First Ride: Yamaha SCR950

The Bolt’s Dusty Brother

Yamaha SCR950
Yamaha's SCR950 sprinkles some scrambler bits on its Bolt C-Spec.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Yamaha Says: "Modern engineering meets timeless scrambler style." Motorcyclist Says: "Heavy on the style, light on the scrambling."

Since 2014, Yamaha has been making the Bolt , a Sportster-esque spinoff of the already popular V-Star 950 that we happen to like quite a lot. Yamaha built two cruiser versions (base and R-Spec) as well as a cafe-styled version in the C-Spec . Now, in response to what can only be called Scramblermania, Yamaha's taken its version of the angle grinder to the Bolt and pushed out the SCR950, a bike described as having "scrambler styling" without using the word capitalized. Because, these days, who doesn't want a scrambler ?

Yamaha SCR950 cornering action
The wide handlebars make turn in easy, and the SCR950 stays planted in smooth-surface corners.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

In the transformation from cruiser/cafe model to scrambler, the SCR gets a new subframe that helps raise the seat height to 32.7 inches (that’s 2.6 inches higher than the C-Spec, and a whopping 5.5 inches above the base Bolt). Add to that a taller, wider, rearward-reaching handlebar, and what does this translate to? Far more comfortable ergos than the SCR’s Bolt-based machines. It’s easy to get on board with retro style when it also equals increased comfort, don’t you think?

Yamaha SCR950 on dirt
Dirt handling is fair, but with only 5.5" ground clearance, you'll want to stick to fire roads. If you plan to ride a lot of dirt, get the Skid Plate and the Adventure Foot Pegs for sure.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

The dual piggyback shocks are the same as on the C-spec, with the same spring rates; however, damping has been increased both front and rear on the SCR, to help keep the bike from bottoming out during mild off-roading. Because, you know, all scramblers need to go off road at least a little bit. Mild off-roading is about all you’ll be able to do, since the ground clearance is only 0.2 inches greater than the Bolt C-Spec. Yes, you read that right. The only reason that ground clearance even went up is because Yamaha slapped on some spoked wheels, with a 17-inch rear (an inch larger than the base and C-Spec Bolts). So… scrambler in style more than in substance.

Yamaha SCR950 with accessories
Plenty of accessories are available for the SCR950, including a Micro Cowl, Aluminum Skid Plate, Adventure Foot Pegs, and more.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

To give us a taste of the SCR950’s capabilities, Yamaha lead us on a leisurely ride through the twisty roads around Julian, California. The SCR, like its Bolt predecessor, offers a riding experience full of vibration. The hard-mounted engine transfers the V-twin’s shaking to all points of contact: grips, foot pegs, and seat. On pavement, this meant I found myself short shifting often to minimize vibration, otherwise, my hands and feet became fatigued. Aside from that, the engine has the Bolt’s familiar torque: just enough to keep me alert. Also familiar is the SCR’s exhaust, same as the Bolt C-Spec, just upswept by a few degrees. I was so hoping for high pipes.

Yamaha SCR950 rear three quarter
Don't let that piece of bark fool you: the SCR950 leans over on its kickstand just the same is the Bolt C-Spec. With a wide stance necessary to clear the footpegs, footing can be awkward to upright the bike.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Initially, my pace was slow through the hills, building up impatience for a more thrilling speed. Turn in was easy with the wider more upright handlebars, and the bike stayed put in corners so long as the pavement was smooth. But the first sharp turn onto the sleepy two lane country road revealed the SCR950’s lean angle is just as conservative as the Bolt C-Spec, scraping pegs at an otherwise mellow speed and angle. Leisurely ride. I said leisurely! Any attempts to take the twisty roads at a speed resembling an exciting pace ground foot peg feelers all too quickly. But what’s a cruiser-turned-scrambler bike good for, if not to throw down some sparks?

When pavement got rough, or even bumpy, the SCR proved less than comfortable. To accommodate bumps and ruts off-road, Yamaha increased compression damping, which transfers more road surface imperfections to the seat than I would want to endure for more than half a day. Rebound felt under-damped, giving the feel of a firm ride, where every bump has an encore. Paired with the firm, flat, dirtbike-inspired seat, the SCR left me feeling saddlesore after only 45 minutes. Touring bike, this is not.

Yamaha SCR950 in town
Ergonomics are much more comfortable on the SCR950 than its Bolt C-Spec predecessor, thanks to a higher seat, and taller rearward-angled handlebars.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

The plus side to the SCR950’s two-by-four-like seat, is it accommodates any riding position— you can spoon yourself right up to the tank for a thoroughly “sit-up-bike” position or scoot yourself way back to stretch out. The texture of the seat material gripped well enough to keep me in place wherever I decided to sit, so there was no sliding around, thankfully. Overall the ergonomic setup of the SCR is far more comfortable than the Bolt C-Spec, the taller seat giving more legroom, and the taller handlebars allowing a more upright riding posture. The higher seat and handlebars made ergos more comfortable during the ride, but those “rear sets” are still the same calf-stabbing foot pegs placed in the same inconvenient spot as the C-Spec. Just like the C-Spec, this made coming to a stop a slightly stressful scenario, as I had to make a quick decision about whether my feet would touch ground in front of or behind the pegs.

Yamaha SCR950 front wheel
The SCR950 uses the same brakes as the Bolt C-Spec, but with wire spoke wheels, and a 17" rear. Bridgestone Trail Wing tires give a little more confidence in dirt.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

After a morning of slowly scraping pegs carving the corners of Palomar Mountain (oh, Yamaha, you tease), we rolled through the gates of a private ranch and soon found ourselves riding a rutted dirt road. Time to see how much scrambler is in this SCR! While the 4.7 inches of travel up front and 2.8 inches in back are unchanged from the base Bolt and C-Spec, that increased damping allowed the SCR950 enough support to encourage riding through potholes and ruts instead of around them. The quasi-knobby Bridgestone Trail Wing tires helped a bit, too, especially through some of the powdery silt corners, though admittedly I was more cautious than my fellow journos. But don't be fooled: this is no dirt bike, and definitely not a GS.

Yamaha SCR950 gauge
The SCR950's simple gauge gives all the same basic information as the Bolt.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

So what is the SCR950? It’s a factory built option for the cafe-racer-turned-scrambler rider who wants style as much as (if not more than) actual off road capability. This bike is the equivalent of a CUV in the car world: a crossover utility vehicle that’s stylish enough for the street, with the appearance of off-roadiness (or soft-roading). You can take any bike off road if you’re careful enough, right? That being said, if you expect to take your SCR950 to the dirt more than pavement, I would opt for an accessory skid plate, and stick to the fire roads.

Yamaha SCR950 exhaust
Exhaust looks and sounds the same (because it is) as the Bolt C-Spec, except for the mild upswept angle on the SCR950.Photo by Brian J. Nelson


Evolution: Based on the Bolt C-Spec, the SCR950 uses the Bolt’s chassis and engine, with a new subframe, higher seat and handlebars, and upswept pipe.
BMW RnineT Scrambler, Ducati Scrambler, Triumph Scrambler
PRICE $8699
ENGINE 942cc air-cooled V-twin
FRAME Tubular-steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB fork; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shocks adjustable for spring preload; 2.8-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Akebono two-piston caliper, 298mm disc
REAR BRAKE Akebono one-piston caliper, 298mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 28.4°/5.1 in.
WHEELBASE 62.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.7 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 547 lb. wet
Yamaha goes all lower-case scrambler on the Bolt without drifting too far from its cruiser roots.