Yamaha Bolt: The long-term downturn

It's labeled as an "urban performance bobber," but when pushed on Atlantic Canada's roads, the suspension suffered.
All in all, I only really had the Bolt for the month of July, although I rode the wheels off it when I had it. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
All in all, I only really had the Bolt for the month of July, although I put a lot of miles on it when I had it. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

So as you might remember from months ago, I had a Yamaha Bolt R-Spec as a long-termer for this summer. Or at least, that was the plan.


Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, says Robert Burns, or something like that. We’re not really sure what that means, but it’s something about plans not working out … and that’s what happened with the Bolt. Almost immediately after the last update, I ended up blowing a rear shock while riding to the CSBK race in Shubenacadie.

Not a big deal, right? Surely, replacing a rear shock would be a breeze. But, when I took the bike to my local dealership, it turned out otherwise. First of all, I was told the part wasn’t available. Then, when it was available, other ordering problems seemed to drag out the process. I dropped off the bike at the start of August, and before I knew it, it was the end of September, and the bike hadn’t moved. So much for the planned Fall Tour …

That was when we called it. With little time left in the riding season, we told Yamaha we wouldn’t be able to put any more seat time in with the Bolt.

Frankly, it was a bit disappointing. Despite the bike’s lack of suspension travel, I enjoyed my time aboard the machine, and had a big smile every time I rode it. I wanted to put in a full season, including some touring. That was not to be.

However, my short stint aboard the bike did remind me of something – motorcycles are fun. Too often, riders get caught in a pro-Harley, anti-Harley, pro-sportbike, anti-dirtbike, anti-whatever feud. It’s stupid. No matter how ungainly a cruiser is in the corners when compared to a sportbike, you’re still on two wheels, with a motor between your legs. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, maybe it’s time to take up knitting instead.

Note: According to Yamaha, “The R-Spec’s didn’t arrive until August … The shock was ordered before production models arrived. That’s why the shock was on back order and not immediately available.”

The shock did not arrive before the end of the season, Yamaha says, because it was shipped by sea, not air, since it wasn’t a standard warranty claim.


  1. Something doesn’t add up here.. I purchased a new ATV this summer and there was a R spec on the dealer floor then. I am in NS. Sounds like there was a lot of pre production units out there.

    Pre production or not manufacturers of motorcycles don’t take break downs seriously. It seems your expensive motorcycle purchase is treated like an unnecessary toy that can have long wait times for repair parts.

  2. Zac, great article as always! Here’s what’s bugging me though…
    Pre-production model aka prototype as a long-term tester??? Is it even legal on Canadian roads?

  3. Well done to the writer of the story (Thanks Zac!) for exposing his experience with Yamaha. He made it abundantly clear while I was reading between his lines that a Yamaha bolt is no longer a bike to consider due to the problems and inability to repair such issues. I was ready to make a deposit but this story helped me do a 180 right out the door. They called but I said CMG did a test with poor results. All I need is to buy a bike to watch it sit as the Summer goes by.

    • Chimes,
      While it may sound like I didn’t enjoy the Bolt, I did. In fact, I had a lot of fun on it … the rear shock shouldn’t have blown that soon, but since it was a pre-pro, I don’t know if I would hold that against it too hard. It’s the same with the wait time on the shock – it wasn’t handled as a regular warranty claim, as the R-Specs were not in-country when the shock blew. They came in later in August, according to Yamaha, which is why they couldn’t get the shock at first, and when they could get it, the ordering system meant the shock arrived on a boat, not on a plane, and therefore too late.

      • I think chimes is full of baloney. Probably a paid blogger getting minimum wage, probably does not even ride bikes.
        My issue is that the salesmen do not seem to listen to what the customer has to say. I live in a small town, which means lot of highway travel. I was looking for a bike with windshield and bags, which are accessory on the bolt of course. However, the 950 tour has factory luggage. Why are they trying to sell me a bolt?

        • There are two typical scenarios here. I leave it to the gentle reader to make the assumptions that fit their agenda:

          1. A bad dealer will push potential buyers towards bikes for which the dealer has committed a lot of purchases. If the shop has committed to purchase a lot of a particular bike, the sales people will be compelled to sell as many of that model as they can; otherwise, the shop will be caught at the end of the year with a lot of bikes that will cost a lot of money. It’s possible the dealer committed to a lot of Bolts and the sales person was trying to blow the stock out the door.

          2. A good salesman will always endeavour to sell a person what they need over what they think they want. This is especially true for new riders, who often think they want/need bling feature X when, in fact, some other bike would actually be far more practical/safe/comfortable and (insert other important adjectives here). It’s possible the sales person considered the Bolt to be a better fit for you despite the obviously larger margins to be made on more expensive models.

