2013 Yamaha FJR1300 First Ride

2013 Yamaha FJR1300 First Ride

In an economy that has dealt a major body blow to motorcycle sales, there are a few categories that have weathered the storm better than most. One of them is the sport touring market, which has been grabbing an increasing share of total sportbike sales since the economic crisis initially struck in 2008. This is an expected trend, as sport touring riders tend to be more affluent and thus have expendable cash that makes them more likely to continue buying bikes.

This hasn’t been lost on Yamaha, especially after it considered how long it’s been since its popular FJR1300 had any sort of upgrade. The basic engine and chassis have stayed the same since its debut back in 2003, with a smattering of detail changes plus an ill fated foray into the semi automatic transmission category with the AE model back in 2006 (it was discontinued in 2010). With the big FJR beginning to look a little stagnant and long in the tooth compared to an ever increasing and more sophisticated competition (Kawasaki Concours 14, BMW K 1600 GT, Triumph Trophy, et al), it’s no surprise Yamaha decided an upgrade was in order for 2013.

Those who were expecting a completely new FJR might be disappointed, but rest assured the changes and there are many to the 2013 FJR1300 are not just window dressing. Yamaha conducted extensive research into what customers considered most important in their FJR buying decision, and the company engineers took that to heart in their development direction.

While the engine architecture remains identical, some key detail revisions result in a claimed power boost of three horsepower and three foot pounds of torque. Although probably not the most important contributor, the biggest change in the engine bay is the switch to Yamaha’s now famous YCC T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) ride by wire throttle system. By using the electronic throttle control, Yamaha was able to gain numerous benefits, including the addition of traction control, cruise control, and selectable drive modes. And because you’re not pulling on cables against a throttle spring, the throttle effort can be lighter (something we complained about in our last test of the FJR).

The traction control system on the FJR (which can be shut off if desired) utilizes the ABS sensors on both wheels, with the anti lock braking system being a standard equipment carryover from last years model. If the rear tire traction loss exceeds parameters, the Yamaha system can intervene using throttle valve, ignition, or fuel or any combination of the three. The two position D mode (Drive Mode) system offers Sport or Touring settings; both provide full power, but throttle response and power delivery are different.

Cruise control was an item at or near the top of every FJR owners wanted list surveyed by Yamaha, so a new system designed to be easy to use and unobtrusive is now standard on the 2013 model. Only working in third through fifth gears yes, the FJR’s transmission remains a five speed the cruise control systems controls are all located on the left switchgear. kawasaki ninja 300 fairings And speaking of the transmission, a new machining method for the gears is employed to reduce gear noise, provide less gear lash, and in combination with a new shift shaft, smoother shifting as well.

New piston rings with less drag slide in a new sleeveless cylinder block (instead of pressed in steel cylinder liners, the aluminum cylinders are part of the block). This cuts weight, improves heat dissipation, provides better durability and reduces power robbing friction for better performance. Down below, a new exhaust system sports different header lengths, with the number of catalyzers reduced from four to two, allowing greater flow and better performance. The muffler packing material is changed for better durability and reduced noise, and a new heat guard keeps excess warmth from intruding upon the ride.

The bodywork and suspension also received numerous revisions aimed at improving comfort and performance. The 48mm conventional fork now features compression and rebound damping adjustment in the right fork leg only, although both legs offer spring preload adjustment. A new aluminum piston rod, plunger, and bottoming cone work with dual rate springs to provide a sportier ride while keeping overall action still acceptably plush. Same goes for the rear shock, which receives a stiffer spring and firmer damping settings (spring preload and rebound damping remain adjustable as before).

The front fairing and windscreen have been redesigned, with the now one piece fairing (from the previous three piece unit) sporting a more aggressive shape and styling. Tool less adjustable side panels in the fairings side radiator outlets can be moved outward 20mm to help direct hot air away from the rider, and a new air channel beneath the adjustable windscreen reduces the negative pressure area directly behind the windscreen that causes turbulence. The electrically adjustable windscreen system is claimed to be lighter and has a new shape for improved protection and less buffeting, with a drive unit that is simpler and has a more rigid structure; the adjustment speed is now twice as quick as before, and the screen stays in position when the key is turned off. The twin headlight design is new, shedding weight and sporting the increasingly popular LED position lights around the headlight rim; front turn signals are now LED and integrated into the fairings leading edge.

Yamaha chose the roads winding in and around California wine country in St. Helena to demonstrate the new FJR’s sport touring capabilities. The two days encompassed more than 400 miles of everything from twisty mountain roads to straight line superslab stints, giving us ample opportunity to see whether the changes Yamaha had made to the 2013 model really made a difference.

