2015 Yamaha FJ-09: When Less Is More

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

Last year, Yamaha introduced the FZ-09 (known as the MT-09 in Europe) which, despite its initial flaws, has grown to be the maker’s number one seller for 2014—an MVP right out of the gate. Building upon the FZ’s price and performance success, Yamaha unveils the touring-minded FJ-09 for 2015.

The Polished Sibling

With a top seller in their lineup and market research suggesting their buyers are using their commuting mounts for more than just getting to work, Yamaha created a bike for motorcyclists looking to pare down and own fewer bikes in this softer market: a mount that can serve as both a track bike as well as a tourer.

Based on the very same 847cc in-line triple and crossplane crankshaft found in the urban-dwelling FZ-09 (with its MotoGP-like sound!) and carried by an engine-hugging control-filled die cast aluminum frame (allowing for a very narrow midsection and an easier reach to the ground), the FJ-09 also produces the same 65 lb-ft of torque and offers a claimed 44 miles per gallon, all under 500 pounds ... wet!

While it might not suit the Iron Butt rider looking to cross the country and back in a weekend, the light and nimble FJ-09 will surely tickle the fancy of a rider interested in roads that take longer to get to his or her destination.

In the Saddle

Just before the new year began, Yamaha held a press event that tested both the riders and the features of the FJ with seasonably cold temps and rainfall in the hills above Ojai and Santa Barbara, CA. As we were introduced to the FJ’s standard full ABS package and switchable traction control, the temperature and tires warmed up and the pace quickened as we put to task the tour-focused Dunlop D222 Sportmax tires and the not-quite-all-day but roomy two-piece saddle.

Although the frame and engine are carry-overs from the FZ to the FJ, in order to more comfortably haul the additional weight of the bike itself (nearly 50 pounds between the models), as well as passenger and luggage, a 130.6mm longer swingarm has been added, along with an engine control unit (ECU) update. The latter being the most influential on the FJ’s overall character and perhaps the answer to every MY 2014 FZ-09 owner’s woes as well.

With an eye toward creating a smoother ride at the wrist (ride-by-wire YCC-T) and in the saddle, suspension modifications were also made with the creation of the FJ. The same KYB construct now carries some “heavily revised” internals. Specifically, a 150 percent increase in the compression rating up front and a 250 percent increase in rebound, adding a damping characteristic more appropriate to a tourer. Meanwhile, the rear shock internals have also been updated to nearly two-and-a-half times as much compression damping and twice the rebound over the FZ’s specs—slowing down the otherwise twitchy feel of the FZ.

A smoother ride helps. Rider comfort also creates a better touring machine, and as such, the ergonomics of the FZ have been opened up in making this machine. The handlebar of the FJ has come back 17mm, risen 20mm, and with a twist of the risers, can be adjusted forward 10mm for finer tuning. The bar is also 40mm wider than that of the FZ-09. Along with a new front fairing and a three-position manually adjustable windscreen, comfort is optimal! The FJ’s saddle is also height-adjustable and doesn’t have the aggressive forward tilt or hard-edge shape of the FZ’s one-piece saddle.

Bells and Whistles

Reach over the larger 4.8-gallon fuel tank to the all-new dual LCD dashboard to find the usual ride data including traction control mode (TCS), drive mode (variable throttle map or D-Mode), and a sweeping bar tachometer and big, bright speedo. Accessory dual-temp heated grips are also detailed on the new meter and controlled via the left-hand cluster. Beside the dash is a handy 12v port for tankbag goodies, a GPS unit, and the like. And, an additional 12v port can be fitted to the FJ’s side panel.

Super bright LED high/low headlights and LED marker lights lead the way. And when you load the FJ to the moon, there’s a headlight beam adjuster just behind the stock 12v port.

Genuine Yamaha parts and accessories for the FJ include the slim-design hard cases. Without the familiar outward curve of the FJ1300A saddlebags, however, the new bags will not hold a full-face helmet. Including the locks, mounting plates, hardware (with integrated bungee hooks), and cases, they’ll run about 5. A taller and wider windscreen, a comfort saddle and a low saddle option, the aforementioned heated grips, and the secondary 12v port are the highlights of the 30-plus accessories in the collection.

Out the Door

In sportier trim, the FZ-09 was exciting but untested by the road warriors/wanderers here at RoadRUNNER, thus direct comparisons to the reportedly unrefined first year machines are hard to recreate. Perhaps that’s to our advantage after all. With this year’s introduction of the sister model FJ-09 and ECU-refreshed FZ-09, both the canyon rider as well as the touring rider get overall better machines.

Take the old FZ … add an ABS and TC package; update the suspension; and add a larger tank, adjustable windscreen and saddle; and you’ve potentially got a leader in the next generation of middleweight sport touring mounts. This machine is available in two colors, Matte Gray and Candy Red, and in dealers now for $ 10,490.

When the FZ-09 was first introduced, the MSRP was a class-leader selling for less than  ,000. The trend continues in the touring arena with the FJ-09 selling for just over $ 10,000 and loaded with real-world goodies. Yamaha boasts “versatility, agility, and comfort ... all at an incredible value.” We think it’s a naked touring machine with the features that make us want to ride it every day, not just on Sunday.