There’s no shortage of small cruisers on the moto-market these days, and one of the names you hear kicked around pretty often is the Yahama Bolt Series. It reminds you of an Iron 883 from Harley’s classic Sportster line, but how does it hold up? Is the Yamaha Bolt a solid choice for a starter bike?
The Yamaha Bolt is a great starter bike; it’s 942cc air-cooled, fuel-injected, v-twin motor, comfortable stance, high-grade road habits, and fresh bobber style make the Yamaha Bolt a good, solid choice for beginners to grow into and progress on.
That said, like any well-crafted instrument, every bike is a unique, personal experience for its rider. I’ll outline the attributes I consider when making that decision, and you can decide for yourself if you think the Yamaha Bolt is the starter bike you’re looking for.
1. Motor Magic
Is 942cc a big motor for a starter bike? It’s pretty mid-range, but I always tell people to start with a little more than they think they want.
You’ll get used to it faster than you think. Everyone I know who starts on a 300cc motor outgrows it in a month.
Just because you have the power doesn’t obligate you to use it right away.
There’s a reason why they call this bike the Bolt. It boasts a 942cc air-cooled V-Twin with 4-valves/cylinder. What’s this mean? Power.
The Yamaha Bolt throws down with 58 ft.-lbs. of torque, giving you accessible speed-force right from the starting line.
As far as horsepower goes, the midsize cruiser comes out ahead of the bikes it’s designed to rival. No surprise considering its motor is bigger.
It’s got five gears in the gearbox, the 5th gear acting as overdrive to keep your RPMs stable during highway rips. Its final drive is a belt, paying homage to the old-school bobber it takes its style from, but more on that later.
Industry-leading acceleration, reserved power, and fuel injection make the Bolt’s motor a reliable choice for a first bike experience.
You may also be interested in our article: how long do Yamaha Bolt’s last?
2. Hardcore Handling
Handling is crucial on a first bike. You’re already adjusting to balancing at high speeds for the first time. You need a bike that will go where you want it to, lean when you want it to, and stand back up as soon as you need it to, and the Bolt checks all these boxes.
The Yamaha Bolt has wider bars than its competitors. Wide bars make steering response more gradual/less shocking, and they make counter-steering in the middle of a curve effortless and natural.
But don’t get it wrong, regardless of the bars, the bike’s narrow frame will have you splitting lanes with the best of them when it’s legal. This bike’s got the best of both worlds in that regard.
Now, it’s true, the low clearance might leave you dragging a peg if you’re sweeping through a corner too close to the ground, but this isn’t a sports bike.
In the early stages of riding, handling matters more than the ability to rip a corner at 75 mph leaning two inches off the ground.
The upside is that you have all the power you need for aggressive riding on the Bolt, so when the time comes, you can always lift the body, shorten the rake, move the pegs, put your heart in your throat, and rip those side-winders. But for now, walk before you run.
It’s got the power to go. What about the power to stop?
Not only does the Bolt has front and rear disk brakes, but its disks are also larger than most bikes in its class.
More surface area means a more even heat distribution, making it a safer stop that’ll put less wear on your disk brakes over time.
Handling is important on a new bike, and with wider bars and mid-controls, you can be sure that the Yamaha Bolt moves where you want it to without a struggle.
Please also check out our article: why the Yamaha R1 is not a good starter bike
3. Clean Customization
Another way that the Yamaha Bolt entices newcomers is via its rich parts catalog. Whether you’re looking for factory Yamaha parts or aftermarket performance upgrades, this bike is easy to modify.
Custom upgrades for the Yamaha Bolt include radiator fairings, air intake systems, seats, fork tubes, covers, rear fenders, forward controls, lowered suspension, exhausts, and LEDs, and so much more.
The bike comes bold and bare-boned, and for a first bike, this is a good thing. Get used to your first bike in its simplest form, decide what direction you want to take it, and then have fun combing all the top aftermarket part manufacturers for what you need to take it there.
You can decide you want to take some longer hauls and then throw a couple of bags on her and add some parts to make it more comfortable.
Or you might decide you want a more immediate throttle response and upgrade the air intake, and then it’ll be a matter of time before you’re looking for some mean new pipes to match to boost its horsepower and make the Bolt bolt even harder.
Personalizing the Yamaha Bolt is easy with such a deep catalog of parts available. And the parts are somewhat inexpensive, compared to upgrades for similar bikes.
4. Cruise Comfortably
This is a big one. Every time a rider jumps on a new bike, there’s a learning curve, but it’s never more apparent than on your first bike.
Being uncomfortable can distract you from learning your friction zone’s rhythm and training your eye-hand-foot coordination and muscle memory.
With the Yamaha Bolt, that’s not an issue. The placement of the mid-controls is perfect for an upright, ergonomically sound ride.
It’s also low to the ground, making it easy to waddle around on when you’re getting used to backing it up and power-walking it while adapting yourself to its clutch action.
Another impressive quality the Bolt showcases in the category of comfort is its rear suspension. Yamaha’s equipped their cruiser with preload-adjustable shock absorbers, a rare feature for a bike at this price point.
A comfortable first bike means more riding and more attention to learning, and the Yamaha Bolt has you covered.
Please also read our article: Yamaha R1: 12 most common questions (answered)
5. Significant Style
Is style important on a first bike? Absolutely. Your first bike should make you excited to ride, and when you walk past the garage and catch a glimpse of a bike you like the look of, you can’t help but jump on and let it rip.
The style of the Yamaha Bolt pays homage to the city bobber vibe.
A low and narrow frame, a high-mounted tank, and it’s quickness and reliability (yes, performance is a part of style for me and for anyone else who’s been stuck on the side of the road on a good -looking piece of junk).
Owning a Stylish bike gets you excited about riding, and the bobber aesthetic of the Yamaha Bolt makes it a good-looking, reliable cruiser.
There you have it. The Yamaha Bolt packs as much punch, handling, and style as you’re going to get for less than $8,000. Factoring in the deep catalog of parts and upgrades makes the Yamaha Bolt a great starter bike.
You may also be interested in our article: how long do Honda Grom last?