In the Yamaha catalogue the FJR1300 appears in the “sports-touring” section. Some people might classify it as a “tourer”, but Yamaha don’t even have a category for that. To them, it’s a sports-tourer. And, after riding it, I can say that they’re right; that’s what it is, a sports-tourer - albeit a rather large one! It’s as if the Yamaha marketing people got the plans for a normal-size sports-tourer, took it to the engineers, and the engineers said, “Do you want to super-size that?” The marketing-people said, “Okay”; and what they came up with was the FJR1300. Okay, it’s a bit more evolutionary than that. You can trace the bike’s lineage back through the first model, released in 2001, the FJ1200 before that, and back to the FJ1100 released in the early 1980s. But looking at the bike today, that’s the impression you get; that it’s a perfectly proportioned sports-tourer, but “super-sized”! The FJ has been a popular model for Yamaha. The size and style of the bike has always suggested that it’s a machine for eating up long distances, but it’s also had one wheel planted firmly on the “sports” side of the “sports-touring” brief. So it’s been popular with people who like to tour in a sporting manner. And now it has just become the bike of choice for the NSW police. According to a source within the traffic section, the bike cops are pretty happy about getting it too! I’ve long admired the FJR. I’ve heard, and read, good reports about the bike; and whenever I sat on one I found it superbly comfortable. A riding friend has an early model, which always impresses. He keeps it looking immaculate, so it looks good, and riding along with it reveals a bike that is also impressive on the road. So I’ve been wanting to test the new one for quite a while. I got the chance for a test when Red Baron Motorcycles in South-Western Sydney had an extended ride-day. This was the same day I did the “extended test” of the XJR1300. I rode the XJR in the morning, and then in the afternoon I took the FJR over the same test-route. It was a good route; starting with light suburban traffic, then some outer-suburban back roads, some major arterial roads, and then a cruise along the Hume Highway back into the suburbs again. Along the way there were corners ranging from city roundabouts to tight back-road turns and some open-road sweepers. Road surface varied from patchy suburban roads to smooth-surfaced highway. So a good chance to really get to know the bike over a wide variety of conditions. First thing to say is that I reckon it’s a great-looking bike! It’s big, yes, but it looks great. The bike retains it’s twin exhausts; very traditional, and look good. The exhaust is all stainless-steel too, so it should last well. The sound from the pipes is fairly subdued; quiet almost, for a big engine. As you look around the bike, there is a definite feeling of quality; a feeling that it’s built well, and built to last. It’s an expensive bike, but you’re getting quality for your money. Climbing aboard, you find a bike that is, as I mentioned, very comfortable. The ergonomics, I reckon, are just about perfect! The riding-position is quite up-right, but with just the right amount of lean forward to the bars. The seat is very wide, with the sides sloping outwards so that you get support under your thighs. This results in your weight being distributed over your back-side and thighs; rather than just on your bum. The result of that is greater comfort over long distances. The down-side is that it makes it quite a stretch to the ground. The seat-height is 800mm, so it’s not overly high, but it feels higher than it is because of the long reach around it. It was a bit of a stretch, even for my lanky old legs, to sit flat-footed on the ground. The seat height is adjustable though, so you should be able to fiddle with it a bit to find a position that best suits you. At first, I found the foot-rests positioned further back than I would’ve expected. With the general riding-position being quite up-right, you expect the pegs to be kind of straight down, but they’re rear-set a bit. This did take a little getting used to, but after a while it started to feel more natural; and it obviously works well. It’s just another part of why the riding-position is so comfortable over a long distance. And I’ve got a theory on this. Sitting up straight with your legs angled back a bit tends to tilt your pelvis forward a little; which helps to maintain a forward curvature of the lower spine. Having a crook lower back, correct seating-posture is something that I’m particularly aware of. In the car I use a lumbar-support cushion, which helps to create that proper forward curvature of the lower back. I think Yamaha have used foot-peg position to help create this posture and stop your lower back from slumping. That’s my theory anyway! The cockpit provides a very extensive display of information. The dials are analogue; a big central speedo, numbered to 280kph (but with strokes up to an un-numbered 300kph), and a tacho, red-lined at 9,000rpm. Beside this is an LCD display panel which has odometer, gear-indicator, fuel level, clock, engine-temperature, and current fuel-consumption (expressed as km / litre). And you don’t have to push a button to select these; they’re all there at the same time! Just below the tacho there’s a neat little knob to adjust the temperature of the standard heated grips. Okay, enough of the basics, it was time to ride. But there was a problem; and it has to do with the weight. To quantify it, the bike weighs 264kg dry. (This, by the way, is actually 27kg up on the previous model). Add fuel and oil etc and you’d be getting pretty close to 300kg. Now, the problem. The area where the bikes were assembled had a bit of a slope. And the FJR had been parked on the steepest section of the slope, with the side-stand on the low-side. This resulted in it leaning over at fair angle. Look at the photo above, taken from the front, and you can see this. When I was looking the bike over and taking the