2014 Star Bolt First Ride

Star Motorcycle’s decision to unleash a randy band of motojournalists on the unsuspecting streets of San Diego was a deliberate decision. Its new 942cc-powered ripper, the 2014 Star Bolt, is primed for urban assault. With a lithe chassis, slim frame, potent powerplant and modern design, its ideal for making mad dashes around densely populated hubs of Southern California. We familiarized ourselves with Star’s latest bob-job with jaunts between Balboa Park and the USS Midway, rolling through Presidio Park and blasting out to Point Loma before heading back to the Gaslamp Quarter just before sunset.

It’s encouraging to see that Star has been paying attention to current movements within the motorcycling scene. Styling on the Bolt draws upon bobber heritage, bikes with high tanks and short wheelbases, and its XS650 has been a popular platform for customization lately. We’ve encountered several stellar examples recently, from Sgt. Tom Green’s 1981 Yamaha XS650 chopper at The ONE Motorcycle Show to Mike McFadden’s 1980 SX650 Special Star displayed at the 2012 Long Beach IMS. With its fenders cropped short, slotted heat shields and belt guard, small tank, solo seat and uncluttered bars, the no-frills appeal of the 2014 Bolt fits the current less-is-more aesthetic.

The Bolt also draws upon on of Star’s key assets, the performance-based motorcycles built by its parent company Yamaha, evident in the bike’s wave rotors, carbon fiber belt drive, and signature ceramic composite cylinder sleeves. Maybe even more important is the fact that Star has kept the price point at a very attractive $7990 for the base model while the Bolt R-Spec costs only $300 more, making it affordable for the masses.

With a light pull on the feathery clutch and a crack of the throttle, we were off and running around the land of the Padres. The 942cc, air-cooled V-Twin features an even powerband that allows riders to wind out gears nicely between shifts. The engine comes from the V Star 950 and is good for a claimed 58.2 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm, but the powerband has been dialed in to provide more low- and mid-range torque. This was accomplished via changes to the airbox, exhaust, and fuel-injection with ignition timing maps set to deliver the low- and mid-range punch Star was aiming for.

A short wheelbase and a front end set at a 29-degree rake angle team with a light handling chassis and makes the Bolt a bike that transitions well and leans into turns willingly.

We got a history lesson on our ride around San Diego on the 2014 Star Bolt as we visited sites like the USS Midway and the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue.

First gear doesn’t red line until around 43mph with consistent power delivered top to bottom. The 60-degree V-Twin, with its single-pin crankshaft and forged connecting rods, has plenty of character but operates with nominal vibes, even at idle. The fact that the powerplant is rigid mounted to the frame and serves as a stressed member makes this feat even more impressive. Despite being air-cooled, the engine never ran hot enough to draw attention, albeit it was a cool, windy day in San Diego. But its tried-and-true ceramic composite cylinder liners are made to dissipate heat so the forged aluminum pistons can drum along unhindered within the confines of the 85mm bore and shelter riders from thigh-blistering temperatures.

The Bolt lives up to its name as a quick bike with spot-on fuel-injection. Its Mikuni closed-loop electronic fuel-injection with throttle position sensors delivers immediate throttle repsonse. The system operates with four valves, two 31.5mm intake and two 28mm exhaust, in a pent roof combustion chamber, combined with 35mm side draft dual bore throttle bodies. The result is an instantaneous twist-and-go relationship between a rider’s right wrist and the motorcycle. The output benefits from a carbon-fiber belt that doesn’t lash and, at 21mm-wide, is the narrowest belt on any Star.

When it comes time to shift up, the five-speed transmission does so smoothly, the straight-cut gear dogs easing into place. It does this with quiet efficiency. Combine the smooth shifting transmission with the light action required at the clutch lever and you’ve got a rider-friendly motorcycle that’s easy to modulate and doesn’t miss shifts.

The Bolt’s light handling chassis is point-and-shoot. With a compact 61.8-inch wheelbase and a claimed curb weight of 540-pounds, the Bolt feels nimble for a cruiser and riders are the beneficiary. The steel double-cradle frame sports a new design and most of the weight is carried low in the chassis. The motorcycle transitions quickly and dives into turns with little effort at the bars with the dirt track-style bend. The bike would almost carve if the pegs allowed just a bit more lean angle, but its handling is definitely one of its strong points. The rear Bridgestone bias-type 150/80-16 rear wheel provides solid traction for the most part but did slip around at times under heavy throttle.

