If bikes were dance partners, I’d want the Star Bolt to be mine. This, I’m thinking as I twirl and dip the new bobber around the cultural patchwork that makes up urban San Diego. The Bolt is the best kind of partner. You lead, it follows. Effortless. So light and so nimble you feel like a hero whether you’re posturing for the tourists in the Gaslamp Quarter or scraping pegs in a quick exit from crack central.
When Star introduced the Bolt this week, it supplied journalists with an electronic map of the city and its must-see sights, be it impassioned street graffiti in Chicano Park, the hulking USS Midway or the gardens of the Presidio. The best stop was little-known Cafe Moto, where local bike nuts could appreciate the all-new Bolt. Was it a Harley? What size was it? How much does it cost? Folks seemed surprised by all the answers.
It’s a small bundle in which to pack a 950cc Twin, but that makes it very fun, indeed. It’s not a Harley, but it’s a model the Motor Company will want to pay attention to as it competes for 883 Sportster buyers. Milwaukee’s 2013 Iron model has been selling for $7999, and this new Star, a 2014 model, is target-priced at $7990.
The Bolt is powered by the same 60-degree, four-valve-per-cylinder, 942cc V-Twin Yamaha uses in its V Star 950, but with mapping that optimizes the low- to mid-range torque favored by urban dwellers. The result is very lively, smooth acceleration, with lots of time between shifts. The air-cooled Twin uses ceramic-composite cylinder liners for heat dissipation, and you’ll feel that heat as it leaves the aft cylinder especially, because it’s nestled inside your left knee. It wasn’t at all uncomfortable on a chilly day spent riding along the oceanside, but we’re curious to see if it singes in higher temperatures.
The Bolt’s five-speed transmission employs straight-cut gear dogs for snappy engagement and a super light clutch to make the most of squirreling around. The bike is also low (27.2-inch seat height), short (61.8-in. wheelbase) and light (claimed 540 pounds wet), creating a compact ergonomic environment that leaves knees high and arms at the ready. An average-size rider will feel more poised for action than uncomfortably scrunched. Big boys will feel more cramped, and certainly put the short-travel (2.8 in.) KYB shocks to task. Rear preload is adjustable. Up front, the Bolt uses a 41mm KYB fork with 4.7 in. of travel. Potholes are a full-body experience for all riders, but the no-frills suspension setup is otherwise well-damped for normal conditions.
The Bolt’s available lean angle is respectable, and the Bridgestone Excedra tires Star runs on the bike’s 12-spoke cast wheels held firm. Brakes are Yamaha’s wave-type rotors; 298mm single discs front and rear that do a perfectly adequate job of slowing the bike. The Bolt’s engine is a stressed member, and riders can expect to absorb some vibration, especially at freeway speeds.
Visually, the Bolt is also dance-floor ready with a look that’s basic, and mechanically beautiful. The engine becomes a massive style element, accentuated by the minimalistic black, double-cradle steel frame, small fuel tank (3.2 gallons) and big (2.3 liter) airbox. The retro-terrific twin rear shocks, 2-into-1 exhaust and belt drive assembly further perpetuate Bolt’s beastly, bobcat-like persona. Some didn’t like how cinched it is the waist—there is a sizable gap between the tank and the extremely narrow nose of the solo saddle.
And that brings up one of the Bolt’s strongest selling points: It looks terrific off the rack, but is ripe for customization. First, you’ll choose between the basic Bolt or the R-Spec version right there on the showroom floor, though it’s a no-brainer to invest in the Spec version for only $300 more. In addition to upgraded matte paint and graphics, black mirrors and a Suede-looking seat with colored stitching, you get trick-looking anodized remote-reservoir shocks, which alone make the buy-up worthwhile.
From there you can add from Star’s vat of accessories made specifically for the Bolt, or work with its steel fenders and blank-canvas frame and go full-blown custom. Whatever you end up with, stock or stupid-cool, the Bolt is a bike to own.
Because deep inside everyone likes to dance, but it’s quite another thing to dance well. When you find the perfect partner, it’s guaranteed to make you feel like a Star.
Standard versions of the Bolt (black or white only) are available now, while the R-Spec version won’t be in dealerships until July.
|ENGINE||air-cooled sohc, four-valve-per cylinder V-Twin|
|SEAT HEIGHT||27.2 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.2 gal.|
|CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT||540 lb.|
EXTRA: 2013 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Sportster
The 2014 Bolt R-Spec is priced within a few hundred bucks of Harley-Davidson’s current “Iron” 883 Sporty. Coincidence? Not a chance. Both urban-friendly old-schoolers come with premium paint, blacked-out mechanicals, solo seats, five gears, cast aluminum wheels, single-disc front brake setups and belt drive. Big differences are the Harley’s café-style handlebars and two-into-two exhaust, as well as the Star’s fresh model year and extra displacement. Oh, and only one is a legend.