Yamaha’s muscular sport touring motorcycle has been criss-crossing North American highways since 2003, although it was available in Yurp two years earlier. Its reputation as a bulletproof workhorse is well-earned. It’s getting a little long in the tooth but the big FJR still has outstanding reliability, amazing performance and it’s comfortable to boot.
Every time a manufacturer revises something that’s already quite good, I get a bit nervous. They just can’t leave well enough alone and sometimes, they totally screw it up.
Not mentioning any names but somebody did exactly that with one of the best do-it-all motorcycles a few years ago. (Cough, FZ1, cough).
The engineers and marketers who thought a smaller fuel tank, less wind protection, poorer fuel economy and sportier chassis would make it better probably put ketchup on their sushi too.
Fear not, FJR aficionados, Yamaha has made a host of changes that are all for the better, while only upping the price by $500 over last year’s model to $17,499.
A shorter list would be what’s not new, but for starters, the engine gets a number of detail improvements including new injectors with revised injector angles, a revised airbox and intake funnels and the exhaust valves now have carburized tips for extra durability.
Yamaha also developed a new casting process for the block that eliminates the need for cylinder sleeves. This gives more consistent heat dissipation for improved performance and allows the use of low friction piston rings.
But the biggest improvement is the transition to Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (basically fly by wire), so we get traction control, two power modes and electronic cruise control – an almost essential feature on a long distance cruise missile. Even Harley has had cruise control on their baggers for several years now.
There’s a new direct ignition system with coils residing in the spark plug caps, as well as a new exhaust system that reduces the number of catalytic converters from four to two. The new system also allows FJR owners to install slip-on mufflers without messing up their emissions. To retain family history, the muffler end caps still have the distinctive FJR dimples or furrows or whatever you call them.
Net result? The FJR still makes around 142 crank horsepower but torque is up from 99 to 102 ft lbs.
Moving on to the chassis, the 48mm forks get revised internals. In some Yamaha models, one fork handles rebound damping while the other does compression. With the FJR, both forks have spring preload adjustability but the right fork has both compression and rebound damping while the left fork is merely along for the ride.
The rear monoshock also has revised settings and keeps the easily accessed hard/soft spring preload lever. The new front fairing has improved aerodynamics and is of a one-piece design. There are also adjustable air ducts on the side of the fairing to control airflow around the rider’s legs. The electrically adjustable windscreen has a 130mm range, is larger and now has a central duct to reduce vacuum effect.
There’s a new headlight with the fashionable LED positional lighting around the edges for a striking frontal view. Front turn signals are now huge LED units and are fairing mounted.
The new dash initially bombards you with information overload, but once used to it, it’s actually quite informative and intuitive. There’s an analog tach, a digital speedo, fuel gauge, clock, power mode indicator and an “ECO” indicator that shows if you’re saving the polar ice caps.
In the multi function LCD section, you have the odometer, twin tripmeters, ambient temperature and the now-common displays of average fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, elapsed time, gear position indicator, heated grip indicator, windshield position, distance remaining in the tank and I think I might’ve seen 50 of Julia Child’s favourite recipes in there somewhere.
Of course, the FJR still has an impressive list of standard performance, safety and convenience functions including three-position heated grips, electrically-controlled windscreen, linked ABS brakes, quick-release 30-liter capacity colour-matched hard bags, adjustable seat, handlebars that adjust over a 10mm range, 12V DC outlet and a locking dash storage compartment.
Even with all these changes, wet weight is down 2 kg to 289.
I saddled up on a glorious, late October morning, a sunny, 24-degree oasis in a two-week ocean of cold and wet.
Heading east on the 401 towards cottage country, the first thing I noticed was the new screen’s reduced turbulence and how smooth the motor was. The seat adjusts over a 20mm range but it seems like more. On the “high” position, it felt as if I were sitting atop the FJR, but on “low,” I settled right in and was much more comfortable, even though it cut down on the already somewhat sparse legroom for us over six feet tall.
Once into the secondary roads, I was pleased to find that the FJR still shreds the twisties like an A-10 Warthog on a strafing run. The big FJR was always one of the best handling sport tourers and fortunately, nothing has changed.
A touch of front brake initiates the turn and, while the steering still feels slow, it’s freight-train stable through bumpy corners and didn’t deviate from the line I’d chosen. The brakes had great stopping power with exceptional feel and feedback but every position on the five-way adjustable lever had initial contact too far from the grip, even for my long digits.
Through slower corners, the steering feels even heavier (just like the previous model) but still predictable and consistent. Apply a whiff of throttle and the 103 ft lbs of torque launches you out of corners like a Saturn 5 taking off. The five-speed transmission is as old school as points and carburetors, but the monster torque means you’ll never be seeking a gear at corner exits. Although, at freeway speeds, I kept reaching for a sixth gear that wasn’t there.
Only one fill-up was required on an over-500km day as the FJR averaged 5.0 – 5.3L/100 km under conditions ranging from steady cruising to backroad strafing. Owners should expect an almost 500-km range from the 25-liter tank.
Select “sport” mode for open road conditions where you want the full pop with quick throttle response, but in traffic, choose “tour” and the response is slower, smoother and more relaxed across the entire rpm range. On one of the narrower backroads, the traction control was worth its weight in gold due to the prevalence of wet leaves (also known as “nature’s ball bearings”) in most of the corners.
Even though it’s an aging model, the FJR1300 still holds its own in the sport touring wars. It’s faster than anyone needs to go and the improvements Yamaha brought in this year all make the motorcycle better without sacrificing any of its better qualities.
The build quality is first rate, fit and finish is exemplary and the list of standard features is impressive. The bags are easily detachable, the capacity is certainly large enough and, something that some manufacturers overlook, one key fits the ignition and both bags.
On the down side, even though the torque curve is flat as Saskatchewan, having only five gears seems a bit antiquated – like having a digital watch that requires manual winding each morning. Also, Yamaha recommends not fitting a topbox as it overloads the rear subframe – a shame really as that limits luggage capacity, especially if you’re traveling two-up.
The automatic clutch version was discontinued in North America a few years ago but is still available in Europe with….. electrically adjustable suspension AND male slider forks. Hmmm, verrrrryy interesting and I’m betting we see that suspension option over ‘ere within a couple of years.
The FJR1300 doesn’t have the werewolf howl of the Triumph Sprint at full song, nor does it have the electronically adjustable suspension of the BMW or Ducati.
But, for those who want a bulletproof, simple package that will give them years of reliable service without all the electronic doo-dahs and trickery, the FJR won’t disappoint.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
|Bike||2013 Yamaha FJR1300A|
|Engine type||Inline 4, liquid-cooled, DOHC, five speed|
|Power (crank)*||142 hp|
|Torque*||102 ft lbs|
|Tank Capacity||25 liters|
|Carburetion||Mikuni EFI, 42mm throttle bodies|
|Brakes, front||Dual 320mm discs, four piston calipers, ABS standard|
|Brakes, rear||Single 282mm dics, two piston caliper.|
|Seat height||805 – 825mm (31.7 – 32.5 inches)|
|Wheelbase||1,545mm (60.8 inches)|
|Wet weight*||289 kg (637 lbs)|
|Colours||Yellowish Metallic Gray|