Where café racer meets cruiser, the Star Bolt C-Spec is a fun new take on the wildly successful Bolt and Bolt R-Spec. I had the opportunity to get some saddle time with the C-Spec over the course of a couple weeks. This won’t be a huge tech review of the bike, there are plenty of articles on specs out there for the gear heads to nerd out over…this will be more of a common man’s perspective on the C-Spec, and what it’s like to live with it in the urban jungle.
Walking around and looking the C-Spec, I have to say I was impressed. For a stock motorcycle that you can purchase straight off the dealership floor, the bike possesses an air of custom already built in. It has an aggressive streamlined profile, single instrument cluster, swooped up café-racer seat, rear cowling, clip-on handlebars, tightly tucked in headlight, re-positioned turn signals, a funky LED rear taillight, piggyback shocks, and fork gators. The Star Bolt C-Spec oozes "coolness.”
However, as much as I love the overall styling and design of this bike, I cannot help feel a bit of vomit come up into my throat when my eyes pass over the exhaust. It really is the only feature that takes away from the bike, but on the positive side of things, the exhaust note sounds nice and it will look and sound even better with any of the countless aftermarket exhausts being developed for the Bolt lineup.
Once in the saddle, I took a moment to review the controls and view from the cockpit. I like the simplicity of the speedo with its chrome bezel and mirror black face, but excitement turned a bit to disappointment when I discovered there was no tachometer built into the display unit. Seriously, I was really bummed. I love having a tach, and if push came to shove, I would take one over a speedo. The speedo is this pretty and clear LCD readout; however, not in direct sunlight. At that point, it becomes utterly useless.
Hand controls are nicely designed—the horn button is awkwardly placed and should be relocated for future models making it easier to access; the ignition button and kill switch are integrated into a single slide mechanism (a first in my experience); the inclusion of a “pass” trigger is a nice addition; and brake and clutch levers are easy to pull and modulate, but I would have liked adjustable levers already included.
Out on the open road, I immediately realized that the ergonomics of the C-Spec are not made for a man of my stature (6’5”). This would eventually pose a problem over the course of reviewing this bike.
It took me the better half of the hour to figure out how to get comfortable on this strange café-cruiser hybrid. The air cleaner on the right side would constantly dig into my calf and was an annoyance every time I put my foot up onto the peg. To add to the café styling, the foot pegs have been moved 6 inches rearward and 1.5 inches up, placing them directly under the seat.
Though the saddle on the C-Spec is narrow, much of that is mitigated by the position of the pegs and even with long legs (I'm a 34 in. inseam), I found myself awkwardly needing to put my feet forward and down when coming to a stop or sprawl them out like I was stretching for a marathon. Shorter riders might have some issue with this starting out, but I wouldn’t know. Once you settle in, it just becomes one minor obstacle to overcome.
Over the course of my ride, I began to notice a lot of my weight was falling on my wrists and fatigue would kick in faster than almost any other motorcycle I’ve ridden to date. I thought this was a fluke, but over the next two weeks of riding the C-Spec to and from Santa Monica to Downtown LA, the same issue would arise.
Like the R-Spec and original Bolt, the engine remains unchanged. The 942cc V-Twin engine on the C-spec pulls nicely off the line producing 54.1 ft-lb of torque and you’ll be able to rocket up to 41mph before hitting the redline and needing to shift. The torque will gently slide you back into the cafe inspired seat if you mash it wide open. Shifting to second and third gear on the C-Spec is about all the fun you’ll have if you nail the transitions correctly.
The throttle response is smooth and receptive; torque is not overwhelming, yet it remains satisfying. This bike is not going to make you grin giddy like a bashful school girl or impress seasoned riders, but you’ll have a good time nonetheless. I tried a couple of times, but I never once hit triple digits on this bike. Ninety five mph was my best go, but based on specs the C-Spec will get up there, you just have to keep pushing. New riders graduating from smaller displacement bikes to the the C-Spec will certainly have lots of fun. Smashing into the rev-limiter is easy, especially in first and second gear, and what should be a warning sounds like a pitiful putter.
Shifting transitions are spot-on and smooth for the most part thank to the multi-plate wet clutch,but there were a handful of times where I missed a shift from first to second. I ran into this same issue when I first rode the Bolt two years ago.