A KYB 41mm fork and twin KYB shocks handle suspension duties adequately, but with a 220-pound rider on board, the twin rear shocks did hit the end of their 2.8-inches of travel abruptly on some of the larger potholes around San Diego. The standard units are designed to be soft in the initial compression stroke which translates to a slight floating sensation under normal road conditions, though we’ll admit that they are preload adjustable and we didn’t attempt to dial in the settings. We didn’t recall blowing through the stroke aboard the up-spec R-version of the Bolt, which delivers a more plush ride with its piggyback reservoir units. Considering the R-Spec only costs $300 more than the standard Bolt, we’d recommend going with the R-Spec solely for the performance upgrade provided by the anodized remote reservoir shocks.

The wave rotors on the 2014 Star Bolt not only look cool, they scrub off speed well. It’s equipped with 298mm discs front and back, the front unit floating-mounted. A twin-pot system handles the braking workload up front while a single-piston caliper does duties out back. Power on the front unit is progressive and even while the rear is more grabby and will lock up with a hard stab. Used in tandem, the pair has no problems hauling the Bolt down from speed.

(L) The 2014 Star Bolt comes in a black version sans graphics for $7990 and a version with different color options and up-spec suspension called the 2014 Bolt R-Spec for $8290. (M) A small, round LED taillight and bullet-shaped turn signals keep the back of the Star Bolt tidy. (R) We were honored to visit the aircraft carrier USS Midway during our first ride on the 2014 Star Bolt. The motorcycle was pretty impressive, too.

The narrow frame allows riders to easily snug up to the bike. The bars are at a natural reach while mid-controls tuck a rider’s feet back, knees high. The saddle, set at 27.2 inches, is narrow and low so sure-footing at a standstill is a cinch. Best of all, the seat remained comfortable after a day’s worth of blasting around San Diego. The 2-into-1 pipe is routed forward which allowed Star to get the length it wanted and the performance it was seeking without the pipe extending past the rear of the bike. The compact muffler has a closed loop O2 sensor and a single element 3-way catalyst but still delivers a pleasing rumble and a strong note that adds to the bike’s character.

In the keeping-it-simple theme, the Star Bolt sports a single digital gauge that serves as a speedometer/odometer with dual trip meters. It is well-placed and the digital numbers are large enough to read at speed. The uncluttered look between the bars extends to the rear as well with small bullet-shaped turn signals paired to a compact, round LED taillight. Black 12-spoke cast wheels match the bike’s rowdy disposition well. The only grievance we had with the Bolt’s aesthetics is the unsightly gap between the seat and tank.

Flying high on the 2014 Star Bolt! Though it doesn’t quite match up to the mach speeds of the SR-71 Blackbird, it is a quick motorcycle nonetheless.

One thing we do see for this bike is a ton of potential for customization. MotoUSA videographer, Joey Agustin, mentioned he’d like to see it with clip-ons, and the café treatment could easily be achieved with the Bolt. Star also recognizes this potential as it already has 50 all-new Bolt accessories lined up, from high-rise bars to a sporty bullet cowl fairing to a sissy bar and 40-spoke wheels. A lowering kit drops ride height approximately one-inch, while a reduced-reach solo seat will position smaller-statured riders one-inch forward. Long rides on the Bolt are enhanced with the addition of leather saddlebags, quick-release windshield, and passenger seat/backrest combo. We saw one Bolt decked out with mesh air cleaner covers, brass accents like a gauge shroud and headlight trim and fork gaiters which looked exceptionally sharp. Or you can opt for the R-Spec that is stripped of just about all chrome, comes with the remote reservoir shocks we really like, a suede-style seat vinyl with colored stitching, black mirrors, and different paint options (either camo green or matte grey with a racing stripe and Bolt graphic on the tank). Not bad for only $300 more.

The base Bolt is a lot of bike for $7990. Even at that price, Star didn’t skimp on fit and finish, from its dirt track-style bars, digital gauge to the steel fenders. We rode it hard around the city and beyond because that’s what it’s made for, to blast around urban environments with power and authority. After our day aboard the 2014 Star Bolt, we’re sold on its snappy power delivery, silky transmission, slick handling and ultra-light clutch action. It ain’t too bad on the eyes, either, and delivers a lot of fun per-dollar spent.