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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Fuel Delivery||Fuel injection|
|Ignition||TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Transmission||5-speed; multiplate wet clutch|
|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.|
|Rake (Caster Angle)||28.4°|
|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|