What do you do when you have a two-year-old cruiser platform that has not only sold well since its inception, but also has risen to the top of your brand’s sales? If you’re Star Motorcycles , you look at how this successful platform can be tweaked to be sold alongside the existing models, hopefully securing an even larger slice of the pie. This is exactly what Star has done with the 2015 Bolt C-Spec. With the Bolt, there was really only one direction to go with this new model. Neither a Bolt Tourer nor a Bolt Classic (complete with deeply valence fenders and chrome baubles) fit the Bolt’s stripped-down aesthetic. Instead, Star decided to inject a little more caffeine into its self-described performance bobber. The result is the C-Spec.
A quick glance at the Bolt C-Spec sitting next to a Bolt or its identical sibling (save for the piggyback shock), the R-Spec, should give the viewer a pretty good idea that the C is for Café – as in café racer. Gone is the slightly pulled back handlebar, and in its place are clip-ons mounted below the triple clamp. No, you didn’t read that wrong. This cruiser has clip-ons, and they look pretty bitchin.
If you follow the café racer tradition, you can pretty much guess what else Star’s engineers decided to alter on the C-Spec. While they didn’t fit it with rearsets, the pegs were moved 6 in. rearward, 1.25 in. higher, and 0.5 in. wider. The first two will clearly benefit the C-Spec in the ground clearance department, but the half inch wider takes back a little of that gain. When looking at where the pegs are now located on the right side of the engine, the reason for the increase in width becomes apparent: the exhaust headers and the clutch cover are already there.
To assist in the desired extra lean angle, the ground clearance was upped by making the fork stanchion 9mm longer and the shock shaft 6mm longer. Although the valving and travel of the suspension remains the same as with the R-Spec, the combined changes net a claimed 37° bank angle for the C-Spec compared to the Bolt’s 33°.
The result is a saddle that is 30.1 in. off the pavement (versus 27.9 in. on the Bolt). Star says the suspension changes garnered a 1.6 in. increase in ride height, so the shape of the saddle must contribute to the 2.2 in. of height gain. Although the seat’s higher altitude may concern shorter riders, the seat is shaped with a narrow front to ease the reach to the pavement. However, the new peg location complicates matters for shorter folks because they are located directly below the seat, forcing the rider to get his/her boots on the ground in front of the pegs. This requirement appears to negate much of the advantage of the narrow seat. Even with my 32-inch inseam, I initially found foot placement awkward but was able to adapt. When talking to a shorter rider about this issue, she also said that the pegs interfered with her ability to easily move the bike around. Fortunately, the pegs fold rearward, keeping them from whacking the back of the calf during a sloppy launch.
The peg placement issues fade as soon as you get underway. Yes, the leg position is sportier, but it isn’t uncomfortable over the course of a day’s ride. Also, the rider’s feet are now rearward enough to allow the use of legs alone – without an assist from pulling on the grips – to absorb bumps by lifting yer butt out of the saddle. The reach to the clip ons is a fairly long one that angles the rider’s upper body aggressively forward in a way that one would expect from a café racer. Taller riders, particularly those long in the torso, will prefer this reach.
Shorter riders revealed a different perspective than mine. Where I found the position to be ideal for leaning in to the highway speed wind blast, one tester said that she didn’t like the upper body position on the freeway, feeling overextended against the wind. All sized riders, however, noted that the position was good for taking control of the bike and muscling it through turns in performance riding situations. The stoplight grand prix of running through the first three gears benefitted from the aggressive lean forward, but I found the constant lean to be a bit of a nuisance in slow, stop-and-go traffic. (This could be a factor of my horrendously advanced age which places me well outside of the hipster market the C-Spec is directed towards. Hey, you kids…)
The long and short of this is that the C-Spec is a niche bike, geared towards a certain personality and body type. (Read young, assertive, and largely male – you know, people who will sacrifice some level of comfort in favor of performance and attitude.) This is what the bike was designed to be: a means of capturing a section of the market not directly served by the standard Bolt.
Other than the idiosyncrasies related to the riding position, the C-Spec behaves like the previous Bolts. It carries its 542 lb. (ready to roll) weight low, making it highly maneuverable at low speeds. The steering is responsive, turning in quickly for a bike with a 29° rake. Star changed the tires to Michelin Commander IIs from the previous Bridgestones for a better “sport feel,” but this would be impossible to prove without a head-to-head comparison.
