photography by Brian J. Nelson
Star Motorcycles hit a home run in 2014 with its all-new Star Bolt, a minimalist “urban performance bobber” powered by the torquey, 942cc air-cooled V-twin from the V Star 950. With its solo saddle perched just 27.2 inches off the deck and a curb weight of 540 pounds, the compact Bolt looked tough with heavy-metal, Vmax-like styling elements. At just $7,990 ($8,290 for the lightly accessorized R-Spec; $8,390 for 2015), it sold—and continues to sell—like hotcakes.
Joining the Bolt and Bolt R-Spec in Star’s 2015 lineup is the new C-Spec, which trades the pullback handlebar for clip-ons and undergoes other changes to give it the look and feel of a café racer. In addition to the lower bars, the C-Spec’s seating position was made sportier by moving the footpegs back 5.9 inches and up 1.25 inches, and making them a half-inch wider. To increase available lean angle from 33 to 37 degrees, the fork is 0.35-inch longer, the twin shocks are 0.24-inch taller (like the R-Spec, the C-Spec has gold-anodized piggyback reservoir shocks) and ride height was increased 1.6 inches, which also raised seat height to 30.1 inches. To complete the café racer look, the C-Spec has fork boots, a removable rear seat cowl and special sport graphics, and the single instrument gauge was moved from below to above the triple clamp.
Sitting on the Bolt C-Spec requires the rider to hunch forward, and the combination of low seat and high pegs puts significant bend in the knees. Such is the price of style, as this bike isn’t—and doesn’t aspire to be—a touring machine. The 3.2-gallon tank will make sure you don’t venture too far without taking a break. No complaints about the seat, which is more plush than expected. If you want to carry a passenger, you’ll need to dip into the accessory catalog for passenger footpegs.* (There are 17 new accessories exclusive to the C-Spec, plus another 45 or so other Bolt accessories available.)
We’re big fans of the sound, feel and grunt of the 942cc, 60-degree V-twin that powers the Bolts. In our last cruiser comparison, the Star V Star 950 Tourer belted out 57 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm and 49 horsepower at 5,600 rpm. Since, based on a claimed wet weight of 542 pounds, the Bolt C-Spec weighs 113 pounds less than the V Star 950 Tourer, it pulls strongly, with smooth roll-ons and a nice rumble when cruising in top gear. Still, there’s no avoiding the fact that this is a cruiser in café racer clothing, so performance is relative. The 5-speed transmission is clunky down low, the dual-disc brakes are underpowered and the suspension is on the soft side, though it does a decent job of smoothing out rough pavement. There may be more cornering clearance on the C-Spec than the other Bolts, but what’s available is still modest. Vibration makes the mirrors all but useless, and even though the single, all-digital instrument looks cool, the lights for the turn signals, neutral, etc. are too dim to be seen in bright sunlight.
The belt-driven C-Spec rolls on 12-spoke cast aluminum wheels, 19-inch front and 16-inch rear, which are shod with (new to the Bolt line) Michelin Commander II tires (100/90-19 front, 150/80-16 rear), which provided good grip and handling on the pavement of varying quality we encountered on our 120-mile ride around Los Angeles. A pair of 298mm wave-style rotors are squeezed by a 2-piston caliper in front and a 1-piston caliper out back; ABS is not available. The non-adjustable fork has 4.7 inches of travel and the preload-adjustable shocks have 2.8 inches of travel.
If your idea of a café racer is a bike that will easily “do the ton” and give your go-fast friends a run for their money, then the Bolt C-Spec will fall short of expectations. But if you think a rumbling cruiser V-twin goes with café racer styling like chocolate goes with peanut butter, then this could be the bike for you. It’s in dealers now with an MSRP of $8,690, in either Envy Green or Liquid Silver.
2015 Star Bolt C-Spec Specifications
Base Price: $8,690
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse V-twin, SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 85.0 x 83.0mm
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 61.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 29 degrees/5.1 in.
Seat Height: 30.1 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 542 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gals.
*CORRECTION 9/24/15: The previous version of this article said there is no passenger seat under the rear cowl, which is incorrect.