-- Yamaha FJR1300 Review
-- By Trevor Hedge
Personally speaking I have long been frustrated at the lack of innovation to come out of Japan since the GFC in comparison to their European counterparts, however, there have also been some examples where careful tweaking and the fine tuning of an existing model has managed to completely reinvigorate an otherwise outdated machine.
Suzuki pulled off a masterstroke with their redesign of the DL650 V-Strom, and likewise Yamaha have done the same through careful implantation of the latest engine management systems along with a host of added features to bring their luxury sports-touring machine thoroughly up to date.
The star of the show is the engine. It benefits from the latest fly-by-wire technology: new throttle bodies feed revised intake tracts and spent gases now exit via a simplified exhaust system. There are also a few internal tweaks and the end result is a stunning, stonking motor.
The excellent engine is made all the better on the road by its perfect gearing. Negotiating tight mountain passes complete with 25km/h hairpins in second gear, it pulls hard from barely rolling and keeps a full head of steam all the way to 150km/h. If the hills are a little more open but still with a few tight corners, then selecting third gear has it pulling from virtually nothing all the way to more than 200km/h in a relentless surge of thrust that is quite sublime. Drop the hammer from a standing start and this thing will run 10-second quarter miles complete with panniers loaded for a weekend away.
There are only five cogs in the fairly smooth box and with the mill turning a leisurely 3000rpm at the national speed limit, there is no need for any more. To soften the response a little, select ‘T’ mode and the throttle response is slowed a little to ensure a smooth ride. Personally I liked the direct and exhilarating response of ‘S’ mode: just activate the excellent cruise control for the boring highway stretches as a licence preserver, sit back and enjoy the ride.
While big-bore fours may miss out on some of the charisma of the twins and triples, there is no argument when it comes to pure seamless strong power delivery, everywhere, big-bore four-cylinder machines like the FJR1300 are where it is at. No current twin or triple can hold a candle to this donk. There is nothing to complain about with this torque-laden motor, it just delivers what you need when you command it. For something better you have to add more cylinders and capacity: cue BMW’s more expensive and full-featured K1600GT.
If grip levels are compromised then the new traction control system will step in to save the day. Otherwise unobtrusive, it is there in the background to help save the day should you hit an unexpected slippery patch or get too ham-fisted with the throttle in wet conditions. Get the machine banked on its side out of a low-speed turn, mash the throttle, only for scientific purposes, of course... and you can feel it reign things in smoothly. Riding as hard as we dare, the only time it would intervene is when we provoked it to. The system can also be deactivated should you feel the need for a mono or a skid.
The ride is excellent. Huge 48mm forks sport new more responsive internals, with both ends scoring revised spring rates and damping. Adjustment is simple enough with some thoughtful knobs in the right places to make things easier. The suspension performs remarkably well, softening hard edged bumps, nicely. A succession of undulations at speed can get the shock pumping a little but at the end of the day, this is not supposed to be an R1...
Overseas, electronically adjustable suspension is available on the FJR1300 but Yamaha Australia has chosen not to bring the full-spec machine down-under due to cost concerns. The Australian model retails for $24,999 plus on road costs (including panniers), thus it is a premium machine, albeit not as highly specified as found in some overseas markets.
I found ground clearance to be excellent. Chasing much lighter pilots than myself, I did notice them throwing a few sparks from time to time, but I could match their corner speed without dragging a thing. Skinny buggers that have never needed to learn how to ride with a light-on-the-bike riding style to help keep a machine off the deck unlike us, ahem, bigger-boned folk, who learned how to ride ‘light’ to stop old style suspension from tying itself in knots...
The steering response of the machine felt a little strange at first. It is light and direct enough but at first acquaintance can feel a little vague, that is until you dial yourself into the machine and start working to its strengths.
Braking response is excellent. Strong response with little effort at the lever, backed up by an excellent ABS system. The brakes are linked but a deft touch of the rear brake pedal only while cornering will not activate any front brake at all. Control freaks have nothing to fear, it just works.
In pictures the new FJR does not look all that distinctive from the previous model, side-by-side though the difference is enormous and really does make the previous model look very out-dated. The styling tweaks are not over the top, but clever and really help to bring a thoroughly modern look to the FJR. The new headlights with their stylish LED running lights are a great advance and are matched to cleverly integrated LED indicators. I have never been much of a big fan of LED lights to be honest, but on the FJR they really do look the business, with no touch of fisher-price tackiness that plagues way too many LED lighting systems on the market.
Clever removable louvres in the side of the fairing can be adjusted to keep hot air away from the rider, or in cooler climes direct hot air towards the rider. I never felt any undue heat resonating from the bike, unlike the arse-thigh roasting I copped on the YZF-R1 I rode to Canberra on for the FJR1300 launch!
While better than the last model, the new adjustable screen is still a bit small for my liking. This is not a big sit-in a still air cocoon type machine, probably for styling and sporting reasons. For many riders an aftermarket larger screen will be on their list of wants; the adjustment arms seem man enough to cope with a larger load. In its defence, buffeting, and the dreaded reverse-buffeting is non-existent.
Seating arrangements are excellent, and greatly improved over its predecessor. Adjustable through two positions, 805mm and 825mm from terra-firma, the pew is nicely tailored and well padded. The bars are also adjustable for reach. A generous 215kg load capacity means that the bike is more than capable of taking two large riders and their gear away for the weekend without maxing out the suspension.
The view from the seat is thoroughly modern, and appealing. A tasteful mix of analogue and digital strikes a nice balance while providing all the information one needs. Scrolling through the menu systems to set the variables on the heated grips, and screen perhaps takes more presses than one would like but it is something an owner would not think twice about after spending enough time with the bike to do everything blind folded. A lockable compartment is provided in the dash surround and a 12-volt power socket is standard.
For many riders, the highlight of the FJR1300 will be that, thanks to being slim in the right places it somehow manages not to feel like a large touring bike. With a seat height variable between 805-825mm and a ‘relatively’ light claimed wet weight of 289kg, it is perhaps the most unintimidating bike of this category. It also gives the impression of being bulletproof and that the drivetrain will last forever, backed up of course by Yamaha’s now industry leading level of fit and fine detail finish.
|- Some video footage from Australian Launch -|
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