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Bug Out Bolt – 2014 Custom Yamaha Star Bolt 900

Having spent the last dozen plus years guiding marketing and bike builds for several aftermarket companies, Dave Zemla set out to build a motorcycle just for him.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a number of great builds, but a bike constructed for marketing is generally built with a specific parts collection and rigid timeline,” explained Dave.

In fact, this very Yamaha Bolt had already been the target of a full custom build as part of Yamaha’s launch of the Bolt line in the U.S., having been featured in several publications and flaunted in the company’s road show.

RoadRUNNER Bug Out Bolt

“The initial build was a pretty incredible experience. I was proud of the final outcome; however, the minimal suspension and tiny seat were punishing to ride, and the bike was soon relegated to office décor,” said Dave.

So, what does an industry guy create without any rules or a deadline? He indulges in a complete overhaul—building a bike that not only differs from its last iteration, but from the original machine it was based on, and carries with it a surprising level of usability. Custom bikes, especially those of the V-twin variety, tend to shy away from practicality, rideability, and, in many cases, basic common sense. Dave’s Yamaha took an entirely different path.

“I really didn’t have a plan in the beginning, but I did know I really liked the Bolt platform and wanted a comfortable upright position, along with racks or bags of some sort to keep it usable,” explained Dave.

Beginning with a seat and subframe kit from Hageman Cycles (coincidentally, the winner of the Bolt build off that inspired the original design of this bike) and a pair of Burly Brand Scrambler bars, the bike began its initial mock-up.

Returning to the original 19-inch front wheel, in the form of Yamaha’s own accessory wire spoke unit, and a matched 17-inch rear, Dave wrapped them both in Continental TKC 80s. A pair of taller shocks by Progressive Suspension set the stance and helped with ground clearance. The pile of discarded parts quickly grew as the exhaust was replaced with a Vance & Hines unit, and all of the lighting was reformatted.

Dave shares, “As it started taking shape, the guys in the shop called it a ‘Bug Out Bike’. The name stuck, and it soon defined a bit of the styling.”

A Küryakyn air cleaner, along with Yamaha accessory crash bars and fork brace, helped hit the style objective. The headlight and racks were next—constructed in Dave’s garage—with a little guidance from TCI Products (an ADV rack manufacturer). Hageman Cycles was responsible for the skid plate, while Dave hand wrapped the grips with the leftover rubber from the seat. A camp shovel, buck knife, flashlight, and other survival tools were mounted to various places on the bike. Final touches included a brushed steel gas tank, waxed canvas bags, and a fuel cell from Biltwell.

The look certainly nails the Bug Out target, but how does it ride?

“I worked at Progressive Suspension when I built it, so the ride quality is dialed. And I’ve had it on everything from crowded California freeway runs to blasting fire roads in Arizona with excellent results,” says Dave.

Could a low buck cruiser really make for a viable touring machine? Does a motorcycle really need a crossbow? Will it really be able to outrun the zombies?

Dave explains, “The bike was built pretty tongue-in-cheek, but the end result is easily the most usable machine I’ve ever been involved with. It rides great, is comfortable, can carry a few days’ worth of gear, and doesn’t care about the terrain it’s on,” he continues. “In my eyes, that’s a pretty great motorcycle. And if things get froggy, I’m ready to ‘Bug Out’ at a moment’s notice.”



Some of my favorite custom bikes are based on the interesting (but in my opinion, hideous) 1980s metric cruisers. There's a shop near the office that builds custom bikes, and once I caught sight of a gorgeous V-twin cafe racer, but it didn't look like any Ducati I'd ever seen. "It's a Virago, actually," the shop owner said. "They make great cafe racers." He was right. It was beautiful and gorgeous, and as he told me, very fast.

Apparently the secret is out. Greg Hageman's shop, Doc's Chops, started with a distant descendent of the Virago, the Star Bolt (which Yamaha is handing to a bunch of custom shops in a competition you can find out more about here). The Bolt isn't quite the ugly duckling the Virago was. Instead, it's pretty much an interpretation of the role the Sportster plays in the market, and so it's begging for customization.

Erick Runyon

Greg went the scrambler route with his, and the results are fantastic. The Kenny Roberts association is a nice touch, too. It seems a bit low-slung to be a real scrambler, but how "real" a scrambler needs to be has always been subject to interpretation. What it does seem like is a perfectly rideable, stylish custom that you can stand to actually use in real life, and perhaps on a few dirt roads, too. Visit Greg's site for more information, and then hop on over to see more fantastic work from photographer Erick Runyon here and here.

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Yamaha Yard Built - Bolt 'Custom Connection Motorsports, LLC'

Yard Built Bolt by Custom Connection Motorsports, LLC

Mission: Impossibolt

We accept this mission and will complete it with great success!

