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Author Topic: Bolt Review From Experienced Rider and Product Review/Recommendation Inquiry  (Read 575 times)

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Offline AZ Desert Wolf

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Hello all. Ive been looking over this forum for about 6 months and have found some helpful information, so I wanted to contribute to it myself by giving a little background and an unbiased review of my 2018 Bolt R-Spec by an average guy, who has been riding motorcycles for about 43 years. To give some perspective, Ill describe myself - Im 58 and about 155 lbs, so Im not built like a linebacker, but my wife likes me this way and being on two wheels has been a part of my life since Ive been licensed to drive. I earned my initial wings as a 19-year-old pup in December of 1981, when a daydreaming dipstick in a Mercedes sedan crossed over the center line and hit me head on, coming close to completely severing my left leg below the knee (compound fracture to both tibia and fibula). During the 6 months I spent in a full leg cast healing from that nightmare, I rebuilt the bike I had been riding (an old 70s era Honda Hawk CB400) and as soon as my physical therapist gave the go ahead, I was back in the saddle again. My theory was simple dont let a horse throw you and not get back on it.

Ive lost count, but I would estimate I have owned approximately 20 bikes over my years of riding, if you include a moped (which was stolen), a few dirt bikes and several project bikes that I purchased just to make a few bucks. My last bike before the Bolt was entirely different a gloss black Suzuki DR650SE dual sport, which was slightly modified with a lowering kit and gel seat, to make the riding height appropriate for me. I loved that bike, as it was simple to work on, oil cooled and had great torque, but it was punishing on the highway, which is where I ride 98% of the time. Riding off road in AZ with the prospect of crashing down into a cluster of cholla cacti was not my idea of fun, so I stay mostly on the pavement. Although the DR was likely capable of triple digits (I managed 95mph, but came to my exit) and easily hit legal speeds on the highway, it would vibrate like hell and never quite felt stable over 65mph, even with the nice Pirelli street oriented tires I had put on it.

I knew it was time for a change, so I started exploring options, primarily for local riding. Im an old school mechanic, so I like simplicity air cooled and minimal bodywork. Belt or shaft drive is preferred so I dont have to constantly deal with messy chain maintenance. I have always had a love for cruiser style bikes, as I prefer the relaxed seating position and low seat height. I had an old (and rare) Honda Rebel 450, which fit me well, but just needed more displacement. I loved the old Viragos that Yamaha used to make, but Yamaha apparently did not think they sold well enough, so they were all discontinued (unless you go with a 250, which is strictly a beginner bike). Then Yamaha came out with the bloated V- Star 650 and 1100, which always felt too heavy and underpowered. All the other Japanese makes were going the way of water cooling, so my options were limited if I wanted a newer air cooled bike.

I tried several Harleys and even went to a test ride event at a local Harley dealer. I was close to getting a new Sportster 1200, as I loved the available features it had, the overall balance and feel of the bike, the endless supply of accessories you can get and even the stock mini ape handlebars that came with it. But the price tag with assembly, options, dealer add-ons, a few needed accessories, etc., etc. and Uncle Sam brought the base $10k price up to about $15k, which was more than I could stomach. I had seen several online video reviews of the Bolt, touting it as a reliable replacement for a Harley or as one reviewer put it, a better Harley than the Harley. I think I was sold on the fact that Yamahas are rated as one of the most reliable brands and people I spoke to (including friends who owned Harleys) all admitted that HD bikes do require a certain amount of work to keep them going. While I dont mind working on vehicles (have done so for as long as Ive been riding), I prefer to spend most of my time riding versus working on the bike.

I had priced out several new Bolts, but in AZ, dealers are permitted to tack on all kinds of unheard of fees, making an $8300 bike end up costing well over $10k (NOT including accessories). Then I found a lucky strike in Craigslist an elderly man who bought a new Bolt R-Spec to ride in his sunset years, only to start having seizures and have his motorcycle license revoked. While I felt sorry for the guy, I assured him I would take good care of the bike (which had less than 400 miles on the clock) and after some haggling, paid him $7k for it OTD (no sales tax in AZ for private purchases).

