2002 Yamaha FJR1300

Yamaha knows Jack about both sides of the equation for a sport-touring motorcycle: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

Uncle Jack would proclaim through a haze of cigar smoke, "There's nothing you get by pissin' and moanin'. Shut your trap about it, already." It didn't matter what "it" was, because the great man felt stoicism in all things traced the path to enlightenment or, at the very least, made a shorter route to the next scotch.

You guys--American sport-touring enthusiasts, and you know who you are--would have pissed Jack off. As soon as Yamaha showed the FJR1300 in Europe, we (uh, you) Yanks began the brow-furrowing and low moaning. "Aw, can't we have it, huh? Please, let us have it...please, please, please." For a time, Yamaha played the patient father--the one who didn't have the stomach to be in the same room with Jack for long--and explained the FJR was developed in Europe for European riders and, golly, the sport-tourer market here is mighty small to support a big commitment.

And when you guys in the well-worn Aerostich suits and flip-up helmets pressed the issue (writing letters, spamming Yamaha with e-mail, pestering dealers) the planners at Yamaha Motor finally cried...well..."Enough!"

Now it's here, as an early release 2003 model, and you whiners can zip your lips and fork over the cash. Yamaha left the FJR unchanged from the European model, except for all those little things (mph on the speedo, headlights that aim the right way, stupid reflectors everywhere) necessary for our government to issue its blessings. Acknowledging the, um, grayer nature of the sport-touring market, the bike is available only in silver--the hue du jour, it seems, but, curiously, not the same Liquid Silver as the FZ1 or YZF-R1--and comes with nifty and extremely well-integrated standard hard luggage.

From a distance it's hard to tell if the FJR is a blatant Honda ST1100 knockoff--the proportions are similar, though the Yamaha appears squatter--or something else entirely. Following in the Honda's wheel tracks wouldn't be a bad tactic, because the ST1100 is amazingly popular in Europe and has a dedicated following here. But there's a new sport-tourer--the ST1300--on the horizon, and we all know the dangers of trying to copy someone's already mature design.

Uncle Jack had no trouble categorizing things. "A tomato isn't a fruit...it's a vegetable. Just look at it!" But he might have been befuddled by the FJR. It's not a direct competitor to the Honda ST1100 and Kawasaki Concours-axis machines. At 641 pounds soaking wet (including the weight of the standard hard bags, which are 12 pounds each) the FJR is 85 pounds lighter than the last ST1100 to crush our scales. Yamaha has also priced the FJR aggressively against the ST11; at $11,499 (including bags), it's $400 cheaper than the non-ABS Honda and only marginally more expensive than chain-driven sport-tourers such as the Futura, Interceptor and Sprint ST. (In fact, it's about a wash when you put bags on these models.)

It's a 'tweener, then: bigger than the sporty sport-tourers, lighter and cheaper than the big-rig sport-tourers, including the BMWs in this category. To ensure that the FJR would more than hold its own, excitementwise, against the smaller, sharper sport-tourers, Yamaha invested in an all-new engine with the aim of waking up the sport-touring class. Although it shares basic YZF-R1 architecture--there are those stacked transmission gears, an R1 clutch, forged pistons riding in ceramic-composite bores, carburized rods and a right-side cam drive--the FJR's 1298cc mill really goes its own way. Count the valves--there are 16 total, because Yamaha felt that a torque-monster engine does not benefit from the company's trademark five-valve-per-cylinder technology. (But, wait, haven't we been told five valves improve midrange without sacrificing top-end? Oh, never mind.) The head carries a modest 10.8:1 compression ratio and the intake ports are your old-age side-draft style; this is to move the airbox aft and guarantee enough room above the engine for the 6.6-gallon fuel tank.