We equipped the Bolt with a custom front air ride system for that true "Low Rider" look and feel. When fully released, the front end is less than 2" off the ground. Notice that the bike is resting on a custom center stabilizer built in-house.

The custom mounted bags and 7" Road Star headlight make the bike look much larger than before. Notice how far the rear fender and bags extend past the rear tire. 

Here, you can see how we kept with the theme of using brass to accent the bike. To accomplish this, we used a titanium exhaust wrap, as well as brass bolts for the engine side covers. We machined the Star rocker cover bolts to achieve this look.

Another view of the extended front fender and the custom modified chin spoiler. Notice how we used the machined rocker cover bolts on the left side covers as well.

The new bags and rear fender completely change the appearance of the bike from the rear. And look at the gap! Not only are the bags gapped with amazing precision, but the custom stretched gas tank is also tailored to match the seat. Polished brass bolts accent the rear fender, following the theme of the bike. Also, notice how clean the cockpit is with the speedo removed. More on that in a minute! Finally, the rear turn signals are clear flush mounted into the filler panels between the bags and the fender. This is a painstaking process, but Brandon and Lee made it look easy!

The inside of the bags had to be cut and re-laminated to accommodate the rear air ride. Also, the M4 muffler designed for an R6 not only accents the look perfectly, but is sounds awesome to boot!

Now for one of our favorite changes. As we mentioned earlier, we removed our stock speedometer and shelved it. We relocated our cluster into our mirrors!

All the functions and indicators are now in the mirrors. They have turn signal indicators, neutral and warning lights, speedometer AND tachometer functionality.

Sinister seats provided us with an awesome custom seat for this build. The Bolt logo is hand etched into the seat, and the brass bolts were machined flush for a truly amazing look!

The seat was made more narrow and given a more pronounced curve to accentuate the lines of the bike.

We decided to go with a clean paint scheme that paid homage to the Bolt's not-so-humble beginnings. Brandon Swafford and Lee Lightcap at M66 Auto Body did an outstanding job for us on this one!

The new stance of the bike is nothing short of awesome. The front fender is tucked in so tightly to the chin spoiler when the air ride is down that there is barely clearance to turn the bars. With the rear air ride in the down position, the rear fender is just inches off the ground.

To recap, this is what we have done to make our Bolt truly custom: Extended front fender with brass accent bolts 7" Road Star headlight with integrated LED turn signals Mirrors with integrated speedometer, tachometer, and all other instrumentation Stretched gas tank too eliminate gap between tank and seat Custom leather seat with etched Bolt logo and machined brass bolts Rigid mount hard saddlebags Stretched rear fender with brass accent bolts, flush license plate mount, and integrated rear lights that function as run, turn and brake lights Custom front and rear air ride Custom machined brass bolts in side covers Custom laminated chin spoiler with brass mesh Special thanks to: Brian and Sinister Seats for the awesome work on the seat Justin James at Duel J Design for the fantastic pictures and graphic work Brandon Swafford and Lee Lightcap at M66 Auto Body for the incredible finish work and paint


In closing, we had a great time full of challenges to bring this Bolt to completion in just a little over 2 months. We're confident that we brought the best product we could to the competition!

Custom Yamaha Star Bolt Motorcycles

Six Amazing Custom Star Bolt in the Garage Challenge, Pick Your Favorite

Of course, it’s always nice to see manufacturers dishing out bikes which have been especially designed and engineered for customization. What’s even cooler is seeing these makers constantly organizing custom bike competitions and thus fueling the segment with new ideas, discovering talents which lay dormant and contributing to a bigger, more consistent custom scene.

Yamaha’s Italian branch decided to pit six of their local dealers in this Garage Challenge instead of having individual customizers show off their awesomeness, like on other occasions before. The six official dealers are Motosalone Crea, Twinsbike, New Venezia Moto, Fani Motors, Tacconi Moto and Moto Shop, each presenting their own vision on how a custom Star Bolt should like.

Words are pretty useless in trying to describe these bikes, and such an endeavor would also make this piece unnecessarily lengthy. You’d better take your time to look at each of these machines closely and pick your favorite. Then you can head over to the Yamaha Garage Challenge websiteand vote, helping the house of Iwata choose the three finalists which will make it to the Verona al Motor Bike Expo 2015 next weekend, where a jury will deliver the grand prize winning-bike.

It was really hard to decide which one gets our vote, but in the end the Bombhard BH1 won our hearts. Some say that the dual-headlight front is too Triumph but we’d rather go with Wall-E, which is even nicer.

Custom star bolt

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Yamaha Star Bolt 30 Day Owner Likes and Dislikes Review

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