Lane splitting was easy enough on the C-Spec but not without some focus on my part at slower speeds. With the foot controls in a more aggressive position, really needing to reach to grab the bars and coupled with my insane height, low speed maneuverability is not entirely well balanced on the C-Spec. Again, I'm sure shorter riders (anyone under 6 feet) will experience a bit more ease when traversing the urban jungle.
The combination of a single dial instrument cluster, slim fuel tank, clip-ons and mid-mount foot controls instantly transport you into the cockpit on a vintage—yet modern—cafe-racer. As a result, I found myself riding a bit more aggressively than I typically would on any kind of cruiser. This is what makes the C-Spec a bit more fun to ride.
A couple days later and after a bit more city riding, I found myself riding up PCH. I was yet again reminded that the cruiser I was piloting had all the aesthetics and characteristics of a café racer just in a bulkier, sportster-like package.
As I moved into the canyons of Malibu, I was eager to see how much café-breeding this Bolt C-Spec had in her. Starting at the top Mullholland Dr., the short wheelbase (62 inches), low seat height (30 inches) and low center of gravity lend the C-Spec to being quite agile and easy to throw around in the corners. The race-inspired clip-ons are generous in changing entry and exit lines while in a corner and aid in throwing the weight of the bike back and forth.
The Michelin Commander II tires fitted to the C-Spec gives the 542 lbs. bike some good footing. Over the course of riding it I always felt confident that the bike was planted firmly to the ground. They provide ample traction, and instill confidence in the twisties and when cruising, which is always a good thing for beginner to advanced riders.
Fitted with two piston caliper, 298mm single wave discs on both front and rear, the braking on the C-Spec proved to be quite soft on the front end. To get maximum stopping / slowing power, I found myself using all four fingers on the brake lever and really giving a good squeeze when approaching corners. The tendency to lock the back brake occurs easily on the C-spec, so finding the sweet spot in your touch is recommended.
In the front are KYB 41mm nonadjustable shocks that afford 4.7 inches of travel, and in the rear are adjustable preload KYB piggyback shocks (faux-ohlins based on the color scheme) with only 2.8 of travel.
The stock suspension on the C-Spec is firm and keeps the bike planted in the corners. The result (along with the tires) is a motorcycle that feels very planted, but not overly stiff or soft. When the roads get a little dicey (potholes, speedbumps, etc.), you will find yourself standing up on the pegs to transfer the impacts to your legs.
When pushing the bike in the canyons, front fork dive is nearly non existent as the majority of the weight is distributed toward the back of the bike. As such, the C-Spec feels well planted.
Shifting through the 5-speed transmission remained smooth and responsive as was the power delivery from the 948cc 60-degree v-twin. I found it to be adequate in the canyon and through the corners—it never felt out of control or too much to handle.
When you throttle up on the C-Spec, you don’t feel overwhelmed and it's a particularly forgiving bike for those with a heavy wrist or in the process of learning how to fine tune their power control. Halfway through my first run, I was reminded of my first disappointment with the C-Spec...I really wished I had a tachometer. I say this because I bumped into the very muted rev-limiter a couple of times and lost power when I wish I had not.
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Downshifting on the C-Spec brought along some moderate engine braking that was more friendly and easier to manipulate in and around the city. It was more of a pain in the ass when in the canyons and of course…there was the tried and true "cruiser clunk" when dropping down in gears.
I would love to chime in here about where I felt I got the the most power along the RPM range, but without a tachometer or the chance to get the bike on a Dyno, I'm sadly going to be leaving you with nothing than the stats at the bottom of the page.
Though the foot controls have been moved 6-inches to the rear and 1.5 inch higher, there was only an increase of four degrees added to the overall lean angle (37 degree lean angle as opposed to 33 degrees found on the original Bolt and R-Spec). Regardless of this added feature, I found myself scraping the pegs in every corner and I felt like I was sacrificing a whole lot of comfort for not a whole lot of lean.
After pushing the C-Spec in the corners I followed a sweet looking Ford GT through Mulholland, down Topanga Canyon, back onto PCH, through Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, and along the coast to Manhattan Beach. After stopping for a coffee, I headed home. In the regular rigor-moroe of urban commuting, the C-Spec is fun around town minus the lane-splitting and any ergonomic issues I have with the bike.
Final Thoughts After Two Weeks Riding Around Town
You can't help but feel cool on the Star Bolt C-Spec. I mean seriously, it’s a great looking bike. Whether at a stoplight or getting ready to hop on the C-Spec, there will be no shortage of “Yo man, that’s a cool bike.” Believe me I had my fill of compliments. It has an awkward but fun feeling about it and it's a great alternative if you are in the market for a Harley Sportster 883.