Precious dinosaur juice flows from that vessel to the engine through a straightforward electronic fuel-injection system. It's not the hybrid system used on the new R1--that's a newer design, and the FJR was begun before the new R1--but it works swimmingly well. Because Yamaha wanted the FJR to be extremely green, you'll find dual catalysts in the Y leading to the twin mufflers and an oxygen sensor to inform the injection of any unwanted hydrocarbon congestion outside of the engine. What's more, there's a new, more sophisticated air-injection scheme in place, rather than feeding the exhaust ports with fresh air to help burn unused fuel. Twin counterbalancers quell the vibes.

Fortunately, these emission bits take nothing away from the engine's thrilling performance. Let it be said Yamaha has the injection figured out; there's a sense of utter predictability in the way the engine responds to your right wrist. Plus, the driveline is remarkably free of lash--the five-speed transmission shifts so well we wonder if Suzuki sent over GSX-R boxes--so the experience is uniformly a good one.

And then you get to telling Uncle Jack about the grunt. ("Grunt when you lift weights, otherwise shut up," he'd say.) Thanks to mild cam timing and smallish ports (for a 1300cc engine), the FJR's powerplant makes superb torque--with 80 percent of maximum torque available from 2750 to 8750 rpm. And with 126 rear-wheel horsepower and 89 foot-pounds of torque on tap, the FJR trounces the last ST11 we tested, every BMW including the mighty K1200RS, plus each of the chain-driven sport-tourers by a significant margin. Yes, you could compare the FJR with the big-inch GTs--the Honda CBR1100XX, Kawasaki ZX-12R or Suzuki Hayabusa--and you'll begin to see the FJR's ribs through the skin, but, again, these bikes are not on Yamaha's dart board for the FJR.

But put the FJR up against the new ZZ-R1200 and you'll see something interesting. Sure, the Kawasaki pulls extremely hard in the upper registers, but the Yamaha whomps the ZZ-R below 4000 rpm and again between 5000 and 8000 rpm, at which point the FJR starts to wheeze. So, yeah, the ZZ-R's 145-hp max seems impressive, but the FJR's real-world torque gives the bike a tremendously willing feel. You'll find yourself whacking open the throttle out of every corner just to feel the Gs.

You'd be right to declare pure performance isn't the sole measure of goodness among sport-tourers, but the FJR has the qualities to make for a fine long-distance mount. This equation starts with the big fairing, which provides superb aero control at the expense of some heat coming up from the catcons. The electrically adjustable windscreen helps you choose between a noisy (but nonturbulent) ride with the shield down or the hand of Bernoulli on your back at the fully upright angle. Mostly we left the shield stowed. Yamaha will offer a taller, wider screen for $94.95, in addition to other touring amenities that include a tour trunk ($449.95, plus $64.95 for the brackets) and variable-temperature heated grips ($299.95).

Taller riders complain that knees meet the fairing too often (shins bang into the lowers, too), and it is true the seating position is fairly compact. It's not quite the sit-up-and-beg monstrosity that the BMW R1150RT is; in fact, our ergo measurements show the FJR to have almost three inches less handlebar rise and a bit less legroom than the BMW. Looks can be deceiving: The FJR's ergo profile is actually closer to the FZ1's, with approximately a half-inch more bar rise, similar legroom and a slightly shorter reach to the grips. All this serves the rider with an upright riding position that's cramped only if you're taller than six feet. We would not complain if the grips were a tad lower and further away, but the FJR is close enough as is.

The remaining variable is the seat, and we're happy to say Yamaha got this right. You can sit on this motorcycle all day and suffer little. What's more, the heads-up pose gives you an SUV-like view of the road and along with the large block of air deflected by the fairing, provides a nice still-air pocket for passengers, who, incidentally, praise the FJR for its roomy saddle and ample grab handle.