photos, I’d sat on it and tried to lift it up-right. Very heavy! So I left it as it was. When we were about to leave, I asked the lead rider if he’d take the bike down to a more level surface. This was a bit embarrassing, but the thought of dropping a $23,000 bike (and being squashed under 300kg of Yamaha!), didn’t appeal to me! He seemed to manage it okay; but I think if you owned one, you’d be looking to always park it on level ground. Once on the move though, the weight just seems to melt away. You’re always aware of the weight, of course, but it isn’t really a problem, and the bike feels very manageable and actually quite nimble. It’s only at low speed on roundabouts etc that you start to feel the heaviness again. In other respects, initial impressions over the first few kilometres weren’t so good though. Taking off, there were some clunks and snatches from the transmission; and then a definite whine as it accelerated away. A bit surprising really, especially on a machine of this quality. Also a bit surprising, at first anyway, was the ride. It was good, but not as plush as I expected. At city speeds you could definitely feel the bumps. As I said, I took this over the same route as the XJR1300, and early on, over some rough patched-bitumen sections, there was a definite thump as it hit the bumps. In fact, where on the XJR I was aiming it at the bumps to test the ride qualities, with the FJR I found myself avoiding them! Hmmm, surprising! Of course the suspension is fully adjustable, front and back, so no doubt some fiddling would improve things, but I can only comment on ‘em as I find ‘em! (To be fair, I should also explain that it probably seemed worse than it was, because the seat happened to be pressing against a tender spot on my groin where I have an old hernia; so when it gave a thump, I really felt it!). This was all at pretty low speeds in light traffic. But once it got going a bit, things got better. (And shifting my position on the seat helped too). Even at suburban speeds, the ride smoothed out and it handled bumps very well. At higher speeds on secondary back-roads, the quality of the ride really came through, the suspension showing excellent compliance. Everything else smoothed out too. If the transmission had been less than impressive at take-off, once on the move it was fine. The clunking and snatching only seems to happen in stop-start type riding. And the gear-changes were beautifully smooth. Even clutch-less changes were smooth. Neutral was always easy to get, on the move or at standstill. I said the bike feels quite nimble, and it really does. The handling is great! I was always very conscious of the weight, but the bike kept encouraging me to forget it! I’d come up to a corner and turn in a bit tentatively, half expecting that it might need a bit of muscling to keep all that weight under control, but it just turned in easily and went around like it was on rails. It’s much better than you’d expect it to be; and it wants you to treat it like a sports-bike! As I became more confident with it, and began to squirt it through corners with a bit more enthusiasm, the bike seemed to be saying, “Yeah, that’s it; forget the weight, I love corners!” It really is that good! You can easily tip it into corners, and it just goes where you want it to. Yep, it’s a heavy bike, but the handling is light, easy and accurate. Like any good-handling bike, it responds easily to counter-steering, and is happy to adjust it’s line mid-corner. Now, I’m not saying it’s the sort of thing you’d take to a twisty road and go scratching with (if you want to do that, buy an R1!), but for a big tourer it handles superbly! And I reckon a good rider who knew the bike well, and trusted it to be as good as it is, would surprise a lot of people on much sportier machinery. The brakes are brilliant! Even a light application has it hauling down the speed at an impressive rate. You need to stop quicker? Just squeeze a bit harder and the brakes amaze you with their power! ABS is standard, and I suppose that allows them to provide the system with greater boost for lighter application; knowing that if someone does get ham-fisted and slam the brakes on, the wheels aren’t going to lock-up. In any case the way they stop such a heavy bike so powerfully, with so little effort, really is very impressive! Continuing along the theme of the bike showing total disregard for it’s weight and pretending to be a sports-bike, it also goes very well! The engine is a 4-cylinder, of 1298cc, with a compression-ratio of 10.8:1. Yamaha don’t provide out-put figures, but the specs I’ve seen state that it produces 108kw at 8,000rpm, and 133Nm of torque at 7,000rpm. Okay, the power-to-weight ratio might be a long way short of an R1, but in the real world this is still a quick bike! It’s also very flexible, and pulls away smoothly from as low as 2,000rpm. From higher revs, a decent twist of the throttle will have it surging forward with great enthusiasm. Once again, it’s impressive for such a big bike! It’s very smooth too, with no vibrations at all. The worst it got was a harshness when accelerating hard from low revs. According to the read-out on the display unit, the bike is pretty economical too. It mostly seemed to be in the 16 to 20km / litre range. Cruising at light throttle even in 4th it was showing 18 – 19. The lowest figure I saw (and I wasn’t looking at it all the time of course!) was 10.9 while accelerating in 2nd gear. The highest was 36.7 slowing from highway speed on a closed throttle. (No, I know that's not a realistic figure, I'm just telling you what I saw!). Okay, so it likes to think it’s a sports-bike, but what’s it like as a tourer? Well, you’d expect it be good wouldn’t you; and of course, it is good! In top it’s geared at 32kph per 1,000rpm; so at 120kph it’s purring along at just under 4,000rpm. That’s relaxed cruising! The gearbox is only a 5-speed, but the spread of ratios is just about perfect. 