TESTED 2014 Bolt from the Star division of Yamaha.
WHAT IS IT? A budget-price V-twin cruiser motorcycle styled in the bobber genre.
HOW MUCH? $8,329 (including $339 freight charge). A spiffy R-Spec edition arrives later this year for $300 extra.
WHAT MAKES IT GO? An air-cooled V-Star 950 2-cylinder engine delivers its power to the rear wheel through a belt drive.
IS IT THIRSTY? Not at all; expect 50 m.p.g. cruising around town.
ALTERNATIVES Harley-Davidson Sportster 883, Honda Shadow, Kawasaki Vulcan 900.
The motorcycle industry, still recovering from a steep sales slump, has been asking what sort of motorcycles people are ready, willing and able to buy. After much data crunching, the product planners at Yamaha decided that while there are many potential customers, the price needed to be irresistible.
"Guys can no longer go to the bank and take out a home equity line or a second mortgage to buy that $50,000 chopper of their dreams," said Mike Ulrich, a Yamaha engineer. "But they still want to ride. They just need something affordable."
The Bolt is described as a back-to-basics bobber, a type of home-brew motorcycle whose origins date to the years after World War II. Returning servicemen, short of disposable income, sought to revive dormant prewar bikes by shortening -- bobbing -- the fenders and eliminating extraneous ornamentation.
"Short wheelbase, high tank, low seat and almost no chrome -- it's a timeless design in a modern package," Mr. Ulrich said at the bike's introduction in San Diego.
Detractors might dismiss the Bolt as a knockoff of the Harley-Davidson Sportster. But in most regards, whatever cards the Sportster has to play, the Bolt trumps.
The Sportster has an 883 cc V-twin to the Bolt's 942, and while the Bolt's overhead-cam, 4-valve V-twin is tuned for low- and midrange performance around town, it seemed plenty capable in a variety of conditions. It didn't feel underpowered on the Interstate, as some bikes in this class do.
At 540 pounds, the Bolt weighs a significant 33 pounds less than the Sportster. No wonder the Bolt feels more maneuverable and responsive, though its limited suspension travel can make rides on rough roads a spine-jolting experience.
These no-frills, retro-look cruiser models are proving to be an enduring market segment, and the Bolt has an extra measure of appeal, I think, with its attractive price. Add in the functional touches like wave-type brake rotors, low-maintenance belt drive and a 27-inch seat height, and it seems that the Bolt's arrival is well-timed.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.