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First ride: Yamaha SCR950 review

Off-roading? On a cruiser? Yes. Sort of.

Steve Farrell's picture
Submitted by Steve Farrell on Tue, 28/03/2017 - 23:29



YAMAHA'S SCR950 was one of the best surprises to come out of last autumn's bike shows: a properly cool-looking scrambler, with wire-spoked wheels, steel mudguards and an XT500-like seamless tank.

And all Yamaha had done was adapt an XV950R cruiser. Custom-builders had done it, so why not? The air-cooled V-twin cruiser platform is part of what gives it its genuine custom-bike look.

Of course that meant it wouldn't actually go off-road. Cruisers are near the bottom of my list of things to tackle trails on, just above ice skates.

So I arrived at the press launch of the bike in Sardinia with no more expectation of going trail riding than had it been the new R6. But trail riding we did.

Yamaha's not pretending it's an off-road bike. In the pre-ride presentation, they described it as a "road bike adapted for a bit of off-roading".

The adaptations include a new sub-frame, raising the seat by 140mm to 838mm. Take off one of the side panels and you'll find a big empty space beneath the new straight, flat seat.

The front wheel is now a 19-inch, which also raises the ground clearance by 10mm to 145mm. And it's got Bridgestone Trail Wing dual-purpose tyres.

There's a new wide handlebar with a foam pad for when you bash your chin after landing a triple back-flip.

The silencer is slightly more up-swept and the bike has had a thorough cosmetic restyling. 

The clock is similar to the XV's; a single round black unit with some warning lights and a square digital display offering the basics: speed, mileage, time and trips A and B.

Some riders on the launch thought it should have been swapped for an analogue dial but I like it, because it looks a bit like something you might find on a custom bike.

The bike has a 'circular theme' according to Yamaha, seen in the tail light, indicators, mirrors and headlight.

I noticed it also in the wheels.

The SCR950 weighs 252kg fully fuelled. The mass of the 942cc engine can be felt in the effort used to lift the bike off its side stand.

Yamaha's right; it's no off-road bike. It doesn't have the suspension travel to carry that weight.

We tackled some gentle fire-trail-type gravel and dirt roads, and the bike kind of clattered through deep holes. I expect ground clearance would become an issue over more difficult terrain too. Despite the extra 10mm, there still isn't much by off-road standards.

Otherwise, though, the SCR didn't feel as out of place as I had expected.

The pegs are a little wide apart, as they would be on a cruiser, but the bars are well positioned to reach while standing up and the tank is narrow, so there's space to move the bike about between your knees.

The knobbly tyres made it possible to get up to decent speed, in fourth gear, with confidence. And it's only a five-speed box. 

We even crossed a shallow stream (admittedly not in fourth gear) and it didn't feel like pushing our luck.

The test may have illustrated how pretty much any bike will be endowed with some off-road ability by the fitting of knobbly rubber.

But not every bike has the riding position to make it fun, and the SCR950 does. If you want to take it gentle trail-riding - perhaps because there's an off-road shortcut between the custom bike show and barbershop - you can.

Off-road boots might be an idea. I'd gone full hipster-spec, in TCX lace-up boots, and I was conscious of the risk of gouging a shin on the back of one of the aluminium pegs.

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