Yamaha claims the FJR is capable of coddling its human cargo, and a small part of that, in concept at least, seems to hinge on soft suspension rates. Leading the way is a 48mm, fully adjustable Soqi fork. (Who's that? It's Yamaha's in-house suspension division, didn't you hear?) The aluminum swingarm works through a progressive linkage to a Soqi shock with adjustable rebound damping and a two-way spring. Rather than have a traditional preload adjuster, the shock uses a remotely operated metal sleeve and two stacked springs (one soft, one hard); flip the switch under the left side panel and a sleeve blocks the soft spring, transferring all the load to the firmer spring.

We'd love to see the hard spring be the soft one and an even firmer item plugged in there, because the bike's main shortfall is its overly gooshy suspension. Get hard on the superb, R1-sourced brakes and the fork makes for the pavement. Crank on the gas and the rear squats like an umpire. (There is, thankfully, no perceptible shaft effect, thanks in part to the long swingarm made possible by the short engine.) Pillowlike rates wouldn't be the end of the world if the bike had more cornering clearance, but it's possible to shave the curb feelers (and, once they're gone, the pegs themselves) at will. Which is a shame, because the chassis--imbued with delightfully light, accurate steering and real, confidence-inspiring stability--seems up for lots more lean angle. We're sure a rethink of the suspension rates would move this bike closer in sporting potential to the Interceptor class without a significant loss of over-the-road plushness.

Indeed, except for the light-rate suspension, the FJR falls neatly between the chain-driven sport-tourers and the big bombers. ("There's nothing in the middle," Jack would say. "You're either right or you're wrong.") It is, easily, 90 percent as sporty as the semisportbike sport-tourers, while maintaining at least a 20 percent cushion on comfort. One of our testers concluded that the FJR hit his personal sweet spot. "I don't like ST1100s and I'm never quite as comfortable on the Interceptor," he said.

Yamaha's U.S. arm is, as you'd imagine, watching the market with great care, hoping that its investment in the bike will pay off. (Or, stripping away some of the public-relations think, that you guys didn't get it to write a check its bottom line can't cash.) We think the FJR will, by getting some of the boomers off of their Interceptors and Sprint STs and, equally important, by intercepting (if you will) middle-age-spreaders ready to trade in their Concourses and ST1100s who might just make the leap to a costly BMW or a portly Gold Wing. And how about a round of applause for you loud mouths who helped convince Yamaha to give us this superb continent-crosser. "Now be quiet," Jack says.


CHEERS AND JEERS
Engine9 Smooth, torquey, willing...is that all?
Drivetrain9 Slick shifting, no shaft effect
Handling8 Stable and solid, marred by low pegs
Braking8 R1 brakes are awfully sweet
Ride7 Despite soft rates, not all marshmallow
Ergonomics7 Mixed blessing; fine for sub-six-footers
Features9 Standard luggage but no ABS
Refinement8 Fit and finish are generally good
Value9 Quite a deal next to big sport-tourers
Fun Factor8 There's more here than scrapin' pegs, eh?
verdict: Yamaha's in-between sport-tourer scores well with its mighty (and smooth) engine, slick gearbox and host of amenities. It's not quite the long-hauler the Honda ST1300 is, but it's so much more wieldy you won't miss a thing.