Then came the time to accessorize: The bike already had the Yamaha crash bars, which were a welcome addition. It also had a tinted windshield and a rear fender luggage rack when I got it, both of which were removed and sold. I wanted to be able to carry minimal cargo as well as take my better half for an occasional ride, so for lack of finding too many aftermarket options, I purchased and installed the Yamaha passenger seat, passenger pegs, tall sissybar with backrest and luggage rack. I looked at numerous types of bags and although I like the look of saddlebags, the space in my garage would not accommodate the bike with the additional width, so I decided a sissybar mount bag was the easiest option. I ended up finding an established company called Viking, which makes a durable and reasonably priced line of such bags (called Dagr), which come in small, medium and large sizes. I bought the medium to use in front of the backrest when riding solo and the small to rest on the luggage rack when riding two up.

For those of you who have not fallen asleep or hung yourselves after reading my boring background, now comes the brief review. I have put about 2600 local miles (mixed highway/surface streets) on the bike so far and I have to say, it is the nicest riding machine for local commuting I have ever owned. Its not blisteringly fast, but has enough power for zipping in and out of traffic, corners relatively well (sans the occasional scraped peg) and has the look I was going for. Styling aside, the substance of what makes it a good bike or not depends on your physical stature and your individual needs. Since I can only speak from the perspective of someone my size, using the bike for alternate transportation to my SUV, many reading this may not agree with my opinions. But for those who may be curious and just want to see how others view the Bolt, here ya go.

Since I already specified what I like about the Bolt (almost everything) as well as what I have already added, I feel compelled to be honest in my review and specify things that I do not consider ideal about the bike, which I will try to resolve in coming months (and paychecks). Hopefully what follows will benefit others who are dealing with the same frustrations. Also, in case anyone has any constructive comments to respond with, they are welcome.

I will start with something I have already resolved, for the most part. I could not stand the look and [lack of] sound from the stock muffler (loud pipes save lives), so after significant research, I decided on the Cobra slip on. I preferred the look of the V&H twin staggered pipes and a more streamlined air intake, but did not want to shell out that much cash, and it would likely require even more greenbacks for a fuel management system to support that much airflow. Granted, I am not crazy with the stock airbox either, but for the $ame reason$, I can live with it as-is...at least for the moment. The installation on the Cobra was a piece of cake and the sound is rich. Yes, I have the popping, which seems pretty common, mostly on deceleration, but Ive learned to modulate the throttle to minimize that somewhat. If anyone knows a way to stop the popping, without a fuel management system addition, Id welcome the info. Before anyone says it, I know theres no air leaks, as I double checked and even replaced the muffler gasket with a new one after initially mounting it with the original one, but it made no difference at all.

Of the items I have not yet addressed, my first issue is both cosmetic and structural the driver seat. Mind you, I have the deluxe version of the Bolt (R-Spec), so it comes with a special faux suede material, which is in my opinion, cheap crap. It retains any scratches or scuffs forever and never looks clean. I actually like the look of the mostly gloss vinyl seat on the standard Bolt better, although I would imagine a person could easily slide around on that one under hard throttle or cornering. I researched multiple seat options and although the Corbin seemed the nicest, the $800 price tag for a solo seat was just unreasonable. The Saddlemen brand seemed relatively well made, but that step up design on the two-up seat (IMHO) looks goofy and ruins the lines on the bike. The Z1R looked okay, but seemed to be a little lower on the quality scale.

I settled on the middle ground and went with the Mustang vintage solo seat, which was a little pricey ($291 before tax), but appeared to be well reviewed and high quality. I figured I would start with the driver seat and as long as it worked out, would shell out another $179 for the passenger seat. Amazon actually had the driver seat for slightly less than Mustang and had free returns for 30 days, which was a good thing, as I will explain. The first seat I received seemed reasonably well assembled, but they neglected to include one important part the REAR BRACKET. It was supposed to be riveted to the back of the fiberglass seat pan on the bottom, but it was conveniently left off. It was not in the box just left off altogether and the holes for it were never drilled just marked where they were supposed to be drilled. I called Mustang customer service to ask about it and they seemed surprised and said I could send it back to them for repairs. I respectfully thanked them and told them I will send it back to Amazon for an exchange and give it one more try. Mustang wrote me back stating that there may have been an entire batch of those seats that went out without the bracket, so apparently they may have had some issues with assembly staff and quality control inspectors.