The ground clearance is noticeably better than the original Bolt. The C-Spec can be ridden much more aggressively before dragging. Lest you think it could be mistaken for a sportbike, it won’t. Ride it like a sporty cruiser, and you’ll have a blast with the pegs dragging cleanly. Ground clearance, while improved, is still not that of even most standards.
Braking is supplied by the same 298mm wave discs (front and rear) as on the standard Bolt, with a two-piston caliper in the front and a single-piston unit out back. Not surprisingly, the braking quality is the same as the Bolt – being more than adequate but falling short of the binders on sportier bikes. An ABS option is still sorely missed. (Someday, all Bolts will have ABS standard like those in the Euro-zone.)
Like the original Bolt and R-Spec, the C-Spec uses the same proven 942cc, 60-degree V-Twin engine that power the V-Star 950 and the 950 Tourer well. As is becoming commonplace on Star engines, the pistons are forged aluminum pieces while the cylinder liners are a ceramic composite material for better cooling and durability. Star also works to reduce frictional losses by including roller rocker arms to open the valves. A 2.3 liter airbox hangs off the right side of the engine and feeds the cylinders via a pair of 35mm side-draft Mikuni throttle bodies and two 31.5mm intake valves per cylinder. Each throttle body gets its own butterfly valve and injector to help the engine character fit its job description. Similarly, the ECU and EFI both help massage the low- and mid-range power delivery that is so important when doing the stoplight shuffle.
The EFI is a closed-loop system which is constantly adjusting fuel mixture based on analysis of the exhaust content to give the best performance in all riding conditions. After the fireworks in the 85mm x 83mm pent-roofed combustion chamber, the spent gasses travel out via a pair of 28mm exhaust valves. Compression ratio is 9.1:1. The rear exhaust header is routed towards the front of the engine to increase the system’s volume and help move the muffler forward on the bike.
Since the Bolt was designed for newer and/or urban riders, ease of operation is an important part of the the package. The clutch effort is low and easy to modulate. The straight-cut transmission’s gear dogs provide silky shifting up and down through the gears with only the occasional cruiser transmission clunk. The carbon fiber belt drive is narrow (21mm) to allow for lighter pulleys and decreasing the rotational mass (better performance) and unsprung weight (better handling) of the rear wheel. Star also stresses that this choice also allows owners to fit larger than stock rear tires without clearance issues.
While a single day in the saddle is hardly enough to fully evaluate the Bolt C-Spec, it clearly falls into the same user-friendly category that has made the original Bolt and the R-Spec so popular. The careful changes to the platform should broaden the appeal to riders who are looking to café their sport bobber.
In terms of factory-built cafe racers, it’s the Triumph Thruxton that leads the way. Going by the numbers, the Bolt C-Spec retails for $8,690; the Thruxton checks in at $9,499. The C-Spec is heavier at 542 lb. versus 507 lb. for the Trumpet, and the Thruxton’s wheelbase is 58.6 in. to the C-Spec’s 61.8 in. Engine-wise, the 865cc Thruxton peaked with 61.7 hp last time we tested it, while the Bolt yielded 48.5 hp. The Star’s extra displacement gives it a torque advantage, twisting out 54.1 lb.-ft. to the Thruxton’s 44.0 lb.-ft. Sounds like the head-to-head will be fun.
If you can’t wait for us to tell you how these two bikes shake up, Star says its Bolt C-Specs are already on their way to dealers. Select yours in either Envy Green or Liquid silver.
|2015 Star Bolt C-Spec Specs|
|Engine Type||60° air-cooled V-Twin|
|Bore x Stroke||85.0 x 83.0mm|
|Fuel System||Dual Mikuni EFI with 35mm throttle bodies|
|Frame||Steel double cradle frame|
|Front Suspension||41mm fork, 4.7 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Dual piggyback shocks, preload adjustable, 2.8 inches travel|
|Front Brakes||Two-piston caliper, 298mm disc|
|Rear Brakes||Single-piston caliper, 298mm disc|
|Front Tire||100/90-19M/C 57H|
|Rear Tire||150/80-16M/C 71H|
|Seat Height||30.1 inches|
|Wet Weight||542 lbs|
|Fuel Capacity||3.2 gal|