Riding Yamaha’s FJR1300 felt like coming home.
The familiar and venerable compromise qualities of sport and touring seem to have been blended for the best of both worlds.
It offers sure-footed handling merging with added comfort and luggage capabilities in a sum total enhanced with the latest techno wizardry.
The FJR1300 has evolved steadily since its debut 15 years ago.
This third-gen model boasts rider assists – Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle ride-by-wire system (YCC-T), cruise control, D-Mode with a choice of “S” (Sport) or “T” (Touring) performance settings, a Traction Control System (TCS) and, tested here in ES trim, with an electronically-adjustable suspension system (+ $1,100).
Last year, a new six-speed transmission replaced the previous five-speed. And Yamaha engineers didn’t just toss in an extra gear.
They redesigned the entire tranny, with taller first and second gears, a same ratio third gear, shorter fourth and fifth gears and with a new tall overdrive sixth that drops top gear rpm by 10 percent. The resulting smoother, more linear acceleration lowers highway revs and improves fuel economy.
Yamaha is especially proud of the fact that they fit those six helical gears into the same compact casing dimensions where five cogs used to be. The tranny operation also benefits from a slipper clutch that damps the effect of engine braking and an assist function that reduces clutch pull effort by up to 20 per cent.
Other recent changes include LED lights added all round, including a set of three “active cornering” LEDs on each side of the “Twin-eye” headlamps to illuminate your turns, firing up sequentially with seven-, 11- and 16-degree lean angles.
Climb aboard and the FJR feels planted and sturdy, creating a solid presence on the road. Sitting behind the wide 25-litre tank, the bike’s size and 291 kg mass obviously focuses more on touring than sport.
Having said that though, the 1,298 cc liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four-cylinder engine pulls that mass up to speed with impressive muscularity and the rider can explore performance variables by switching through the Touring and Sport modes with a button on the right hand grip.
I tended to stay sedately in Touring mode, cruising country roads and carving lazy sweeping bends, my passage eased by comfort choices that included five-position adjustable brake and clutch levers, three-position adjustable handlebars (11 mm range), a height-adjustable seat (20 mm range), and wind-protected by an aerodynamic fairing topped with a push-button operated electric windshield (130 mm range).
On the highway, the powertrain hums at an easy 3,500 rpm at 120 km/h, with plenty of reserve passing power held back before the 9,000 rpm redline. My mixed riding fuel econ average worked out to 5.4L/100km (comb) for a potential touring range of over 450 km.
And while most rides were solo runs, my wife Mary joined me on a day trip to an antique fair. With husband-like reasoning, I figured that we were less likely to come home with a table or dresser if we took the bike.
“But there’s always shipping,” my wife quipped.
Ah, well. Riding two-up did encourage an exploration of the electronic suspension. Four preset choices are displayed on the gauges, with the graphics showing choices of one helmet, one helmet with luggage, two helmets and two helmets with luggage.
For those feeling fussy, there are three follow-up choices with soft, standard and hard damping selections, each of which can each be further adjusted with seven “fine-tuning” settings for a total of 21 damping choices.
We settled for the simple “two helmet” suspension setting and spent an excellent day riding, settled into comfortable, wide seats, with a few day trip items inside twin 30-litre hard-shell side cases that can be removed to be carried as hand luggage.
In situations like these, I usually add a stuffed marine dry cell to the back of the bike, for a little passenger backrest security but a 50-litre top box, serving the same purpose and adding touring capacity, along with other extras, is also available on Yamaha’s long accessory list.
A few other items worth mentioning – a standard centre stand, folding mirrors, 10-setting variable heated grips, a one-litre glove box with 12V 30-watt power socket inside, and a blended cockpit display with analog tach on the left, digital DOT matrix speedo/info displays centred and on the right.
Competitors include the Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS ($18,099), Triumph Trophy SE ($20,500), and the slightly more upright BMW R1200RT ($21,250).
You know, only a few bikes earn nicknames during a ride review. And some just happen to get ridden more often than others.
The 2017 FJR1300ES, soon known as “the Silver Bullet” in our household, qualified on both counts.
2017 Yamaha FJR1300ES ABS
ENGINE: 1298 cc liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four-cylinder (102 lb/ft).
FUEL DELIVERY: Mikuni 42 mm throttle body fuel injection
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed with shaft drive
SUSPENSION: Front electronically adjustable KYB inverted 43 mm fork, 135 mm (5.4”) travel; Rear electronically adjustable link Monocross, 125 mm (4.8″) wheel travel
BRAKES: Front dual 320 mm discs with four-piston calipers; Rear 282 mm disc with single-piston caliper
TIRES: Front 120/70ZR17; Rear 180/55ZR17
SEAT HEIGHT: 805 mm (32.7”) or 825 mm (32.5”)
WHEELBASE: 1,545 mm (62”)
CURB WEIGHT: 291 kg (642 lb)
FUEL CAPACITY: 25 litres
COLOURS: As tested Matte Silver, or Metallic Black