Yamaha has come a long way for a company that used to focus on tuning forks. Now it’s building bikes that are the complete package and trying to offer riders something that’s a little difference. Off road motorbiking and dirt biking has become increasingly popular. But riders want something that’s okay to use on the road too, once they’ve finished tearing up forest trails.
This year, Yamaha released the SCR 950, a bike designed to be a sort of hybrid between these two worlds: respectable enough to be ridden on the road, but burly enough to be taken across muddy, dusty terrain. It fills an important gap in the market, allowing riders to flip flop between riding on and off road. In many ways, therefore, the new SCR 950 is the motorbike version of the Range Rover Sport, a vehicle that is consummate both on and off the road.
The new SCR 950 is one of those bikes where you have to look past the spec sheet and see the bike that lies underneath. The bike itself is powered by a 942cc air-cooled twin engine that Yamaha has used on many of their other models. Although the engine isn’t the fastest that Yamaha has ever made, it’s just the sort of power you need if you’re going to be tearing down dirt roads. On the road, it also performs well. If there’s a line of vehicles in front of you that you want to overtake, it’s as simple as shifting down the gears and grabbing a little extra acceleration.
Around the town, the cheaper build of the SCR 950 means that it’s not really able to compete with the more expensive Ducati Scrambler or the Triumph Thruxton. To keep costs down, it’s clear that Yamaha has cut corners in the suspension department. Compared to its competitors, it’s a lot harsher when driving on the road and can be quite uncomfortable, except in cases where the road is billiard-ball smooth.
Unlike other bikes in the segment, there isn’t much in the way of safety features either, making a motorcycle accident injury claim more likely. But thanks to the bike’s excellent riding position, there is a sense that you’re really in control of the bike. The off-road style handlebars and the mid-mount foot controls help keep the rider in a neutral position, no matter how difficult the terrain.
Yamaha has also cut corners with the instrumentation. Some riders have reported that the instrument cluster is difficult to read from a normal riding distance. Other riders have found that the cover for the air intake knocked into their knee repeatedly during a long day of riding, causing bruising.
Despite these problems, it’s clear what Yamaha are going for with the new SCR 950. They’ve taken the classic scrambler and added a veneer of roadworthiness to it at the lowest cost possible. This bike is still a bike that is most at home off road, with its more than 4.7 inches of front travel. When it comes to delivering fun, the new Yamaha succeeds, even if it is a little lackluster on the road.