2017 Yamaha SCR950 Scrambler First Ride Motorcycle Review | Cycle World

2017 Yamaha SCR950 - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

An all-'rounder that is as diverse as it is fun

We can’t emphasize enough how impressed we’ve been with Yamaha’s product planning over the past four to five years. The tuning-fork company has done a great job creating new platforms, and then building variations of them that appeal to a wide variety of buyers. And has hauled away quite a few Ten Best awards in the process. Take the brand-new SCR950 for instance, this Bolt-based scrambler takes on an entirely new personality despite sharing much of that cruiser’s core components.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 off-road action

Yamaha's SCR950 definitely likes to scramble.

Brian J. Nelson

So, what exactly is a scrambler designed for anyway? Looking back to a foregone era when there wasn’t today’s niche specialization, if you wanted to ride the dirt you took your plain-ol’ motorcycle pryed on some chunky tires, put on long-travel suspension and launched off into the desert. Riders of that age didn’t know that they needed a 150-mph ADV bike with 10 inches of travel and cruise control, because that didn’t exist yet. Things were simple, and people had fun on what they had.

But Yamaha has been making a habit lately of building incredibly fun, amazingly affordable machines that make you just want to get out and ride. After spending a solid day in the saddle of the SCR950 riding around the mountains near San Diego, I can report that Yamaha has once again nailed the less-is-more formula.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 static side view

The SCR950 in Rapid Red.

Courtesy of Yamaha

This is one of those bikes that you simply have to look past the spec sheet and ride, as on paper there isn’t a lot to tip you off to the fact that the bike is as fun as it is. Let's start with the engine: The Bolt-based 942cc air-cooled twin has solutions borrowed from other models in Yamaha’s stable, like ceramic-composite plated cylinders, roller rockers actuating four valves per cylinder, and twin-bore fuel injection. And although the mill isn’t exactly going to rip your arms out of their sockets blasting away from the line, it is very satisfying just the same, especially on dirt roads. It was here that the broad spread of power, clean fueling, and connected throttle response made sliding the bike through corners intuitive and entertaining. On road, it’s enjoyable to just thrum along without rowing through the gears too much. But if you really need to leap past another vehicle in the passing lane, a quick downshift will make it a bit happen without much fanfare.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 on-road action

On road or off, the SCR provides an enjoyable ride.

Brian J. Nelson

The chassis is designed to offer light handling and competent around-town performance, but actually did much better off highway than I expected it would. If you are looking for sporting prowess to rival the Ducati Scrambler, or Triumph Thruxton, this isn’t that bike. At $8,699 it simply doesn’t have the high-end suspension and brakes to compete, but it wasn’t meant to. The intention wasn’t knock-out performance but all-around fun at an affordable price. On road, I was able to ride at a really enjoyable clip, with the real limiting factors being the dual-purpose tires, and very basic suspension. The 41mm fork isn’t adjustable and offers 4.7 inches of travel, while the preload adjustable shocks offer just 2.8 in. of motion. On the asphalt, the ride was good, but the combination of the limited rear travel and a really firm saddle meant the ride quality could be harsh when cruising on less-than-billiard smooth roads. Off road, line choice was important to keep the suspension from bottoming out too nastily. But at a modest pace, it was very enjoyable on gravel, aided quite a bit by very predictable and stable handling manners.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 off-road stand up action

The upright steel handlebar provides a good off-road riding position.

Brian J. Nelson

Like the suspension, the twin-piston pin-slide front brake caliper and 298mm wave rotor does the job, but is a bit short on feel and power. But the positive spin on that is, that on the dirt, the brake isn’t grabby and allows you to manage front-wheel traction.

One thing that I clicked with on the SCR right away was the riding position. The mid-mount foot controls, and tall steel off-road style handlebar put the rider in a very comfortable and neutral riding position. My only complaints are the aforementioned seat, sometimes difficult to read instrument cluster, and the right-side air-filter housing that was in almost constant contact with the inside of my knee and managed to bruise it by the end of the day. A pleasant surprise, however, was the excellent height of the handlebar, which made standing off road easy and comfortable.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 exhaust details

Steel number plates are a authentic touch.

Courtesy of Yamaha

There is no question that Yamaha nailed the classic scrambler styling, but has gone a step further by fitting the SCR with steel fenders, number plates, and tank, all of which makes it feel authentic and yet totally customizable. Of course Yamaha has a ton of accessories for the SCR, but we’ll be curious to see what other mods customizers of the both the garage and professional variety come up with.

So, are we impressed with the SCR950? Does it live up to recent Yamaha hits like the FZ-09, FZ-07, and XSR900? For its intended mission of delivering good all-around fun, it’s one heck of cool bike and the price makes it accessible to more riders. And we can’t argue against that.

Engine Type 58-cubic-inch (942cc) air-cooled SOHC 4-stroke V-twin; 4 valves
Bore x Stroke 85.0 x 83.0mm
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Fuel Delivery Fuel injection
Ignition TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive Belt
Suspension / Front Telescopic fork, 4.7-in. travel
Suspension / Rear Dual piggyback shocks, 2.8-in. travel
Brakes / Front Wave-type disc, 298mm
Brakes / Rear Wave-type disc, 298mm
Tires / Front 100/90-19
Tires / Rear 140/80R17
L x W x H 88.6 in. x 35.2 in. x 45.9 in.
Seat Height 32.7 in.
Wheelbase 62.0 in.
Rake (Caster Angle) 28.4°
Trail 5.1 in.
Ground Clearance 5.5 in.
Fuel Capacity 3.2 gal.
Fuel Economy** 51 mpg
Wet Weight 547 lb.
Warranty 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Color Charcoal Silver; Rapid Red
2017 Yamaha SCR950 front brakes details

A single 298mm wave disk and two-pot caliper are used up front.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 front suspension details

The 41mm fork doesn't have provisions for adjustment.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 instrument details

Like the Bolt, the SCR gets a digital dash housed in a retro shell.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 engine details

The 942cc, four-valve V-twin provides fun, and non-intimidating power.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 rear wheel details

Belt drive is shared with the Bolt.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 studio side view

The SCR950 in Charcoal Silver.

Courtesy of Yamaha

2017 Yamaha SCR950 on-road cornering action

Yamaha SCR950

Brian J. Nelson