Tips, Tweaks, Fixes and Facts, plus Buyer's Guide and Expert Q&A from the Industry's Best
Ringleader: Brent Avis
MSRP (2008): $15,699
Average Fuel Mileage: 37.2 MPG
Accessories & Modifications: Yamaha accessory windscreen and touring trunk, Continental Sport Attack tires
Magazines are beautiful, wonderful things. The Internet, too. Lots of information transfer to the consumer from "enlightened sources." In the case of motorcycles, the benefit to consumers is they're able to draw conclusions about a certain bike before they ever see one in the flesh, let alone ride one. The drawback, of course, is consumers are able to draw conclusions about a certain bike before they ever see one in the flesh, let alone ride one!
Such is the case with the auto-clutch Yamaha FJR1300AE. Going into this long-term adventure, I was honestly guilty of having preconceived notions. I'd heard stories about the AE's lazy upshifts, heavy weight, high cost, inability to rattle off MotoGP-style downshifts with requisite throttle blips and a myriad of other little niggles. And when I first rode the bike, I found much of that to be true.
Then I hit the highway, and reality hit. Seems the AE isn't as flawed as I thought it was. In fact, once a few miles passed beneath the tires, I took quite a liking to the bike. Sure it has its faults, but in reality all bikes have faults. Maybe I was more at fault than the bike was?
Stupid little things that bothered me at first were no longer even in my periphery. Transmission a little slow to upshift? Click the trigger a few milliseconds earlier. Even if it took an extra second to shift, does that really make a difference over the course of an 800-mile day? Besides, that fat girl at the bar last night stepped on my foot while we were trying to line-dance. So my big toe appreciates doing nothing but throbbing for a while, and it's a pretty comfy chair up here anyway. My sore ass appreciates that (another story for another time, okay?).
There was nothing I could do about the shifting anyhow. Just learn to love the ease with which the bike glides away from stop signs like some mega-scooter from hell, and rest my left hand on my wife's slender thigh as we accelerate to supra-legal speeds with all the effort it takes to sneeze. She likes that, too.
With comfort paramount, the first aftermarket part I bolted on was Yamaha's accessory windscreen ($109.95). Four inches taller than stock, that made a huge difference to me as a rider, and the wife found it alleviated some of the buffeting the stock screen caused when in the full-upright position.
Along the way, I realized my newlywed wife carries a lot more crap with her than she did when we were dating. This necessitated the installation of Yamaha's accessory top trunk ($559, plus $115.95 for the mounting kit and $109.95 for the optional back pad). The backrest, let's just say, is not meant for large women. My wife is pretty slender, and even she felt she was forced into "perfect posture"-especially while wearing a jacket with a back protector. It'd be better if the back pad were an inch or so thinner. Otherwise the top trunk worked perfectly. It didn't adversely affect the bike's handling, yet added extra storage capacity that, even if you don't need it, you'll find yourself using it. Often.
Pushbutton tourer: Yamaha's FJR1300AE has no clutch lever and shifts via paddles on the le
Another button on the left bar allows you to toggle the windscreen from high-and-steep to
In terms of reliability, the FJR had no issues whatsoever. I just changed the oil and filter every 3000 miles. As the bike neared the 5000-mile mark, the stock front Bridgestone BT020 tire's tread dwindled until I could see the first layers of fibrous cords. (A flat rear early on forced a replacement.) Now, with just over 10,000 miles on the clock, the replacement Continental Sport Attack tires ($277) need replacing too. Perhaps I should have gone with the longer-wearing Road Attacks?
Early on, I complained about the stock suspension, and was thinking about what changes I might make. But the more miles I piled on, the smoother things got, the less I had issues and the more I simply enjoyed the ride.
Perhaps if you weigh 300 pounds and your wife's quite the Hereford, or if you wear skin-tight Ed Hardy T-shirts and don't have a wife (wink wink, nudge nudge), you'll need to dial up your local suspension specialist. Wilber shocks have proven popular with FJR owners. But if you're anywhere between the goalposts, you'll be just fine.
At the heart of the Silver Sled is one of the best motors Yamaha has ever made, sorta partway between an FZ1 and an R1. Yeah, so things are a little at odds with each other: The motor is racy, but the transmission is a little lazy. Does that make this a neutered sportbike or a sporty touring bike? It's whatever you want it to be.
The Yamaha FJR1300 is a tremendous vehicle on which to pry open the boundaries of space and time. For evidence consider John Ryan, who just set a new Iron Butt record, riding his FJR from Alaska to Florida, 5645 miles in 86.5 hours. That's no less true of the AE version-and truer yet if you lean toward the "touring" side of the sport-touring equation.
Going in, I expected to find many flaws that required fixes. But in the end, in the real world, where this bike was designed to be ridden, it's as close to perfect as anything on the market today. So save your cash, get a good deal on a leftover FJR1300AE and just enjoy it! I'll certainly miss mine when she goes back to Yamaha.