  4. Still, even (or particularly?) with Japanese bikes, delivery times for parts not already in this country can be unacceptably long. I forget how long I waited for Kawasaki to deliver a small, but necessary part (valve spring retainer) for my ZX6 in ’98, but I do recall that I was without my new bike for a good bit of the summer after taking it in to have its first valve clearance check done.

  5. Nobody’s mentioned the core problem in the first place – a MY2013 bike that wasn’t available until mid August of that year? I know a few who got sick of waiting and bought a Monster 696 instead.

    • This bike was actually announced well ahead of schedule. The original plan was to take the wraps off much later in the season, when they had a few more to ship over, but management moved that schedule up, so we knew about it long before they were ready to ship ’em. The standard Bolts came in first, and by our information, sold quite well. It could be much worse – there are European machines that can take even longer to get in-country, from when they’re announced in the EU. For instance, the KTM 1190R Adventure was available in Europe many months before it came over here. Same with the Vespa 946 scooter. The new Harley-Davidson Street models aren’t supposed to show up until 2015, and they were unveiled at EICMA this year, and will be manufactured right next door, in the USA .

      In today’s information-driven world, this will likely be the norm, more and more, from every manufacturer.

  6. What a bunch of whining pussies. What has gone wrong with us?? Go down to the local fab shop and have them make up a set of struts. Oh that wouldn’t be stock…w t f Yamaha is selling this thing as a neo-bobber. Why not walk the walk and not talk the walk without walking the talk…aahh.

  7. I work for Yamaha and helped arrange the test for CMGonline. To be clear, the bike that was lent was a pre-production model. Meaning the bike is released months before production models for testing purposes. The reason the shock was not readily available is because production models had not yet arrived. Parts are not available for a model prior to production. What went awry with the ordered shock was that it was not initially available. When it arrived into stock, because it was an employee order (I ordered it) and not warranty as Zac mentioned, it was sent by sea. Thus the delay.

    • Larry, I searched extensively for an aftermarket replacement. Progressive said they didn’t have anything, then they said they’d have something, but not in time for this season. The only other company that really expressed interest was Hagon, who would have attempted to put something together for me. But, by the time this all played out, as I said, the season was over.

  8. 2 months and no part ?
    That is a huge concern on a new and under warranty bike.
    Ebay stuff from Japan arrives in a week / 2 weeks max.
    Where was the problem here ?
    Yamaha Corp. or the local dealer ?
    If it was my bike sitting, I’d be majorly pi$$ed off.
    I would expect a responsible dealer would haul a shock off of an unsold bike to keep their customer happy.
    Come on CMG ..Give us the real dope !

    • “Yamaha Corp. or the local dealer ?”

      One can only order warranty parts via Yamaha Canada. Backorder issues can be a real pain because lead time for delivery from Japan to other countries is generally on the order of months, not days. New models that don’t share parts with older, existing models are vulnerable to parts availability difficulties for the first season. The problem isn’t limited to Yamaha, either; it’s pretty much the nature of the game.

      • I say Bull Shite.
        I feel so sorry for Yamaha. Product development and Dealer / Customer support just not up to the job. That’s a load of rubbish.
        Forget about the poor guy who made the mistake of laying down his hard earned cash on a bike that can’t be driven because it is faulty.

        • I wasn’t defending the position, just explaining it. 🙂 I concur with your assessment that it’s unwise to sell a bike that cannot be fixed in a timely manner. Who I feel sorry for (besides the customer) is the dealer who ultimately takes the blame and loses the business. A dealer in a backorder situation loses no matter how you slice it.

          As for Yamaha, this article itself is a red flag for buying Team Tuning Fork.

        • From what we’ve heard, Yamaha has sold a lot of these bikes in 2013, and we haven’t heard of any customers having the problems we did.

    • Hey Mr. X,
      First, we were told the shock was unavailable at the moment. Then, we were told a Yamaha employee had sourced one for us, but when it arrived at the local dealer, it was for the wrong side. Then finally, we were told an order had been placed for the correct shock, but because it was an inter-company transaction on a test bike (instead of warranty work), that something had gone awry. By the time all this was straightened out, the season was over.

      I will note the local dealer had mentioned he might pull a shock off his showroom bike, but #1, that would have meant we’d have tested the R-Spec version with standard version’s shocks (the showroom bike was a standard, not an R-Spec), and #2, as it played out, he would possibly have had a non-seller on his floor all summer if the replacement shock had never come in for his machine.

    • Something doesn’t add up here.. I purchased a new ATV this summer and there was a R spec on the dealer floor then. I am in NS. Sounds like there was a lot of pre production units out there.

      Pre production or not manufacturers of motorcycles don’t take break downs seriously. It seems your expensive motorcycle purchase is treated like an unnecessary toy that can have long wait times for repair parts.

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