Fortunately, seat #2 came promptly and this one included the rear bracket (at no additional cost). To be fair, I must say, with the exception of one not fully inserted rivet, the assembly on the 2nd seat was impeccable and I was duly impressed with the quality...until I tried installing it. I had read multiple reviews where people had difficulty lining up the front mounting bracket, leading some people (likely those using power tools when hand tools are the better option) to strip that welded nut in the frame behind the tank. I read that it helps to loosen the rear fender first to help line up the mounting hole and even with that, I still had to have my wife sit on the seat to get it to line up just right. So I was able to successfully thread the Bolt into the threaded nut in the frame and everything seemed to be okay despite the initial difficulty. The following weekend, I took it for a 75 mile test trip to see how I liked the feel. The seat did move me a little forward, which was okay, but it also raised me an inch or two, which was not ideal, but was still tolerable. Unfortunately, under hard throttle, I often felt like I was being pushed back and was riding up on the raised back portion of the seat, which was not a secure feeling and not one I experienced with the stock seat. Just riding at a steady speed, it was very comfortable.

I was considering keeping the seat since it seemed so well made (not including the poorly designed front mount) and figuring it would break in some, but when I got home after the test ride, I looked closer and noticed that the front of the seat was actually pointing slightly to the right, making it overall crooked on the bike. The seat was clearly properly installed on the bike and the front bracket on the seat appeared to be riveted in the correct spot on the seat pan. From my observation, it appears that whoever designed/engineered the front bracket for that seat, made some slight errors in measurements, resulting in the bracket being about 3/16 too short and about 3/16-1/4 too far over to the left. I could have attempted to shim the bracket over about 3/16-1/4 with washers. That would involve having to find a slightly longer mounting bolt and trying to do that in a tight area (behind the tank where the tool kit is located), when the seat bracket does not line up correctly anyway was more hassle than I was willing to go through. Considering the cost of the seat, I decided to look into other options. I did contact Mustang again and sent them detailed photos of my issues, which they said they would forward on to their design team...in other words, the shredder. So Im still on the crappy stock saddle and am open to any suggestions any fellow Bolt riders have on a viable replacement that preferably keeps me in a similar position on the bike.

This brings me to issue #2 the handlebars. Although they are tolerable for me, Id prefer they be different. Again, this will vary based upon your size and stature, but I prefer bars like the mini-apes on the Harley 1200 Sportster (the buckhorn look), as I find them to be more comfortable and stylish. Unfortunately, switching the handlebars on a Bolt generally requires changing out the clutch and throttle cables as well as the brake line. Im not sure how much play there is in the wiring, but it suffices to say that they do not make it easy to make that mod without changing a lot in the way all the front hardware is routed. I thought about changing the risers where the handlebars mount or even just using aftermarket adapters that are designed to move the bars back a short distance, but there does not seem to be enough play in the cables and lines to even do that. Rather than taking the chance and spending all the extra money, I have learned to live with the existing bars. Id welcome any feedback on other opinions/options.

Issue #3 is probably the most common on this bike, especially for the earlier model Bolts the speedometer gauge cluster. Whoever came up with that design should have their designer badge revoked and be sent back to school. While it is minimally functional, it lacks any style and given what capabilities appear to be within the wiring on this bike, it seems foolish that they used the existing unit. I looked at and admire the functionality and appearance of the Koso meter, but it seems that all the reviews paint the same picture that theyre really hard to set everything just right and even when you are successful, it does not always remain that way. Come on Yamaha, get your heads together and come out with a reliable factory alternative that shows RPMs, gear position and fuel level. You do it on other bikes and Bolt owners want it too. Even the Harley Sportsters have most of those functions cleverly hidden in the digital display.

