2017 Yamaha SCR950 Test
There has always been something charming about the scrambler platform. In many ways it represented a pivotal shift in the market—riders began demanding more utility from their machines. Those demands grew, and so too did the level of sophistication of the machines we ride around on today.
Where the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 fits in is at the tipping point. We’ve come so far in the world of motorcycles that manufacturers and riders alike now look to the past for inspiration. Retro bikes—often stripped down, deceptively simple motorcycles—are becoming a force to be reckoned with in terms of sales.
It seems fitting that Yamaha would return to its roots, so to speak, using the established Sport Heritage line, nodding towards bikes like the 1965 Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler. Yamaha helped pioneer the distinctive 1960s scrambler style that is being emulated by more than one brand today.
Yamaha champions a classic, genuine feel in the SCR950, making use of time-period-correct components such as metal fenders, inspired colorways, and wire-spoke wheels. The 2017 Yamaha SCR950 manages to remain current while paying homage to what built Yamaha’s hearty foundation.
Developed at Yamaha USA’s R&D facility, according to Yamaha representatives, the SCR950 was a concept that had always been on the table. With the release of three flavors of the popular Yamaha Star Bolt, a slew of custom builds began showing themselves, giving even more encouragement to Yamaha staff, and allowing them to bring the SCR950 to life.
The Yamaha SCR950 is directly based on the Bolt C-Spec cruiser, sharing a large quantity of critical components. From chassis, suspension, and engine, the differences between the two bikes are largely aesthetic, save for some critical alternations that we’ll investigate later.
The cynic in me wants to protest. But, having ridden the SCR950 in all settings, I can see why this platform works—and it does admirably, indeed. Cast your preconceived notions aside, and let’s talk about the ride.
I want to start with something philosophical, or rather how this bike made me feel at home from minute one. Motorcycles have their own personalities, so when jumping on a machine foreign to you, there typically is a learning curve. With the SCR950, that period seemed to be non-existent.
Yamaha did remarkable job in creating a platform that is relatively unimposing. It has all been designed for simplicity and user-friendliness, and that ethos can be seen throughout the bike. A light clutch-pull, upright riding position, and almost no learning curve means that the SCR950 isn’t built for one kind of rider—it’s meant for everyone. That is a hell of an achievement, especially when we consider that the SCR950 is an evolutionary step in terms of design.
From an ergonomic perspective, the SCR950 and Bolt C-Spec, despite sharing a frame, do have differences. First, the SCR950’s sub-frame has been constructed to allow the traditional long-flat seats that scramblers have been known to have. The seat is incredibly firm, something that I enjoyed initially, but it does take its toll.
Movement is uninhibited and riders will be able to distribute their weight through their legs, so that long-established cruiser complaint of being in a clamshell riding position isn’t an issue. The SCR950 is spacious, and the comfortable crossbar-type handlebar allows you to input instructions to the jubilant scrambler pleasantly.
Amicability is the key, and I don’t mean that in the mundane sense. The 942cc air-cooled SOHC V-twin is special, but not because of a raucous nature that experienced riders foam at the mouth for. Quite the opposite, it stands out because of how tractable it is.
For those who have ridden the Bolt C-Spec, this won’t come as a shock. At the wrist, all throttle input is met with smooth, predictable, power delivery, and a complete lack of throttle snatch. Without electronic aids, all decisions are up to the rider.
If one decides to wring the engine out, you will be met with buzziness. Although short-shifting isn’t entirely necessary, this bike isn’t meant to live at the redline. We should reiterate that it doesn’t detract from the ride. Instead, the Yamaha SCR950 makes use of a nearly flat torque curve. An experienced rider might want more top-end, mainly for the excess of it all, but the SCR950 is still fully capable of cruising along at freeway speeds. Above that, you’ll be asking a bit much.
That desire for power only exists in an on-road setting. Off-road, the engine is more than enough to induce a fun, yet completely manageable, amount of wheelspin. The SCR950’s powerplant is one of the greatest success stories out of this foray into the scrambler market, and it did it the old-fashioned way—appropriating the motor from a pure street bike.
The much-lauded knife-like handling characteristics that journalists far and wide hunt after aren’t present here. While I happen to enjoy that sort of thing, the SCR950 must wear many hats and accommodate many riders.
The non-adjustable 41mm forks and spring-preload adjustable piggyback shocks can be described as being a bit firm of the center mark. It makes perfect sense, as the SCR950 has to handle light off-road work and the shocks have less than three inches of travel. On-road, the Yamaha SCR950 can survive some seriously abused paved surfaces, and dealt with all that was put in front of it.
The key difference in suspension between the C-Spec and the SCR950 is the damping. With slower rebound on the SCR950, bounciness is eliminated from the ride. With 4.7 inches of travel in the front, I didn’t find the front suspension to have any issues. Most notably, the front end didn’t dive uncomfortably, even under hard braking.
However, the 2.8 inches of travel in the rear solidifies what kind of riding the SCR950 was meant to do while off-road—fire roads, and very easy trails. It can do light off-road, all of which will be wildly entertaining.
If you thought this bike was meant to fly about the desert and skip off jumps, you’re sorely mistaken. A solid, fast hit will bottom out the rear suspension quickly. This is one area of the SCR950 where the evolutionary step from the C-Spec has a bit of a downside.
The ground clearance, sits at just 5.5 inches, so select your off-road excursions carefully. Had Yamaha provided alternative suspension, it would have alleviated some of these problems, and allowed a bit more rigorous off-road work.
