2014 Star Bolt R-Spec Test | In Praise of Simplicity

2014 Star Bolt Spec-R

2014 Star Bolt R-Spec Review

Minimalist and elemental, the appeal of the bobber is timeless. Strip down your motorcycle to the bare necessities, and take on the town.  If someone wants to show you the way in the hills above town, you are ready for that possibility with your lightweight, low-slung no-frills mount. The bike has a solo seat — it’s just you against the world.

Star has established itself as a player in the cruiser world with its family of 103 cubic-inch brutes — the Roadliner, Stratoliner, and Raider— and the irrepressible VMax tire-smoker. There’s a range of modern 1300 and 950 V Stars, plus the older Road Star and Royal Star models that haven’t outlived their appeal.

Without any question, the engineers at Star burned plenty of midnight oil putting the 2014 Bolt onto the tarmac. At first glance, its size isn’t obvious. However, with the Raider and Stryker handling in-town showmanship in the larger displacement classes, it becomes obvious that the new urban-focus Bolt would use Star’s existing, fairly underutilized, air-cooled 942cc powerplant.

For cutting and thrusting on pot-holed downtown streets with seams, cracks, and lips running every which way, a heavier, more-powerful motorcycle is a liability rather than an asset. Sure, your ego is fed by the rumble and muscle of a big-inch cruiser, but when that rider on a small bike squirts away from you, all you can do is lean back and try to look like you don’t care.

Ergonomically, the Bolt manages to give you a good profile in-town, while keeping you comfortable. My 5′ 10″ frame felt only the slightest bit cozy. I was fine riding all day, though it always increases owner satisfaction to customize any bike’s riding position to taste. Star Custom Accessories offers taller bars, more forward mounted pegs, and different seats to give you additional room or move you closer to the ground.

We tested the up-rated Bolt R-Spec and, even with its upgraded piggy-back reservoir KYB twin shocks, we would go for Star’s Springer Bobber Solo Seat before we rolled it off the showroom floor. Not only does it look perfect for the Bolt R-Spec, but the sprung seat picks up where the meager 2.8 inches of rear wheel travel leave off. The KYB forks are nonadjustable, though with nearly five inches of properly sprung and damped travel, they are up to any task.

You will be hitting road hazards with some velocity, as the SOHC 4-vpc motor has relatively serious pull down low. While plenty of bikes put out more than 58 ft/lbs of torque at 3500 rpm, few of them weigh only a claimed 540 pounds wet.

Any sort of heavy hand around town will require a keen eye for the police, as you will exceed urban speed limits immediately. The blacked out LCD speedo unit displays your speed digitally, along with the time (or odometer), and is augmented by warning lights that are invisible unless lit—very nice. Also getting the dark treatment on the R-Spec are the mirrors, which neatly straddle the line between useful and stylish.

Agility is what the Bolt R-Spec is all about between the skyscrapers. The 150mm 16-inch rear and 100mm 19-inch front tires (both Bridgestone Exedras), make direction changes effortless. If you can find a spot to slip your way between cars, the Bolt will confidently take you there with both power and handling. This machine is truly intuitive to ride—it’s fun, rather than work to battle traffic.

At rest, you will have the aura of coolness surrounding you; the Bolt R-Spec gets thumbs up and admiring glances with regularity rarely attained by metric cruisers. With a 27-inch seat height — and the front of the seat is narrow — most anyone can sit flat- footed, which always looks good.

The scale of parts on the bike is flawless, and nothing suggests a cheap or small motorcycle — details like the gold piggyback shock reservoirs and a gap between the solo seat and peanutty 3.2-gallon tank make all the difference.

Even for the rider, the bike is cool to look at, as the valve covers are in full view from the saddle (one side has a black guard bar to keep you from burning your riding jeans). The oddly shaped airbox is distinctive, if not exactly appealing.

Steel fenders make it easy for you to bob the bobber, if you feel the urge. The round LCD taillight looks great, and the rest of the lighting does not have that uncomfortable “replace me immediately” vibe. You may be disappointed by the muted exhaust, though it looks good and won’t get you noticed by people with the ability to write you a ticket. Certainly, the Bolt’s charisma is in its appearance rather than the sound from the 60-degree V-twin.

As suited as the R-Spec is for urban riding, you might not ever be tempted to take it for a run in the less populated areas; don’t make that mistake. The unexpected pleasure of the Star is how much fun it is to fly through canyons.

If the road is in good condition, you’re golden. The firm suspension is perfect for sporty riding, though the cornering clearance with the mid- mount footpegs is a limiting factor. Still, the pegs do not start grinding away quit easely as you would expect. So, if you are up for a little body English to reduce lean angle, then the Bolt can get a bit more aggressive in the corners. The Bridgestones will take you over as far as the R-Spec’s chassis allows, and the turn-in is predictable and decently aggressive.

The chassis numbers speak to good handling — a conservative 29 degrees of rake and a wheelbase under 62 inches — and don’t forget the light weight of the bike. That torquey 58 cubic inch motor that helps you get around town means good acceleration out of corners, and the slightly oversquare powerplant revs out decently (there is a buttery rev limiter and no tach).

Shifting the five-speed transmission is effortless and consistent, and the rubber-damped clutch reduces hand fatigue. We have complained about the fuel delivery by the EFI on some Stars, though the Bolt is not one of them; the Mikuni system is smooth, so it is an easy bike to ride without getting tired.

The brakes are nothing to get excited about, though they get the job done. Just a single stylish wave 298mm disc on each wheel slows down the Bolt—a four-piston caliper in the front, of course. When riding with a sense of urgency, using both is a good strategy. In town, being a metric bike, the Bolt seems to prefer the front brake over the rear.

Top speed on the Bolt R-Spec is well over the speed limit, and if you have to drone on the freeway for a while before getting truly out of town, the motor doesn’t feel over-matched. Star Custom Accessories offers a windshield and leather bags; we didn’t try them, though we have no reason to believe the Bolt won’t make an agreeable local weekend solo touring mount. Even with the stock seat, your posterior won’t complain about lengthy excursions.

Depending on how and where you ride, the 2014 Star Bolt R-Spec might just be the bike you are looking for. It is a difficult bike to best in thick traffic, and it has that bobber styling that says you are about riding, first and foremost. We understand that sentiment!

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Bell Pit Boss Pin Stripe
  • Eyewear: Liberty Sport Trailblazer
  • Jacket & Gloves: Speed and Strength Rage With the Machine
  • Jeans: Drayko Drift
  • Boots: River Road Guardian Tall

Photography by Riles & Nelson

This story is featured in the July/August 2013 issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine — available on newsstands and good bookstores everywhere. The issue is also available free to readers on Apple Newsstand (for iOS devices) and Google Play (Android). To subscribe to the print edition, please visit our Subscriber Services page.