Yamaha FJR1300A/AE

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

That is the question facing potential buyers interested in the 2006 edition of Yamaha's exceedingly popular FJR1300. Laurel-resting certainly wasn't on the year's agenda over at Big Blue. And topping the list of cool refinements on the sport-touring world's top dog is the novel option of escaping the clutches of the clutch.

There's no denying the popularity of Yamaha's FJR1300. Since landing on U.S. shores in 2002, this fine machine has established a firm grasp on the Cordura® collars of long-distance corner carvers everywhere. The FJR's combination of all day comfort, integrated saddlebags, elbow-straightening power, excellent value, and surprising agility has landed it at the head of the class, capturing nearly 30 percent of the sport-touring market in the U.S. for 2005. Yet despite the impressive sales figures and the long list of first-rate features, there were still a few niggles many owners and potential owners wanted the company to address. Had Yamaha upped the ante for the FJR or would they let it ride for '06?

Engine and Transmission
Motivation has never been an issue with the FJR1300 and that hasn't changed this year. The 1298cc, liquid-cooled, inline four didn't undergo much tampering. Fed by 42mm throttle bodies and packing a 10.8:1 compression ratio, power remains one of this Yam's most impressive features with a claimed 141bhp and 99ft/lbs of torque, both measured at the crank. Power delivery is smooth, seamless, and remarkably strong whether slicing through commuter traffic or tossing about the back roads. Along with this throttle-twisting fun, your inner Al Gore can rest easy. In order to comply with strict EU-3 emissions regulations, Yamaha has gone with four three-way catalytic converters and a heated O2 sensor that gives a more accurate gas reading when the engine is cold.

While the mill on this machine truly shines, it's the transmission, or more accurately, the clutch, that will pique the most curiosity. For '06, the FJR is available in two flavors. The Cobalt Blue A model has the standard five-speed gear box and manual we're all used to. The shifting action feels slick and the ratios are spot-on even if the clutch action can become a bit heavy, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Though a five speed may seem a bit dated for a sport-touring model, the urge to jab for sixth never really presented itself.

Does that 'heavy clutch action' thing have you concerned? Well then, you may find the Cerulean Silver AE model is right up your alley. This model features the all-new YCC-S (Yamaha Chip Controlled Shift), a revolutionary system that's an electronically controlled clutch-free shifting device - and no, it's not an automatic. Essentially, a sophisticated computer controls the operation of the clutch and an electronic shift actuator does the cog banging. Control of the shifter is achieved in two ways: by hand via nifty up-and-down shift paddles on the left handlebar, or by the default foot shifter located in the usual spot. It must again be stressed that the FJR1300AE has a true manual transmission that must be up- and down-shifted by the rider, as on any other motorcycle.

Throttle control is no different; there's just no left side handle to worry about. The actual clutch and gearbox mechanisms are the same on both bikes except for the five-up pattern on the AE as opposed to the A's traditional one-down four-up. Though the process sounds complicated, it really is remarkably simple and quite easy to learn. The only real sticking point I noticed happened during slow maneuvers, especially in parking lots and U-turns. The computer actuates the clutch just above idle and if this happens during a slow turn, the results can be unnerving. While I can't claim to be sold on the YCC-S idea, I have to admit, there's something to be said for a clutch-less ride through San Diego's rush hour.

Chassis and Brakes
Superb handling is another aspect of the FJR that has always shone through. For '06, this piece of the equation hasn't been forgotten either. In the suspension department, the front forks are fully adjustable and feature an all-new three bushing system that allows for less binding and a smoother action. The rear shock offers adjustability to both the preload and rebound, making it easy to change the settings for solo or two-up rides. A 35mm increase in the length of the aluminum swingarm not only increases stability, it also helps smooth the suspension action. Another nice touch that distance guys will appreciate is the newly designed aluminum sub-frame with a convenient hand hold for easier center-stand use. How many times have you wished for one of those when the bags are loaded and the boots are wet?

