Yamaha SCR950

Here is our first im­pres­sion fol­low­ing a first ride on the Yamaha SCR950, which is closely based on the XV950


Is it re­ally a Scram­bler? We find out

BOOOMPH! AS the SCR950’s front tyre hits the bump in the dirt road the forks com­press al­most to their bot­toms, and the han­dle­bars twitch vi­o­lently. From my po­si­tion stand­ing up on the wide foot-pegs I’m thrown mo­men­tar­ily off-bal­ance, be­fore the Yamaha re­com­poses it­self and rum­bles along con­tent­edly again.

Any bike could gen­er­ate a sim­i­lar wob­ble when rid­den off-road, but few scram­blers would be knocked quite so out of shape by a Sar­dinian dirt-road divot that was so shal­low I’d barely no­ticed it. Then again, the SCR950 is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from any oth­ers in the grow­ing street scram­bler class, be­cause it is essen­tially a fairly lightly mod­i­fied V-twin cruiser.

The SCR is closely based on the XV950 — known as the Star Bolt in the US, its main mar­ket — whose launch in July 2013 gave the first hint that Yamaha were emerg­ing from their lengthy cred­itcrunch in­flu­enced hi­ber­na­tion. Both mod­els date back fur­ther to the XVS950 Mid­night Star with which Yamaha in­tro­duced the 942-cc, air-cooled V-twin en­gine in 2009.

Nei­ther of those low-slung cruis­ers seems like ob­vi­ous in­spi­ra­tion for a street scram­bler. But Yamaha wanted to ex­pand their Sport Her­itage divi­sion with a clas­si­cally styled, vaguely du­alpur­pose ri­val to mod­els in­clud­ing BMW’s R nineT Scram­bler, Du­cati’s Scram­bler Desert Sled and Tri­umph’s Street Scram­bler.

The XV, with its SOHC, 60-de­gree V-twin en­gine and tra­di­tional twin­shock chas­sis, seemed like the sim­plest start­ing point. Its essen­tially dated en­gine and chas­sis lay­out of­fer old-

school charm to com­pen­sate for the lack of mod­ern en­gi­neer­ing or per­for­mance. The eight-valve unit has been up­dated slightly to get through Euro 4, but its max­i­mum out­put of 54 PS at 5,500 rpm hasn’t changed for eight years.

The chas­sis, on the other hand, is re-jigged. The tubu­lar steel main frame is re­tained, but its rear sub­frame is re­placed by a taller struc­ture that in­creases seat height from the XV’s ul­tra-low 690 mil­lime­tres to 830 mm, and pro­vides a base for a slim, flat seat de­signed to al­low move­ment on the bike. The rid­ing po­si­tion is fur­ther trans­formed by a wide, braced han­dle­bar and foot-pegs that are moved 30 mm up and 150 mm rear­wards.

Sus­pen­sion fol­lows the XV950R’s for­mat of 41-mm forks and re­motereser­voir shocks, the SCR’s re­vised units giv­ing more travel although there’s still only 135 mm up front and 110 mm at the rear, min­i­mal by off-road stan­dards. Wheels are wire-spoked and al­loyrimmed, in di­am­e­ters of 19-inch front and 17-inch rear, wear­ing Bridge­stone’s dual-pur­pose Trail Wings. Brak­ing is by a sin­gle, wavy 298-mm disc at each end, with twin-pot calipers up front.

That age­ing air-cooled en­gine gives an au­then­tic 1980s look, and Yamaha have done a fine job with the styling, es­pe­cially the shapely fuel tank that has a dis­tinct hint of XT500 about it. Steel mud­guards, oval race-style side-pan­els and the siamesed ex­haust with its up­swept sin­gle si­lencer add to the ap­peal; other de­tails in­clude fork gaiters and a foam bar pro­tec­tor with Faster Sons logo.

