Voted by many magazines last year as the sport-tourer of the year, Yamaha's potent, high-speed touring missile is back for 2004 and, with a host of improvements, looks set to keep its hard-earned crown.
Concept & Transformation
Hard to believe it has been 20 years since Yamaha introduced the FJ 1100 to the world. With a big under-stressed four cylinder engine, sport bike styling and modern (for the time) 16-inch wheels, the big Yamaha was actually more sport-tourer than hard-edged sport-bike. It attracted a loyal fan base though, as it grew to 1200cc in 1986, gaining more practical 17-inch wheels and a rubber mounted engine along the way. Enjoying a ten-year production run, a replacement to the venerable FJ didn't arrive until 2003, when the new FJR 1300 came onto the scene. New from the ground up, it was an immediate success and in a strange industry quirk Yamaha chose to only sell them to order. Potential buyers had to head into their local dealer, put down five hundred dollars, and wait to receive their bikes. No one was disappointed though, as the 145hp, 553lb machine promptly "powered" its way to the top of the sport touring class. Not content to bask in the glow of this success, Yamaha made a number of changes to the big super sport-tourer for 2004, ABS, a taller windshield and integrated turn signals being among them. With nothing but praise for the 2003 model, I quickly jumped at the chance to sample the new "04" out in the spectacular landscape around Ogden, Utah last year.
Keeping to its FJ roots, the heart of the new FJR beats through an inline four-cylinder engine that is now water-cooled. Displacing 1298cc, with four valves per cylinder, a fairly mild 10.8:1 compression ratio is used, as top-end power is not the objective. Producing its 145 horses at 8,000rpm, the Yamaha also makes some strong torque numbers, with 99ft.lbs available at 7,000rpm. The horsepower figure is unchanged from last year, but torque has increased from 93ft.lbs, at a slightly lower 6,000rpm. What this means in real-world terms is a massively powerful lump, that will pull hard from as low as 2,500rpm all the way till the 9,000rpm red line with smooth, linear progression. Making for effortless overtaking on the highway, it also eliminates the need for excessive shifting while bend swinging in the canyons. Cruising at a law-abiding 70mph has the tachometer needle reading a nice, relaxed 4,000rpm.
Feeding fuel into the cylinders, the big FJR uses an advanced fuel injection system. Featuring choke-free starting, the system takes information from a bank of sensors that measure everything from the air intake system to the position of the crankshaft. This ensures glitch free fueling at any throttle position and rolling off and on the throttle at any rpm will not catch this system out. Once the bike is fired, and the fast idle has settled, a light pull on the hydraulic clutch and quick nudge on the gear lever are all that is needed to get underway. The 5-speed gearbox is very positive and shifts easily, not giving me any missed shifts to complain about, or trouble finding neutral at stoplights. Gear changes need to be a tad deliberate due to the shaft drive, but I have no complaints about the action with lever length just right for my size-10 boot. The shaft drive keeps things clean and adjustment free and apparently runs quieter thanks to mechanical cam dampers in the drive pinion.
With a monster motor, slick-shifting gearbox and fuss-free final drive, most of the ingredients for swift, worry-free touring are in place. All that is missing to complete the recipe is a well-sorted chassis, good suspension and strong brakes. Well, fear not, Yamaha's engineers didn't snooze here, and the FJR borrows again from the sport bike world with a beautiful, purposeful looking hollow cast-aluminum frame. Not only strong, it is extremely light and is responsible for the Yamaha's near sport bike levels of handling; but more of this in a minute. Attached at either end of the solid-looking frame are some first-rate suspension pieces. A pair of conventional 48mm Soqi forks up front with 5.4 inches of travel, and a 46mm link-type shock in the rear that boasts a total of 4.8. The forks can easily be adjusted for spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping, and give great feedback in the turns. I spent a lot of time wearing the peg feelers out and the front end offered nothing but confidence at these extreme lean angles. The rear is also adjustable for compression and rebound damping, as well as having an easy to operate pre-load switch on the left rear side of the bike. This two-position adjustable lever gives the choice of hard or soft. Riding alone I left it on soft and while it would squat under hard acceleration exiting the turns, I felt the increased comfort an equitable trade off. What is nice about a feature like this is you can quite quickly change the shock with the addition of a passenger or luggage without having to break out the tool kit.