In the stopping department, Yamaha has upped the ante as well. New for this year, their Unified Braking System with ABS has been employed. Their take on the linked braking concept keeps the front binders mostly separate from the rears. The hand lever controls six of the front eight pistons, each having their own pad, while the remaining two are linked to the rear brake pedal. According to Yamaha, fairly ample pressure needs to be applied to the rear pedal to engage the unified piston up front. Braking action is excellent and offers no surprises no matter how hard you clamp down. Honestly, after a full day of riding in all sorts of conditions at all rates of speed, it never did cross my mind I was dealing with a linked system. That in itself is high praise.

Accessories and Arrangements
One of the biggest complaints Yamaha engineers have been fielding regarding past FJRs has been engine heat around the rider's legs. Prior to '06 riders had reported that their knees often felt like they were being burned. I noticed this phenomenon two years ago while taking a short ride on a cool evening, and could imagine what riding in traffic on a hot day must have been like. Well, for '06 the heat waves are a thing of the past, thanks to an all-new air management system. Even after hours of riding in the warm California sun, undue heat never became an issue. More cool air inlets and larger heat outlets stream the hot stuff away from the bike and rider. This, combined with an engine heat shield and a brand new curved radiator also designed to blow warm air out and away, have successfully eliminated CRS, cooked rider syndrome.

One thing that sport tourers truly appreciate is the ability to go the distance and then some, and that's one attribute the new FJR has in spades. The seat now has an adjustment range of nearly an inch and the handlebars can be adjusted back and forth nearly half an inch. These two factors make for a decent bit of fine-tuning and assuredly added comfort. Don't worry, pillions, you haven't been forgotten. The passenger pegs have been tweaked an inch and a half forward, nearly an inch downward, and a half inch outward. This should help reduce knee stress, increasing comfort. The new side grab bars certainly won't upset the copilot either.

Another great feature of remarkable convenience is the electronically adjustable windshield. Compared to last year's, the '06 screen's actuation range has been increased so that it rises an inch higher and comes almost two inches closer to the rider. Air ducts have also been added beneath the screen and behind the speedometer. Thanks to these changes, a reduction of negative pressure and buffeting in the cockpit area adds up to improved rider comfort.

A number of other changes include a 1-liter accessory box now with a DC power output in the fairing; 2.5in narrower, integrated saddlebags capable of holding a full face helmet each; and redesigned rearview mirrors. These additions make the '06 FJR1300A/AE a total sport-touring package. The main choice is still whether you'll choose to go 'old school' with the A or to swing for the clutch-free AE model. Keep in mind that liberating lefty will run you an extra 1,800 bills, but that also includes heated grips (an option on the A model). If you ride in heavy traffic on a regular basis, the AE may deserve serious consideration. For my needs in the relatively light traffic of North Carolina, I'd lean toward the conventional A model. I'm simply not prepared to turn my clutch over to a machine at this time. (Maybe I've seen Terminator and I, Robot one too many times.) But regardless of individual needs, you simply cannot lose with the Yamaha FJR1300. The only serious complaint I have about this machine is the fact that I haven't had the opportunity to put some serious miles on one - yet.

 

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Yamaha FJR1300A-AE

+ Power, comfort, wind protection, ABS
- Grip warmers only standard on AE model

DistributorYamaha Motor Corporation,USA. - www.yamaha-motor.com
Engineinline four, DOHC, 16 valve
Displacement1298cc
Bore x Stroke79mm x 66.2mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Power141hp (crank)
Coolingliquid
Ignitiondigital TCI
Transmissionfive-speed(AE withYCC-S)
Framealuminum
Front suspension48mm fork, fully adjustable, 5.4in (137mm) travel
Rear suspensionsingle shock, preload and rebound adjustable,4.8in (122mm) travel
Rake/trail26º / 4.3in (109mm)
Brakes front/reartwo 320mm discs,opposed four pistoncalipers / 282mm disc,ABS standard
Tires front/rear120/70 ZR 17,180/55 ZR 177
Dry weight582lb (264kg)
Wheelbase60.6in (1539mm)
Seat heightadjustable 31.5in (800mm) - 32.3in (820mm)
Fuel capacity6.6gal (25l)
Fuel consumptionn/a
ColorsA (Cobalt Blue),AE (Cerulean Silver)
MSRPFJR1300A: $ 13,499 /AE: $ 15,299