2013 Yamaha FJR1300A | First Ride

Not All New, But Mostly

By Zack Courts, Photography by Brian J. Nelson

They say: “A more advanced and comfortable ST.”
We say: “Better, but is it better than the rest?”

Yamaha, mindful of the weak world economy, decided that it was smarter to thoroughly revise its flagship sport-tourer than commit to an entirely new design. So, rather than reinvent the long-running FJR1300, Yamaha has refined it nose to tail (shedding 5 pounds in the process), and added only $300 to the price tag. This is only the second rework since the bike’s 2001 debut. (America didn’t get it until late 2002, as an ’03 model.)

Research indicated that current owners want big mileage potential from their bikes, so the new FJR has a slew of goodies for iron butts. Cruise control is standard equipment on the 2013 bike—as are heated grips, also standard last year—and both will spoil you immediately. The cruise system is easy to operate, easy to cancel, and easy enough to ignore if you choose not to use it.

Warmth for your paws is offered in three settings and is buried a little further in the menu, but is also simple to use. The FJR’s electric windscreen is also equal parts awesome and easy. Yamaha claims it adjusts twice as fast as the previous model’s, and windscreen programming has been refined to make the screen stay in position when the key is shut off—a real convenience and, no doubt, a request from current FJR owners.

Effective cruise control is easier to implement with ride by wire, which the FJR gets this year. Along with Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T), the new FJR adopts Yamaha’s drive mode option for 2013, with two settings, Sport and Touring. Yamaha says that it did not sacrifice any power in Touring mode, it’s simply a programming trick that softens power delivery. Touring mode is just that; very soft. Sport mode feels perfectly calm, and because the engine is tuned to provide predictable, linear power the bike is easy to ride smoothly even in the more aggressive of the two modes.

All these new-fangled e-options are managed through an all-new dash that includes a complicated multifunction display on the right. The screen displays three pieces of information at once, but it’s up to you which three. Choices include the odometer, two trip meters, air temp, coolant temp, trip time, instant fuel mileage, average fuel mileage, trip fuel mileage, and estimated range. The dash and all of the switches on the bars are daunting at first, but after two days of riding they felt comfortable and familiar.

Aside from all of the electronic doo-dads, Yamaha engineered some mechanical adjustability into the new FJR, too. As before, you can change headlight angle via knobs just inside the fairing, and the rider’s seat offers two height settings. The saddle moves from the lower option of 31.7 inches up to 32.5 in. The bike is not especially narrow, and even at a lanky 6-foot-2 I found the raised seat option to be too high. In addition to feeling perched up on top of the bike, it was more difficult to manage the 637-pound FJR at low speeds. Not to mention that wind protection diminishes by, well, about an inch. The FJR’s cast-aluminum bars also adjust to three height/reach settings, but it’s not an on-the-fly adjustment. Tools are involved.

The last little piece of ergo news is a redesigned side fairing that includes adjustable panels that redirect more (or less) air around the rider’s legs. The panels adjust via a quarter-turn fastener that releases the section of plastic and allows it to be oriented in a wider (or narrower) position to redirect windblast. The effect seems negligible: I had trouble distinguishing the difference between the two settings. It’s possible that the side panels would make a noticeable difference when riding in the rain, but our ride was graced with decidedly agreeable weather.

In pleasant weather you probably won’t need the standard-equipment ABS or traction control either, but both are there just in case. Yamaha says that the TC is “basically the same system” as on the R1. The FJR’s TC felt much more cautious to me, but I think given the context of the bike, that’s a good thing. When leaving a gravel turn-out, full throttle can be applied and the bike will delicately employ power until the rear tire reaches firm pavement, where it digs in and lunges away.

The front ABS intervenes somewhat more abruptly, so that it sometimes feels like the brakes are disengaged entirely. The rear ABS seems better, especially on pavement, where the system compensates quickly for changes in traction. Also, with so much weight distributed to the back of the bike, a great deal of stopping force can be applied via the large, 282mm rear rotor, without the ABS interrupting.

With such vast updates and so much versatility built in, this is the real question: Does the bike feel like more than the sum of its parts? The new FJR delivers superb safety and comfort features, flawless cruise control, and seemingly endless ergonomic adjustability, but it’s almost as though the bike’s is overshadowed by these things. The handling is competent but not particularly inspiring, and the motor is powerful but without a strong personality. For its intended purpose—ticking off huge miles with minimum drama—the package is enormously capable and refined, no argument there. But if you’re looking for something that will move you great distances and move your soul, this FJR has a few more miles to go.

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