The two way tool less adjustable riders seat returns on the 2013 FJR, and my 29 inch inseam preferred the lower 31.7 inch setting to the taller 32.5 inch option. bike fairing Everything else on the Yamahas ergos remain the same as well, with a nice bar/peg/seat relationship that is upright enough for extended superslab duty while still offering good feel in the twisty sections. The seat offers good support for over an hour, but longer than that and my butt was beginning to protest.

Getting accustomed to the numerous switches on the left handlebar that operate the cruise control and customizable LCD screen that handles the heated grips, windscreen height adjustment, and other functions took a little time, but it wasn’t as bad as some bikes that have a confusing array of buttons and switches. The LCD info panel can be scrolled through three different screens that can each display any three readouts from the odometer, two tripmeters, ambient temperature, engine coolant temperature, trip time, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, estimated traveling range, and low fuel tripmeter. Each screen can be configured to show whichever info you want. While it may sound confusing, the setup is actually well laid out, and complements the rest of the FJR’s dash that includes the digital speedometer, bar graph fuel gauge, clock, and Drive Mode indicator in the center display, and the analog tachometer set off to the left.

The first part of the trip took us through some twisty mountain roads leading out of Napa Valley towards the Pacific coast, and here the new FJR showed its sportier legs. Displaying the same sweet steering habits that the Yamaha has always been known for, the 2013 model was a paradigm of neutral handling characteristics; little input is required to initiate a turn and hold a line, and mid turn corrections are just as easy. But at a pace where the previous model would begin to heave and weave, the 2013 FJR still has a little in reserve. The old FJR was by no means pitch happy on the brakes or throttle, but the new version is noticeably more composed when the turns start coming at you in rapid fire succession.

In the Sport mode, throttle response is definitely crisper and more immediate, allowing you to make better use of the Yamaha’s impressive torque for lunging acceleration off the corners. It wasn’t hyper responsive to the point of requiring a surgeons care however, and a stint in Touring mode which provides the same top end power just took a lot of the fun factor out of the ride because of the amount of throttle required for decent power production (truth be told, we found its feel to be too lazy for superslab riding as well). As far as overall power, while the FJR isn’t the most powerful or quickest bike in its class, honda cbr600rr fairings it still has plenty of steam to really start hustling should you feel the need. Midrange power is a match for any of the competition, and top end is more than adequate.

Like the TC system on the latest R1, the FJR’s traction control is very transparent. As expected on a sport touring bike, its non adjustable settings are very conservative, but we never found it to rob any fun out of any corner exits, and it kept everything well in hand through many damp/wet corners we rode through in the morning. Some credit here can probably go to the OEM spec Bridgestone BT 023 tires, which provided decent grip and handling with a smooth ride overall; they likely play a role in the Yamaha’s neutral steering as well, although our experience has shown them to cause some handling anomalies when they start to get worn, so we’ll see when we get our hands on a test bike.

Braking from the linked dual 320mm front/single 282mm rear disc setup was strong and smooth, albeit a bit wooden feeling. ABS cycling was just as transparent as the traction control, with no flaccid lever or completely numb feel when the system intervened, and no stuttering when coming to a hard stop.

The new fairing/windscreen is a major improvement over the previous unit, especially when the screen is raised to its highest position. The old FJR would give a lot of turbulence at the helmet level, and the significant negative pressure area directly behind the screen resulting in the wind pushing on your back would become tiring after long highway stints. The new windscreen not only has less turbulence, but the majority of the negative pressure behind the screen is gone, easing the burden on your arms and wrists. The mounting system is definitely sturdier, and its nice that the screen remains in place upon shutdown.

Playing with the cruise control on the Interstate showed the FJR’s system to be well sorted and easy to use. Moderate slowing and accelerating can be handled with the resume/set toggle switch, and the system did a very good job of maintaining the set speed climbing and descending hills. Despite being a five speed standout in a world of six speeds, we never really missed the extra cog. I averaged about 36 mpg on the route that included a lot of playing in the canyons, which means a typical rider can get well over 200 miles out of 6.6 gallon tankful.

My short two day experience with the new 2013 FJR1300 left me very impressed with the upgrades Yamaha instilled into its sport touring flagship. Taking a measured, careful approach to development instead of going wild with gimmicks and knick knacks has resulted in a significantly improved FJR that bolstered most of the weak points we complained about the last time we tested it. I’m anxious to get one and put some real miles on it, and then compare it to its already stellar competition to find out if those improvements are enough. Stay tuned.