iron 883, at least by price and size. Triumphs make slightly less power and are chain drive. I love them though, they're great fun to ride and I love the retro look of the Bonny. Regarless, you're right in the fact that there are options; Triumph being one them.
woodco100   April 12, 2013 05:57 AM
"...a randy band of motojournalists" Uh, Bryan, in case you did not know, "randy" is slang for "horny" in England. And with the name of the bike being "Bolt". Anyway, glad you and your randy band of motojournalists enjoyed the ride.
Piglet2010   April 11, 2013 04:49 PM
Besides the Sportster 883, another natural bike to compare the Bolt to is the Triumph Speedmaster (I would rather have a Triumph America, but the Speedmaster has the closer esthetic). But a lot of people do not live near a Triumph dealer.
VinceXB   April 11, 2013 10:33 AM
This is clearly an attempt to cut into the XL883 sales. I think it's a good looking bike for anyone who is into the blacked out look, especially since it's dechromed. My problem with this bike, and it's been a problem with a lot of Star and other non HD cruisers, is the hideous looking lip that skirts the bottom edge of the gas tank. It looks like it's made of cheap, stamped metal. I'm sure tank is of good quality, but that lip just makes it look cheap to me. I like how the rear license plate assembly looks like it easily facilitates "chopping" the fender. It's probably a couple of bolts to take it off. An aftermarket side mount license plate assembly would give the rear end a ton of character without having to spin up a cutter or grinder. If I were looking to get an inexpensive cruiser and didn't want to be lumped in with the HD crowd, I'd really consider this bike. An Iron 883 is $7999 +/- dealer (stealer) markup and makes about 55 ft lbs of torque, so the power numbers are pretty close. You do get slightly more torque with the Bolt as well as about 5 inches of wheel base, so you're getting more bike for the money with the Bolt (just a little). Options are never a bad thing. Really, HD haters kinda need to just chill out. Same thing goes for the fanatical HD loyalists. I see both bikes fitting in their niche. Test ride them, pick the one that feels best. Nothing is worse than compromising ride for aesthetics or brand.
eligovt   April 11, 2013 09:03 AM
I think Star got it right with this bike, and I'm not normally a cruiser fan. Clean look, great price; I'll take an R-spec in green please!
2many450s   April 11, 2013 06:58 AM
Know what the difference between a Harley and a Hoover is? A Harley holds two dirt bags.
RaptorFA   April 10, 2013 07:49 PM
After looking this thing over, I would give it a resounding "Meh". It's kinda cheesy looking if you ask me. The spindly front forks, the frame down tubes, the fake looking guards (that will most likely work themselves loose eventually) - it just misses the mark. I expect more from Yamaha. The tank doesn't do a whole lot for me either. It's not horrible, there are things to like about it too. If it were me, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I would rather have a Harley 883, or for a bit more a forty-eight.