2016 Yamaha FJR1300A and ES: Sport Touring Just Got More Refined!

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Brian Nelson

Sport Touring Just Got More Refined! With the introduction of the new 2016 FJR1300A and FJR1300ES models, Yamaha’s flagship sport-touring line has again been upgraded.

Let’s start with a little history review. The FJR1300 series was originally introduced in Europe in 2001, but wasn’t imported to the U.S. until 2002. For 2004 it received ABS, and was restyled in 2006, along with the introduction of an optional AE auto-clutch model, which no longer is offered. Fast forward to 2013 for another restyling, plus Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) throttle-by-wire, and 2014 saw the addition of the electronically adjustable suspension ES version.

For 2016 the big news is a six-speed gearbox, along with a number of refinements. Yamaha’s press introduction took us from Arizona’s Valley of Fire north to lovely Sedona, on a two-day ride via Payson, Prescott, and Jerome, over mountain passes banked with snow and cool pine forests at 7,000 feet. This fire and ice route gave us a chance to experience the bikes in a variety of conditions from hot to cold and back.

Powertrain and Performance

That liquid-cooled in-line 1,298cc four-banger DOHC 16-valve engine from previous years has its torque rating boosted 2.7 lb-ft, up to 101.8 lb-ft (still at 7,000 rpm), but there’s no horsepower rating. Redline hits at 9,200 rpm. Although the engine has 10.8:1 compression, 86 octane (or higher) unleaded is called for; that can save some money over the life of the bike. Yamaha rates mileage at 36 mpg, but with the 6.6-gallon tank, range is still better than 200 miles.

The engine starts instantly warm or cold, and runs well always. It’s very tractable and smooth, and has a nice midrange with plenty of zip, particularly when you get it up around 6,000 to 9,000 revs. There’s plenty of passing power on tap, even with a passenger and luggage. On a hot day, a considerable amount of heat rises up to the rider, although measures have been taken to reduce this over the various model years. YCC-T’s ride-by-wire system provides smooth throttle response. D-Mode settings provide two throttle response modes. T-Mode (touring) slows throttle opening, good on wet or slippery roads; S-Mode (sport) quickens throttle opening for dry roads.

Finally a six-speed transmission replaces the outgoing five speed. Gears are now beveled instead of straight cut, which quiets them down. New ratios are more evenly spaced, and sixth gear reduces engine speed about 10 percent for easier highway running. A new assist and slipper (A&S) clutch reduces lever effort about 20 percent, with engagement. Final drive is with a shaft unit, which is clean and maintenance-free.

Chassis and Handling

A lightweight aluminum Deltabox frame pairs with a double-sided aluminum swingarm and single rear shock. The A model gets a 48mm conventional fork adjustable for preload and rebound, while the ES version has an electronically controlled 43mm inverted fork. There are four ES preload settings, three damping adjustments, and seven fine-tuning settings for various loads and riding conditions. Rake is at 26 degrees and trail is 4.9 inches on both, for quick steering and light effort.

A pair of 320mm front rotors grabbed by four-pot calipers, plus a 282mm rear disc with a twin-pot caliper, deliver excellent stopping force and the ABS prevents lockup. When the rear brake is applied, Unified braking sends some pressure to one front caliper. Even descending steep mountain downgrades at speed, the FJR’s brakes never faded or overheated.

With both models, after you have the suspension settings right, the FJR’s ride feels plush yet controlled. With ES models, you can pull over and change suspension settings in moments to adjust to changing pavement or load conditions. Handling is confidence-inspiring, especially considering the weight. Cornering and steering effort is easy, the bike holds a line well, and high-speed stability is excellent.

Features and Ergonomics

The new headlight and combination tail light/turn signal assemblies are all LEDs. ES models also get front cornering lights, which light up one of three LEDs successively as you lean deeper into a corner, providing more light in the turn direction. The standard electrically adjustable windscreen provides 5.1 inches of height variation, and a new vent helps reduce buffeting. Cruise control is standard along with heated grips and a 12-volt accessory outlet.

Riding position is adjustable without tools, with two saddle heights of 31.7 and 32.5 inches. For passengers there’s a comfy saddle, sufficient legroom, and three handles to hold on. Handlebars can also be adjusted to one of three 5mm settings, but tools are needed. Taller riders may find the footpegs too close; I did.

Instrumentation is revised, with a three-pod dash that includes trip computer functions, riding modes, and more. There’s an analog-type tach, digital speedo, trip meters, plus temperature, clock, and fuel gauges. With the LCD display, you can scroll and set information desired via a bar-mounted switch. 

The standard hard luggage, which holds 35 liters per side, can be quickly unlocked and removed, and liners make carrying items away from the bike convenient. A large 50-liter tail trunk is offered as an accessory, but Yamaha says not to use both the saddlebags and trunk when riding two up due to weight concerns. Always check the owner’s manual for the load capacity. There’s also room for a tankbag.

Final Thoughts

Overall the new FJR series is quick and smooth, with good handling, strong stopping power, and a comfortable ride. That’s pretty much what you want and need in a sport-touring machine. They’re also well made, have proven to be reliable, and hold their resale value.