The belt-drive system, directly lifted from the C-Spec, presents another problem. In off-road conditions, belts take a beating. Though they require far less maintenance than a chain, and typically outlast the life of your average chain, belts deteriorate quickly when exposed to contaminants such as dirt and mud. In short, all of that dirt turns into a fine grinding paste for the belt, so you’ll be wearing it out quickly if you happen to be engaging in scrambling frequently.
Those dedicated to scrambling will want to know that the SCR950’s standing position is more than comfortable. Controls are still functional and it allows for a great sporting position while out and about in the dirt. This reminds me of one of the high-marks of the SCR950—the mirrors. Simple in design, they actually prove to be functional.
Now that we’ve established what this bike is actually for, I want you to consider what all of this equates to for a rider, especially on-road which is probably where many SCR950s will lead happy, long, fulfilling lives.
The Yamaha SCR950 is a machine that turns in predictably, without any hesitation, and does all of those things in such an incredibly controlled yet nimble manner. The SCR950 can be ridden in a subdued state, or aggressively, thanks to these characteristics, while also managing to happily do everything in-between. With a 62-inch wheelbase, the SCR950 fits into the scrambler category quite well, remaining nimble. Thanks to its low-center of gravity, it is great through corners.
For the more spirited riders, they might find that their boots and footpegs meet the asphalt a bit sooner than they’d like. With some body-positioning work, that problem can be alleviated, but this is a symptom of its ride height.
If Yamaha went for a full redesign, utilizing suspension components, as well as chassis components developed specifically for the SCR950, we’d be telling a different story. Given Yamaha’s intentions for the SCR950, it performs admirably, despite these hiccups.
If we are to judge the SCR950 on its spec sheet, one might incorrectly assume that it doesn’t have the stopping power to bring its claimed 547-pound self to a halt. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the 298mm wave rotors—one on each wheel—are able-bodied, ready and willing. There is a decent amount of tactile feedback in the front brake, allowing a progressive feel to come across quite well.
The SCR950 lacks ABS and traction control, which is a function of its $8699 price, and is certainly something to consider for the novice rider. However, this case, I don’t feel too concerned about advocating the SCR950 to riders with less time in the saddle. It takes considerable effort to lock the front end up and, even then, it’s forgiving. The casual power delivery substitutes for traction control on all but the slipperiest road conditions.
If I have any criticism of the braking, it is in the rear. On-road, it lacks a bit of feel, but that could be due to the position of the brake peal. The pedal sits a little higher than I’d like, making it difficult to actuate properly.
In contrast, when off-road, standing or otherwise, the rear brake is a godsend. Sliding the rear end of the SCR950, with a touch of the rear brake, takes the entertainment level to a next step that many modern bikes simply can’t match. It took me back when I first started riding, ripping around Cal City on a two-stroke dirt bike, and steering with the rear—something that after this experience, I think I need to pick up again.
Meeting the road is a set of Bridgestone Trail Wing tires—100/90-19 up front and 140/80-17 in the back—and they provide a remarkable amount of grip on the tarmac, in spite of their off-road leanings. When you’ve chosen to have an adventure in the brush, you will get a decent amount of grip out of Bridgestone Trail Wings as well, unless you spin the throttle.
One aspect of bikes of this ilk is customization, and Yamaha certainly hasn’t forgotten that fact. Between skid plates, bags, windscreens, and serrated off-road footpegs, the Genuine Yamaha Parts & Accessories catalog will help you make it yours. I would have appreciated the skidplate coming as part of the stock package, given that it is supposed to be a scrambler, as well as higher pegs.
The joys of the SCR950 are in how simple it is. In a modern world, we often fixate on what technological advances have been made. Aside from electronic fuel injection, the Yamaha SCR950 is a proud Luddite, working wonderfully without the addition of aspects that much of the consumer market has been fixated on.
It the face of all of those issues, the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 has it all for someone who is into the scrambler aesthetics – looks, character, great handling, and able to handle some light duty off-road use.
The level of enjoyment bestowed upon a rider is, of course, subjective. I enjoyed my time in the canyons, but absolutely loved our time together in the dirt, and that more than enough for me to encourage, in the least, a test ride. There are plenty of options out there, but the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 will satiate any vintage desires and more.
Photography by Brian J. Nelson
- Helmet: Nexx X.G100 Bolt
- Jacket: RSD Zuma
- Gloves:IXS Talura II
- Pants: Saint Unbreakable
- Boots: Motobailey LaRyder
2017 Yamaha SCR950 Specs:
- Motor: SOHC 4 vpc V-twin
- Bore x stroke: 85 x 83mm
- Displacement: 942cc (58 ci)
- Compression ratio: 9.0:1
- Cooling: Air
- Fuel delivery: Fuel injection
- Ignition: Transistor Controlled Ignition
- Transmission: 5-speed, multiplate wet clutch
- Final drive: Belt
- Front suspension: Telescopic forks; 4.7 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Dual piggyback shocks; 2.8 inches of travel
- Front and rear brakes: 298mm wave-type disc
- Front tire: 100/90-19
- Rear tire: 150/80-16
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- L x W x H: 88.6 x 35.2 x 45.9 inches
- Seat height: 32.7 inches
- Rake: 28.4 degrees
- Wheelbase: 62.0 inches
- Ground clearance: 5.1 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.2 gallons
- EPA estimated fuel consumption: 51 mpg
- Wet weight: 547 pounds
- Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
2017 Yamaha SCR950 Colors:
- Charcoal Silver
- Rapid Red
2017 Yamaha SCR950 Price:
- $8690 MSRP