Yamaha Bolt C-Spec
Any discussion of the Yamaha Bolt C-Spec quickly turns into a definition debate. The regular Bolt is easy to understand – no one disputes it’s a direct competitor for Harley’s Iron 883, aping the American’s style and specs, while beating it up on price, power, weight and handling.
However, the ‘C’ in C-Spec stands for ‘café’ and this is where everyone gets their silk scarves in a knot. To turn its best-selling bobber into a café racer, Yamaha has done what Thousands of backyard spanner jockeys have done to countless bikes: fit clip-ons and rearsets, transforming the riding position from relaxed to attack. The C-Spec also scores a removable seat cowl, sportier rubber, piggyback shocks, trad-style fork boots, instruments relocated to the top of the triple clamp and ‘factory custom’ paint.
The concept isn’t a million miles away from Harley’s celebrated Sportster-based XLCR 1000 café racer of the ’70s, yet the very existence of the C-Spec has generated countless pages of internet debate.
Some pillory Yamaha for trying to cash in on the café racer craze or see it as a sign that the movement has jumped the shark. Others think it’s simply erroneous that a bike with such a degree of rake is dubbed a café racer. More level heads acknowledge that there is a market for ready-made café-style bikes, one that the C-Spec could fit quite nicely into, positioned between the slightly more-expensive efforts by Triumph and Moto Guzzi and the much-cheaper (and slower) Royal Enfield Continental GT.
I’ve spent some time with the C-Spec and can confirm that it suits its purpose well. With a nice, low seat, relaxed riding position and a flexible, air-cooled, 942cc V-twin, the regular Bolt is great for commuting, without being, well, a boring commuter bike. The Bolt is light, the engine is torquey and it stops and handles like a champ.
The footpegs will grind without too much effort but then, the Bolt isn’t aimed at would-be Cam Donalds.
Now, I must confess to an affection for metric cruisers and Yamaha’s early-’80s, shaft-drive, monoshock XV750 is my particular guilty pleasure.
As a kid, I liked them precisely because they weren’t cool. I couldn’t relate to the people I saw riding Harley-Davidsons, but enjoyed the thought of riding a bike everyone else hated.
So it’s with some satisfaction that I’ve watched some really nice XV750-based customs being built in the last few years, such as the one Greg Hageman built for Discovery Channel’s Café Racer TV show.
I don’t have the time or talent to build one of my own, so could the Bolt C-Spec satisfy my long-repressed desire for a Yamaha V-twin?
ON THE ROAD
Jumping on the C-Spec, the riding position is instantly more aggressive than a standard Bolt, though the reach forward to the clip-ons isn’t extreme. The seat is about three inches taller than the standard model, but still low overall. This runs us straight into my first and most-serious reservation with the C-Spec.
The clip-ons are fine – though tiring in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but the ’pegs, which are not only further back and higher up the frame but also wider, seem to be located exactly where I don’t want them to be.
They still scrape in corners with an aggressive rider on board, but they just don’t suit my frame. The standard Bolt is perfect for frigging around in traffic and completely at ease in low-speed parking situations, but the C-Spec left me feeling gumby-footed.
Out on a twisty road, it’s another story, although my right knee makes contact with the plastic air filter cover, rather than gripping the tank. Air pressure at speed reduces the weight on the wrists and the C-Spec comes into its own as a narrow, agile bike, with enough grunt to pull away from the lights and to overtake without effort at highway speeds. It’s no rocketship, but the clutch is light, the gearbox is precise and the whole package is basically vice-free.
The elephant in the room is the Euro-only XV950 Racer variant. The XV950 is similar in concept to the C-Spec, but has a higher seat, revised hand controls and a few cool styling additions, including an XLCR 1000-style headlight eyebrow. Inspired by German custom bike builder Marcus Walz’s ‘El Raton Asesino’ XV950, created for Yamaha’s Yard Built program, the Racer is a good-looking thing and probably closer than the C-Spec to the money style-wise.
Which brings us back to that ‘definition’ debate. Hard-core café builders with grease in their Cornflakes and such will argue that a café racer is by its very nature something that is built by a person, not a corporation, taking the raw material the factory bequeathed them, stripping off the fat and creating something fast and fun that suits the individual.
I’ve got some sympathy for that point of view, though by no means do I think that manufacturers should stop building café-style bikes. It’s just that none of the ones currently on offer suit me just so, though the Guzzi V7 is probably closest. Instead, my preference would be to eschew the likes of the C-Spec in favour of its base-model brethren and put the ’pegs, ’bars, mirrors and pipes exactly where I want them.
And if it takes models like the C-Spec and the XV950 Racer to get me thinking about that seriously, then Yamaha has more than done its job. And truth be told, I’d rather build a scrambler out of my Bolt than a café racer, using Hageman Cycles bits to fit a bench-style seat to the thing and go from there.
Of course, that would take me straight into Ducati Scrambler territory, with more muscle for less money than it would take me to build my Bolt. In truth, the Bolt would look better and I’d be the only one on my block to have one. Which is, pretty much the point of having a custom motorcycle, yeah?
– Torque delivery
– Everyday usability
– Blank-canvas potential
– Footpeg position
– Not quite as cool as the XV950 Racer
Yamaha Bolt C-Spec
Type: Air-cooled, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, V-twin
Bore X Stroke: 85 x 83mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Type: Five-speed constant-mesh
Final drive: Belt
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Double-cradle with engine as stressed member
Front suspension: 41mm telescopic fork, 119mm travel
Rear suspension: Twin spring/damper units, 71mm travel
Front brake: 298mm disc with single-piston caliper
Rear brake: 298mm disc with single-piston caliper
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: 2.5 x 19-inch (f), 3.5 x 16-inch (r), multi-spoke alloy
Tyres: 100/90 B19 (f), 150/80 B16 (r), Michelin Commander II
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES
Weight: 251kg (wet)
Seat height: 765mm
Fuel capacity: 12L
Power: 38kW (53hp) at 5500rpm
Torque: 79.5Nm at 3000rpm
Price: From $12,499 (plus on-road costs)
Warranty: Five years, unlimited km
Bike supplied by: Yamaha