Making a good long-distance bike better.
While the field for the Motorcycle Endurance Riders Association’s 10-day/10,000-mile 10-n-10 Rally includes bikes from nearly every major motorcycle company, walk through the parking lot outside our Salt Lake City hotel on the morning of August 26th and you’ll find as many Yamaha FJR1300 sport-tourers in the lineup as any other single model.
The reasons for the Feejer’s popularity among hardcore long-distance riders boil down to its unique balance of performance, handling, fuel economy and reliability. As for the FJR AE model Yamaha loaned me for this event, I’ll admit that its complete lack of a clutch lever took some getting used to.
After racking up more than 5000 training miles on the AE over the past two months, however, I’ve found it has a number of things to recommend it, including the remarkably fast, smooth shifts produced by its computer-controlled clutch and electrically shifted gearbox. There’s also a lot to be said for the convenience of being able to leave the bike in gear while stretching or taking a long pull from my pillion-mounted Camelbak at a stoplight.
But as good as the FJR is, I knew early on that I needed to make a few key tweaks if I hoped to ride this sucker 18 hours a day for 10 days straight. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the relatively simple changes I’ve made to fine-tune this Feejer for the long haul ahead:
While the FJR’s stock shield was fine for short jaunts, the buffeting it created began to wear on me after about 500 miles. Swapping it for a Rifle windshield three inches taller and four inches wider created a nice pocket of still air that completely transformed the riding experience.
I’ve owned more tankbags than I can count over the years, but the technology built into RKA’s 15-liter In-Charge tankbag makes all those others look seriously stone-age. Wired to the battery, the bag features a mount that puts the Garmin zūmo nav system within easy reach, mixes and routes multiple audio sources to my helmet-mounted headset and provides 12-volt power connections for my heated jacket liner and cell-phone charger. Out back, an RKA 36-liter rackbag gives my rally paperwork, cameras and even a small cooler a place to call home.
I’ll be headed into unfamiliar territory over the course of this 10-day rally, so a GPS navigation system is a must. In addition to turn-by-turn directions, this latest member of the waterproof zūmo line makes the miles roll by just a little faster with more than 100 channels of XM satellite radio programming and a Bluetooth cell-phone interface. Available XM service upgrades will also allow me to keep tabs on traffic snarls and fast-approaching storm systems.
Rick Mayer Custom Seat/Alaska Leather Sheepskin
If there’s one modification most experienced long-distance riders consider a must-have it’s a custom seat. Iron Butt Rally veteran Rick Mayer set me up with a handmade saddle designed specifically to fit the unique contours of both my backside and the bike. Add an Alaska Leather sheepskin Buttpad, and the improvement is downright dramatic.
An altercation with an Oldsmobile 20 years ago left me with enough hardware in my right forearm to cause serious pain after a mere eight hours of grip-twisting. The CrampBuster, a simple plastic doohickey that slips over the right grip, alleviates this problem by allowing me to hold the throttle open with just the weight of my hand. For longer stretches, the bar-end-mounted Throttlemeister allows the FJR to maintain a reasonably steady speed for miles on end when it’s time to give my right arm a rest.
That same motorcycle crash left me with a stiff and sore right shoulder that was aggravated by the FJR’s sport-oriented stock ergonomics. HeliBars’ Tour Performance Replacement Triple Clamp moved the bars up and back enough to create a more upright riding position that solved the problem completely.
Add all these comfort-oriented farkles up and I can tell you that they’ve truly made a good bike even better.
NEXT TIME: What Every 10-n-10 Rally Competitor Wants Way More Than A Podium Finish