From the FJ Files


Trace the FJR1300's spiritual lineage and it leads to one machine: the Yamaha FJ1100, which first appeared in 1984. For those of you who were snot-nosed little sprouts sipping hot cocoa in your jammies and watching The A-Team back in '84, allow me to bring you up to speed. The era was a major turning point in the world of motorcycling. The old-world unfaired "standard" bikes were giving way to sporting-oriented machines with partial and even full bodywork. (How exotic is that?!) Modern superbikes were emerging at a rapid-fire pace, to the point where just about every month Motorcyclist trumpeted a new all-conquering ultimate superbike and suggested everything introduced even as recently as the previous month wasn't fit for a toxic-waste dump. (Maybe things haven't changed quite so much after all.)Yamaha's completely new FJ1100 was the last one to the party that year, but it arrived with some cool hardware. Its steel frame was one of the first perimeter layouts to reach production, and it sported a pleasingly plump 150/80V16 rear tire to lay down something in the neighborhood of 125 horsepower. The FJ faced off against five other Japanese machines for the superbike crown in an enormous comparison test that took the Motorcyclist staff all over California in pursuit of a clear-cut winner. It was an excruciatingly close hair-splitting battle that fell in favor of the FJ over the Kawasaki Ninja 900. It's a choice we're still bickering about even today, anytime Motorcyclist alumni gather to knock back a few ice-cold Ensures. Although it didn't win any of our measured performance tests, including racetrack lapping and top speed, the Yamaha still eked out the overall win in '84 by virtue of its versatility and overall goodness. Its air-cooled four-valve inline-four engine was fat with midrange power and had great throttle response and smoothness. Overall comfort was good, too, with decent turbulencefree wind protection and a reasonable sport-touring control layout. The FJ1100 was a formidable sporting mount, though it couldn't match the Ninja 900's lap times or flickable fun on mountain roads. In all, the staff consensus was Yamaha won by a nose.The FJ's reign as King of the Superbikes was short-lived, as far more sporting machines (like the '85 Suzuki GSX-R1100) came along and left the FJ looking thick around the middle by comparison. Maybe that's just as well, because the FJ was always better as a sport-tourer than an all-out sportbike anyway. The FJ1100 (and the FJ1200 that followed it) aged gracefully, and over the years built a loyal following. --Jeff Karr

Off The Record

Dextorford
Editor at Extra Large

Riding the FJR feels a little like dinner at West Point, where the plebes sit bolt upright and must move their forks in straight lines and right angles. That's called a "square meal." So let's label the FJR the square sport-tourer. Everything about it is relentlessly upright and linear, from its riding position, to its steering, to its flat-as-Bonneville torque curve. It strikes me as a Japanese BMW: the same real-world-ride, just easier to buy, operate and understand. But enough objectivity. Is the FJR easy to love? For me, no. Linear and competent leave me cold when I can have inspiring and intoxicating. The Kawasaki ZZ-R1200 gives me nearly the same all-day comfort, but with seemingly limitless power, let's-boogie handling and an all-around sense of yee-haa fun. And if it ain't fun, why bother? --D.F.

Mitch Boehm
Editor

Talk about a missed opportunity! Right out of the box the FJR is a helluva good shaftie--maybe the best one available. It's hellaciously fast, hugely comfortable, stops like a superbike, offers standard luggage and loves--demands, really--to be tossed around like a sportbike. Too bad, then, that Yamaha's R&D guys and test riders screwed the pooch early in development by allowing the thing to be built with saggy suspension and bodywork that fouls riders' knees and shins. It's not as if this stuff is hard to detect early in development. Maybe engineers were more interested in gee-whiz windshield trickery. Too bad. This bike deserves better. --M.B

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Yamaha FJR1300
PRICE
MSRP $11,499
ENGINE
Type: l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement: dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 66.2mm
Displacement: 1298cc
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Transmission: 5-speed
Final drive: shaft
CHASSIS
Frame aluminum-alloy twin spar
Weight: 641 lb. (wet) 601 lb. (fuel tank empty)
Fuel capacity: 6.6 gal.
Rake/trail: 25.0 deg./3.82 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase: 56.1 in. (1425mm)
Seat height: 32.0 in. (820mm)
SUSPENSION
Front: 43mm inverted cartridge fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear: single shock adjustable
for spring preload and rebound damping
Brake, front: dual four-piston calipers, 298mm discs
Brake, rear: single two-piston caliper, 282mm disc
Tire, front 120/70ZR17, Metzeler ME-Z4
Tire, rear 180/55ZR17, Metzeler ME-Z4
PERFORMANCE
Corrected 1/4-mile*: 11.02 sec. @ 124.08 mph
0-60 mph: 3.28 sec.
0-100 mph: 7.18 sec.
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph* 3.65 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average): 31/40/34
*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury)


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