With inspired design from the scramblers of yore, this retro might be better sticking to hard-packed roads
Story by Costa Mouzouris
Photos by: Brian J. Nelson
Where’s a trend these days for bike makers to introduce a motorcycle, and then use it as a platform from which to spawn several different models. This makes a lot of sense from the manufacturer’s point of view, because it simplifies production and reduces costs. It also makes sense from a consumer’s point of view, because it offers several styling variations of a certain bike – if you’re not too keen on the styling of Model X, maybe Model Y will strike your fancy. An ideal example of this formula is the Yamaha Bolt. Initially introduced as a low-slung retro cruiser, it was soon also available in the slightly sportier Bolt R-Spec with piggyback shocks and cast wheels, and the sportier still Bolt C-Spec with taller suspension, and a seat cowl and low handlebar giving it a café-racer silhouette.
For 2017, Yamaha has taken the Bolt platform in yet another retro direction, and it’s the most radical yet. It has been “scramblerized.” Yes, the Bolt has joined the likes of the BMW R nineT Scrambler, the Ducati Scrambler, the Moto Guzzi V7 Stornello, and the mother of all modern scramblers, the Triumph Scrambler, as a modern take on, well, the scrambler. And while the three previous incarnations of this cruiser kept the Bolt name, this latest one is simply called the SCR950.
There’s no mistaking the SCR950’s family resemblance to the Bolt, but its profile has been completely altered by the use of both new and existing components. Among the new components are a redesigned sub-frame, which provides a taller seat height (830 mm, a full 140 mm taller than the Bolt’s), and a long, straight seat. Also new is the 17-inch rear wheel, which replaces the Bolt’s 16-incher. Yamaha sourced the shocks from the Bolt C-Spec, which are a bit longer than the Bolt’s for added ground and cornering clearance, while some of the other retro styling touches include side covers that mimic number plates, and fork gaiters (those are rubber fork boots, if you weren’t around when the original scramblers were trailing about).
Swing a leg over the SCR950 and you’ll discover a very scrambler-like seating position, with an easy reach to the tall, wide handlebar placing you comfortably upright, and mid-mounted foot pegs providing a neutral riding position. The seat is straight, but it’s not flat with a rounded cross-section that doesn’t really spread the load equally on your backside. If anything, it actually feels like a dirtbike seat, which lets you move fore and aft easily, but it’s firm – comfy for about 45 minutes or so. The large, round instrument cluster is also from the Bolt C-Spec and has a small LCD display that shows speed, and either the trip meter, odometer or time. This is one item I’d really like to see offered as a simple analogue unit, both for appearance and to maintain the retro feel of the machine.
Just to Be Clear
Now, to get things straight, here’s what the SCR950 is: It’s a cleverly styled retro bike that’s faithful to the original spirit of the scrambler genre, in that Yamaha modified an existing model with a wide handlebar, knobbier tires and an upswept exhaust pipe (all right, it’s not quite a high-mounted exhaust, but the idea is there).
Here’s what the SCR950 is not: It is not, by any means, a dirtbike. It is no more competent when riding off pavement than any true street bike would be. The only thing that makes it handle a bit better than an outright street bike when the pavement ends is the addition of the more aggressive Bridgestone Trail Wing tires, as well as its upright riding position and wide handlebar.
You’re reminded that the SCR950 is based on a cruiser platform as soon as you start riding at a moderately aggressive pace on pavement, where you soon discover it has limited cornering clearance, as its foot peg feelers touch ground at modest lean…