First ride: Yamaha SCR950 review

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



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.

On the road, it's a very different sort of scrambler to Ducati's. The underlying cruiser personality is present in the Yamaha.

The SCR's engine is torque-biased, with 55.3hp and 53.6lbft. There's no point revving it much. Peak power is at 5,500rpm and there's no rev counter to tell you when you get there anyway.

Instead you change up to keep it in the low-down zone of happy torque, and lazily chuck it through corners in third gear.

The centre of gravity feels low, so despite the weight it tips into bends easily, and there's enough ground clearance to maintain good pace.

The pegs will touch down long before a knee, unless you're going for a hang-off award or have fallen off altogether.

But it's all good fun. Ground-away hero blobs of course simply indicate that you are a hero. Why else would they be called that?

Overtaking cars requires a bit of planning. It's a matter of opening the throttle, waiting for something to happen and then remembering nothing is going to until you change up, as the window of opportunity shrinks before your eyes.

But you'd adjust to that.

The brakes are competent, with enough feel and power from the single front disc, and ABS is of course standard.

Sometimes it went into neutral instead of second and the shape of the gear selector meant I sometimes hooked my foot under its curved arm, which was uncomfortable. I had to move my foot further out along the peg to avoid it. Normally I'd have my foot as close to the bike as possible.

Also, the air-box sticks out quite a lot on the right-hand side, between the two cylinders, and my knee was against it when sitting.

I'd swap that for an induction scoop, perhaps in chrome or matt black. How good would that look?

That's the point of the SCR950. I warmed to it off and on road but I enjoyed it as much for what it is as how it performs.

It's no Ducati Scrambler. That makes about 20hp more, weighs significantly less and has an engine which isn't so bottom-end-biased.

But it looks closer to a genuine custom bike than the Ducati, and aren’t custom bikes the inspiration of this whole retro bike class.

If I had one, I wouldn't take it off road. I'd just happily make my way around on it, do the London commute and perhaps occasionally stop at the trendy Bike Shed café in Shoreditch, where I'd sit back and look at it.

The Ducati starts from about a grand cheaper than the SCR, which costs £8,499, £300 more than the XV, so I might have to have water instead of lattes.  

Model tested: Yamaha SCR950

Price: £8,499

Specifications straight from Yamaha

Engine type: 4-stroke, 4-valves, SOHC, air-cooled, V-type 2-cylinder Displacement 942cc Bore x stroke 85.0 mm x 83.0 mm

Compression ratio: 9.0 : 1 Maximum power 38.3 kW (52.1PS) @ 5,500 rpm

Maximum Torque: 79.5 Nm (8.1 kg-m) @ 3,000 rpm

Lubrication system: Wet sump

Clutch Type: Wet, Multiple Disc

Carburettor: Fuel Injection

Ignition system: TCI

Starter system: Electric Transmission system Constant Mesh, 5-speed

Final transmission: Belt


Frame: Double cradle Front suspension system Telescopic forks, Ø 41 mm Front travel 135 mm

Caster Angle: 29º

Trail: 130 mm Rear suspension system Swingarm Rear Travel 110 mm Front brake Hydraulic single disc, Ø 298 mm

Rear brake: Hydraulic single disc, Ø 298 mm

Front tyre: 100/90-19M/C 57H

Rear tyre: 140/80R17M/C 69H


Overall length: 2,255 mm

Overall width: 895 mm Overall height 1,170 mm Seat height 830 mm

Wheel base: 1,575 mm

Minimum ground clearance: 145 mm

Wet weight: (including full oil and fuel tank) 252 kg

Fuel tank capacity: 13 litres Oil tank capacity 4.3 litres


Emission standard: EU4 compliant