Packing such a potent engine and suspension package, it is no surprise that the Yamaha is endowed with some pretty decent stopping material. Not only has the new FJR gained anti-lock brakes (ABS), which adds 17lbs to the dry weight, it now sports enlarged 320mm rotors up front. I had absolutely no complaints about last years setup, but when it comes to brakes more is always good in my book. What I also liked about the system is, that only under extreme circumstances did the ABS kick in, meaning for the majority of the time the brakes act just like their conventional counterparts. The rear, on the other hand, was a lot more sensitive. I am not a big back brake user so it was no problem, and I think if I was going to be spending more time with the bike it would just be a matter of a little brain reprogramming to get the lead out of my foot.
The Yamaha rolls on some very attractive cast-aluminum three-spoke wheels and puts a huge 180/50 ZR 17 Metzler footprint to the ground out back. Up front, a low profile 120/70 ZR Metzler radial graces the front and I give top marks to the tires. They afford plenty of grip, while looking as if they won't need replacing every 2,000 miles.
Built with distant horizons in mind, the FJR 1300 comes ready to tour from the factory. A new larger, adjustable windshield gives great protection on the highest setting, with the option of some cooling air on hot days when retracted. The rest of the fairing does a decent job of keeping the rider out of the breeze and should work well in the rain. The hard luggage comes standard and has removable liners, so you don't have to carry the bags into your hotel at night. They are fairly large and very easy to operate which was good for someone as mechanically challenged as myself. The 6.6-gallon gas tank is made of steel, providing the option of a magnetic tank bag, and there is a useful-sized rack. Ride position is sporty, without the origami-style body contortions needed on a true sport bike. The handlebars have nice aluminum risers and allow for a relaxed upright riding position; there is also plenty of legroom for my 5' 11" frame. Seat height is 32.3 inches, broad and firm; and it remained comfortable the whole time I was riding. Granted, I didn't do any coast-to-coast rides, but did spend a good few hours in the saddle with no complaints.
The FJR 1300 ABS quite rightly gets the moniker "super" sport-tourer, as it raises the bar in this class and then some. Enormously fast and powerful, it is still very civilized for all manner of riding duties. Whether touring, sport-touring or just out carving your favorite twisty road, the big Yamaha does it all with aplomb. Coming with a price tag of $ 12,599, it is also available without ABS for $ 11,999 and more than worth the asking price.
Retail Price $ 12,599 ($ 11,599 without ABS)
Warranty 1 year standard. Up to 4 year extended
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/every 4,000miles (1,000/6,400/every 6,400km)
Importer/Distributor Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A
Type in line four cylinder
Cooling water cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 Valves per cylinder, DOHC chain driven
Bore & Stroke 79x 66.2mm
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control three-way catalytic converter
Clutch wet multi-plate
Final Drive shaft drive
Frame hollow cast-aluminum, twin-spar
Wheelbase 1,515mm (60.6in.)
Rake 26 degree
Trail 109mm (4.3in.)
Front Suspension Soqi telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 48mm (1.9in.)
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 137mm (5.4in.)
Rear Suspension single shock, link type
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 122mm (4.8in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type hollow cast-aluminum three spoke
Front 17 x MT 3.5
Rear 17 x MT 5.5
Front Tire 120/70-ZR17
Rear Tire 180/50-ZR17
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.59in.)
Rear Brake single disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 298mm (11.73in.)
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 818mm (32.2in.)
Wet-Weight 274kg (604lbs)
Fuel Capacity 25l (6.6gal.) + 5l (1.3gal.) reserve
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)145hp at 8,000rpm
Torque 99ft.-lbs at 7,000rpm
Top Speed 245 m/h (153mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-65mph): 2.9s
Fuel Consumption 4.9l/100km (48mpg)
Fuel Range 510km (317 mls.)
Electric windshield. ABS brakes, hard luggage and back rack.
RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Bike for the buck 5/5