This brings me to my final issue the lights. It seems as though the designers (probably the same ones that created the speedo) were having a debate as whether to make the bike more modern or more retro, so they decided to have an LED taillight (which I applaud), but go with standard bulbs in the rest of the lights. Clearly, this decision was made without consideration for safety or common sense. LED technology is superior to standard incandescent bulbs and has been around for years and is getting less expensive by the day. I understand the need to cut costs where possible, but I think all manufacturers need to get on board with transitioning to LEDs for all vehicle lights. Ive been reviewing lighting options for weeks and have yet to find a simple plug and play option to replace the headlight and the front turn signal/running lights with LED units. In AZ, we have a lot of wildlife that comes out at night (coyotes, javelina, bobcats, deer, etc.), which can turn a casual ride into a nightmare. The headlight is barely adequate at highway speeds and having a better option for that as well as some running lights that add some additional frontal illumination would be ideal. But Im not an electrical engineer and do not want to rewire the whole bike, adding capacitors and resistors or take chances on blowing fuses or worse, the main computer. I just want a simple mod for the lights that can easily be installed and adds the needed illumination to make the bike safe and enjoyable to ride at night. Does anyone know of any such options?

I can likely think of additional comments, but thought my initial observations and experiences may be of value to fellow Bolt owners. As previously stated, I welcome any constructive comments or advice on ways to modify my bike to improve upon the existing format. Stay safe and keep the rubber side down...



Offline Nickerri

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Good review, I have a new mustang seat to put on. You now have me worried as I thought the problem was for earlier models. Live in Australia long way to send it back as I had to wait along time to receive it because of covid.
I understand that there are several plug and play led options available here in Aus  for the front light. I am 6-2 so the first job was OEM mini apes but I also had to purchase extended cables. For me that made the bike a lot better to handle and comfortable. SS Cycles have a hidden gem  check out vstar parts and not bolt and see the replacement for the air box and filter no remapping required. That will be my next purchase. As for forward controls I find I can live with the existing speck for city riding but have a highway bar for longer rides. I am an older rider relatively fit have had a few bikes over the years and hadn't ridden for 20 years. Perfect bike  used for camping, fun fun fun if I want to go off road easy and cheap to hire vstrom or similar. I do feel better on Metzler cruisertek tyres.
I also just thinking about it relocated rear lights and eliminated the plastic fender so I could carry some decent size saddle bags.
Cheers

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Offline AZ Desert Wolf

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Hello Nickerri,
Thanks for the suggestions regarding other mods. The best advice I can give regarding the seat was covered in a prior post on this forum and Mustang even touches on it in their directions.  If the front bracket does not line up on your bike, loosen the bolts on each side of the rear fender, so it has play in it and that helps to line it up.  Use a nut driver to screw in the mounting bolt and NOT power tools, as it is easy to strip the threads if you're not careful.  Have a friend sit on the seat if needed to help line it up.  If it ends up slightly crooked like mine was when it's mounted, you can shim it over with washers, but may need a longer bolt. Maybe I'm just picky, but I wanted mine totally straight.  I attached a pic of my seat when it was mounted.  Good luck and take care.  ;)

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Offline Nickerri

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Thanks for that. I don't think the play will be there due to the racks for the bags. That was an older pic. When I relocated indicators and put racks on it was a struggle to line up the bolts as it was. Ah well I shall just suck and see
Cheers

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Offline AZ Desert Wolf

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Loosening the bolts should still allow a little play and that may be all you need.  Good luck.  Let me know how it goes.  BTW, I like the HD bumper on your Forester.  I bought my wife a Crosstrek and may get an Outback Onyx turbo in the future.  Subaru makes good vehicles.

Offline Nickerri

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Yes like my bolt , like my Subaru's. I like classic simple bikes as I'm not the most mechanically minded. The old KISS keep it simple stupid is all about me. I'll let you know about the seat. I don't know if it interests you the bolt owners of Australia TM Facebook page comes up with interesting stuff and sights
Cheers

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