1st is low enough for easy take-offs, and top ideal for interstate cruising. Inbetween there are no awkward gaps, each gear seems naturally spaced from the one below it or above it. By the way, 4th gear runs a very useful 27kph per 1,000rpm; a figure common for top in a lot of bikes. The list of standard equipment sets it up well for touring too; including a full fairing with electrically adjustable screen, heated grips, and panniers (which weren't fitted to the test-bike) etc. The fairing does a good job of keeping the wind off at highway speeds. I could still feel a bit of wind on my upper-body, but not too much. The screen is operated by a rocker-switch on the dash, and while cruising at around 110 – 120kph on the highway I played around with this a bit. When I raised the screen it took the wind off my upper-body, but created quite a bit of buffeting around my head. Lower it again and the wind returned to my chest and shoulders, but the buffeting around the helmet stopped. For me, I was more comfortable with it set at the lowest setting. For shorter people the highest setting would probably be wind-free. At touring speeds on the highway it is rock-solid stable, but also responsive; ready to change direction whenever required. So the handling is good right from suburban speeds up to high speed cruising. When we got back to the dealer’s I felt totally comfortable, and would’ve happily kept going and gone around the route again! But, alas, it was time to give it back. And time to sum up the bike. Although those first impressions, over the first few kilometres, weren’t that good, the further I went the more I liked it! At the end of the ride I wanted to keep going. And I reckon that if I did, by the time I got to Melbourne they’d have to fight to get it back! Out on the open road everything just works so well. Wherever it is, it feels like it’s just waiting to hit the open road and take you touring! And it’s brilliant at touring! It’s comfortable, it goes well, it cruises at an engine-speed that’s not much above idle for some bikes, it’s very economical for a big bike, it handles well, it’s perfectly stable, it’s got great brakes, it rides well (yes, it does, despite my early misgivings!), and it’s very well equipped. You know you’re on a good bike when the further you go, the more comfortable you feel, and the more you like it! There are downsides though. The weight, and the sheer size of the thing, are perhaps the main ones. It’s a big bike, and it feels big when you’re on it. The seat contributes to that, too. While it’s great for comfort, it does create quite a stretch to the ground. The weight you notice most at city speeds (and when parked on sloping ground!). Once clear of the city the weight isn’t such a problem, although you’re always aware of it, but around town it is definitely heavy. And as my mate with the earlier model FJR said, “Imagine how heavy it would be loaded up for touring!” Also, as with most fully-faired bikes, there can be problems with heat at slow speed. I felt that a little in heavy traffic; although this model is apparently much better than the previous one, which was renowned for problems of heat at slow speed. So, to sum up, what about that sports-touring tag; are Yamaha justified in putting it in that category? Is it really a sports-tourer? Yes, it certainly is! If you want to tour in a sporty manner, this bike is superb! But it’ll also handle a blast through the twisties with surprising agility. It’s a genuine sports-tourer; it’s just a “super-size” one!
Yamaha produced a winner when they released this in 2001, and they've really only changed it once. Paint has changed a bit over different year models, with the current colours being smokey-grey or black. Personally I like the smokey-grey with its varied tones, but a friend who owns an earlier model I know prefers the black. (That's why they offer choices!). You have the option of an automatic-clutch version too, to save your left-hand having to get involved with gear-changes. It's a supurb - if slightly weighty - sportstourer, so why change such a winning formula!
There have been a lot of changes for the 2013 model; the first major up-date in about 7 years. Despite that though, it still looks very similar to the old model, and in a lot of ways it is very similar. Let’s call it “major tweaking” rather than a complete new model. What you can see, if you look closely, is the fairing has been changed to give better protection for the rider, while at the same time offering better dissipation of engine heat. Under the skin there have been changes to the suspension, which Yamaha says has been set up to make for lighter handling. In overseas markets it gets electronically-adjustable front suspension (with upside-down forks if memory serves me correctly), but that isn’t coming to Australia. Neither is the clutchless transmission, which never seemed to be popular here, despite some avid devotees of the system (including one of our readers). Electronics make their presence felt in the engine department though, with ride-by-wire throttle and the usual accompanying multi-mode ECU. It also has electronic cruise-control as standard. Oh yes, and ABS. I’ve read a couple of road-tests of the new model and it gains universal praise for its ability as a big sports-tourer. I was impressed with the old model, so this one has to be good!
The main difference for 2015 is that we finally get the up-spec model with the electronically-adjusted suspension. The forks are upside-down units. This model will set you back another $2,000 over the standard model. And it weighs in at 3kg more dry weight. Interestingly, there is a third model available (although this doesn’t appear on Yamaha’s web-site). Called the “Touring Edition” this is described as a “police-spec” model. I’m not sure what the differences are to the normal model, but I’m pretty sure you won’t get the flashing blue light on a stick that the police-spec unit generally has! You will save $1,000 over the normal one though.
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