The C-Spec manages to be a little bit of a road warrior, a little bit café racer, and a little bit sportster in one well-designed package. Star is certainly attacking the Harley Sportster buyer with this machine Bolt. They are also gunning for those looking to buy a Triumph Thruxton. There is no denying the hipster café-racer market is trending and has grown in recent years. The C-Spec is great for beginner and intermediate riders that want to pull up to the coffee shop, look the part, meander through the winding highways for the half-day, and get around town.
All this praise for the C-Spec is not absolute. When I first started riding the C-Spec I thought, "This bike is novel and quite fun. It’s a cruiser that taps into a cafe-racer mindset." Over a couple weeks of riding, that novelty wore off and I realized that due to its hybrid nature, the C-Spec falls into this weird gray area: I like it, but I also despise it. It’s not comfortable at all in the corners and the lean angle is limited, so the cafe-spec is more for show than functionality. Once you start feeling like you can take a turn aggressively, you are rudely reminded that you cannot. It’s certainly doesn't scream practicality in any way, and if I want to put a passenger on the bike, I have to pay $100 to get the “passenger kit” from Star. I don’t like that. It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. Throw that kit in at the time of purchase.
It does excel in design and pushing the boundaries of what a motorcycle can look like off the showroom floor, I praise the engineers and designers at Star for making such a beautiful bike. The engine is great: It's smooth, responsive, mildly torquey and doesn't rattle to the point where you feel like you've peed yourself after and hour in the saddle.
Every time I walk away or approach the C-Spec I think, “wow, what a great looking machine,” but once in the saddle, I would murmur to myself “why the f**k am I riding this thing today?” The C-Spec is that dumb supermodel that is really nice to look at, but when you experience its personality and learn its quirks, you’re just put off and want nothing to do with it after spending time with him/her.
If I wanted to be in an uncomfortable, aggressive riding position while retaining the ability to lean into canyon corners and stay within the realm of a cafe-racer, I would buy a Triumph Thruxton, no question. I went out and found a friend with a stock Thruxton—ust to confirm what I was 99 percent certain of—and the Thruxton is actually more comfortable than the C-Spec (and I think it's a damn fine looking bike)!
The riding geometry of the C-Spec had my legs bent more due to the lower seat height, I was reaching over further to get to the clip-ons, and as a result, my back was more extended. The Thruxton had me in a more natural, yet aggressive riding position (not as aggressive as the C-Spec) with the ability to hunker down if I chose to do so. There is also more room to move around in the saddle on the Thruxton.
The Thruxton is $809 more than the C-Spec and produces less torque (44 lb-ft compared to the C-Spec’s 54.1lb-ft.), but is also lighter (507 lbs. vs. C-Spec’s 542 lbs) and produces more top end power (61.7hp vs C-Spec 48.5hp) than the C-Spec. The Thruxton is an entirely different bike than the C-Spec, but if you're in the realm of 5’6” and 6’5”, the Thruxton is going to be better machine. It's more fun and most importantly—more comfortable.
If I wanted a cruiser in the same class that would afford me some comforts and standard-ish ride position, then I would sooner opt to buy the original Bolt or the Bolt R-Spec than suffer through the C-Spec day-to-day. To me, the C-Spec just misses the mark and succeeds at being a “lifestyle motorcycle" and not much else.
2015 Star Bolt C-Spec Specifications
Engine: Air-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve V-twin
Displacement: 942cc / 58 cubic inches
Bore x stroke: 85.0 x 83.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Fuel delivery: Fuel injection
Transmission: 5-speed multiplate wet clutch
Final drive: Belt
Front: Telescopic fork, 4.7 inches of travel
Rear: Twin shocks, 2.8 inches of travel
Front: Wave-type disc, 298mm
Rear: Wave-type disc, 298mm
Front: Michelin Commander II 100/90-19M/C 57H
Rear: Michelin Commander II 150/80-16M/C 71H
L x W x H: 90.4 x 30.5 x 45.7 inches
Seat height: 30.1 inches
Wheelbase: 61.8 inches
Ground clearance: 5.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Estimated fuel economy: 51 mpg
Wet weight: 542 pounds
Colors: Envy Green; Liquid Silver
2015 Star Bolt Spec-C MSRP: $8690