The XV950-style sin­gle round in­stru­ment panel adds a con­trast­ingly mod­ern touch but there was no doubt­ing the SCR’s retro feel when the mo­tor

fired up with an air-cooled rustling and a soft V-twin chug­ging from the pipe. The bike pulled away eas­ily, feel­ing un­stressed and slightly agri­cul­tural, its sweet low-rev fu­elling and rea­son­able smooth­ness mak­ing it a pleas­ant place from where to watch the Sar­dinian scenery drift by.

Per­for­mance was noth­ing to get ex­cited about but very ad­e­quate for road use, those 50-or-so horses suf­fi­cient for fairly lazy 110 km/h cruis­ing, and gen­tle ac­cel­er­a­tion from there to­wards a top speed of about 160 km/h. The solid­ly­mounted V-twin stayed smooth enough to en­cour­age me to work it fairly hard; the five-speed trans­mis­sion was slightly pon­der­ous and the belt fi­nal drive whined at speed. The over­all feel was slightly crude, but that fit­ted the SCR’s im­age just fine.

Same goes for the han­dling, which was sta­ble, for­giv­ing and re­spectably light, at least for a bike whose fu­elled-up weight fig­ure of 252 kilo­grams means it’s slightly heav­ier than BMW’s dou­bly pow­er­ful R 1200 GS. The Yamaha flicked into turns with min­i­mal ef­fort re­quired on that wide han­dle­bar, though it quickly ran out of ground clear­ance with a scrape of foot-rest that re­vealed those cruiser ori­gins, long be­fore the Trail Wings ran out of grip.

Brak­ing was sim­i­larly ba­sic, that twin­pot front caliper re­quir­ing a firm squeeze to bring the hefty Yamaha to a halt with much ur­gency. The ABS was fairly eas­ily ac­ti­vated; even so, at least the rel­a­tively sharp rear disc was there for as­sis­tance if re­quired. That, of course, is the only elec­tronic as­sis­tance, be­cause the Yamaha’s es­sen­tial sim­plic­ity means there’s no sign of mul­ti­ple modes or trac­tion con­trol.

I hadn’t ex­pected the launch to in­cor­po­rate much, if any, off-road rid­ing, so was pleas­antly sur­prised to be led through a shal­low stream and on to a se­ries of dirt roads, where the SCR was fun de­spite ap­proach­ing its lim­its even on rel­a­tively flat ter­rain. It felt slightly strange to be stand­ing on the broad pegs of this heavy, softly-sprung V-twin as it bounced and crunched along, han­dle­bars twitch­ing slightly wor­ry­ingly as the short-travel, un­der-damped sus­pen­sion strug­gled to cope with the smallest of rocks or bumps.

The dated de­sign (or, maybe, just the cruiser ori­gins) also shows up in the lim­ited steer­ing lock, and the way that the air-box juts into your right leg when you’re sit­ting down. That sin­gle dis­play is ba­sic, with no tacho and just a trip­me­ter and clock along­side the dig­i­tal speedo. If there had been a fuel con­sump­tion dis­play it would prob­a­bly have shown about 5.0 litres/100 km, giv­ing a range of roughly 200 km from the diminu­tive, 13.2-litre tank.

That should help make the V-twin cheap to run, but it’s a shame that while nu­mer­ous re­cent Yama­has are also out­stand­ing value for money, the same can’t be said of the SCR. On the con­trary, its price seems high given its level of tech­nol­ogy and the age of key com­po­nents. Per­haps, the mar­ket for retro style street scram­blers is less price­sen­si­tive than most, as the Yamaha’s more mod­ern ri­vals from BMW, Du­cati and Tri­umph are even more ex­pen­sive.

So in some ways the SCR950 has price and even value on its side, although the mere hint of scram­bler im­plied by those SCR ini­tials is about right. This quirky con­verted cruiser is not de­signed for re­motely se­ri­ous of­froad­ing, even if fit­ted with ac­ces­sory bash-plate and en­gine bars, but it has a strong, ap­peal­ingly down-to-earth char­ac­ter to go with its rugged retro look and re­spectably ver­sa­tile, rid­er­friendly per­for­mance.

60-de­gree, air-cooled V-twin looks straight out of the ’80s

Round dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel adds a mod­ern touch

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