USUALLY it seems like your “next bike” fund is more molehill than mountain and the idea of owning a custom-built bike depends entirely on the next Lotto results.
But dream no longer, because Yamaha has come up with a clever solution to let you take the leap: a back-to-basics bike that they actually want you to change.
The XV950R has a basic, “home-made” vibe about it. The Yamaha sticker, for example, looks like something you’d receive in a starter kit. But keeping the XV down to earth means the sky’s the limit when it comes to customising.
Yamaha has designed the 950R to be easily modified. It already has Harley-Davidson-esque fat brake and clutch levers and a paint choice of either army-style green or matt grey.
So pimping your ride and adding that personal touch is just a matter of trawling through the accessories list that includes things like a rider footpeg relocation kit, an Akrapovic slip-on exhaust, spoked wheels and a lowering kit in case the bum-dragging 690mm-high seat isn’t close enough to the ground for you.
The dash is a lesson in minimalism and only shows the speed and mileage. No rev counter, no fuel gauge and, Yamaha says, no worries. It suits the bike’s style but an analogue version would look cool too and the black background suffers reflections so you see more of your own helmet than any digital figures.
As for riding it, the XV950R is more feet backwards than forwards and the handlebars are well within reach, so you don’t need gorilla arms for U-turns. Ground clearance is the limiting factor, but on skinny tyres and a competent chassis, the bike handles gracefully.
Although it’s a chunky 251kg, the XV doesn’t feel particularly heavy as the weight is low and easy to shift around. It has a relatively short wheelbase and sporty geometry, so the bike rides obediently through bends without trying to run wide.
The rear “piggy back” suspension is firm, though, which translates to harsh if you don’t have the luxury of riding on fresh asphalt. It can jar your lower spine if you are tall and your tailbone is pressed against the back edge of the seat.
On the straights, its laid-back attitude rubs off on you. What’s the rush? The engine runs smoothly at that pace and has nothing other than characterful vibrations. Even the mirrors are still useful.
The engine has a modest dose of power and a generous spread of low-down torque so it can pack a punch when you want it to (and if you want it to). But there’s a good chance you’ll be just as happy taking it easy.
Novice riders might think twice before committing to a bike in this genre, but this twin is so user-friendly and well behaved, it could be the bike that introduces many to the two-wheeled world.
They’ll be glad to hear it has ABS too. The front brake feels spongy at the first dab, but when you grab that fat lever with commitment, the XV stops well.
The gearbox is sound too, and it doesn’t take much effort to dance around the five-speed box and the clutch is nicely light. Fuel economy is healthy too, with a tiny 12-litre tank good for around 150 miles of cruising.
At £7,499, the XV950R is £500 more expensive than Harley-Davidson’s cheapest 883, but if you’re after a Harley you’re probably sold on the brand before the price tag.
But you can dribble parts onto it according to your cash flow, customising your bike into a performance bobber, or even a vintage lookalike.
How popular the idea turns out to be is something only time will tell.
Bike Yamaha XV950R
Engine 942cc air-cooled 2-cylinder, 52bhp @ 5,500rpm and 59 lb ft @ 3,000rpm
Seat height 690mm
Fuel capacity 12 litres